Option c egypt: Society in New Kingdom Egypt during the Ramesside Period, Dynasties XIX and XX principal Focus

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The amduat

    • Important New Kingdom funerary text. Like many funerary texts, it was found written on the inside of the pharaoh's tomb for reference.

    • Reserved only for pharaohs (until the 21st Dynasty almost exclusively) or very favoured nobility

    • Tells the story of the sun god Ra, who travels through the underworld, from the time when the sun sets in the west and rises again in the east. It is said that the dead Pharaoh is taking this same journey, ultimately to become one with Ra and live forever.

    • The underworld divided into twelve hours of the night, each representing different allies and enemies for the Pharaoh/sun god to encounter.

    • Amduat names all of these gods and monsters, main purpose being to give the names of these gods and monsters to the spirit of the dead Pharaoh, so he can call upon them for help or use their name to defeat them.

The book of the gates

  • Ancient E funerary text from the New Kingdom, narrating the passage of a newly deceased soul into the next world, corresponding with the journey of the sun though the underworld during the hours of the night.

  • Soul required to pass though a series of 'gates' at different stages in the journey. Each gate associated with a different goddess, and requires that the deceased recognise the particular character of that deity. The text implies that some people will pass through unharmed, but that others will suffer torment in a lake of fire

  • Text and images associated with the Book of Gates appear in many tombs of the New Kingdom, including all the pharaonic tombs.

  • Most of the goddesses are specific to the Book of Gates, and do not appear elsewhere in Egyptian mythology, and so it has been suggested that the Book of Gates originated merely as a system for determining the time at night, with the goddess at each gate being a representation of the main star appearing during the hour.

Temples: architecture and function: Karnak, Luxor, the Ramesseum, Medinet Habu
Function: the most imporatn religious buildings, two basic types

  1. Cult temples: housed the cult statue of the god. Were the location of daily rituals. Controlled vast estates and workforces. Acted as redistribution centres. Also self supporting community of living quarters, workshops and schools

  2. Mortuary temples: celebrated the cult of the deceased king. Dailiy offerings presented to the kings image. Location of festivals. Rooms dedicated to various deities

Prosperous economy enabled rulers of the period to undertake extensive building programs and experiment with new architectural styles. These included:

  • Arrangement of cult temples on an axial plan to suit processional ceremonies

  • Elaborate column decoration

  • Free standing mortuary temples built from stone

  • Numerous subsidiary buildings within temple complexes

Building style of temples focused on bulk and mass, possibly a symbolic response to the success of the empire: e.g abu simbel Karnak ramesseum

The gods temples were huge walled, sandstone structures that had:

    • Monumental gateways

    • Roofless colonnaded court

    • Hypostyle halls

    • Inner sanctum of the god

The R period was characterised by architecture on a monumental scale best exemplified by Abu simbel


  • Mortuary temple of RII. Located in the Theban necropolis in Upper Egypt, western bank, of the city of thebes

  • Facing degradation, mostly due to its location on the very edge of the Nile floodplain, with the annual inundation gradually undermining the foundations of this temple, and its neighbours.

  • Entrance through the two pylons, (gateways, some 60 m wide), each leading into the first courtyard.

  • first courtyard contained huge statue of R2

  • 2nd courtyard, , columns on four sides statues osiris face the king, battel of kadesh continued

  • beyond the second courtyard is covered 48 column hypostyle hall, scenes of the king in battle

  • behind the hypostyle hall are two smaller halls, first decorated with astronomical symbolks and the symbols R2 bruns incense to the gods

  • It was a place of worship dedicated to the pharaoh where his memory was kept alive after his passing from this world. the main shrine was dedicated to amun

  • the two Pylons and outer walls were decorated with scenes commemorating pharaoh's military victories, esp the battle of kadesh in the R2’s case, and depictions of his dedication to, and kinship with, the gods.

  • Site of an important scribal school

  • complex made up of many buildings, a temple for royal worship, a royal palcace used by the king during ceremonies and a temple for the worship of his mother an wife nefertari, large storerooms

Medinet Habu

  • Mortuary temple of R3, one of the largest in Egypt. 320 m in length (East to west) and about 200 m in width (North to south). Built to commemorate Ramses III, after his death, by orders of the King himself. A huge mud brick enclosure wall surrounds the Temple.

  • Basically consists of a huge gate, which takes the shape of a Syrian fort, and is decorated with battle scenes of the King’s wars in Syria. After accessing the gate there is a shrine, which dates back to the 18th Dynasty, on the right hand side. There is also a wide-open court that leads to a huge pylon, which has both towers decorated with battle scenes. On one tower the King, wearing the red crown with his “Ka” or “double”, smiting his enemies in front of Re-Horakhty. On the other tower, the King is represented with the red crown of Lower Egypt, smiting his enemies in front of the God Amon Ra.

Temple at Karnak

    • comprises a vast mix of ruined temples, chapels, pylons, a sacred lake and other buildings, notably the Great Temple of Amun and a massive structure begun by R2

    • Located near Thebes (modern day Luxor). The area around Karnak was the ancient Egyptian "The Most Selected of Places" and the main place of worship of the eighteenth dynasty Theban Triad with the god Amun as its head. It is part of the monumental city of Thebes.

  • It consists of four main parts (precincts): the Precinct of Amun-Re, the largest, the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Montu, and the dismantled Temple of Amenhotep IV.

  • A few smaller temples and sanctuaries located outside the enclosing walls of the four main precincts, and several avenues of ram-headed sphinxes connecting the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Amon-Re and Luxor Temple.

  • There also are a few smaller temples and sanctuaries located outside the enclosing walls of the four main parts, as well as several avenues of goddess and ram-headed sphinxes connecting the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Amun-Re, and the Luxor Temple.

  • the Hypostyle Hall in the Precinct of Amun-Re, a hall area of 5,000 m2 with 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows. 122 of these columns are 10 meters tall, and the other 12 are 21 meters tall with a diameter of over three meters.

  • Unique cause of the length of time over which it was developed and used. Construction of temples started Middle Kingdom, continued through to Ptolemaic times. Approx 30 pharaohs contributed to the buildings, enabling it to reach a size, complexity, and diversity not seen elsewhere. The deities represented range from some of the earliest worshiped to periods much later.

Temple at Luxor

  • Large temple complex located at Thebes, (modern day Luxor) east bank 4000 BC. Temple dedicated to the Theban triad of amun, mut and chons, the focus of the opet festival

  • Numerous P’s have added to it

  • Temple proper begins with the 24m high Egyptian pylon (the massive stone rectangular thing at het beginning of buildings). The pylon is decorated with R2 military triumphs, particularly the battle of kadesh

  • The main entrance was flanked by six colossal statues R2, four seated and two standing, only two (seated survived) there were also two obelisks at the front of the building, one which is now in paris

  • Just past the pylon are barque chapels. Past the pylon is a peristyle courtyard, past that is the processional colonnade, a 100 metre corridor lined by 14 papyrus styled capitals, beyond ahta is another peristyle courtyard

  • To the rear of the temple are the numerous chapels built by Tuthmosis III, and Alexander. During the Roman era, the temple and its surroundings were a legionary fortress and the home of the Roman government in the area.

Tombs: architecture and decoration: Thebes, Memphis, Deir el-Medina

  • Decoration

  • ramesside period, tombs featured scenes of osirian mythology and astrological scenes painted on the ceilings

  • Nobles tombs featured depict deities, funerary rites and texts from the book of the dead. magical spells and hymns used more frequently in burial inscriptions

  • royal burials continued in the VOK, VOQ, while nobles, officials commonly buried in Thebes and Memphis

  • access to the afterlife was more democratised as more people could the desired ceremonial burial

Royal tombs

  • tombs of the P rock cut axial tombs, cut into living rock along an axis

  • common to all tombs specific architectural and decorative features all parts of the royal tomb were decorated

  • and some new funerary texts appeared

  • in particular astronomical scenes on the ceiling of the burial chamber

Private tombs

  • The two major locations of private tombs in the Ramesside period were Thebes and Memphis.


  • Noble tombs rock-cut structures consisting of a courtyard, a T-shaped chapel and a shaft that descended from inside or outside the chapel to the burial chamber.

  • The statue niche was situated at the end of the long passageway.

  • Painted and relief scenes depicted the daily life of the deceased, the funeral and various scenes of a symbolic nature, including banquets, fishing and fowling, and hunting in the desert.

  • In the 19th Dynasty many of these motifs were abandoned in favour of renditions of the Amduat, Book of the Dead and Book of Gates.

At Deir el-Medina

  • Tomb-builders of the VOK built their own small tombs, consisting of an upper chapel topped with a pyramid, a forecourt from which descended a shaft leading to the vaulted burial chamber and a chapel partly cut into the hillside and partly made of mud-brick.

  • The underground chambers were brightly painted with motifs copied from the royal tombs and also depictions of the tomb owner’s family and friends going about their daily activities.


  • The tomb of a Memphite noble had a mortuary chapel built on the desert surface with pylons, pillared courtyards and roofed halls leading to a central offering room. This closely resembled a New Kingdom temple.

  • The structure could also feature a small pyramid. A rock-cut shaft led to the subterranean burial chambers.

  • Typical Memphite tomb–chapel, built of mudbrick and featuring three large stelae located in the central court. Interestingly, archaeologists found evidence of four small trees planted in the courtyard. The substructure of the tomb consisted of rough-cut, undecorated rooms.

5 Cultural life
Art: sculpture, jewellery and wall paintings

Wall paintings and reliefs

  • Mainly tombs and temples

  • Reliefs either raised or sunken

  • lots of battle scenes

  • most had religious function, but also valued for artistic value

  • paintings more funereal

  • changed to whitewashed clay foundation instead of stucco

  • more and religious


  • reversion to traditional styles during ramesside period

  • better quality in seti’s time, less quality but more volume in R2

  • some aspects remained

  • most art from tombs, tomb Peshedu

  • served an important religious purpose

  • art production increased during the period and dominant features included size and grandeur rather than beauty of earlier periods. Monumental structure s of R2 nad R3 evidence of this

  • due to the expansion of the empire, foreign influences such as agean and bablonia

  • the content of artwork also changed as ordinary people and everyday activities became the subject of a number of artworks. E.g the tombs of deir el medina


  • almost all had religious function

  • deities imbued within statues

  • usually tombs, temple courtyards

  • if your mummy destroyed your spirit would live on in your spirit

  • ushabtis, servants in the afterlife


  • worn by men and women

  • adornment and social status

  • earrings, studs, pectorals, rings

  • gold, electrum, silver, semi precious stones

Writing and literature: love poetry, The Tale of the Two Brothers, Horus and Seth, The Report of Wenamun

  • Generally written in simple hieratic script in ink on papyrus. Scribal errors. E.g papyrus Harris 500

  • most people illiterate, so mainly the upper class write/read

  • Pop literature mostly love poems and stories

  • Love poetry in usually arranged in groups or cycles, about a common theme

  • Direct first person monologues addressed to speakers own heart

  • Annals, prayers, official records/accounts, journals

Report of Wenamun:

Trading expedition by wenamun to get timber from Byblos for the sacred barque of amun. Gets robbed beaten mistreated complains to the king. Story illustrates the decline of E’s prestige and power in the near east during the late new kingdom, probs true

Horus and Seth:

Osiris and Seth the son of geb and nut. Osiris popular because he taught the Egyptians how to farm. Seth locks him in a chest throws it into the Nile in a jealous rage. Osiris rescued by his wife Isis, but Seth found his body, cutting it into pieces and scattering it into pieces all over E. Isis and her sister nepthys found his remains and with the help of Anubis mummified him and brought him back to life. Osiris became king of the underworld, and Horus his son avenged his fathers death and became king of E

The tale of the two brothers:

bata and Anubis, Anubis wife tries to seduce bata. When he rejects her, she claims he beat her. Anubis tries to kill bata but he escapes. Anubis kills his bata’s wife instead. Bata remarries but is murdered by his new wife. Bata is reincarnated as a bull but is slain. His blood helps the soil to produce two persea trees, a splinter of which causes his wife to become pregnant with the new king.

6 Everyday life
Daily life and leisure activities

Daily life

    • Wife mainstay of the domestic scene. Staple family diet bread and beer, women assisted in agricultural work

    • E basically group of agriculturally communities along the Nile. Life revolved around, sowing harvesting etc and inundation, when corvee work might be done for the P

    • Lived in crowded communities of mud-bricked houses, walked to the fields. Usually kept small No. of animals to milk, wool, meat. life of manual labour only broken by festivals, where food and gifts distributed. Hygiene and cleanliness valued people bathed in the nile

    • Burial consisted of wrapping body in mat or coffin, placing a few grave goods or amulets and chucked in the desert. average age of death at around 36

    • Deir el medina enjoyed better standard of living. paid in kind from local temples on behalf of the P. specialised craft, fairly wealthy

    • Minority of people who were officials were literate and wealthy. Most official’s part time with a temple, some full time with the P. short life span, childbirth dangerous on average four years less than men. many men appear to have more than one wife, although many would have been death in childbirth and infertility

    • Doctors practised mixture of medicine and magic. high incidence of disease, instructional literature of the time stressed having children and treating people properly

    • Family important, as seen in the reliefs. Children esp. males considered blessing

    • Ramesside preoccupation of living well to attain afterlife reflective of uncertain times

Leisure activities

    • Most evidence comes from tomb decoration and some remaining artifcacts

    • Social class played a role in what activities were available. Wealthier people had servants to carry out menial tasks, had more leisure time on their hands.

    • Hunting, boating fishing, dancers blind harper, board games such as senet, Gymnastics and athletic games appear to have been popular leisure pursuits.

    • Music and dance, if one could afford them, including flutes and harps

    • Hunting the sport of kings, courtiers and dignitaries.

    • Leisure activities seem to have included sports (mostly to do with hunting, swimming and gymnastics

    • For the ordinary citizen, leisure activities probably took place in evenings after work, days off, holidays. Some leisure time was probably spent in inns, beer houses and brothels.

Food and clothing


  • Staple diet beer, bread and onions, supplemented with fruit or veges grown. Meat generally eaten by the nobility, more expensive. Fish eaten break making important task, made from emmer wheat. Ground down teeth thought to have been from grit in the bread from the grinding stone or pestle

  • Prepared for both the living and the dead. Tuts tomb good example

  • Beer and wine very popular, particularly in the lower classes. Texts warn of the abuse of alcohol


  • Clothing was made from simple linen sheets that were bleached white, and both men and women of the upper classes wore wigs, jewelry, and cosmetics.

  • Children went without clothing until maturity, at about age 12

Housing and furniture

Housing (info from deir el medina)

  • Although differed according to wealth, all structures had:

  • Build of sun dried mud brick

  • Small high set windows or light wells

  • Flat roofs

  • King and family lived in luxurious palaces:

  • Gardens and pools

  • Ornate furnishings

  • Colourful wall and floor decorations


  • Furniture reflected a person status, as only wealthy people could afford expensive materials such as wood

  • Basic items for all items included stools, chests and boxes, low tables

  • Upper class citizens might have had chairs inlaid with ivory, beds cushions or couches


  • Variety of occupations during the period including

  • Brick makers

  • Potters

  • Carpenters

  • Tradespeople: jewellers, stonemasons and weavers

  • State workers in high demand: the army, quarrying, building projects

  • Farmers

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