Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Leaving an Impression: Footprints Left by Children Found in Ancient Capital of Ramesses II

Ancient Origins

A group of German archaeologists has discovered many Pharaonic features in Egypt's Nile Delta, including the remains of a building complex, a mortar pit with footprints left by children, and a painted wall, as the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry announced Tuesday.

Newly Discovered Building Complex Described as “Monumental”
The head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Department at Egypt’s antiquities ministry, Mahmoud Afifi, announced yesterday that at the ancient city of Pi-Ramesses an excavation team from the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim in Germany has unearthed parts of a building complex as well as a mortar pit with children’s footprints. Mahmoud Afifi, impressed with the size (covering about 200 by 160 meters) of the newly discovered structure, described it as "truly monumental" and told Ahram Online that its layout suggests the complex was likely a palace or a temple. The buildings were discovered in the village of Qantir, situated about 60 miles (96.6 km) northeast of Cairo. The modern-day village of Qantir is located on the site of Pharaoh Rameses II's capital, "House of Ramses."

An excavated section of the newly-found building complex. (Ministry of Antiquities)

The Life and Legacy of Ramesses II
Ramesses II is arguably one of the most influential and remembered pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Ramesses II, the third pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty, ascended the throne of Egypt during his late teens in 1279 BC following the death of his father, Seti I. He is known to have ruled ancient Egypt for a total of 66 years, outliving many of his sons in the process – although he is believed to have fathered more than 100 children. As a result of his long and prosperous reign, Ramesses II was able to undertake numerous military campaigns against neighboring regions, as well as building monuments to the gods, and of course, to himself.

A statue of Ramesses II. Source: BigStockPhoto

One of the victories of Ramesses II’s reign was the Battle of Kadesh. This was a battle fought between the Egyptians, led by Ramesses II and the Hittites under Muwatalli for the control of Syria. The battle took place in the spring of the 5th year of the reign of Ramesses II, and was caused by the defection of the Amurru from the Hittites to Egypt. This defection resulted in a Hittite attempt to bring the Amurru back into their sphere of influence. Ramesses II would have none of that and decided to protect his new vassal by marching his army north. The pharaoh’s campaign against the Hittites was also aimed at driving the Hittites, who have been causing trouble for the Egyptians since the time of Pharaoh Thutmose III, back beyond their borders. According to the Egyptian accounts, the Hittites were defeated, and Ramesses II had gained a great victory. The story of this victory is most famously monumentalized on the inside of the temple of Abu Simbel.

Abu Simbel Temple of King Ramses II, a masterpiece of pharaonic arts and buildings in Old Egypt. Source: BigStockPhoto

 Promising Finds
Henning Franzmeier, the mission director, explained that magnetic measurements were carried out in 2016 and through those measurements the building complex was located, "Based on the results of the measurements carried out by the team last year to determine the structure of the ancient city, a field was rented out, beneath which relevant structures were to be placed," he told Ahram Online. The excavation team also unearthed a small trench that was laid out in an area where they suspect the enclosure wall can be spotted. "These finds and archaeological features being uncovered are promising. They can all be dated to the pharaonic period," Franzmeier added.

Result of a magnetic survey carried out at the site. (Peramses mission)

A Mortar Pit with Impressions of Children's Feet Last but not least, Franzmeier mentioned that just a few inches beneath the surface, a large number of walls were found, but what excited him the most was a mortar pit extending at least 2.5 x 8 meters (8 x 26 ft)

Remains of a multi-colored wall painting found in the pit. (Ministry of Antiquities)

In the pit, a sheet of mortar has been preserved at the bottom which shows some children’s' footprints mixed with the components of the mortar. "What's extraordinary is the filling of the pit, as it consists of smashed pieces of painted wall plaster. No motifs are recognizable so far, but we are certainly dealing with the remains of large-scale multi-colored wall paintings “ Franzmeier said as Independent of Egypt reports. An all-inclusive excavation of all fragments followed by permanent conservation and the rebuilding of motifs will be the subject of future seasons at this intriguing site.

Children’s footprints in the mortar pit. (Qantir-Pi-Ramesse Project; photographer Robert Stetefeld)

Top Image: A digital reconstruction of the city of Pi-Ramesses. (Ramesses the second)

Insert: Children’s footprints in the mortar pit. (Qantir-Pi-Ramesse Project; photographer Robert Stetefeld)

By Theodoros Karasavvas

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