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temple-of-seti

Temple of Seti I

The mythical Temple of Seti I in Abydos – The Mortuary Temple of Seti I is the memorial temple (or mortuary temple) of the New Kingdom Pharaoh Seti I. It is located in the Theban Necropolis in Upper Egypt, across the River Nile from the modern city of Luxor (Thebes). The edifice is situated near the town of Qurna.

Carving of Seti I in the Temple of Seti, Abydos ( Wikipedia)

Seti I was probably one of the least well-known pharaohs of the New Kingdom period of ancient Egypt. However, his temple in Abydos is among the most famous, cited by many as the most impressive religious structure still standing in Egypt.

Seti’s place in history was overshadowed by that of his son, Ramesses II , arguably one of the greatest pharaohs in Egyptian history. Yet, Seti was an important character in his own right, as he was one of the pharaohs who had to bring order back to Egypt and re-establish Egyptian sovereignty over its eastern neighbors (Syria and the Levant) following the social disruption caused of Akhenaten’s religious reforms. Seti was also responsible for commissioning the construction of a grand temple in Abydos.

Abydos has a special place in the sacred landscape of ancient Egypt, as it was believed to be the place where Osiris was buried. Thus, Abydos was an important cult center for Osiris. A number of temples dedicated to Osiris, all of which were located in one area, were built prior to the reign of Seti. The Temple of Seti, however, was built on new ground to the south of the said temples.

Seti’s temple was built mainly of limestone, though parts of it were built in sandstone. Although work began under Seti, the temple was only completed during the reign of his son, Ramesses II. This is visible in some of the temple’s reliefs depicting Ramesses slaying Asiatics and worshipping Osiris. Like the temples of his predecessors, Seti’s temple was dedicated to Osiris, and consisted of a pylon, two open courts, two hypostyle halls, seven shrines, each to an important Egyptian deity (Horus, Isis, Osiris, Amun-Ra, Ra-Horakhty and Ptah) and one to Seti himself, a chapel dedicated to the different forms of the god Osiris, and several chambers to the south. In addition to the main temple, there was also an Osireion at the back of it. Various additions to the temple were made by later pharaohs, including those from the Late, Ptolemaic and Roman periods.

The Osireion at the back of the Temple of Seti I. Credit: Hannah Pethen / flickr

The Temple of Seti played an important role in his family’s claim as a legitimate royal household. Prior to the ascension to the throne by Seti’s father, Ramesses I, Seti’s ancestors were merely warriors, generals at most. Without royal blood in his veins, Seti had to consolidate his position, and one of the ways to do so was to build temples. As Akhenaten’s religious reforms did away will the old gods, Seti’s dedication of his temple to Osiris and other important Egyptian deities symbolized a return to the traditional way of life, thus allowing himself to be seen as a restorer of order.

Seti I Temple Reliefs at Abydos. Seti I offering a menat up to a deity and receiving the djed and ankh in return. Credit: Kyera Giannini / flickr

In addition to the worship of Egypt’s traditional gods, Seti’s temple had another feature that made his rule legitimate. This was the Abydos King List, which was found carved on a wall of the temple. The Abydos King List contains the names of 76 kings of ancient Egypt, predecessors whom Seti acknowledged to be legitimate pharaohs. On the other hand, earlier rulers who were considered illegitimate, such as Hatshepsut and Akhenaten were conveniently omitted from the List. The Abydos King List was arranged in three rows, each containing 38 cartouches. Whilst the first two rows consisted of the names of his predecessors, the third row is just a repetition of Seti’s throne name and praenomen.

The Abydos King List

Apart from being an important legitimising tool for Seti’s dynasty, the Abydos King List was also an incredibly important document for our understanding of the kings of ancient Egypt, especially those from the Old Kingdom and the First Intermediate Period. Although the List provides the order of the Old Kingdom rulers, it is far more valuable for the fact that it is the only known source for the names of many of the kings from the first two dynasties of the First Intermediate Period (Dynasties 7 and 8).

The Temple of Seti at Abydos was a strategic building project on the part of Seti I in order to bolster his family’s claim to the Egyptian throne. This desire for legitimacy has also indirectly benefitted us today, as Seti left behind a list of kings that helped patched some holes in the history of Egyptian kingship, as well as a spectacular monument that continues to be visited by thousands of people every year.

Sources: Wikipedia, ancient-origins.net.



Pharaoh-Seti-I

Seti I

Seti I – Menmaatre Seti I (or Sethos I as in Greek) was a pharaoh of the New Kingdom Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt, the son of Ramesses I and Sitre, and the father of Ramesses II. As with all dates in Ancient Egypt, the actual dates of his reign are unclear, and various historians claim different dates, with 1294 BC to 1279 BC[4] and 1290 BC to 1279 BC[5] being the most commonly used by scholars today.

The name ‘Seti’ means “of Set”, which indicates that he was consecrated to the god Set (also termed “Sutekh” or “Seth”). As with most pharaohs, Seti had several names. Upon his ascension, he took the prenomen “mn-m3‘t-r‘ “, usually vocalized as Menmaatre, in Egyptian, which means “Established is the Justice of Re.”[1] His better known nomen, or birth name, is transliterated as “sty mry-n-ptḥ” or Sety Merenptah, meaning “Man of Set, beloved of Ptah”. Manetho incorrectly considered him to be the founder of the 19th dynasty, and gave him a reign length of 55 years, though no evidence has ever been found for so long a reign.

The spectacular tomb of Seti I reveals the importance of his reign. As the son of Ramses I, Seti was only the second pharaoh of the 19th dynasty. However, many Egyptologists consider him the greatest pharaoh of the New Kingdom.

A Military Man

As the son of Ramses I and Queen Sitre, Seti Merenptah followed in his father’s footsteps as a military man. Egyptians considered him a powerful man, and he earned multiple titles, including troop commander, vizier and head archer. He led many campaigns during the reign of his father and during his own reign.

Upon the death of his father, Seti took the name Menmaatre Seti as his official pharaoh name, which meant “Established is the Justice of Re.” He married Tuya, the daughter of a military lieutenant. They had four children together. Their third child, Ramses II, would succeed Ramses on the throne in approximately 1279 BC.

Blurring of Dates

The exact dates of Seti’s reign are uncertain. Egyptian pharaohs frequently changed the dates of previous reigns to remove unpopular pharaohs from history. Because of this practice, many theories exist as to when rulers actually ascended to the throne and how long they remained in power.

Most researchers believe Seti reigned from 1290 BC to 1279 BC. Estimates of this vary from 5 to 20 years. The longest estimate is that he ruled for 55 years, although there is little evidence to this claim. Because of the revisions to history, birth and death dates are unknown.



Restoration of Egypt

Seti’s strong military experience played a major role during his reign. He personally led many military campaigns into Syria and Lybia. He continued expanding Egypt to the east and worked to restore the empire to the past glory of the 18th dynasty. His troops were the first Egyptian forces to meet the Hittites in battle, keeping them from invading Egypt.

Egyptians knew Seti as the “Repeater of Births,” meaning he began an era of order and restoration. Approximately 30 years had elapsed between the reigns of Tutankhamen and Seti I. The pharaohs during this time period focused on the restoration of not only the empire, but also the reliefs vandalized during the reign of King Akhenaten. Egyptologists recognize Seti I as the best known of all the restorer pharaohs due to his marking of repairs with his name.

Many of Seti’s restorations and additions are considered continuations of work left incomplete by previous rulers. He continued the work started by his father on the great Hypostyle hall at Karnak. He also began the construction of the Great Temple of Abydos, but left it to be finished by his son.

Seti’s Tomb

Archaeologist Giovanni Belzoni discovered the tomb of Seti I in October of 1817. Located in the Valley of the Kings in western Thebes, the tomb features an amazing display of display of tomb paintings covering the walls, columns and ceilings. The paintings and bas reliefs provide researchers with valuable information full of meaning and symbolism.

The quality of the reliefs throughout the parts of the building probably surpasses anything found at any other New Kingdom site.

Belzoni considered the tomb the finest tomb of all the pharaohs. Hidden passageways revealed secret rooms, while long corridors served to confuse tomb robbers. Despite the amazing tomb, Seti’s sarcophagus and mummy were missing. It would take archaeologists 70 years to find the final resting place of Seti I.

In 1881, Seti’s mummy was found in the mummy cache at Deir el-Bahri. Damage to his alabaster sarcophagus indicated that his tomb had been robbed and his body disturbed during antiquity. His mummy was damaged, but he had been carefully repaired and re-wrapped.

Examinations of his mummy revealed Seti died of unknown causes before the age of forty. Some researchers believe he died of an illness involving his heart. The hearts of most pharaohs remained in place during mummification. Seti’s mummified heart was located on the wrong side of the body, leading to the theory that perhaps it had been relocated in an effort to cleanse it of disease.

Sources: wikipedia, ancient-egypt-online.com. Reliefs image source: Flicker (kairoinfo4u).

Ahmose-bust

Ahmose I

Ahmose I (Egyptian: Jˁḥ ms(j.w), sometimes written Amosis I, “Amenes” and “Aahmes” and meaning Born of Iah[5]) was a pharaoh of ancient Egypt and the founder of the Eighteenth dynasty. He was a member of the Theban royal house, the son of pharaoh Seqenenre Tao and brother of the last pharaoh of the Seventeenth dynasty, King Kamose. During the reign of his father or grandfather, Thebes rebelled against the Hyksos, the rulers of Lower Egypt. When he was seven years old his father was killed,[6] and he was about ten when his brother died of unknown causes, after reigning only three years. Ahmose I assumed the throne after the death of his brother,[7] and upon coronation became known as Neb-Pehty-Re (The Lord of Strength is Re). The name Ahmose is a combination of the divine name ‘Ah’ (see Iah) and the combining form ‘-mose’.

Egypt’s 18th Dynasty that established the New Kingdom is, to most people interested in Egypt, a dynasty of stars. It is the dynasty of Tutankhamun who was a fairly minor king, but perhaps the best known of any of the pharaohs. It was also the dynasty of the well known Akhenaten, and of Queen Hatshepsut.

The founder of this Dynasty is less well known to the general public, but unquestionably of major importance to Egyptian history. He was Ahmose I, during who’s reign Egypt was finally and completely liberated from the Hyksos. Various scholars attribute different dates to his reign, but he probably became ruler of Egypt around 1550 BC at the age of 10, and ruled for a period of around 25 years before his death (examination of his well preserved mummy suggest he was about 35 when he died).

Ahmose I (Amosis to the Greeks) was given the birth name Ah-mose (The Moon is Born). His thrown name was Neb-pehty-re (The Lord of Strength is Re). He was probably a boy when he assumed the thrown, having lost his father Seqenenre Taa II and his brother Kahmose within three years of each other. His mother was Queen Ashotep, a powerful woman who was perhaps his co-regent during his early years.

Egyptologists believe that during his very early reign, little was probably accomplished and perhaps the Hyksos may have even gained some ground, recapturing Heliopolis. However, by the end of his first decade in power, we know from an Autobiography of Ahmose, son of Ibana, a naval officer from El-Kab, that he laid siege on Avaris (The tomb of Ahmose Pennekheb, another soldier also records the campaigns). This was a long battle interrupted by the need to put down insurrections in already liberated territories, but appears to have been successful sometime between his 12th and 15th year as ruler. Afterwards, he attacked the southwest Palestinian fortress of Sharuhen in a six year siege that would finally put an end to Hyksos control of Egypt.

Stele of Ahmose I – Egyptian_Museum

Next, he turned his attention to Nubia (Kush) and, while Kamose (his predecessor) may have gained some ground prior to his death, Ahmose I pushed the boundaries south to the Second Cataract. Here, he established a new civil administration at Buhen probably initially headed by a Viceroy named Djehuty.

Apparently, while Ahmose I was in Nubia, former Hyksos allies again attempted a few uprising in the north lead by an arch enemy of Kamose named Teti-en. In this instance, Ahmose I’s mother, Ahhotpe, was probably responsible for putting down the rebellion and for this she was awarded the gold flies, an award for valor that was found on her mummy in her intact tomb at Thebes.

After Ahmose I’s campaigns in Nubia, he once again returned to Palestine during his 22nd year in power and may have fought his way as for as the Euphrates, according to information on a stela of Tuthmosis I.

Ahmose I married his sister, Ahmose-Nefertiri, who became Egypt’s first great God’s Wife of Amun, and had a number of children including:

  • Merytamun – eldest daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (died young)
  • Tair – daughter of Kasmut
  • Satamun – 2nd daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (died infant)
  • Sapair – eldest son of Ahmose-Nefertari (died young)
  • Saamen – 2nd son of Ahmose-Nefertari (died infant)
  • Aahotep – 3rd daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (Queen)
  • Amenhotep I – 3rd son of Ahmose-Nefertari (King)
  • Satkames – 4th daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (died aged 30)
  • Henttameh- daughter of Thenthapi
  • Ahmose – daughter

We also know from Ahmose, son of Ibana that he supported his reign and rewarded local princes who had supported the Theban cause during the Second Intermediate Period by gifts of land (as recorded in Ahmose, son of Ibana’s tomb at el-Kab). We also know that he initiated some temple building projects, notably at Abydos. However, though we know he reopened the Tura limestone quarries, little survives of his construction apart form a few additions to the temples of Amun and Montu at Karnak. However, a recent Dutch-Egyptian team of archaeologists believe they may have unearthed the remains of Ahmose’s palace in the Al-Dabaa area in the Sharqiya Governorate of Egypt, a location that was probably the ancient Hyksos capital.

He was buried in the Dra Abu el-Naga area, but his tomb has yet to be found. His actual mummy was found in the Deir el-Bahari cache. He did have a cenotaph at South Abydos, consisting of a cliff temple and a pyramid and temple on the edge of the Nile valley. The pyramid which measures about 70 meters square is the last known royal example built in Egypt. Some battle scene decorations within the pyramid may have depicted his wars with the Hyksos. In these scenes are some of the earliest representation of horses in Egypt.

temple_of_seti_i

Temple of Seti I

The temple that the Greeks called the Memnonium in Abydos, actually dedicated to Seti I, Osiris and Isis along with Ptah, Ptah-Sokar, Nefertem, Re-Horakhty, Amun, and Horus, is one of the major archaeological sites in that region. It was begun by Seti I and finished by his son, the great Ramesses II. In fact, this structure built of fine white limestone is actually one of the most impressive religious structures in Egypt.

The present facade of the Temple was once the backdrop to the second of the two courtyards, the first of which, along with its entrance pylon, have long since fallen into ruin.

The temple, in the shape of an L, once had a landing quay, a ramp, a front terrace, two pylons, though the outer one is mostly lost, with two courts and pillared porticoes, followed by two hypostyle halls and seven chapels, with additional chambers to the south making up the short leg of the L. Storage chambers fill the area from the southern wing to the front of the temple. The main body of the temple was symmetrical back to the seven chapels. While the L shaped floor plan of this temple is unusual, analysis seems to show that the southern wing was no afterthought, but the result of a well thought out alternative to the usual axial temple plan.

Ground Plan of the Main Seti I Temple (L Shaped)

One approaches the temple through its outer courts, now ruined but with the huge tanks for the absolution of the temple’s priest still visible. This was the first temple we know of in Egypt that incorporated these structures. Along the way there are also row upon row of mud brick storage annexes grouped around a stone entrance hall.The access to the temple proper is up a long flight of 42 shallow stairs

The outer pylons and courts, as well as the first hypostyle hall which is relatively shallow and has two rows of twelve columns with lotus bud capitals, were hastily completed and decorated by Ramesses II. In fact, an image of him worshipping his father, along with Osiris and Isis is incorporated into the initial decorations. Most of the decorations completed by Ramesses II are inferior to those done during his father’s reign, but some are interesting and noteworthy, including the depiction of him as a young boy roping a bull with his father (elsewhere in the temple). Here, we also find a number of military scenes (second courtyard). Within the first hypostyle hall, it is interesting that Ramesses II placed decorations over those of his father. Within the portico that leads to the hypostyle halls, there was once seven doors that gave way to seven processional paths through the towering clustered columns to seven chapels at the rear of the temple.

Even though Seti’s place in history was overshadowed by his son, Ramesses II , arguably one of the greatest pharaohs in Egyptian history. Yet, Seti was an important character in his own right, as he was one of the pharaohs who had to bring order back to Egypt and re-establish Egyptian sovereignty over its eastern neighbours (Syria and the Levant) following the social disruption caused of Akhenaten’s religious reforms . Seti was also responsible for commissioning the construction of a grand temple in Abydos.

rving of Seti I in the Temple of Seti, Abydos (Image: Wikipedia)

Abydos has a special place in the sacred landscape of ancient Egypt, as it was believed to be the place where Osiris was buried. Thus, Abydos was an important cult centre for Osiris. A number of temples dedicated to Osiris, all of which were located in one area, were built prior to the reign of Seti. The Temple of Seti, however, was built on new ground to the south of the said temples.

Seti’s temple was built mainly of limestone, though parts of it were built in sandstone. Although work began under Seti, the temple was only completed during the reign of his son, Ramesses II. This is visible in some of the temple’s reliefs depicting Ramesses slaying Asiatics and worshipping Osiris. Like the temples of his predecessors, Seti’s temple was dedicated to Osiris, and consisted of a pylon, two open courts, two hypostyle halls, seven shrines, each to an important Egyptian deity (Horus, Isis, Osiris, Amun-Ra, Ra-Horakhty and Ptah) and one to Seti himself, a chapel dedicated to the different forms of the god Osiris, and several chambers to the south. In addition to the main temple, there was also an Osireion at the back of it. Various additions to the temple were made by later pharaohs, including those from the Late, Ptolemaic and Roman periods.

The Temple of Seti played an important role in his family’s claim as a legitimate royal household. Prior to the ascension to the throne by Seti’s father, Ramesses I, Seti’s ancestors were merely warriors, generals at most. Without royal blood in his veins, Seti had to consolidate his position, and one of the ways to do so was to build temples. As Akhenaten’s religious reforms did away will the old gods, Seti’s dedication of his temple to Osiris and other important Egyptian deities symbolised a return to the traditional way of life, thus allowing himself to be seen as a restorer of order.

Seti I offering a menat up to a deity and receiving the djed and ankh in return. (Credit: Kyera Giannini / flickr)

In addition to the worship of Egypt’s traditional gods, Seti’s temple had another feature that made his rule legitimate. This was the Abydos King List, which was found carved on a wall of the temple. The Abydos King List contains the names of 76 kings of ancient Egypt, predecessors whom Seti acknowledged to be legitimate pharaohs. On the other hand, earlier rulers who were considered illegitimate, such as Hatshepsut and Akhenaten were conveniently omitted from the List. The Abydos King List was arranged in three rows, each containing 38 cartouches. Whilst the first two rows consisted of the names of his predecessors, the third row is just a repetition of Seti’s throne name and praenomen.

Apart from being an important legitimising tool for Seti’s dynasty, the Abydos King List was also an incredibly important document for our understanding of the kings of ancient Egypt, especially those from the Old Kingdom and the First Intermediate Period. Although the List provides the order of the Old Kingdom rulers, it is far more valuable for the fact that it is the only known source for the names of many of the kings from the first two dynasties of the First Intermediate Period (Dynasties 7 and 8).

The Temple of Seti at Abydos was a strategic building project on the part of Seti I in order to bolster his family’s claim to the Egyptian throne. This desire for legitimacy has also indirectly benefitted us today, as Seti left behind a list of kings that helped patched some holes in the history of Egyptian kingship, as well as a spectacular monument that continues to be visited by thousands of people every year.

Sources: Tour Egypt (touregypt.net), Ancient Origins. (ancient-origins.net).

pyramid-of-khafre-giza

Pyramid of Khafre

Pyramid of Khafre – Giza, Lower Egypt. Khafre (Chephren) sited his pyramid at Giza, a short distance to the south-west of the monument of his father Khufu. Khafre’s brother Djedefre had succeeded their father on the throne but only reigned for around eight years and had chosen to site his own pyramid at Abu Roash to the north. Returning to Giza, Khafre’s monuments have survived better than most and his pyramid makes an impressive backdrop to the Great Sphinx which lies next to his causeway and was probably part of the pyramid complex.

Appearing to be bigger than Khufu’s pyramid because of the rising ground on which it was built and its steeper angle of slope, Khafre’s pyramid actually had a base measurement of 215m and a height of 143.5m, making it slightly smaller than his father’s. It is the only pyramid to be preserved almost to its full height by the casing stones remaining at its apex. Belzoni, in 1816, was the first to enter the pyramid in modern times. He discovered the upper entrance and underground chambers and is commemorated in an inscription by the English Colonel Fitzclarence on the upper entrance. In 1860 Auguste Mariette found seven statues of Khafre while excavating the valley temple, including a wonderfully preserved diorite statue of the king protected by a Horus falcon, one of the great masterpieces of Egyptian sculpture now in the Cairo Museum. More recent investigations of Khafre’s pyramid complex, using modern archaeological techniques, have been undertaken by the Giza Plateau Mapping Project under the directorships of Mark Lehner and Zahi Hawass.

The core of the pyramid, which was built on a levelled terrace, was of rough irregular limestone blocks, left behind when the casing blocks of Tura limestone were stripped off in antiquity, although a band of more regular-shaped stone can be seen just below the remaining casing. A lower course of the pyramid’s outer skin is composed of red granite which are well preserved on the southern side.

There are two entrances on the northern side of the pyramid. The first or ‘upper entrance’, found at a height of 11.5m, leads to a descending corridor which straightens out to join an ascending passage from the ‘lower entrance’. It is the lower entrance, at ground level which is used today to access the structure. This leads to a lower corridor which has an unfinished chamber cut into its western side and it is suggested that the lower gallery was begun on the assumption that the pyramid was to be built further north, or was intended to be larger, as the two entrances show. This may have been a serdab chamber however, similar the the ‘Queens Chamber’ in Khufu’s pyramid. The lower passage then ascends to meet the entrance corridor from above, and continues horizontally to the burial chamber.

Khafre’s burial chamber lies on the vertical axis of the pyramid and is simply constructed in a pit in the bedrock. The roof of the chamber is composed of pented limestone blocks, similar to those used in Khufu’s pyramid to relieve the weight of stone. The words ‘Discovered by G Belzoni – March 2 1816′ (in Italian) appear on the south wall of the burial chamber, although he had already discovered writing on the west wall showing that the pyramid had been entered previously, probably around the 12th century AD. The burial chamber was found to contain Khafre’s red granite sarcophagus, sunk slightly into the floor, it’s cover broken and a nearby pit which would have contained the canopic chest.

A satellite pyramid (G2-a) belonging to Khafre’s complex is now almost gone, with only the foundations remaining on the southern side of the king’s pyramid. It is currently believed to have been a cult pyramid and not to contain a burial.

The huge mortuary temple of Khafre’s complex is separated from the east face of the pyramid by a limestone pavement, which runs around all four sides of the pyramid. The temple was excavated in 1910 by Holscher and von Sieglin and shown to have consisted of an entrance hall, courtyard, five statue chapels, store-rooms and an offering hall. Sadly the structure was quarried for its stone in ancient times, but the surviving foundations show its innovative construction method, using massive core blocks of limestone cased with finer quality stone and lined on the inside with red granite. In the massive open courtyard there were recesses for huge statues of the king. Five boat pits were discovered to the north and south of the mortuary temple, but all of them had been plundered.

The ruined causeway leads from the mortuary temple, 494m south to Khafre’s valley temple, which is in a better state of preservation – the only well preserved valley temple found to date. This too was constructed from huge limestone monoliths, faced with granite and was discovered by Mariette in 1852 who wrongly described it as the Temple of the Sphinx. Huge rectangular blocks of Aswan granite form pillars and lintels, giving the structure a very distinctive style, reminiscent of the Osirion at Abydos. Originally there were 24 diorite statues of the king seated on his throne around the walls, of which only one survives to be seen in Cairo Egyptian Museum. Although it’s function is not yet clear, it is thought that the valley temple may have been used for the embalming rites before the king’s funeral and in 1995, traces of a ‘purification tent’ were found near the temple, along with two ramps and underground tunnels.

To the north of Khafre’s valley temple lies the Great Sphinx, inside its own enclosure. It is currently thought to have been modelled during Khafre’s reign, and would have been the first colossal statue in ancient Egypt.

Entrance

The three main pyramids are open on an annual rotation with one of them usually being closed for restoration each year. Tickets for Khafre’s Pyramid cost EGP 30 and are on sale at 8.00am and 1.00pm. The numbers may be limited.

temple-ramses-second

Temple of Rameses II

Temple of Rameses II – Sohag, Abydos. About 300m from Seti I’s temple at Abydos, on the western edge of the village of Beni Mansur, Rameses II built an another temple for himself. This was also dedicated mainly to the Osirian cult but was a more conventional design than his father’s temple. It was built when he was still co-ruler with Seti I. The walls of the temple of Rameses are very reduced, now only about 2m high, but the plan of the structure is still plain to see. The temple’s greatest attraction is the brilliantly coloured painted reliefs which are possibly the finest in any monument built by Rameses II.

The walls of the temple are built of limestone, with sandstone pillars. The first pylon and court are now ruined and the pink granite portal leads straight into a second court surrounded by a colonnade of Osirid pillars on its north, east and south sides. None of the pillars is preserved to their full height and the engaged Osirid statues of the king all lack their heads and shoulders. The north wall of the court depicts processions of priests and offering bearers with a decorated bull and gazelles, as well as soldiers, Libyans and negroes. Also on the north wall there are some interesting graffiti. Some ancient amateur artist incised an image of the god In-hert and a painted priest before him bears the inscription ‘Djed-Iah, the justified, wab-priest of Osiris, Djedi-ankh-f’.

At the back of the court on the western side is a raised portico with two chapels dedicated to Seti I and the king’s deified ancestors on the left and two chapels to the nine gods of the Ennead and Rameses II (and Osiris Khenty-Amentiu) on the right. The shrine of the ancestors once contained a table of kings on its north wall, part of which (the ‘Second Abydos List’) is now in the British Museum.

On the north wall of the portico, Rameses carved nine name-rings of the Asiatic tribes he conquered. A magnificent highly polished black granite gateway, 5m tall and decorated with scenes and inscriptions, which has been restored in the centre of the portico leads us into the first hypostyle hall.

The first hypostyle was decorated while the young Rameses was still his father’s co-ruler though his cartouches were later altered to contain his own pharaonic titles. Eight rectangular pillars supported the roof which is now missing. The decoration of the hypostyle is similar to that in the court and portico, but has a brightly coloured dado on its lower walls depicting the Nile gods. These are painted in different colours; red represents the Nile at inundation, blue represents winter and green, summer. At the western end of the hall’s south wall, a narrow staircase ascended to the roof, though there are now only 12 stairs remaining.

The second hypostyle contains eight sandstone pillars with three chapels on each of the north, west and south sides. The northern chapels are dedicated to Thoth, Min and Osiris. The southern chapels are very badly damaged but it is thought that the central one was dedicated to Osiris with a clothing room where the god’s daily garments were stored. The chapels on the western side of the hall were dedicated to Amun-Re, Osiris and possibly Horus. In the latter shrine on the north wall there is a colourful relief of the goddess Hekat ‘Mistress of Abydos’, usually portrayed as a frog, but in this case showing her human face. Next to her the god Anubis ‘Lord of the Sacred Land’ also has the head of a man rather than the usual jackal. This is the only known example of Anubis with a human head.

The Central shrine on the western side of the hypostyle is the ‘alabaster’ sanctuary of Osiris where we can see a restored statue group in grey granite which was brought from another location in the temple and depicts (probably) Osiris, Isis, Horus, Seti I and Rameses II.

In the corners of the western wall at the north and south are two chambers thought to be statue halls which also have some very colourful reliefs. The each contain decorated niches and the southern chamber has a beautiful relief of Rameses offering to Osiris who is being protected by a winged djed pillar. This is thought to be one of the earliest representations of a symbol which became popular in later dynasties.

Only the lower parts of the exterior walls still exist and the northern and western walls bear a version of Rameses’ Battle of Kadesh in beautiful incised relief, though not as complete as in some of his later monuments. On the southern exterior wall there is the lower part of a calendar of feasts which lists offerings provided by the royal endowment to be presented on the days of the festivals. Beneath this Rameses describes his temple and seems to be accurate in what remains of the text. He describes a pylon of white limestone, granite doorways and a sanctuary of pure alabaster which must have been very beautiful in its time.