Ramesseum Archaeological Site

Ramesseum Archaeological Site

Location: Luxor, Luxor Governorate Map

Open: 6am- 4pm daily- winter

6am- 5pm daily- summer


The Ramesseum is the funerary temple of Pharaoh Ramses II in Egypt. It is located in Thebes, in Upper Egypt, near the Nile River not far from the modern city of Luxor. The name - in its French form Rhamesséion - was coined by Jean-François Champollion, who visited these ruins in 1829 and was the first to identify the hieroglyphics with the name of Ramses and his titles on the walls. The site was originally called the House of Millions of Years of Usermaatra-setepenra which unites the city of Thebes with the domains of Amun.

Ramesses II modified, usurped or built many of the most beautiful structures of the New Kingdom including the Ramesseum, a temple dedicated to the pharaoh, god on earth, where the memory would be known to the whole world for generations after his corporal death . Work on the construction of the temple began according to records at the beginning of his reign and was completed in 20 years.

The design of the Temple of Rameses adheres perfectly to the standard canons of New Kingdom temple architecture. Orientated northwest to southeast, the temple itself included two stone entrance pillars leading to the temple courtyard. Beyond the second courtyard, in the center of the complex, there was a hypostyle hall supported by 48 columns that surrounded the internal sanctuary. In the first courtyard there was also a gigantic statue of the king, the remains of which can still be admired today.

As per custom, the entrance pillars and external walls were decorated with scenes commemorating scenes of the Pharaoh's military victories as well as depictions of Egyptian gods. In the case of the Ramesseum there are scenes from the Battle of Kadesh (c. 1285 BC) which represent an enormous propaganda work carried out by the pharaoh as the clash was actually disastrous for the Egyptians who are represented here triumphant.

Of the gigantic statue of Ramses II (19 meters high and weighing 1000 tons) today only fragments remain visible on the ground. From the quarries where it was hewn, the statue was then transported for 170 miles. The remains today represent the largest in situ remains of a colossal statue in the world together with the colossi of Ramesses in Tanis.

The remains found in the second courtyard include part of the internal facade of the pylons and a portion of the Osiris portico on the right. Other war scenes with the Hittites in Kadesh are repeated on the walls. In the upper part there are celebrations in honor of the god Min, god of fertility. On the opposite side of the courtyard of Osiris there are other columns which provide the original idea of the splendor of the site because they are better preserved. Here there are also parts of two statues of the king, one in pink granite and the other in black granite, placed side by side at the entrance to the temple. One of the heads of these statues was removed and is today in the British Museum. 31 of the 48 columns of the hypostyle hall (measurements 41m x 31m) are still standing. They are decorated with scenes depicting the king with various gods. Part of the ceiling is decorated with golden stars on a blue background and is still preserved in paint. The sons and daughters of Ramesses appear in procession on the left walls. The sanctuary is composed of three consecutive chambers with eight columns and a tetrastyle cell. Part of the first room, with the ceiling decorated with astral scenes, is still preserved today.

Adjacent to the hypostyle hall there is a smaller temple dedicated to Rameses' mother, Tuia, and his beloved first wife Nefertari. The complex is surrounded by numerous reception rooms, granaries, laboratories, and ancillary buildings, some built in Roman times.

In the area of the hypostyle hall there was previously a temple built by Seti I, but today only its foundations have emerged. It consisted of a peristyle court and two chapels. Papyri between the 11th and 8th centuries BC they point to the temple as the site of an important scribal school.


Ramses II

Ramses was a pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt. He ruled for 67 years, in the 13th century BC. C., at the height of Egypt's power and glory. The unusual length of his reign, the abundance of the public treasury and the personal vanity of the pharaoh, made Ramses a king who left an indelible memory in the country.

His heritage can be seen in the archaeological legacy, in the many buildings that Ramses built, expanded or usurped throughout the Egyptian territory. The most splendid of these, built according to the funerary practices of the New Kingdom would have been his memorial temple: a place dedicated to the worship of the pharaoh, almost a god on earth, where the memory of him would be kept alive after his passage through this world. Existing records indicate that he began work on the project shortly after the beginning of his reign, and continued for twenty years.



It has a classical structure: the funerary temple of Ramses follows the canons of New Kingdom temple architecture, oriented from northwest to southeast, with two pylons 68 meters wide. In the first pylon is recorded his conquest, in the eighth year of his reign, of a city called Shalem, in which some believe they see Jerusalem.

In the first courtyard were the two seated colossi of Pharaoh Ramses II, of which only fragments of the base and the 17-meter-high torso remain.

The royal palace is to the left of this courtyard, and the statues of the king in the background.

The remains of the second courtyard include the inner façade of the second pylon and a portion of the portico of Osiris to the right. On the walls are carved bas-reliefs from the Poem of Pentaur describing the battle of Qadesh, and a festival in honor of Min, god of fertility. The two statues of the king, one in pink granite and the other in black granite, flank the temple door.

Thirty-nine of the forty-eight bell-shaped columns with papyriform capitals still stand in the hypostyle hall, adorned with scenes of the king before various gods. The ceiling is painted with gold stars on a blue background, which remains well preserved,2 and the sons and daughters of Ramses appear in procession on the walls on the left. On the eastern wall are bas-reliefs that narrate the assault on the Dapur fortress. The sanctuary is made up of three consecutive rooms, with eight columns, in one of which the sacred boat was kept. Remains of the first room, with the ceiling decorated with astronomical motifs, and some remains of the second room are all that remains.

To the north and adjacent to the hypostyle hall is a smaller temple, dedicated to her mother, Tuya, where there was a 227 cm high statue of the queen, which was brought to Rome in the time of Caligula.

The complex was surrounded by several warehouses, granaries, workshops, and other auxiliary buildings, some built later, even in Roman times.

A temple dedicated to Seti I, of which only the foundations remain, was to the right of the hypostyle hall. The entire complex was surrounded by an adobe wall that began at the southeastern pylon.

Papyri and ostraca have been found dated to the Third Intermediate Period, 11th century BC to VIII that indicate that the temple also had an important school, and that it was an economic, cultural and religious center.

Ramses built this temple on a tomb from the Middle Kingdom, in which many objects related to the funerary cult have been found.



Unfortunately, the limestone, similar to that of the Abu Simbel temples, that was used for the Million Year Temple was not the most suitable for building in Thebes, due to the humidity due to its location next to the Nile, whose annual floods were undermining its foundations. Negligence and the arrival of new religions also affected it: it was converted into a Christian church.

Leaving aside the escalation of size, by which each new pharaoh strove to surpass his predecessors in the volume and size of his works, the Ramesseum belongs in part to the same type as that of Medinet Habu, of Ramses III, or to the lost temple of Amenhotep III that was located behind the Colossi of Memnon, barely a kilometer away.



Unlike many other stone temples that Ramesses ordered carved during his reign, this one is located in a corner of the Nile and linked deeply to the river.

From this temple, due to its grandeur and beauty, other pharaohs drew inspiration for their funerary temples such as Ramses III in Medinet Habu.


Excavations and studies

The origins of modern Egyptology can be traced back to the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte in Egypt in the summer of 1798. Inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment, following Napoleon's troops, men of science also arrived in Egypt and wrote a monumental work in 23 volumes entitled Description de l'Égypte. Two French engineers, Jean-Baptiste Prosper Jollois and Édouard de Villiers du Terrage, were assigned to study the site of the Ramesseum, and it was with great propaganda that they identified it as the "Tomb of Ozymandias" or "Palace of Memnon" of which Diodorus Siculus had written in the 1st century BC.

The next visitor, engineer, scholar and antiquarian, was the Italian Giovanni Battista Belzoni. He went to Cairo for the first time in 1815 where he sold his hydraulic inventions for managing the waters of the Nile to Mehemet Ali. Here he met the British consul in Cairo, Henry Salt, who took him into his service to recover the so-called Young Memnon, one of the two colossal granite statues of Ramses II, from the temple of Thebes, and then transport it to England. Thanks to Belzoni's engineering skills, the head of the statue, which had already collapsed for some time at its base, weighing 7 tons, arrived in London in 1818 and was baptized Young Memnon and placed years later in the British Museum.

The arrival of the statue caused a great sensation and focused the attention of early Egyptologists on the site of the Ramesseum, so much so that the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote a sonnet entitled Ozymandias. In particular, the Young Memnon is the direct inspirer of Shelley's poetry as the phrase User-maat-re Setep-en-re placed on the arm of the statue was already translated by the historian Diodorus into Greek with the term "Ozymandias". While the "large and truncated stone legs" described by Shelley were more a poetic license than a matter of archaeology, the "half-bust... with a flattened face" fully suits the shapes of the statue. The hands and feet are located in a flat position. The colossus rose to a height of 19 metres, rivaling the Colossi of Memnon and the statues of Abu Simbel.

A Franco-Egyptian team has been exploring and restoring the Ramesseum since 1991 and is still in operation today. Among the discoveries, during the excavations, kitchens, bakeries and rooms outside the temple emerged, as well as a school called "Casa di Vita" where children received the right education to become scribes.