Largest Egyptian Sarcophagus Identified

The largest ancient Egyptian sarcophagus has been identified in a tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, say archaeologists who are re-assembling the giant box that was reduced to fragments more than 3,000 years ago.

Made of red granite, the royal sarcophagus was built for Merneptah, an Egyptian pharaoh who lived more than 3,200 years ago. A warrior king, he defeated the Libyans and a group called the “Sea Peoples” in a great battle.

He also waged a campaign in the Levant attacking, among others, a group he called “Israel” (the first mention of the people). When he died, his mummy was enclosed in a series of four stone sarcophagi, one nestled within the other.

Archaeologists are re-assembling the outermost of these nested sarcophagi, its size dwarfing the researchers working on it. It is more than 13 feet (4 meters) long, 7 feet (2.3 m) wide and towers more than 8 feet (2.5 m) above the ground. It was originally quite colorful and has a lid that is still intact. Read more.

Paid Sick Days and Physicians at Work: Ancient Egyptians had State-Supported Health Care

We might think of state supported health care as an innovation of the 20th century, but it’s a much older tradition than that. In fact, texts from a village dating back to Egypt’s New Kingdom period, about 3,100-3,600 years ago, suggest that in ancient Egypt there was a state-supported health care network designed to ensure that workers making the king’s tomb were productive

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Merneptah was the fourth pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty. He was the thirteenth son of Ramesses II, also known as Ramesses the Great, and inherited the throne as his elder brothers had all died before their father. As a result of this, Merneptah was in his sixties when he became pharaoh, and only ruled Egypt for just under ten years before his death. 

Merneptah built his mortuary temple of the west bank at Luxor. Although it was mostly destroyed, it has been extensively restored by the Swiss Institute of Archaeology

The Great Sphinx of Tanis.

The Great Sphinx of Tanis is one of the largest sphinxes outside Egypt. Found in 1825 among the ruins of the Temple of Amun at Tanis, the capital of Egypt in the 21st and 22nd dynasties, it was successively inscribed with the names of the pharaohs Ammenemes II (12th Dynasty, 1929-1895 BC), Merneptah (19th Dynasty, 1212-02 BC) and Shoshenq I (22nd Dynasty, 945-24 BC).

The shen hieroglyph sculpted on the plinth under each paw evokes a cartouche, confirming the royal nature of the monument. The original texts, traces of which are still visible, were deliberately erased and replaced and the face does not resemble any known, well-documented royal portrait. In light of this, dating the sphinx with exact certainty is impossible. Some date it to the 12th dynasty, and others to the 6th or even the 4th, as far back as 2600 BC. (louvre)

Courtesy & currently located at the Louvre, France. Photo taken by Alex.


Merneptah (or Merenptah) was the fourth ruler of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. He ruled Egypt for almost ten years between late July or early August 1213 and May 2, 1203 BC, according to contemporary historical records. He was the thirteenth son of Ramesses II and only came to power because all his older brothers, including his full brother Khaemwaset or Khaemwase, had predeceased him, by which time he was almost sixty years old. His throne name was Ba-en-re Mery-netjeru, which means “The Soul of Ra, Beloved of the Gods”.

Merneptah suffered from arthritis and atherosclerosis and died an old man after a reign which lasted for nearly a decade. Merneptah was originally buried within tomb KV8 in the Valley of the Kings, but his mummy was not found there. In 1898 it was located along with eighteen other mummies in the mummy cache found in the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV35) by Victor Loret. Merneptah’s mummy was taken to Cairo and eventually unwrapped by Dr. G. Elliott Smith on July 8, 1907. Dr Smith notes that:

The body is that of an old man and is 1 meter 714 millimeters in height. Merneptah was almost completely bald, only a narrow fringe of white hair (now cut so close as to be seen only with difficulty) remaining on the temples and occiput. A few short (about 2 mill) black hairs were found on the upper lip and scattered, closely clipped hairs on the cheeks and chin. The general aspect of the face recalls that of Ramesses II, but the form of the cranium and the measurements of the face much more nearly agree with those of his [grand]father, Seti the Great.


Merneptah photo set time! 

My favorite Merneptah memory: When I went to Egypt with 2 of my grad school friends in 2008, we of course went to the Cairo museum and we were assigned a very nice gentleman (“Bob”) as our ‘tour guide’ but I think we only had about 2 hours total in the museum. After about 5-10 minutes listening to this guy talk, I realized if I stayed with the group I would miss out on pretty much everything I wanted to see in the museum. The moment of decision came when we were led to a corner of a room and I was looking at the very large stele directly behind our guide, trying to figure out why it looked so familiar. And lo, it was the Merneptah Stele! I kind of freaked out (quietly, of course). Our guide didn’t even mention the stele. At all. Even though he was basically leaning on it while he was talking. So, we (my 2 friends and I) ditched the group and saw all the things we wanted to see and made much better use of those 2 very short hours. I highly recommend buying the extra tickets for the royal mummy rooms. They’re an oasis of quiet and calm in the sea of chaos that is the Cairo Museum. Plus, it’s super cool to hang out with queens and pharaohs. They’re a pretty rad bunch :) I hope they’re ok…

Yesterday it was recorded that the largest ancient Egyptian sarcophagus has been found in a tomb of the Valley of the Kings, dating to more than 3,000 years ago. The sarcophagus, more than 13 feet (4 meters) long, 7 feet (2.3 m) wide and towers more than 8 feet (2.5 m) above the ground, is made from red granite. It is believed to be the royal sarcophagus of Merneptah, the 4th ruler of the 19th Dynasty, who ruled Egypt between 1213 - 1202 BC. Merneptah was a warrior king who defeated the Libyans and a group called the “Sea Peoples” in a great battle. He also waged a campaign in the Levant attacking, among others, a group he called “Israel” (the first mention of the people). When he died his mummy was enclosed in four sarcophagi, one nestled on top of the other. Within the outer sarcophagus was a second granite sarcophagus box with a cartouche-shaped oval lid that depicts the name Merneptah (top right). Within that was a third sarcophagus that was taken out and reused in antiquity by another ruler named Psusennes I. Within this was a fourth sarcophagus, made of travertine that originally held the mummy of Merneptah (pictured on the left). Although it is not certain yet why this pharaoh used 4 large sarcophagi, an unusual practice, deciphering the literature and art on these tombs might give archaeologist and Egyptologists some insight. For example, this scene (bottom right) depicts hour five of the “Amduat,” a book that also chronicles the sun god’s journey at night. In this section he passes through the cavern of a god named Sokar. #AncientEgypt #Egypt #Egyptian #Egyptology #Merneptah #Pharaoh #King #Sarcophagus #Mummy #Tomb #ValleyOfTheKings #News #History #Archaeology #Art #ArtHistory

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A quick look at: Gezer, one of the main Canaanite cities of pre-Israelite Palestine.

First of all, a little historical context:

During the Middle Bronze Age, ca. 2000-1500 B.C.E., Gezer grew into one of the most massively fortified Canaanite sites in Palestine. […] This period was brought to an end ca. 1482 B.C.E. in a violent destruction, no doubt to be attributed to Pharaoh Thutmosis III. […] A decline in the 13th century B.C.E. was followed by a localized destruction, probably the work of Pharaoh Merneptah […] According to both archaeology and the Biblical tradition (cf. Josh 10:31-33) Gezer was not destroyed in the Israelite conquest. There are at least five levels on the summit that reflects continued Canaanite occupation, plus incursions of Philistines, in the 12th and 11th centuries B.C.E.

W. Mills, R. Bullard, 

Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, Mercer University Press, 1990.

The Standing Stones at Gezer are shown in the first image. The meaning and function of these stones are debated; popular explanations include the suggestions that they represented other cities who owed tribute to Gezer or represented Canaanite deities. In the third photo is the six-chambered gate at Tel Gezer -the fortification of Gezer has been attributed to Solomon in biblical texts.

Shown in the second photo is a reproduction of the Gezer calendar. Discovered in 1908, this calendar is one of the oldest surviving Hebrew texts, and provides us with key information about the ancient Israel agricultural cycle. Scholars have suggested that this calendar could have been a schoolboy’s memory exercise, or the text of a popular children’s/ folk song. The calendar reads the following (via: Michael D. Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, Oxford University Press, 2009):

  • Two months gathering (September, October)
  • Two months planting (November, December)
  • Two months late sowing (January, February)
  • One month cutting flax (March)
  • One month reaping barley (April)
  • One month reaping and measuring grain (May)
  • Two months pruning (June, July)
  • One month summer fruit (August)

The original tablet is currently displayed at the Museum of the Ancient Orient, Turkey.

Photos courtesy & taken by Ian Scott.

this is Merneptah.

he was graciously given to me by @themythril-fr in exchange for a boost for their hatchery, Moonstone Hatchery! go give them a look, they have some really beautiful pairs (they also have a hatchery tumblr, @moonstone-hatchery) Merneptah is also the grandchild of one of my oldest pairs, Lakkam and Ardath, so he could have distant lore relations if you’d like! 

Merneptah is up on the AH for 2500 gems, his transparent portrait is here.