An exhibit of Ramses the Great is spending 4 years touring around the world. It currently is in San Francisco at the DeYoung Museum before it moves on to its next stop.
Who Was Ramses II and Why Was He So Great?
Was Ramses II really one of Egypt’s more powerful pharaohs or was he just good at PR? That is the question.
Ramses II became the third king of Egypt’s 19th Dynasty when he took over Egypt’s throne in 1279 BC after the death of his father, Seti I. He ruled the country for over 60 years as a living god until his death in 1213 BC.
His legend took hold when he led the kingdom’s armies to victory in the Battle of Kadesh. The battle was a turning point in a war with Egypt’s neighboring Hittites (today’s modern Turkey) that ended with history’s first peace treaty. From there, his reign encompassed much of the country’s New Golden Age which was marked by the construction of many temples, tombs, statues, and obelisks. He created more than 10 temples including the magnificent Temples of Karnak and Abu Simbal. He was also prolific in documenting his battles and wins on temples and in statues. Perhaps that was the key to his legend.
The Pharaohs Treasures
Unfortunately, most artifacts from Ramses’ era were lost to a combination of tomb robbers and floods. Yet a handful of commemorative sculptures of him and his wife Nefartari, beautifully carved and painted tiles, alabaster vases and gold offerings to the gods remain and are included in the exhibition.
This being said, many of the exhibit’s most noteworthy objects, sarcophagi, coffin covers, death masks and jewelry were from those of from the graves of his father, Seti I, and other contemporary pharaohs. These include a display of mummies of and monuments to animals that were recently unearthed from royal tombs of Dahshur and Tanis. These mummies included those of cats and baby lions to crocodiles and even scarab beetles!
Ramses II’s World
The exhibit contained many multimedia exhibits and recreated exhibits to help viewers better understand events and what things looked like in Ramses II’s day. For example, the Battle of Kadesh has been recreated in a multi-media exhibit . Temples and decorative tomb walls are reconstructed and multimedia takes you inside of them.
The exhibit gives one insight into the history of Ramses’ reign and the Valley of the Kings (where he and many other pharaohs were buried). And it displays a number of beautiful artifacts. It brought back memories of our 2010 trip to Egypt when we walked through temples and tombs and viewed the amazing collection of artifacts at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. And then there are our ancient recollections from 1978 when the incredible King Tut exhibit toured the U.S.
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