Visiting London’s British Museum
Ramesses II, King of Egypt (1279-1213 BC)
On our recent Delta Vacations trip to London, the very first place on my list to visit was the world-famous British Museum.
The British Museum was founded in 1753, the first national public museum in the world. From the beginning it granted free admission to all ‘studious and curious persons’. Visitor numbers have grown from around 5,000 a year in the eighteenth century to nearly 6 million today.
For nearly 260 years, the British Museum has been collecting items from around the world. As you might imagine, the collection is absolutely immense and simply must be bitten off in small chunks.
The British Museum is renowned for its ancient Egyptian collection and here I’ve photographed a colossal statue of Ramesses II.
“Weighing 7.25 tons, this fragment of his statue was cut from a single block of two-coloured granite. He is shown wearing the nemes head-dress surmounted by a cobra diadem.
The sculptor has used a slight variation of normal conventions to relate his work to the viewer, angling the eyes down slightly, so that the statue relates more to those looking at it.
It was retrieved from the mortuary temple of Ramesses at Thebes (the ‘Ramesseum’) by Giovanni Belzoni in 1816. Belzoni wrote a fascinating account of his struggle to remove it, both literally, given its colossal size, and politically. The hole on the right of the torso is said to have been made by members of Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt at the end of the eighteenth century, in an unsuccessful attempt to remove the statue.
Ramesses II ascended the throne as the third king of the Nineteenth Dynasty at the age of twenty-five. In his sixty-seven year reign he probably built more temples and sired more children than any other Egyptian king. Today, he is popularly known as Ramesses ‘the great’.
He founded a new capital, Piramesse in the eastern Delta, which remained the royal residence throughout the Ramesside period. He also built a vast number of temples throughout Egypt and Nubia. The most famous of these are the rock cut temple at Abu Simbel, and his mortuary temple at Thebes, the Ramesseum. The tomb of his principal wife, Nefertari, at Thebes is one of the best preserved royal tombs. The tomb of many of his sons has also recently been found in the Valley of the Kings (KV5). Ramesses II was buried in the Valley of the Kings and his body was found in the Deir el-Bahari cache.
For Ramesses II, the most momentous event in his reign was the battle of Kadesh, fought against the Hittites. On his monuments, the battle was commemorated as a great victory. However, the Hittite account, found at their capital, Hattusas, suggests that the battle was closer fought.” (via the British Museum website)
I have a lot to share from this and other museums we visited during our 10-day whirlwind tour of London. Stay tuned, I’ll be sprinkling in some of the best items over the coming weeks.
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