Grade level: 6-8 subject area: Ancient History credit

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Ramses the Great


Two class periods



Ancient History

Wendy Buchberg, Instructional Technology Support Specialist, Corning–Painted Post School District, Corning, New York.


Students will understand the following:

1. Ramses' archaeological record tells us much about the pharaoh.

2. Archaeologists examine the connections or contradictions between the Bible and other historical clues.


For this lesson, you will need:

Photographs of Ramses the Great's building projects—either on the documentary Ramses the Greator from other sources
Reference materials about the other American monuments listed in this lesson plan (see Procedures)
Drawing materials
Modeling materials

1. After students have had a chance to examine pictures of the colossal statues that Ramses II erected of himself at Abu Simbel (and that have been moved to make way for waters from the Aswan Dam), introduce the issue of memorializing and aggrandizing oneself and others. This project will give students a chance, first, to reflect on honoring people with monuments and, second, to apply some of their insights as they plan a commemorative monument. (You might begin by examining the two words memorializingand aggrandizing, leading students to understand that the latter has negative connotations.)

2. Explain that we don't really know how Egyptians of the second millennium B.C. reacted to Ramses' self-images. We do know, however, that in our times, monuments do provoke controversy. Ask students to research various reactions to the following monuments—during their planning, right after they were unveiled, and today:
- Mount Rushmore
- The Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.
- The Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
- The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C.
- The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
- The field of chairs for the Oklahoma City bombing victims
- A local or regional monument
Encourage students to uncover and discuss the form that controversies about any of these monuments have taken.

3. Next, challenge students to become designers themselves. Give them the option of designing a monument to themselves or to an important person, dead or alive. Here are some questions to stimulate their thinking, but encourage students to raise other issues as well:

- What do you want viewers to think about or feel when they see the monument?
- Should the monument be realistic (such as the Lincoln Memorial) or abstract (such as the Washington Monument)?

- Should the monument be positioned indoors or outdoors?

- Out of what material(s) should the monument be made?
- How big or small should the monument be?
- Should the monument consist of one structure (or piece) or several structures (or pieces)?
- Should the monument encourage viewers to touch it or walk through it, or should the monument be roped off or made unreachable in some other way?
- What, if anything, should a plaque on or near the monument say?

4. Ask students, working alone or in small groups, to apply their answers to the preceding questions by sketching the monument on paper, drawing it on a computer, or using clay or other media to create a three-dimensional model of a monument in honor of themselves or someone else.

5. Encourage students to write the copy for a plaque that will appear on or near the monument. Alternately, students may want to prepare a flyer or brochure that visitors to the monument can take home with them.

6. Assuming that students select important people (as opposed to themselves) to memorialize, set up one or more forums for students to share their products with other classes or community groups.


Adaptations for Older Students:

Brainstorm with older students other means—besides physical monuments—that creative people use to honor others. Allow students to generate a memorial that takes the form of poetry, painting, music, or another medium to honor someone.

1. Analyze the meaning of the narrator's comment that the father of Ramses the Great was “not only building temples, but making a political statement.” Explain whether this was true of Ramses the Great as well.
2. Ramses recorded the triumphs and events of his reign on the walls of the monuments he built for himself. Discuss the many different means we have today for reporting and recording current events. Do you think they will turn out to be as lasting as the ancient monument walls, and as capable of being read and interpreted thousands of years from now?
3. What aspects of Ramses' personality enabled him to push back the Hittites at Kadesh despite seemingly insurmountable odds? What lessons could this offer to today's military leaders? Are these lessons still valid given the kinds of sophisticated weapons available today?
4. Discuss the use of the Bible as a historical document as well as a religious one. Explain why biblical passages have been important in closing gaps in the historical record of Ramses the Great's 67-year reign in ancient Egypt.
5. Imagine that you lived during the reign of Ramses the Great. What would your life have been like as an Egyptian living in one of the cities under his rule?
6. There were 11 Egyptian rulers who were named Ramses, but only Ramses II came to be known as “the Great.” In looking back over his life and accomplishments, do you think he earned that title? Analyze the qualities that a leader today would need to be considered great. Have a class debate about whether the standards of great leadership have changed very much since those times.

Discuss with the class what overall criteria you can apply to individual pieces of work (e.g., originality, effort, perseverance, revision) and whether you should rate each piece, according to those criteria, as pass/fail or as unacceptable/acceptable/good/excellent.

The Middle East Today

The territories that Ramses the Great ruled and the countries surrounding his domain are part of the world now known as the Middle East. Religious and political problems kept this region a simmering hot spot for most of the 20th century. Have students draw a map showing the modern-day countries in the Middle East, using up-to-date information. Ask students to locate the site of the ancient temple of Abu Simbel and to trace the route Ramses the Great and his soldiers took to reach Kadesh, the scene of a major battle. Based on the current map, ask students to discuss where Ramses, if he were alive today, might choose to relocate his capital city. Or does the ancient site still have strategic importance?

Hieroglyphs, Old and New

Hieroglyphs, the painted and etched symbols that decorate the walls of Egyptian temples, have given modern historians and scientists a fascinating, lasting record of ancient Egyptian culture. Today, picture symbols remain an important means of communication. For example, businesses use logos to identify themselves. Computers, which began with text-based interfaces, now rely heavily on icons to help people use software.


After having students do research about hieroglyphs, have them work in small groups to develop sets of original hieroglyphs. Give each group an area of the bulletin board, covered in paper, where they can use their hieroglyphs to write a story. Then allow time for each group to read all of the stories and decide which one is the easiest to interpret. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this type of visual communication as opposed to alphabet-based writing.

Egypt: Antiquities from Above

Marilyn Bridges. Little & Brown, 1996.

This volume of aerial photographs of Egypt's great monuments includes coverage of the statuary at Abu Simbel, which Ramses had built for himself.
All the King's Sons”

Douglas Preston. The New Yorker, January 22, 1996.

The discovery of Kings Valley Tomb Number 5 is widely regarded as the largest and most significant archaeological find since the 1922 discovery of King Tut's tomb. This update on the discovery covers the contents of the 67 rooms, which are speculated to be the homes of up to 50 of Ramses' sons.
Ramses the Great”

Rick Gore. National Geographic, April 1991.

Although slightly dated, this generous feature article provides an excellent and thorough account of the life, times, and impact of Ramses II, including the contemporary political context, the Kadesh campaign, and some corrections to the records of his alleged cruelty.

The Ancient Egypt site

Looking for a book on ancient Egypt? How about definitions of words and phrases related to Egypt? This site makes ancient Egypt accessible to you. And it's just a click away!
Mark Nillmore's Ancient Egypt

If you're in search of a map of the pyramids of Egypt, or a chronology and history of the kings and queens, then you'll find this site to be very useful. You can also head to this site to learn about the ancient hieroglyphs and numerals.
Egypt Search

From religion to science, this site makes it possible for you to find anything that you need related to Egypt—past and present. If you can't find what you're looking for here, then it probably doesn't exist!
Egypt and Ancient Near East—Web Resources for Young People and Teachers

Whatever your age, you can find some useful information on this site. This list of museums has resources and cyber tours of Egypt as well as some interesting ideas for teachers.
Gander Academy: Archaeology Theme: Egypt


A ruler of ancient Egypt.


Ramses was one of the greatest pharaohs ancient Egypt had ever seen.


A mass departure (specifically, the biblical story of the once-captive Jews fleeing Egypt).


New evidence now suggests that Ramses the Great was also the unnamed pharaoh of the biblical Exodus.


A powerful group or family that maintains its position for a considerable time.


Ramses' father was the first pharaoh of his dynasty.


An image.


When he became pharaoh, Ramses built a temple so awesome that it would become his logo forever and an icon for all of Egypt.


Ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause.


The temple carvings were pure propaganda. Ramses wanted everyone to be afraid of him.


Minerals carried by a river and deposited at the river's mouth.


When Ramses came to power, he moved the capital to an area called the delta.


Of or pertaining to the remains of the culture of a people.


One of the great archaeological mysteries of our time is the biblical story of Exodus.


Pictorial characters in a system of writing used by ancient Egyptians.


If you read the hieroglyphs carefully, you'll find no losses; the Egyptians never recorded defeat.

Grade Level:


Subject Area:

world history


Understands the political, social, and cultural consequences of population movements and militarization in Eurasia in the second millennium B.C.E.


Understands significant individuals and events in Egyptian civilization (e.g., the extent of Egyptian expansion during the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms, and some of the factors that made this expansion possible; major political and cultural achievements of Tuthmosis III, Ramses II, and Queen Hatshepsut in Egypt).

Grade Level:


Subject Area:


Understands the nature of scientific inquiry.

Knows that there is no fixed procedure called “the scientific method,” but that investigations involve systematic observations; carefully collected, relevant evidence; logical reasoning; and some imagination in developing hypotheses and explanations.

Grade Level:


Subject Area:

world history


Understands the major characteristics of civilization and the development of civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus valley.


Understands influences on the social and economic framework of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus valley (e.g., the characteristics of government and military in Egypt and Mesopotamia and the ways in which central authorities commanded labor and taxes from peasant farmers; how architectural, artistic, technological, and scientific achievements of these civilizations affected the economics of daily life).

Grade Level:


Subject Area:

world history


Understands the political, social, and cultural consequences of population movements and militarization in Eurasia in the second millennium B.C.E.


Understands the emergence and militarization of new kingdoms (e.g., what visual and written sources suggest about the impact of chariot warfare on the battlefield; the boundaries of major states in Southwest Asia, Egypt, and the Eastern Mediterranean in the later part of the second millennium B.C.E., and why wars and diplomatic relations among these states may have represented the first era of internationalismin world history).

Grade Level:


Subject Area:

language arts


Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies for reading a variety of literary texts.


Knows the defining characteristics of a variety of literary forms and genres (e.g., fiction, nonfiction, myths, poems, biographies, autobiographies, science fiction, supernatural tales, satires, parodies, plays, American literature, British literature, world and ancient literature, the Bible).
Copyright 2001

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