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Egyptian Mummies: Pharaohs Transferred to New Cairo Museum

Egyptian mummies: Pharaohs transported through city
The mummies of Egyptian Pharaohs are transported through the streets of Cairo on Saturday night so they can take up residence at the glittering new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. Credit: Facebook/NMEC

The mummies of the Egyptian pharaohs Rameses II Hatshepsut, along with twenty other pharaohs, were taken by way of a stately parade through the streets of Cairo recently so they could take up residence in their new museum, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC).

The new institution, at a colossal 500,000 square meters (5,381,955 square feet), is the largest museum in the world to be devoted to the portrayal of a single culture, that of the Egyptians.

Egypt mummies: Rameses II
The sarcophagus of Pharaoh Rameses II, once located at the Cairo Museum, now at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. Credit: Warren LeMay/Wikimedia Commons/CC0

On Saturday, the entire planet turned its attention to this ancient land, and to the glittering procession of two of its most illustrious pharaohs as they made their way along the streets and through the squares of Cairo to their new, permanent residence.

Accompanied by young children in the costumes of ancient Egypt, the mummies were transported by vehicles clad in gold, as befitted their distinguished occupants.

Egyptian boats
A display of Egyptian watercraft from the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. Credit: Facebook/NMEC

The mammoth museum project, costing over one billion euros and taking over ten years to complete, was the brainchild of Heneghan Peng Architects.

On its website the Museum states its vision as “Presenting the tangible and intangible Egyptian heritage within a cultural framework that allows visitors from different backgrounds to easily relate to the objects on display while acquiring a deeper understanding of the Egyptian culture in a welcoming and exciting environment.

“The NMEC aims to become a unique cultural hub in the region, mixing antiquities with other aspects of culture, including music and art.”

Ramesses II, known as “Ramesses the Great”

Ramesses II, also spelled Rameses or Ramses, (‘Ra is the one who bore him’ or ‘born of Ra’) Koinē Greek: Ῥαμέσσης), who lived from c. 1303 BC to July or August 1213 BC, reigned from 1279–1213 BC.

Also known to history as Ramesses the Great, this renowned king was the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt. He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the New Kingdom, which was itself the most powerful period of Ancient Egypt. His successors and later Egyptians called him the “Great Ancestor.”

Rameses II is known as “Ozymandias in Greek sources (Koinē Greek: Οσυμανδύας), from the first part of his regnal name, Usermaatre Setepenre, “The Maat of Ra is powerful, Chosen of Ra.”

Cairo Egypt NMEC
One of the entrances to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. Credit: Facebook/NMEC

Hatshepsut had unlimited power as Pharaoh

Hatshepsut, Pharaoh of Egypt, who reigned in her own right circa 1473–58 BC, attained unprecedented power for a woman, adopting the full titles and regalia of a pharaoh.

The elder daughter of the 18th-dynasty king Thutmose I and his consort Ahmose, she was married to her half brother Thutmose II. Hatshepsut bore one daughter, Neferure, but no son. When her husband died about 1479 BCE, the throne passed to his son Thutmose III. Since Thutmose III was an infant, Hatshepsut acted as regent for the young pharaoh.

For the first few years of her stepson’s reign, Hatshepsut was an entirely conventional regent. However, by the end of his seventh year in power, she had been crowned pharaoh and she accordingly adopted the royal protocol as enjoyed by Egyptian sovereigns.

The new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, which opened on Saturday, April 3, 2021. Credit: Facebook/NMEC

Prior to this, Hatshepsut had been depicted as a typical queen, with a female body and appropriately feminine attire and characteristics. But now, after a brief period of experimentation that involved combining a female body with pharaonic (male) regalia, her formal portraits began to depict Hatshepsut with a male body, wearing the traditional regalia of kilt, crown or head-cloth, and even a false beard.

Egyptian artistic convention showed things not as they were but as they should be. In allowing sculptors to style her as a traditional king, Hatshepsut ensured that this is what she would become.

Toward the end of her reign, Hatshepsut allowed Thutmose to play an increasingly prominent role in state affairs; following her death, Thutmose III ruled Egypt alone for 33 years. Tragically, at the end of his reign, an attempt was made to remove all traces of Hatshepsut’s rule.

Her statues were torn down, her monuments were defaced, and her name was removed from the official list of pharaohs.

Early scholars interpreted this as an act of vengeance, but now, researchers believe that Thutmose was ensuring that the succession would run from Thutmose I through Thutmose II to Thutmose III without female interruption.

Hatshepsut sank into obscurity until 1822, when the decoding of hieroglyphic scripts allowed archaeologists to read the Dayr al-Baḥrī inscriptions. Initially the discrepancy between the female name and the male images that had been created of her caused confusion, but today the Thutmose succession is well understood.

New Giza Museum houses Egypt’s Mummies and priceless treasures

The famous gigantic statue of Ramses II, weighing 38 tons, was transported to the museum in Giza and placed in its main courtyard  in 2019, accompanied by horsemen. The tomb of Rameses II was the only immovable royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings, in Luxor. Two thousand of these five thousand objects will be exhibited for the first time.

The mummy of the young king Tutankhamun, who died at the age of 18, and whose popularity continues to this day, will be placed in a prominent position, surrounded by an exhibition of a total of 5,000 objects that came to light when the mummy was first discovered by the British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922.

And — of course — also in a prominent position in Giza’s new museum will be the famous golden funeral mask of Tutankhamun, the most valuable find of any pharaonic tombs.

In the summer of 2019, Egypt opened the doors of its unfinished Giza museum and unveiled the golden sarcophagus of Tutankhamun, which is undergoing restoration work for the first time since its discovery in 1922.

The new museum’s preservation workshops, tasked with preserving treasures from the tomb of the famous king of Egypt, were presented at a press conference last summer, with the wooden sarcophagus of “King Tut,” with the gilded outer cladding, grabbing the most attention.

The Tutankhamun sarcophagus is 2.23 meters (7.3 feet) long and is decorated with a portrait of the young king, bearing the symbols of the pharaohs, including the scepter and the whip. Egyptian archaeologists have reported cracks in not only the gilded plaster, but many of the gold-plated sculptures surrounding the sarcophagus as well.

Tutankhamun, who ascended the throne of Egypt in the year 1,333 BC, is undoubtedly the most famous pharaoh in History, mainly because of the myth surrounding the discovery of his tomb.

A descendant of Pharaoh Achenaten and his wife, the renowned Nefertiti, “Pharaoh Pais” came to power at the age of nine and just died ten years later of malaria, in combination with a bone disease.

The iconic Cairo Museum, built in the city center in 1901, until this past Saturday had been the home of the mummies and most of the objects to be displayed around them, comprising the largest collection of pharaonic antiquities in the world.

But its collections needed a grander new home; the new Museum along the banks of the Nile will be a fitting place for the pharaohs’ mummies and the glittering array of objects that was once found around their places of burial.

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