Sunday,21 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1385, (15 - 21 March 2018)
Sunday,21 April, 2019
Issue 1385, (15 - 21 March 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Merneptah arrives at the GEM

The column of the Pharaoh Merneptah has joined the colossus of his father Ramses II in greeting visitors to the Grand Egyptian Museum, reports Nevine El-Aref

Merneptah arrives at the GEM

Two months after the relocation of the colossus of the Pharaoh Ramses II to its new permanent display space in the atrium of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), the column of his son Merneptah arrived safely on Saturday from Islamic Cairo to join his father.

The column was transported from the Salaheddin Citadel where it has been kept since 2008 for conservation and preservation. 

The column was originally discovered in 1970 among other architectural elements from the ruins of Merneptah’s mortuary temple in the ancient city of Heliopolis, now the Cairo suburb of Matariya, where it had suffered deterioration due to the high level of subsoil water.

The column, 5.6m tall and weighing 17 tons, is carved in red granite while the base is made of limestone. It is decorated with engravings showing the Pharaoh’s different titles and scenes commemorating his victory against Libyan tribes. 

Scenes at the top of the historical text on the column show him wearing the red crown of ancient Egypt and offering incense and wine to the god Amun Re, who holds the ankh sign in one hand and a curved dagger in the other. He gives the dagger to the Pharaoh, saying “take the slander of all foreign lands.”

Wearing the blue crown, Merneptah offers incense to a worshipper, Anat, who holds the sign of the ankh in her left hand and presents him with his left hand to help suppress rebels. He also appears wearing the double crown with the royal prayer offering bread to the mother of the god Ra Hor Ayti, who encourages the Pharaoh to act against all foreign countries.

Director of first-aid restoration at the GEM Eissa Zidan explained that great care had been taken before the column’s transportation and that it had been comprehensively studied to detect and consolidate weak points. It had taken eight hours to prepare the column for transportation and two hours for its journey to the GEM. 

Merneptah arrives at the GEM

A wooden base padded with layers of foam was designed for the column, and it was tied with carefully tensioned rope to safeguard it during transportation. The Tourism and Antiquities Police accompanied it on its journey. Upon its arrival, it was examined and further restoration work was completed.

Merneptah, whose name means “beloved of the god Ptah”, was the fourth king of the 19th Dynasty and the 13th son of Ramses II. He took the throne when he was nearly 60 years old and ruled for 10 years from 1213 to 1203 BC.

His reign was filled with military revolts and invasions. During his early years, he succeeded in suppressing a revolt in Palestine, but his greatest challenge was his victory over the Libyan tribes and the so-called “Sea People”.

Merneptah arrives at the GEM

Merneptah ordered the carving of four great commemorative texts recording his victories, the Great Karnak Inscription, the present column, and the Athribis Stele. The last two are shorter versions of the Great Karnak Inscription, and there is also a stele found at Thebes, called variously the Hymn of Victory, the Merneptah Stele, or the Israel Stele, that is now on display at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square. This describes the reign of peace resulting from his victories.

Merneptah died in 1203 BC and is buried in Tomb KV8 in the Valley of the Kings at Luxor. The disappearance of his mummy once added to speculation about his being the Pharaoh mentioned in the Biblical book of Exodus, but its discovery in 1898 in a mummy cachet ended such speculation.

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