New Kingdom (1550 BC - 1069 BC)


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New Kingdom (1550 BC - 1069 BC):

The New Kingdom of Egypt, also referred to as the Egyptian Empire is the period in ancient Egyptian history between the 16th century BC and the 11th century BC, covering the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Dynasties of Egypt.  It was Egypt's most prosperous time and marked the peak of its power.

Eighteenth Dynasty. The eighteenth dynasty of ancient Egypt (notated Dynasty XVIII)[ (c. 1550-c. 1292 BC) is perhaps the best known of all the dynasties of ancient Egypt. As well as boasting a number of Egypt's most famous pharaohs, it included Tutankhamun, the finding of whose tomb by Howard Carter in 1922 was a sensational archaeological discovery despite its having been twice disturbed by tomb robbers. The dynasty is sometimes known as the Thutmosid Dynasty because of the four pharaohs named Thutmosis. As well as Tutankhamen, famous pharaohs of Dynasty XVIII include Hatshepsut (1479 BC-1458 BC), longest-reigning queen-pharaoh of an indigenous dynasty, and Akhenaten (1353-1336 BC / 1351 - 1334 BC), the "heretic pharaoh", with his queen, Nefertiti. Many of the pharaohs were buried in the Valley of the Kings in Thebes (designated KV). Ahmose I (sometimes written Amosis I, "Amenes" and "Aahmes" and meaning Born of the Moon) was a pharaoh of ancient Egypt and the founder of the Eighteenth dynasty. During his reign, he completed the conquest and expulsion of the Hyksos from the delta region, restored Theban rule over the whole of Egypt and successfully reasserted Egyptian power in its formerly subject territories of Nubia and Canaan. Perhaps the most important shift was a religious one: Thebes effectively became the religious as well as the political center of the country, its local god Amun credited with inspiring Ahmose in his victories over the Hyksos. The importance of the temple complex at Karnak (on the east bank of the Nile north of Thebes) grew and the importance of the previous cult of Ra based in Heliopolis diminished. His pyramid was the last pyramid ever built as part of a mortuary complex in Egypt. The pyramid form would be abandoned by subsequent pharaohs of the New Kingdom, for both practical and religious reasons. The Giza plateau offered plenty of room for building pyramids; but this was not the case with the confined, cliff-bound geography of Thebes and any burials in the surrounding desert were vulnerable to flooding. The pyramid form was associated with the sun god Re, who had been overshadowed by Amun in importance. One of the meanings of Amun's name was the hidden one, which meant that it was now theologically permissible to hide the Pharaoh's tomb by fully separating the mortuary template from the actual burial place. This provided the added advantage that the resting place of the pharaoh could be kept hidden from necropolis robbers. All subsequent pharaohs of the New Kingdom would be buried in rock-cut shaft tombs in the Valley of the Kings . Ahmose I's mummy was discovered in 1881 within the Deir el-Bahri Cache, located in the hills directly above the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut. He was interred along with the mummies of other 18th and 19th dynasty leaders Amenhotep I, Thutmose I, Thutmose II, Thutmose III, Ramesses I, Seti I, Ramesses II and Ramesses IX, as well as the 21st dynasty pharaohs Pinedjem I, Pinedjem II and Siamun. He had evidently been moved from his original burial place, re-wrapped and placed within the cache at Deir el-Bahri during the reign of the 21st dynasty priest-king Pinedjem II, whose name also appeared on the mummy's wrappings.

Amenhotep I (1526–1506) was the first king of Egypt to separate his mortuary temple from his tomb, probably to keep tomb robbers from finding his tomb as easily. The remains of this temple are most probably to be found at the north end of Deir el-Bahri. Deir el-Bahri appears to have had some sort of funerary significance for Amenhotep, since Theban Tomb 358, the tomb of his queen Ahmose-Meritamon, was also found nearby.

After Amenhotep died, wherever his tomb was located, his body did not remain there. Amenhotep I's body was found in the Deir el-Bahri Cache above the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut and is now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. His mummy had apparently not been looted by the 21st dynasty, and the priests who moved the mummy took care to keep the Cartonnage intact. Because of that exquisite face mask, Amenhotep's is the only royal mummy which has not been unwrapped and examined by modern Egyptologists.
Amenhotep I mask.
It appears that during Amenhotep I's reign the first water clock was invented. Amenhotep's court astronomer Amenemheb took credit for creating this device in his tomb biography, although the oldest surviving mechanism dates to the reign of Amenhotep III. This invention was of great benefit for timekeeping, because the Egyptian hour was not a fixed amount of time, but was measured as 1/12 of the night. When the nights were shorter in the summer, these waterclocks could be adjusted to measure the shorter hours accurately.

Thutmose I (1506–1493 BC, sometimes read as Thothmes, Thutmosis or Tuthmosis I, meaning Thoth-Born) was the third Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Egypt. He was given the throne after the death of the previous king Amenhotep I. During his reign, he campaigned deep into the Levant and Nubia, pushing the borders of Egypt further than ever before. Thutmose had one son by another wife, Mutnofret. Queen Ahmose, who held the title of Great Royal Wife of Thutmose, was probably the daughter of Ahmose I and the sister of Amenhotep I;[however, she was never called "king's daughter, this son succeeded him as Thutmose II, whom Thutmose I married to his daughter, Hatshepsut. It was later recorded by Hatshepsut that Thutmose willed the kingship to both Thutmose II and Hatshepsut. However, this is considered to be propaganda by Hatshepsut's supporters to legitimise her claim to the throne when she later assumed power. Thutmose I organized great building projects during his reign, including many temples and tombs, but his greatest projects were at the Temple of Karnak under the supervision of the architect Ineni. The original coffin of Thutmose I was taken over and re-used by a later pharaoh of the 21st dynasty. The mummy of Thutmose I was thought to be lost, but Egyptologist Gaston Maspero, largely on the strength of familial resemblance to the mummies of Thutmose II and Thutmose III, believed he had found his mummy in the otherwise unlabelled mummy #5283. In 2007, Dr. Zahi Hawass announced that the mummy which was previously thought to be Thutmose I [is] that of a thirty year old man who had died as a result of an arrow wound to the chest.

Nebamun's tomb: Nebamun's name is translated as "My Lord is Amun" and he is thought to have lived c. 1500 bc. The paintings were hacked from the tomb wall and purchased by a British collector who in turn sold them to the British Museum in 1821. Nebamun was an Egyptian "scribe and counter of grain" during the New Kingdom. His tomb in Thebes, the location of which is now lost, featured the famous Pond in a Garden fresco, executed a secco.
Hatshepsut (1479–1458) was described by early modern scholars as only having served as a co-regent from about 1479 to 1458 BC, during years seven to twenty-one of the reign previously identified as that of Thutmose III. Today Egyptologists generally agree that Hatshepsut assumed the position of pharaoh and the length of her reign usually is given as twenty-two years.
Statue of Hatshepsut on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Although it was uncommon for Egypt to be ruled by a woman, the situation was not unprecedented. As a regent Hatshepsut was preceded by Merneith of the first dynasty, who was buried with the full honors of a pharaoh and may have ruled in her own right. In comparison with other female pharaohs, Hatshepsut's reign was much longer and prosperous. She was successful in warfare early in her reign, but generally is considered to be a pharaoh who inaugurated a long peaceful era. She re-established trading relationships lost during a foreign occupation and brought great wealth to Egypt. That wealth enabled Hatshepsut to initiate building projects that raised the calibre of Ancient Egyptian architecture to a standard, comparable to classical architecture, that would not be rivaled by any other culture for a thousand years. Hatshepsut established the trade networks that had been disrupted during the Hyksos occupation of Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period, thereby building the wealth of the eighteenth dynasty. She oversaw the preparations and funding for a mission to the Land of Punt. The expedition set out in her name with five ships, each measuring 70 feet (21 m) long bearing several sails and accommodating 210 men that included sailors and 30 rowers. Many trade goods were bought in Punt, notably myrrh.
Wife of the ruler of Punt from Hatshepsut's Deir el-Bahri
Most notably, however, the Egyptians returned from the voyage bearing thirty-one live myrrh trees, the roots of which were carefully kept in baskets for the duration of the voyage.

Hatshepsut had monuments constructed at the Temple of Karnak. She also restored the original Precinct of Mut, the ancient great goddess of Egypt, at Karnak that had been ravaged by the foreign rulers during the Hyksos occupation. It later was ravaged by other pharaohs, who took one part after another to use in their pet projects and awaits restoration. She had twin obelisks, at the time the tallest in the world, erected at the entrance to the temple. One still stands, as the tallest surviving ancient obelisk on Earth; the other has broken in two and toppled. No contemporary mention of the cause of her death has survived. If the recent identification of her mummy (see below) is correct, however, the medical evidence would indicate that she suffered from diabetes and died from bone cancer which had spread throughout her body while she was in her fifties. It also would suggest that she had arthritis and bad teeth.
Hatshepsut
s mortuary temple is considered the closest Egypt came to the Classical Architecture
After her death, many of Hatshepsut's monuments and depictions were subsequently defaced or destroyed, including those in her famous mortuary temple complex at Deir el-Bahri. Traditionally, these have been interpreted by early modern scholars to be evidence of acts of damnatio memoriae (condemning a person by erasure from recorded existence) by Thutmose III.

Widely considered a military genius by historians, Thutmose III made 16 raids in 20 years. He was an active expansionist ruler, sometimes called Egypt's greatest conqueror or "the Napoleon of Egypt." He is recorded to have captured 350 cities during his rule and conquered much of the Near East from the Euphrates to Nubia during seventeen known military campaigns. Thutmose dedicated far more attention to Karnak than any other site. East of the Iput-Isut, he erected another temple to Aten where he was depicted as being supported by Amun. It was inside this temple that Thutmose planned on erecting his tekhen waty, or "unique obelisk." The tekhen waty was designed to stand alone, instead as part of a pair, and is the tallest obelisk ever successfully cut. It was not, however, erected until Thutmose IV raised it, thirty five years later. It was later moved to Rome by Emperor Constantius II and is now known as the Lateran Obelisk.
Lateran Obelisk
Another Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius I re-erected another obelisk from the Temple of Karnak in the Hippodrome of Constantinople, in AD 390. Thus, two obelisks of Tuthmosis III's Karnak temple stand in Papal Rome and in Caesaropapist Constantinople, the two main historical capitals of the Roman Empire.

Thutmose III's tomb in the Valley of the Kings, (KV34), is the first one in which Egyptologists found the complete Amduat, an important New Kingdom funerary text. The wall decorations are executed in a simple, "diagrammatic" way, imitating the manner of the cursive script one might expect to see on a funerary papyrus rather than the more typically lavish wall decorations seen on most other royal tomb walls.
KV34
Toward the end of the reign of Thutmose III and into the reign of his son, an attempt was made to remove Hatshepsut from certain historical and pharaonic records. This elimination was carried out in the most literal way possible. Her cartouches and images were chiselled off some stone walls, leaving very obvious Hatshepsut-shaped gaps in the artwork. The deliberate erasures or mutilations of the numerous public celebrations of her accomplishments, but not the rarely seen ones, would be all that was necessary to obscure Hatshepsut's accomplishments.

The 2006 discovery of a foundation deposit including nine golden cartouches bearing the names of both Hatshepsut and Thutmose III in Karnak may shed additional light on the eventual attempt by Thutmose III and his son Amenhotep II to erase Hatshepsut (aunt of Thutmose III) from the historical record and the correct nature of their relationships and her role as pharaoh.

Amenhotep III (sometimes read as Amenophis III; Egyptian Amna-tpa; meaning Amun is Satisfied) also known as Amenhotep the Magnificent was the ninth pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty. Amenhotep III built extensively at the temple of Karnak including the Luxor temple which consisted of two pylons, a colonnade behind the new temple entrance, and a new temple to the goddess Ma'at. His enormous mortuary temple on the west bank of the Nile was, in its day, the largest religious complex in Thebes, but unfortunately, the king chose to build it too close to the floodplain and less than two hundred years later, it stood in ruins. The Colossi of Memnon two massive stone statues, eighteen meters high, of Amenhotep that stood at the gateway of his mortuary temple are the only elements of the complex that remained standing.  Amenhotep III also built the Third Pylon at Karnak and erected 600 statues of the goddess Sekhmet in the Temple of Mut, south of Karnak. With the exception of the Colossi, however, very little remains today of Amenhotep's temple. Standing on the edge of the Nile floodplain, successive annual inundations gnawed away at the foundations a famous 1840s lithograph by David Roberts shows the Colossi surrounded by water and it was not unknown for later rulers to dismantle, purloin, and reuse portions of their predecessors' monuments.
David Roberts lithograph, Thebes, Colossi of Memnon
In 27 BC, a large earthquake reportedly shattered the eastern colossus, collapsing it from the waist up and cracking the lower half. Following its rupture, the remaining lower half of this statue was then reputed to "sing" on various occasions- always within an hour or two of sunrise, usually right at dawn. The sound was most often reported in February or March, but this is probably more a reflection of the tourist season rather than any actual pattern.
Around 1350 BC, the stability of the New Kingdom was threatened when Amenhotep IV ascended the throne and instituted a series of radical and chaotic reforms. Changing his name to Akhenaten, he touted the previously obscure sun god Aten as the supreme deity, suppressed the worship of other deities, and attacked the power of the priestly establishment. Moving the capital to the new city of Akhetaten (modern-day Amarna), Akhenaten turned a deaf ear to foreign affairs and absorbed himself in his new religion and artistic style. After his death, the cult of the Aten was quickly abandoned, and the subsequent pharaohs Tutankhamun, Ay, and Horemheb erased all mention of Akhenaten's heresy, now known as the Amarna Period.
Amarna
As Amenhotep IV, Akhenaten was married to Nefertiti at the very beginning of his reign, and six daughters were identified from inscriptions. Recent DNA analysis has revealed he also fathered Tutankhaten (later Tutankhamen) with his biological sister, whose mummy remains unidentified. The parentage of Smenkhkare, his successor, is unknown, and Akhenaten and an unknown wife have been proposed to be his parents.

Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their children
Important evidence about Akhenaten's reign and foreign policy has been provided by the discovery of the Amarna Letters, a cache of diplomatic correspondence discovered in modern times at el-Amarna, the modern designation of the Akhetaten site. This correspondence comprises a priceless collection of incoming messages on clay tablets, sent to Akhetaten from various subject rulers through Egyptian military outposts, and from the foreign rulers (recognized as "Great Kings") of the kingdom of Mitanni, Babylon, Assyria and Hatti.

This Amarna Period is also associated with a serious outbreak of a pandemic, possibly the plague, or polio, or perhaps the world's first recorded outbreak of influenza, which came from Egypt and spread throughout the Middle East, killing Suppiluliuma I, the Hittite King. Influenza is a disease associated with the close proximity of water fowl, pigs and humans, and its origin as a pandemic disease may be due to the development of agricultural systems that allow the mixing of these animals and their wastes.

Some scholars do identify Mummy 61074, found in KV55, an unfinished tomb in the Valley of the Kings, as Akhenaten's. If so or if the KV 55 mummy is that of his close relative, Smenkhkare its measurements tend to support the theory that Akhenaten's depictions exaggerate his actual appearance. Though the "mummy" consists only in disarticulated bones, the skull is long and has a prominent chin and the limbs are light and long. However, in 2007, Zahi Hawass and a team of researchers made CT Scan images of the KV 55 mummy. They have concluded that the elongated skull, cheek bones, cleft palate, and impacted wisdom tooth suggest that the mummy is the father of Tutankhamun, also commonly known as Akhenaten. The Nefertiti Bust is a 3300-year-old painted limestone bust of Nefertiti, the Great Royal Wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten and is one of the most copied works of ancient Egypt. Due to the bust, Nefertiti has become one of the most famous women from the ancient world as well as an icon of female beauty. It is believed to have been crafted in 1345 BC by the sculptor Thutmose.
Nefertiti bust
 A German archeological team led by Ludwig Borchardt discovered the Nefertiti bust in 1912 in Thutmose's workshop in Amarna, Egypt. It has been kept at several locations in Germany since its discovery, including a salt mine in Merkers-Kieselbach, the Dahlem museum (then in West Berlin), the Egyptian Museum in Charlottenburg and the Altes Museum. It is currently on display at the Neues Museum, Berlin. The bust of Nefertiti has become "one of the most admired, and most copied, images from ancient Egypt", and the star exhibit used to market Berlin's museums. It is seen as an "icon of international beauty"."Showing a woman with a long neck, elegantly arched brows, high cheekbones, a slender nose and an enigmatic smile played about red lips, the bust has established Nefertiti as one of the most beautiful faces of antiquity." It is described as the most famous bust of ancient art, comparable only to the mask of Tutankhamun. Nefertiti has become an icon of Berlin's culture. Some 500,000 visitors see Nefertiti every year. The bust is described as "The best-known work of art from ancient Egypt, arguably from all antiquity". Her face is on postcards of Berlin and 1989 German postage stamps. There are many theories regarding her death and burial but to date, the mummy of this famous and iconic queen has not been found. Nefertiti's place as an icon in popular culture is secure as she has become somewhat of a celebrity. After Cleopatra she is the second most famous "Queen" of Ancient Egypt in the Western imagination and influenced through photographs that changed standards of feminine beauty of the 20th century, and is often referred to as "the most beautiful woman in the world". The succession of kings at the end of the Eighteenth dynasty of Ancient Egypt is a matter of great debate and confusion. There are very few contemporary records that can be relied upon, due to the nature of the Amarna Period and the reign of Akhenaten and his successors and possible co-regents. It is known that Akhenaten reigned for seventeen years, and in the last 3 or 4 years he had two co-regents: Smenkhkare, who was possibly his brother or son, and Neferneferuaten, who was either one of his daughters or his Great Royal Wife Nefertiti. It is unknown in which order they followed each other, and neither of their reigns lasted long, for Tutankhamun succeeded not long after Akhenaten's death. The last dated appearance of Akhenaten and the Amarna family is in the tomb of Meryre II, and dates from second month, year 12 of his reign. After this the historical record is unclear, and only with the succession of Tutankhamun is it somewhat clarified. The royal line of the dynasty died out with Tutankhamun, for two foetuses found buried in his tomb may have been his twin daughters, according to a 2008 investigation. In his third regnal year, Tutankhamun reversed several changes made during his father's reign. He ended the worship of the god Aten and restored the god Amun to supremacy. The ban on the cult of Amun was lifted and traditional privileges were restored to its priesthood. The capital was moved back to Thebes and the city of Akhetaten abandoned. This is also when he changed his name to Tutankhamun.

Tutankhamun was nine years old when he became pharaoh and reigned for approximately ten years. In historical terms, Tutankhamun's significance stems from his rejection of the radical religious innovations introduced by his predecessor and father, Akhenaten. Secondly, his tomb in the Valley of the Kings was discovered by Howard Carter almost completely intact the most complete ancient Egyptian royal tomb ever found. KV62 is the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings (Egypt), which became famous for the wealth of treasure it contained. The tomb was discovered in 1922 underneath the remains of workmen's huts built during the Ramesside Period; this explains why it was spared from the worst of the tomb depredations of that time. KV is an abbreviation for the Valley of the Kings, followed by a number to designate individual tombs in the Valley. As Tutankhamun began his reign at such an early age, his vizier and eventual successor Ay was probably making most of the important political decisions during Tutankhamun's reign.
Mask of Tutankhamun's mummy, the popular icon for ancient Egypt at The Egyptian Museum.
The last two members of the eighteenth dynasty - Ay and Horemheb - became rulers from the ranks of officials in the royal court, although Ay may have married the widow of Tutankhamun in order to obtain power and she did not live long afterward. Ay's reign was short. His successor was Horemheb, who had been a diplomat in the administration of Tutankhamun and may have been intended as his successor by the childless Tutankhamun. Horemheb may have taken the throne away from Ay in a coup. He also died childless and appointed his successor, Paramessu, who under the name Ramesses I ascended the throne in 1292 BC and was the first pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty.
Horemheb with Amun at the Museo Egizio (museum in Turin, Italy, that specialises in Egyptian archaeology and anthropology. It houses the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of Egyptian antiquities outside the Egyptian Museum in Cairo)
Towards the end of the 18th Dynasty, the situation had changed radically. Aided by Akhenaten's apparent lack of interest in international affairs, the Hittites had gradually extended their influence into Phoenicia and Canaan to become a major power in international politics.

Nineteenth Dynasty:

The warrior kings of the early 18th Dynasty had encountered only little resistance from neighbouring kingdoms, allowing them to expand their realm of influence easily. The situation had changed radically towards the end of the 18th Dynasty. The Hittites gradually extended their influence into Syria and Palestine to become a major power in international politics, a power that both Seti I and his son Ramesses II would need to deal with. Menpehtyre Ramesses I (traditional English: Ramesses or Ramses) was the founding Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt's 19th dynasty. Originally called Pa-ra-mes-su, Ramesses I was of non-royal birth, being born into a noble military family from the Nile delta region, perhaps near the former Hyksos capital of Avaris, or from Tanis. Ramesses I enjoyed a very brief reign, as evidenced by the general paucity of contemporary monuments mentioning him: the king had little time to build any major buildings in his reign and was hurriedly buried in a small and hastily finished tomb.
Decoration at KV 16 (Rameses I)
Menmaatre Seti I (also called Sethos I after the Greeks) was a Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt (Nineteenth dynasty of Egypt), the son of Ramesses I and Queen Sitre, and the father of Ramesses II.

Seti I fought a series of wars in Western Asia, Libya and Nubia in the first decade of his reign. The main source for Seti's military activities are his battle scenes on the north exterior wall of the Karnak Hypostyle Hall, along with several royal stela with inscriptions mentioning battles in Canaan and Nubia. The greatest achievement of Seti I's foreign policy was the capture of the Syrian town of Kadesh and neighboring territory of Amurru from the Hittite Empire. Kadesh had been lost to Egypt since the time of Akhenaten. Tutankhamun and Horemheb had both failed to recapture the city from the Hittites. Seti I was successful in defeating a Hittite army that tried to defend the town. He entered the city in triumph together with his son Ramesses II and erected a victory stela at the site. Kadesh, however, soon reverted to Hittite control because the Egyptians did not or could not maintain a permanent military occupation of Kadesh.

Seti's well preserved tomb (KV17) was found in 1817 by Giovanni Battista Belzoni, in the Valley of the Kings; it proved to be the longest at 136 meters and deepest of all the New Kingdom royal tombs. It was also the first tomb to feature decorations on every passageway and chamber with highly refined bas-reliefs and colorful paintings.
Seti's well preserved tomb (KV17)
From an examination of Seti's extremely well-preserved mummy, Seti I appears to have been less than forty years old when he died unexpectedly. This is in stark contrast to the situation with Horemheb, Ramesses I and Ramesses II who all lived to an advanced age. Seti I was portrayed as the father of Rameses II and uncle of Moses by actor Sir Cedric Hardwicke in the 1956 film The Ten Commandments

Ramesses II (c. 1303 BC-July or August 1213 BC; Egyptian: alternatively transcribed as Rameses play and Ramses),  referred to as Ramesses the Great, was the third Egyptian pharaoh (reigned 1279 BC - 1213 BC) of the Nineteenth dynasty. He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. His successors and later Egyptians called him the "Great Ancestor". He is also known as Ozymandias in the Greek sources, from a transliteration into Greek of a part of Ramesses's throne name, Usermaatre Setepenre, "Ra's mighty truth, chosen of Ra"
At age fourteen, Ramesses was appointed Prince Regent by his father Seti I. He is believed to have taken the throne in his late teens and is known to have ruled Egypt from 1279 BC to 1213 BC for 66 years and 2 months, according to both Manetho and Egypt's contemporary historical records.
The Battle of Kadesh in his fifth regnal year was the climactic engagement in a campaign that Ramesses fought in Syria, against the resurgent Hittite forces of Muwatallis. The pharaoh wanted a victory at Kadesh both to expand Egypt's frontiers into Syria and to emulate his father Seti I's triumphal entry into the city just a decade or so earlier. He also constructed his new capital, Pi-Ramesses where he built factories to manufacture weapons, chariots, and shields
[Pi-Rameses: Ramesses II moved the capital of his kingdom from Thebes in the Nile valley to a new site in the eastern Delta. His motives are uncertain, though he possibly wished to be closer to his territories in Palestine and Syria. The new city of Pi-Ramesses (or to give the full name, Pi-Ramesses Aa-nakhtu, meaning "Domain of Ramesses, Great in Victory") was dominated by huge temples and the king's vast residential palace, complete with its own zoo. For a time the site was misidentified as that of Tanis, due to the amount of statuary and other material from Pi-Ramesses found there, but it is now recognised that the Ramasside remains at Tanis were brought there from elsewhere, and the real Pi-Ramesses lies about 30 km south, near modern Qantir. The colossal feet of the statue of Ramesses are almost all that remains above ground today, the rest is buried in the fields. The biblical Book of Exodus mentions "Ramesses" as one of the cities on whose construction the Israelites were forced to labour. Understandably, this Ramesses was identified by an early generation of biblical archaeolgists with the Pi-Ramesses of Ramesses II. But the existence of the city as Egypt's capital as late as the 10th century means it is thus not possible to say that the reference to Ramesses in the Exodus story preserves a genuine memory of the era of Ramesses II; and indeed, the shortened form "Ramesses", in place of the original Pi-Ramesses, is first found in 1st millennium texts.  Although Ramesses's forces were caught in a Hittite ambush and outnumbered at Kadesh, the pharaoh fought the battle to a stalemate and returned home a hero. Ramesses II's forces suffered major losses particularly among the 'Ra' division which was routed by the initial charge of the Hittite chariots during the battle. Once back in Egypt, Ramesses proclaimed that he had won a great victory. The battle is generally dated to 1274 BC, and is the earliest battle in recorded history for which details of tactics and formations are known. It was probably the largest chariot battle ever fought, involving perhaps 5,000-6,000 chariots.

In his 21st regnal year, Ramesses signed the first recorded peace treaty with Urhi-Teshub's successor, Hattusili III and with that act Egypt-Hittite relations improved significantly. Ramesses II even married two Hittite princesses, the first after his second Sed Festival. At least as early as Josephus, it was believed that Moses lived during the reign of Ramesses II (though a wide range of other possibilities has also been suggested). Ramesses built extensively throughout Egypt and Nubia, and his cartouches are prominently displayed even in buildings that he did not actually construct.

The temple complex built by Ramesses II between Qurna and the desert has been known as the Ramesseum since the 19th century. The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus marveled at the gigantic and famous temple, now no more than a few ruins.
The Ramesseum is the memorial temple (or mortuary temple) of Pharaoh Ramesses II ("Ramesses the Great", also spelled "Ramses" and "Rameses"). It is located in the Theban necropolis in Upper Egypt, across the River Nile from the modern city of Luxor. The name or at least its French form, Rhamession was coined by Jean-Franois Champollion, who visited the ruins of the site in 1829 and first identified the hieroglyphs making up Ramesses's names and titles on the walls. A temple of Seti I, of which nothing is now left but the foundations, once stood to the right of the hypostyle hall. In 1255 BC Ramesses and his queen Nefertari had traveled into Nubia to inaugurate a new temple, the great Abu Simbel. It is an ego cast in stone; the man who built it intended not only to become Egypt's greatest pharaoh but also one of its gods.
The great temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel was discovered in 1813 by the famous Swiss Orientalist and traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. However, four years passed before anyone could enter the temple, because an enormous pile of sand almost completely covered the facade and its colossal statues, blocking the entrance. This feat was achieved by the great Paduan explorer Giovanni Battista Belzoni, who managed to reach the interior on 4 August 1817.

Abu Simbel by David Roberts in 1838

 In 1959 an international donations campaign to save the monuments of Nubia began: the southernmost relics of this ancient human civilization were under threat from the rising waters of the Nile that were about to result from the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

The salvage of the Abu Simbel temples began in 1964 by a multinational team of archeologists, engineers and skilled heavy equipment operators working together under the UNESCO banner; it cost some $40 million at the time. Between 1964 and 1968, the entire site was carefully cut into large blocks (up to 30 tons, averaging 20 tons), dismantled, lifted and reassembled in a new location 65 meters higher and 200 meters back from the river, in one of the greatest challenges of archaeological engineering in history. Some structures were even saved from under the waters of Lake Nasser. Today, thousands of tourists visit the temples daily. Guarded convoys of buses and cars depart twice a day from Aswan, the nearest city. Many visitors also arrive by plane, at an airfield that was specially constructed for the temple complex.
A scale model showing the original and current location of the temple (with respect to the water level)
The most important and famous of Ramesses's consorts was discovered by Ernesto Schiaparelli in 1904.Although it had been looted in ancient times, the tomb of Nefertari is extremely important, because its magnificent wall painting decoration is regarded as one of the greatest achievements of ancient Egyptian art. Ramesses obvious affection for his wife, as written on her tomb's walls, shows clearly that Egyptian queens were not simply marriages of convenience or marriages designed to accumulate greater power and alliances, but, in some cases at least, were actually based around some kind of emotional attachment. Also poetry written by Ramesses about his dead wife is featured on some of the walls of her burial chamber. ("My love is unique no one can rival her, for she is the most beautiful woman alive. Just by passing, she has stolen away my heart.").

The real value of the paintings found within the tomb is that they are the best preserved and most detailed source of the ancient Egyptian's journey towards the afterlife. The tomb features several extracts from the Book of the Dead from chapters 148, 94, 146, 17 and 144 and tells of all the ceremonies and tests taking place from the death of Nefertari up until the end of her journey, depicted on the door of her burial chamber, in which Nefertari is reborn and emerges from the eastern horizon as a sun disc, forever immortalized in victory over the world of darkness.
The tomb was closed to the public in 1950 because of various problems that threatened the spectacular paintings, which are considered to be the best preserved and most eloquent decorations of any Egyptian burial site, found on almost every available surface in the tomb, including stars painted thousands of times on the ceiling of the burial chamber on a blue background to represent the sky. In 1986 an operation to restore all the paintings within the tomb was embarked upon by the Egyptian Antiquities Organisation and the Getty Conservation Institute; however, work did not begin on the actual restoration until 1988 which was completed in April 1992. Upon completion of the restoration work, Egyptian authorities decided to severely restrict public access to the tomb in order to preserve the delicate paintings found within. 

Tomb KV5 is a subterranean, rock-cut tomb in the Valley of the Kings. It belonged to the sons of Ramesses II. Though KV5 was partially excavated as early as 1825, its true extent was discovered by Dr Kent R. Weeks and his exploration team. The tomb is now known to be the largest in the Valley of the Kings. Dr Week's discovery in 1995 is widely considered the most dramatic in the valley since the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. At least 121 rooms or chambers have been discovered as of 2006 (only about 7% of which have been cleared), and work is still continuing on clearing the rest of tomb. In the proximity to the tomb of Ramesses II, this tomb contained most of his children, both male and female, including those who died in his lifetime in particular. The skull fragments of Amun-her-khepeshef who was the crown prince of Egypt for the first 25 years of Ramesses II's reign was found inside and reconstituted.

Ramesses II was originally buried in the tomb KV7 in the Valley of the Kings but, because of looting, priests later transferred the body to a holding area, re-wrapped it, and placed it inside the tomb of queen Inhapy. 72 hours later it was again moved, to the tomb of the high priest Pinudjem II. All of this is recorded in hieroglyphics on the linen covering the body. His mummy is today in Cairo's Egyptian Museum. KV7 follows the bent-axis plan of tombs of the earlier Eighteenth Dynasty. The burial chamber has a sunken central area and a vaulted ceiling. Much of the decoration has been damaged beyond repair - its section of the Valley is particularly susceptible to flash floods - but it would have been decorated with the standard Book of Gates, Amduat and Litany of Ra. Ramesses II is one of the more popular candidates for the Pharaoh of the Exodus. He is cast in this role in the 1944 novella Das Gesetz ("The Law") by Thomas Mann. Although not a major character, Ramesses appears in Joan Grant's So Moses Was Born, a first person account from Nebunefer, the brother of Ramoses, which paints the picture of the life of Ramoses from the death of Seti, with all the power play, intrigue, plots to assassinate, following relationships are depicted: Bintanath, Queen Tuya, Nefertari, and Moses. In film, Ramesses was played by Yul Brynner in the classic film The Ten Commandments (1956). Here Ramesses was portrayed as a vengeful tyrant as well as the main antagonist of the film, ever scornful of his father's preference for Moses over "the son of [his] body".The animated film The Prince of Egypt (1998), also featured a depiction of Ramesses (voiced by Ralph Fiennes), portrayed as Moses' adoptive brother, and ultimately as the film's de facto villain. The Ten Commandments: The Musical (2006) co-starred Kevin Earley as Ramesses. This dynasty declined as internal fighting between the heirs of Merneptah for the throne increased. Amenmesse apparently usurped the throne from Merneptah's son and successor, Seti II, but he ruled Egypt for only 4 years. After his death, Seti regained power and destroyed most of Amenmesse's monuments. Seti was served at Court by Chancellor Bay, who was originally just a 'royal scribe' but quickly became one of the most powerful men in Egypt gaining the unprecedented privilege of constructing his own tomb in the Valley of the Kings (KV17). Both Bay and Seti's chief wife Twosret reportedly had a sinister reputation in Ancient Egyptian folklore. After Siptah's death Twosret ruled Egypt for two more years, but she proved unable to maintain her hold on power amid the conspiracies and powerplays being hatched at the royal court. She was likely ousted in a revolt led by Setnakhte, founder of the Twentieth Dynasty.
Seated statue of Seti II, detail of head and face, Karnak. British Museum
The Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Dynasties of ancient Egypt are often combined under the group title, New Kingdom. The 20th dynasty is considered to be the last one of the New Kingdom of Egypt.

Twentieth Dynasty:

Pharaoh Setnakhte was likely already middle aged when he took the throne after Queen Twosret. He only ruled for a short time when he was succeeded by his son Ramesses III (1186 - 1155 BC). Egypt was threatened by the Sea Peoples during this time period, but Ramesses III was able to defeat this confederacy from the Near East. The king is also known for a harem conspiracy in which Queen Tiye attempted to assassinate the king and put her son Pentawere on the throne. The period of these rulers is notable for the beginning of the systematic robbing of the Royal Tombs. Many surviving administrative documents from this period are records of investigations and punishment for these crimes, especially in the reigns of Ramses IX (1129 - 1111 BC) and Ramses XI (1107-1077).

Ramesses III (also written Ramses and Rameses) was the second Pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty and is considered to be the last great New Kingdom king to wield any substantial authority over Egypt. He was the son of Setnakhte and Queen Tiy-Merenese. Ramesses III is believed to have reigned from March 1186 to April 1155 BCE. Ramesses began the reconstruction of the Temple of Khonsu at Karnak from the foundations of an earlier temple of Amenhotep III and completed the Temple of Medinet Habu around his Year 12. He decorated the walls of his Mortuary Medinet Habu temple with scenes of his Naval and Land battles against the Sea Peoples. This monument stands today as one of the best-preserved temples of the New Kingdom. Although it was long believed that Ramesses III's body showed no obvious wounds, a recent examination of the the mummy by a German forensic team, televised in the documentary Rameses on the Science Channel in 2011, showed excess bandages around the neck. A subsequent CT Scan revealed that beneath the bandages was a deep knife wound across the throat, a wound deep enough to reach the vertebrae. According to the documentary narrator, "It was a wound no one could have survived."

The mummy of Ramesses III was discovered by antiquarians in 1886 and is regarded as the prototypical Egyptian Mummy in numerous Hollywood movies. His tomb (KV11) is one of the largest in the Valley of the Kings.

Khaemwaset prince and his father RamsesIII (QV44)

The Tombs of the sons of Ramesses III are considered some of the finest monuments in the Valley of the Queens  One of these, QV55, belongs to Amenherkhepshef (Amun-her-Khepshef) who was the eldest son and appointed heir of Pharaoh Ramesses III. He died in about the 30th year of Ramesses III's reign when he was around 15 years old 

Heqamaatre Ramesses IV (also written Ramses or Rameses) was the third pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty of the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. His name prior to assuming the crown was Amonhirkhopshef. He was the fifth son of Ramesses III and was appointed to the position of crown prince by the twenty-second year of his father's reign when all four of his elder brothers predeceased him. Part of the king's program included the extensive enlargement of his father's Temple of Khonsu at Karnak and the construction of a large mortuary temple near the Temple of Hatshepsut. The most important document to survive from this pharaoh's rule is Papyrus Harris I, which honours the life of his father, Ramesses III, by listing the latter's many accomplishments and gifts to the temples of Egypt, and the Turin papyrus, the earliest known geologic map. After a short reign of about six and a half years, Ramesses IV died and was buried in tomb KV2 in the Valley of the Kings.The tomb was one of about eleven tombs open to early travelers. KV2 contains the second-highest number of ancient graffiti within it (after KV9), with 656 individual griffitos left by both Ancient Greek and Roman visitors. This tomb also contains around 50 or so examples of Coptic graffiti, mostly sketched onto the right wall by the entranceway, The tomb was likely used as a dwelling by Coptic monks, and there are also depictions of Coptic saints and crosses on the tomb's walls.
Coptic graffiti at Rameses IV
Ramesses VI (also written Ramses and Rameses) was the fifth ruler of the Twentieth dynasty of Egypt who reigned from 1145 BC to 1137 BC and a son of Ramesses III by Iset Ta-Hemdjert. His royal tomb, KV9, is located near Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Egypt's political and economic decline continued unabated during Ramesses VI's reign; he is the last king of Egypt's New Kingdom whose name is attested in the Sinai. At Thebes, the power of the chief priests of Amun Ramessesnakht grew at the expense of Pharaoh despite the fact that Isis, Ramesses VI's daughter, was connected to the Amun priesthood "in her role as God's Wife of Amun or Divine Adoratice."

Shortly after his burial, his tomb was penetrated and ransacked by grave robbers who hacked away at his hands and feet in order to gain access to his jewelry. A medical examination of his mummy which was found in KV35 in 1898 revealed severe damage to his body, with the head and torso being broken into several pieces by an axe used by the tomb robbers. The creation of Ramesses VI's tomb, however, protected Tutankhamon's own intact tomb from grave robbers since debris from its formation was dumped over the tomb entrance to the boy king's tomb.

Book of the Earth, part A, scene 7: personification of water clock called "One Who Hides the Hours." at Ramesses VI tomb (KV9)
Ramesses VIII is the most obscure ruler of this Dynasty and the current information from his brief kingship suggests that he lasted on the throne for one year at the most. Some scholars assign him a maximum reign of two years. He is the sole pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty whose tomb has not been definitely identified in the Valley of the Kings, though some scholars have suggested that the tomb of Prince Mentuherkhepshef, KV19, the son of Ramesses IX, was originally started for Ramesses VIII but proved unsuitable when he became a king in his own right. Currently an all-Egyptian team of researchers headed by Afifi Rohiem under the supervision of Dr.Zahi Hawass are looking for the pharaoh's tomb.It is believed this tomb is somewhere between the tomb of Merenptah (KV 8), son and successor of Ramesses II, and the tomb of Ramesses II himself (KV 7).

It is believed Ramesses VIII tomb is somewhere between the tomb of Merenptah (KV 8), son and successor of Ramesses II, and the tomb of Ramesses II himself (KV 7).
Ramesses IX (also written Ramses) (originally named Amon-her-khepshef Khaemwaset) (ruled 1129
1111 BC) was the eighth king of the Twentieth dynasty of Egypt. He was the third longest serving king of this Dynasty after Ramesses III and Ramesses XI. His reign is best known for the Year 16 tomb robberies, recorded in the Abbott Papyrus, the Leopold II-Amherst Papyrus and the Mayer Papyri, when several royal and noble tombs in the Western Theban necropolis were found to have been robbed, including that of a 17th Dynasty king, Sobekemsaf I. Ramesses IX brought a measure of stability to Egypt after the wave of tomb robberies. He also paid close attention to Lower Egypt and built a substantial monument at Heliopolis.

The tomb of Ramesses IX, (KV6), has been open since antiquity, as is evidenced by the presence of Roman and Greek graffiti on the tomb walls. In 1881, the mummy of Ramesses IX was found in the Deir el-Bahri cache (DB320) within one of the two coffins of Neskhons--wife of the Theban High Priest Pinedjem II. Tomb DB320 (now usually referred to as TT320) is located next to Deir el-Bahri, in the Theban Necropolis, opposite modern Luxor contained an extraordinary cache of mummified remains and funeral equipment of more than 50 kings, queens, royals and various nobility.

Deir el-Medina  is an ancient Egyptian village which was home to the artisans who worked on the tombs in the Valley of the Kings during the 18th to 20th dynasties of the New Kingdom period (ca. 1550–1080 BCE)

At the time when the world's press was concentrating on Howard Carter's discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922 a team led by Bernard Bruyère began to excavate the site. This work has resulted in one of the most thoroughly documented accounts of community life in the ancient world that spans almost four hundred years. There is no comparable site in which the organisation, social interactions, working and living conditions of a community can be studied in such detail.

TT1: The Ancient Egyptian artisan Sennedjem lived in Deir el-Medina on the west bank of the Nile, opposite Thebes, during the reigns of Seti I and Ramesses II. He was buried along with his wife, Iy-neferti, and family in a tomb in the village necropolis. His tomb was discovered January 31, 1886. When Sennedjem's tomb was found, in it there was regular furniture from his home, including a stool and a bed, which he actually used when he was alive.
Sennedjem's burial chamber.
TT359: It is located in Deir el-Medina, part of the Theban Necropolis, on the west bank of the Nile, opposite to Luxor. It is the burial place of the Ancient Egyptian workman Inherkhau, who was Foreman of the Lord of the Two Lands in the Place of Truth, during the reigns of Ramesses III and Ramesses IV.

burial chamber of Inherkhau.


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