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The Kadesh Reliefs of the Ramesseum: a commemorative monument and historical narrative

The Kadesh Reliefs of the Ramesseum: a commemorative monument and historical narrative. Katie Barcay Intimate Stories ARCH0250 Ömür Harmansah. The Battle of Kadesh. Outline of the Battle: Egyptian army of 20,000 marches to North Syria in Year 5 of Ramesses II’s reign. (Freed 1987: 41)

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The Kadesh Reliefs of the Ramesseum: a commemorative monument and historical narrative

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  1. The Kadesh Reliefs of the Ramesseum: a commemorative monument and historical narrative Katie Barcay Intimate Stories ARCH0250 Ömür Harmansah

  2. The Battle of Kadesh • Outline of the Battle: • Egyptian army of 20,000 marches to North Syria in Year 5 of Ramesses II’s reign. (Freed 1987: 41) • Hittite king Muwatallis learns of coming attack from spies, • creates a channel connecting a stream at the western edge of the city to the Orontes river southeast of the city, creating a defensible territory (Kitchen 1982: 53-63) • Ramesses II only discovers Hittite spies 2 miles away • Hittite army launches surprise attack against Egyptians, with an army twice the size of the Egyptian army. • Egypt gets help from an ally, the Nearin of the Amurru coast, putting Ramesses on the offensive • The next day, Ramesses begins an offensive initiative, though the battle ends in a stalemate because of the massive size of the Hittite army.

  3. The Battle of Kadesh, cont. • “Kadesh” is a name often given to temple cities that were considered holy cities, so there have been multiple Kadesh battles (Velikovsky 1978: 11) • Ramses II’s reign: Kadesh is a city in North Syria (north of Mount Lebanon)

  4. The Ramesseum Plan • Located on the west bank of the nile • Large Area: 10 hectares =100,000 m2 (Kitchen 1982: 44) • Great precinct over 600 ft. long • Pylons span the entire width of the main complex • Beyond the pylons are two outdoor courts with colonnades, a large hypostyle hall, smaller columned halls, a small palace, service rooms, etc. (Kitchen 1982,176-77)

  5. Ground Plan of Ramesseum “Thebes: Ramesseum of Thebes: general plan of sanctuary” University of California, San Diego

  6. The Ramesseum Plan, cont. • Recent archaeological research has discovered that the Ramesseum housed administrative powers and was an economic center for Egypt at Thebes (Leblanc 2005: 79) • found in documents within tombs of government workers • The state of bakeries, kitchens, and supply rooms reveal that the site remained active throughout the reign of Ramesses III, and perhaps later. (Leblanc 2005: 80-81)

  7. Ramesseum Plan, cont. • The Ramesseum also contained the “Ramesseum School” for scribe training, which is unique (Leblanc 2005: 80-81) • the first school within a pharaonic temple. • Contained a treasury with vaulted store rooms and luxury products.

  8. Criteria for Commemorative Monument • Public work of art • Architectural object • Evokes a shared social memory • Event • Person • Idea • Often a place of worship

  9. Commemorative Monument • Bas-reliefs of the Battle of Kadesh are located on the first pylons • The first thing that one sees when walking up to the temple complex, and must pass through to enter. • Ramesses II created a novel form for this temple when abandoning the open courts before the pylons, emphasizing their grandeur, and thus emphasizing what is depicted on them. (Kitchen 1982: 175)

  10. Commemorative Monument, cont. • commemorate the military effort of Ramesses II and the strength of the king and Egyptian army in their ability to fight off the Hittites, even after false information from counterspies led them into a great disadvantage at battle.

  11. Do the Kadesh reliefs meet criteria for a commemorative monument? • The Kadesh reliefs are on the exterior of the temple, open to the entire public, and are passed by all who enter the temple. • The reliefs are carved on massive pylons • Reliefs evoke a shared social memory • Event: Battle of Kadesh • Person: Ramesses II • Idea: the power of the king, his kinship with the gods • The temple was a place to honor the god-king Ramesses II along with the local gods of Thebes

  12. Criteria for a Historical Narrative • Sequence of scenes which represent an event in history • relate the account of an event • Specificity in scenes • In terms of the actions which relate to the event • Geographical/topographical specificity aid the classification as a historical narrative

  13. Do the Kadesh reliefs meet criteria for a historical narrative? • The Kadesh reliefs depict a series of known scenes of the battle: • Ramesses II learning of the Hittite attack, chariot waiting for command (Kitchen 1982: 58) • Beating of the Hittite counterspies (Gardiner 1960: 28) • The Egyptian counter-attack across the Orontes river against the Hittite army (Kitchen 1982: 59) • Emptying of water from almost-drowned Hittite prince Aleppo (Kitchen 1982: 61)

  14. Do the Kadesh reliefs meet criteria for a historical narrative? • The Battle of Kadesh is one of Ramesses II’s most well known battles, so it is known by the general public. • Specificity: (Velikovsky 1978: 15) • known for their topographical specificity: • the directional placement of the Orontes river, along with environmental markers such as plains and rocks, create an accurate historical landscape. • geographical specificity of the reliefs disproved a previous theory of the location of “Kadesh” at Tell Nebi-Mend

  15. Counter-Argument • In his book Arrest and Movement, Groenewegen-Frankfort discusses representational art of Egypt: • “Not even a wealth of realistic details, especially in connection with drowning figures, can atone for a complete lack of dramatic tension. Artistically speaking, the scene is a failure” (Groenewegen-Frankfort 1951: 135)

  16. Counter-Argument • Groenewegen-Frankfort finds great importance in the superhuman aspect of monumental art which allows it to transcend temporality. (Groenewegen-Frankfort 1951: 23) • He also believes that the “king’s static perfection” (Groenewegen-Frankfort 1951: 51) is revealed through the manipulation of battle scenes showing the flawlessness and power of the king.

  17. Response to Counter-Argument • While Groenewegen-Frankfort believes that a superhuman quality is necessary for a commemorative monument, I believe that the specificity involved in the depiction of the battle, along with the memorialization of that event on the front of a great religious, economic, and cultural complex allows it to transcend temporality.

  18. Response to Counter-Argument • G-F: role of the king as a god-king creates a static perfection that prevents classification both historical narrative and commemorative monument (Groenewegen-Frankfort 1951: 49-51) • Response: • the stalemate battle was depicted somewhat deceivingly in its entirety, though scenes that were depicted did occur, and thus compose a historical narrative.

  19. Response, continued. • Note the scene where Ramesses discovers that he has been fooled into an almost hopeless battle. It is at this time that he is most vulnerable, yet it is depicted on the relief, defying the belief of static flawlessness. • This adds dramatic tension to the scene, which G-F believes is necessary for a commemorative monument (because of the possibility of failure).

  20. Bibliography • Brega, Isabella; 1999. Egypt: ancient and modern. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press. • Freed, Rita E.; 1987. Ramesses the Great. Boston: Boston Museum of Science. • Gardiner, Alan Henderson, Sir; 1960. The Kadesh Inscriptions of Ramesses II. Oxford: Griffith Institute. • Groenewegen-Frankfort, H. A.; 1951. Arrest and Movement, an essay on space and time in the representational art of the near east. London: Faber and Faber Limited. • Kitchen, K. A.; 1982. Pharaoh triumphant: the life and times of Ramesses II, King of Egypt. Warminster, England: Aris & Phillips.

  21. Bibliography, cont. • Leblanc, Christian; 2005. “Research, development, and management of heritage on the left bank of the Nile: Ramesseum and its environs,”Museum International 57: 79-86. • McCarthy, Heather Lee; 2003. “The function of “Emblematic scenes” of the king’s domination of foreign enemies and narrative battle scenes in Ramesses II’s Nubian Temples,”Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities 30: 59-74. • Quibell, J. E.; 1898. The Ramesseum. London: B. Quaritch. • Spalinger, Anthony; 2003. “The battle of Kadesh: the chariot frieze at Abydos,” in Egypt and the Levant. Edited by M. Bietak; Vienna: ヨsterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 163-199. • Velikovsky, Immanuel; 1978. Ramses II and his time. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.

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