The huge granite sarcophagus box of the New Kingdom Pharaoh Ramesses III

March 27, 2024

The Foot End of the Sarcophagus, with Isis protecting the King

The huge granite sarcophagus box of the New Kingdom Pharaoh Ramesses III is in the Louvre (the lid is in the Fitzwilliam Museum). Ramesses was one of the few Egyptian kings that we know of who was assassinated. After the assassination attempt, Ramesses seems to have lived long enough to order trials for the conspirators before dying.

This king has been called the “last of the great Egyptian Pharaohs”. Ramesses was able to repel the invasion of the “Sea Peoples” and the Libyans. But there seems to have been serious problems in Egypt late in his reign as there are reports of workmen going on strike because they have not been paid. The kings who followed him in the Twentieth Dynasty were mostly weak and ineffective.

Part of the Book of the Amduat

Nephthys at the Sarcophagus’ Head
Sarcophagus of Ramesses III (20th Dynasty) 1184-1153 BC from his tomb in the Valley of the Kings photo - Brian McMorrow photos at pbase.com

The royal sarcophagus is covered with religious texts (the Book of the Amduat), which begin at the head of the sarcophagus, near the representation of Nephthys, with the first seven hours of the Amduat being on one side of the sarcophagus and the remainder of the text being on the other side. This text describes the journey of the sun god through the twelve hours of the night and is extremely difficult to understand for modern readers. The Amduat may be derived from the Middle Kingdom “Book of Two Ways” and appears for the first time in tomb KV20 (the tomb of Hatshepsut and Tuthmose I).