Monthly Archives: August 2014

Object biography # 16: A pyramid temple column reused by Ramesses II (Acc. no. 1780)

Granite column, with decoration of Ramesses II and Merenptah (Acc. no. 1780)

Column, with decoration of Ramesses II and Merenptah (Acc. no. 1780)

Manchester’s imposing (3.8m tall) red granite column (Acc. no. 1780) is one of eight which once fronted the pronaos of a temple dedicated to the ram-headed god Herishef at Herakleopolis Magna (modern Ihnasya el-Medina), 15 miles west of Beni Suef in Middle Egypt. The temple was excavated by Swiss Egyptologist Edouard Naville in 1891, and the columns were distributed to museums around the world shortly thereafter. Other columns from the temple are in the British Museum; Bolton Museum and Art Gallery; South Australian Museum, Adelaide; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and University Museum, University of Pennsylvania. English archaeologist W. M. Flinders Petrie re-excavated and planned the site in 1904. The columns were recently studied by Japanese Egyptologist Yoshifumi Yasuoka, who identified traces of the original panels of decoration on them and re-examined their architectural arrangement.

The temple of Herishef was expanded during the reign of Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC), at which time the eight palm-form granite columns were brought to the site from elsewhere. The columns were in fact already ancient when Ramesses reused them. Their proportions and form of their palm-capitals are typical of the Old Kingdom, and it is likely that they originally derived from an Old Kingdom pyramid complex of the Fifth Dynasty (c. 2494-2345 BC). Such recycling of older building material is characteristic of Ramesses II, and of Pharaonic Egyptian architecture in general.

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Ruined columns at Herakleopolis Magna, as excavated by Edouard Naville. 1891.

The most likely candidate for the new construction work at Herakleopolis Magna is Ramesses’ fourth son, Khaemwaset, High Priest of Memphis. Prince Khaemwaset is well-known to have taken a particular interest in Egypt’s past, leading to his designation as the “first Egyptologist.” Khaemwaset was particularly active in the Memphite necropolis, where he was responsible for ‘labelling’ the monuments of ancient kings. In the course of such ‘survey’ Khaemwaset would have become aware of sites too ruined to save – but whose elements might be re-purposed for his father’s ambitious building programme elsewhere. In honour of Ramesses II new decoration was added, showing the king worshipping the ram-headed Herishef. The long-lived Ramesses was eventually succeeded by the thirteenth son, Merenptah, who added further columns of hieroglyphs with his own names in poorer quality inscriptions. Given Merenptah’s advanced age at his accession, he would have been keen to make his monumental mark as quickly as possible. By adding texts to standing monuments, his artisans were able to assert his presence and associate the elderly king with his famous father.

Petrie's reconstruction of the original appearance of the Ramesside pronaos

Petrie’s reconstruction of the original appearance of the Ramesside pronaos

The Manchester column was originally set up in the University’s Whitworth Hall in the late Nineteenth Century but was moved to the entrance hall of the Museum between 30th November and 2nd December 1979.

The column leaving Whitworth Hall... and arriving at the Museum. 1979.

The column leaving Whitworth Hall… and arriving at the Museum. 1979.

It is perhaps appropriate that a monument ‘salvaged’ by History’s first Egyptologist is the first object to greet visitors when they arrive at our Museum (and when they exit, via the gift shop). After all, in one of his inscriptions, Khaemwaset is said to have been one “who so loved antiquity and the noble people who came before, along with the excellence of what they made.”

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Wonders of the World: Sea life activities at Manchester Museum

In the third of her guest blogs for the Museum, Sajia Sultana, a Manchester University student and Manchester Museum Summer Public Programme Intern described activities involving the Egyptology collection.

Welcome to Global Explorer, this week families visiting Manchester Museum have been inspired by the collections to create sea life creatures from junk modelling materials.

Here are a few examples of the sea creatures that have been created.  Families have made everything from mythical sea creatures to sharks, starfish, dolphins, jelly fish and many more…

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They have not only taken inspiration from our Natural History collection but from our Ancient Worlds objects too.

Bronze Oxyrhynchus fish on the gallery

Bronze Oxyrhynchus fish on the gallery

Sea life was present in many forms in ancient Egypt, from objects used in everyday life to religious artifacts and tomb goods.

Sacred animals such as the Oxyrhynchus fish were offered to the Gods as gifts in the hope of gaining their help.

Fish-shaped palette on the gallery

Fish-shaped palette on the gallery

Cosmetic palettes made from slate designed in the shape of a fish were used in everyday life.

Shells were also used for cosmetic pots, jewellery and bracelets.

Hor-psamtekLook out for the statue of a kneeling man – the “Admiral of the Fleet” called Hor-Psamtek in the Egyptian Worlds gallery.  The hieroglyphs in the inscription on the statue refer to a sea called the “Great Green”, which may be a reference to the Mediterranean Sea, at a time when trade with Greece in the area was important for Egypt. Read more about ‘Hor-Psamtek’ here

What other sea life creatures or objects can you find in the museum?

Tell us about your discoveries on Facebook at #Global Explorer.

Our Global Explorer activities are daily from 11am-4pm running through the summer holidays until Sun 31 August. 

Next week we’ll be making junk model creations inspired by the animals in our collections.

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