History 2701 Wiki

The Younger Memnon in the British Museum

Brief Identification[]

The official title of the statue is The Younger Memnon. According to the British Museum, where the statue is currently housed, it was constructed of granite in circa 1270 BC during the rule of the 19th Dynasty in Egypt. The statue of Ramses II was one of two that once stood at the doorway of the Ramesseum in Thebes. [1]

Technical Evaluation[]

The statue “was cut from a single block of two-colored granite” and weighs approximately 7.25 tons [2] . The design of “angling the eyes down slightly” is interrupted to suggest that the intention of the sculptor was for Ramses II to appear as if looking upon the viewer [2] . The statue shows the pharaoh “wearing nemes head-cloth and circlet of uraei” [1] . The sculptor used the differing pigment color of the stone “to emphasize the division between body and face” [1] . Further, “the dorsal pillar is inscribed with vertical registers of hieroglyphs,” which display “the name and titles of the king and part of a dedication to Amun-Ra” [1] . Traces of color also suggest red paint may have adorned the statue in antiquity [1] . In 1816, Italian archeologist Giovanni Belzoni excavated the statue from the Ramesseum, which he struggled to remove it “both literally and politically” [2] . Additionally, at the end of the eighteenth century, “the hole on the right of the torso is said to have been made by members of Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt in an unsuccessful attempt to remove the statue” [2] . The statue remains incomplete without its lower body and legs, but it still stands at 266.8 centimeters and is 203.3 centimeters in width [1] . To protect the monument’s statue of the Young Memnon, it was “placed on a new base, whose height corresponds to the supposed level of the original pedestal” in 1997 [3].

Local Historical Context[]

The Ramesseum funeral temple extends “over some ten hectares on the western bank of Luxor, bordering on cultivated land and the piedmont of the Libyan chain” [3] . Constructed during the reign of Ramses II, who ruled between 1279-1212 BC, the temple was “an administrative and economic center of great importance, as revealed by numerous documentary sources, found notably in the tombs of government workers or the archives of the necropolis” [3] . The Ramesseum consisted of “more than thirty rooms equipped with ovens still concealed pottery dishes and many other vestiges” that provided for divine and royal worship along with the distribution of food rations [3] . It also included a school for training young boys “for the profession of scribe”, a treasury, “large, vaulted store rooms where various foodstuffs from the royal domains were stocked”, and “a wide processional alley, lined with sphinxes and used for special rites surrounded the sacred place” [3] .

World-Historical Significance[]

Ramses II was the warrior king of Egypt known as “Son of Ra” the sun god [4] . As the third king of the 19th Dynasty, he ruled during “part of a 400-year New Kingdom era that saw the expulsion of foreign rulers and a resurgence and expansion of the Egyptian Empire from Syria in the north to Nubia in the South” [4] . Before inheriting the throne at approximately the age of 24, “the young prince was known as a courageous warrior” [4] . Throughout his reign, it appears that he commissioned the construction of more temples and fathered more children than all other Egyptian pharaohs. According to modern traditions, many “seek to identify him as the unnamed pharaoh of the Exodus who, according to the Bible, released the Hebrew slaves only after God struck down the firstborn of Egypt, including the pharaoh’s son” [4] . Yet, ten years following the death of Ramses II, the dynasty ended, and “history has preserved relatively little concerning the children of Ramses II, who might have numbered close to a hundred” [4] .

The ‘Younger Memnon’ took its place in the British Museum in 1818 and “was perhaps the first piece of Egyptian sculpture to be recognized as a work of art by connoisseurs, who traditionally judged things by the standard of ancient Greek Art” [2] . English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley even wrote about the statue in her work, “Ozymandias” [2] .


"Colossal bust of Ramesses II, the 'Younger Memnon'." The British Museum. http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/aes/c/colossal_bust_of_ramesses_ii.aspx (accessed April 6, 2011).

Leblanc, Christain. "Research, Development and Management of Heritage on the Left Bank of the Nile: Ramesseum and its environs." Museum International, 2005: 79-86.

Sheler, Jeffery L. "Ramses the Great." U.S. News & World Report, 1995.

"The Younger Memnon." The British Museum. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database/search_object_details.aspx?objectid=117633&partid=1&searchText=younger+memnon&fromADBC=ad&toADBC=ad&numpages=10&orig=/research/search_the_collection_database.aspx&currentPage=1?scopeType=Terms&scopeId=18595 (accessed April 6, 2011).


1. "The Younger Memnon," The British Museum, accessed April 6, 2011, http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database/search_object_details.aspx?objectid=117633&partid=1&searchText=younger+memnon&fromADBC=ad&toADBC=ad&numpages=10&orig=/research/search_the_collection_database.aspx&currentPage=1?scopeType=Terms&scopeId=18595.

2. "Colossal bust of Ramesses II, the 'Younger Memnon'," The British Museum, accessed April 6, 2011, http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/aes/c/colossal_bust_of_ramesses_ii.aspx.

3. Christain Leblanc, "Research, Development and Management of Heritage on the Left Bank of the Nile: Ramesseum and its environs," Museum International 79-86 (2005).

4. Jeffery L. Sheler, "Ramses the Great," U.S. News & World Report (1995).