One of the most fascinating and important aspects of Ancient Egyptian culture were the ruling Pharaohs. Second only to the gods-and sometimes revered as gods themselves-many works of ancient Egyptian art were meant to honor the rulers of that time period. The word Pharaoh is a Greek form of the Egyptian word “pero”, which means “Great House”. The term originally referred to the residence of the king, but caught on as a word to reference the king himself.

  The Pharaohs were honored and worshipped, and not only ruled the kingdom, but served as religious leaders as well. The Pharaohs were commonly honored with large ornate palaces and temples. There are bas relief carvings and ornate jewelry among other mediums, all meant to adorn the palace and even the kings themselves.

  A polytheistic society, the ancient Egyptians held strong beliefs about life after death. Many works of art were large tombs or cartouches dedicated to giving the kings an opulent afterlife. Often buried in pyramids or similar tombs, the rulers were buried with extensive treasures. One of the most famous and well preserved tombs is that of King Tutankhamen. Discovered in 1922 it contains thousands of priceless artifacts. Inside one of the chambers, there is an elaborate mural chronicling his death, burial, and journey to the afterlife.

  It is believed that there were over 30 dynasties and 170+ rulers in a 3,000 year span-between the year 3150 and 30 BC. Occasionally, there were overthrows and even murders, but the majority of the Pharaohs passed the reign from father to son and so on. The Pharaohs were polygamists, and often the successor to the throne was chosen because their mother was a chief wife or a favorite wife of the king. The young kings-to-be were trained from a young age to be the successor of their fathers. At times, a brother would assume the throne when the ruling Pharaoh had no sons.

  One exception to the usual system of was Queen Hatshepsut, who ruled after the death of her husband in the place of his son who would later take over the reign of the kingdom. She ruled the kingdom for approximately 20 years and led several successful military campaigns. She was also instrumental in bringing exotic goods to the empire through trade expeditions. Her reign was a time of peace and prosperity in the land.

  Much of the art of Ancient Egypt is to honor the rulers of the time. During the 18th and 19th dynasties, there are many stone sculptures honoring the kings, queens, and even their families. Carved from granite, quartzite, grandiorite, limestone, and other materials, they portray their subjects in seemingly realistic detail. One well preserved example-a statue of Nefertiti, is even inlaid with crystal and ornately painted. There is evidence that other sculptures were painted as well, some even gilded with gold. Many of these sculptures also include markings linking the rulers to specific gods. These works of art give us a picture of the importance of the rulers and gods and the relationship between them in Egyptian society.  





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"The Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs." The Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.


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Mark, Joshua J. "Pharaoh." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Web. 09 May 2016. 

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Mark, Joshua J. "Amenhotep III." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Web. 09 May 2016.


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Upper Part of a Statue of King Thutmose III. 18th Dynasty. Granodiorite. Kunst Historisches Museum Wien, Germany. size: w306 x h465 x d203 cm Thutmose III was the successor of Queen Hatshepsut. Though he was the heir to the throne at his father’s death, he was too young to rule. Queen Hatshepsut agreed to be his co-regent, but assumed the throne herself as Pharaoh approximately 7 years into his reign. He was educated as a child and groomed to become the Pharaoh, however, and became one of the fiercest warriors of ancient Egypt. After her death, and even during her reign, he became a great military leader, growing the empire to its largest territory to date at the time. Because of his military success, Thutmose III has been called “The Napolean of Egypt”. Thutmose III is considered to be one of the most heralded ancient Egyptian Pharaohs. This is due in part to the military training he received during the reign of Hatshepsut. He extended the season of peace and prosperity built by the female Pharaoh during her reign. Though he conquered new lands with a strong military presence, he was a fair captor in those conquered lands. As a military genius, he was the first to fully utilize the sea in his strategy at war with the Phoenicians. Throughout his reign, he launched at least 16 military campaigns and captured nearly 350 cities. With his spoils of war, he was able to build many temples in the empire. One of them even depicts the details of his victory at Karnak in the temple he built in that place. It has been said that he was not fond of Hatshepsut due to her lack of military interest. She was content to let some of the cities believe they could free themselves from Egyptian rule. Thutmose III quickly showed them that he would be a different ruler altogether. This statue of Thutmose III is cast in granodiorite, which is an igneous rock similar to granite. What remains of the sculpture, the upper part of the body and head, are on display at the Kunst Historisches Museum Wien in Germany.
Quartzite Head of Amenhotep III. 18th Dynasty. Quartzite. The British Museum, London, England. size: 23.8 cm x 16.50 cm Amenhotep III was also know by several other names, Nebma’atre, Amenophis III, Amunhotep II, and Amana-Hatpa. All of them are in reference to the ideal of satisfaction and balance and the satisfaction of the god Amun. He was the son of Tuthmosis IV and a lesser wife, Mutemwiya. His father passed down to him an empire of immense wealth and prosperity, assuming the role of Pharaoh at age 12. He continued in that vein for his 38 year reign. He was generous to nearby kings, and used his great wealth as a tool to gain influence. He was known as a great sportsman and hunter and a great supporter of the ancient Egyptian religion. A notable accomplishment of Amenhotep III was his great buildings. He envisioned the Egyptian empire to be one so splendid, that it would leave the viewer in awe. He commissioned over 250 building projects-temples, statues, and stele, and even a lavish resort. Though few of the buildings remain today, he vision was successful in his time. He was also a great hunter and sportsman and very interested in the arts. Though Amenhotep III embraced the Egyptian religion, some believe he was feeling threatened by the priests of Amun, who owned more land in the empire than the Pharaoh himself. As evidenced by his other names, he had a strong desire to keep them and their god from threatening his reign. Amenhotep III chose Aten as his personal god, which was not uncommon among royalty. He is portrayed as a young man in this sculpture, and it is believed to celebrate his rejuvenation in his third jubilee celebration. He is depicted wearing the blue crown, which was worn during ceremonies and known as the headdress of a warrior king. The sculpture is made of quartzite and can now be seen in the British museum in London, England.
Bust of Queen Nefertiti. 18th Dynasty. Limestone, gypsum, crystal and wax. The Egyptian Museum of Berlin, Berlin, Germany. size: 50 cm Queen Nefertiti ruled alongside her husband, Akhenaten or Amenhotep IV, son of Amenhotep III. Her name means “a beautiful woman has come”, but little is known about her origin. It is believed that she may have been the daughter or niece of an Egyptian high official named Ay, and that she may have been from a town called Akhmim. Others believe that she was from a foreign land such as Syria. It is unclear when Akhenaten and Nefertiti were married, but it is believed that she was as young as 15, possibly before he was the ruling Pharaoh. They had six daughters and possibly a son, and were often depicted together in very naturalistic settings. This was uncommon in previous years. Nefertiti was the head queen, and always portrayed together in various situations. It seems as though they may have had a real connection-a romantic connection. This also was not common among the Pharaohs, who were known polygamists. It also seems as though her husband went to great lengths to portray her as an equal. She is even depicted wearing the royal headdress or defeating enemies in battle. Despite their seemingly strong connection, all traces of Nefertiti disappear from record around 12 years into their reign. Some theorize that she died, or that she assumed the appearance of a man and the role of co-regent. “The Bust of Nefertiti” is one of the most well known sculptures of ancient Egypt. It is remarkably well preserved and several different materials were used in its construction. The bust is made of limestone coated with gypsum. One eye is inlaid with crystal set in black colored wax. It is interesting that only one of the eyes is inlaid with crystal-the other was never done at all. “The Bust of Nefertiti” is displayed in her own room at the Egyptian Museum of Berlin.
Younger Memnon. 19th Dynasty. Red granite and granodiorite. The British Museum, London, England. size: 266.8 cm Rameses II was the son of Seti I. He began accompanying his father on military campaigns as a 14 year old and assumed the throne in his 20’s. It has been thought that Rameses II was the Pharaoh mentioned in the book of Exodus, but there is no definitive evidence supporting that theory. Some of his accomplishments as the Pharaoh were massive restoration projects and a new palace. He also worked to restore the borders of the strong Egyptian empire that the Hittites had regained during the reign of his father. He is also said to have won the battle at Kadesh, but evidence suggests that it was more of a draw than a victory. Rameses II lived to be 96 years old, and most of his subjects had never known another ruler. He fathered 96 sons and 60 daughters with over 200 wives and concubines. He was renowned for his accomplishments and the length of his reign. There are very few ancient sites in Egypt that do not bear his name. The mummy of Rameses II shows that he was a tall man-over 6 feet. In his later life, he suffered from some common but progressively detrimental ailments, like dental problems and arthritis. It is believed that he most likely died from old age or heart failure. May Pharaohs after him took his name, with some of them considered better rulers. In the minds and hearts of ancient Egyptians, however, none would surpass Rameses the Great. The statue of Rameses II was done in 2 different types of granite, one color from the shoulders up, the other from the shoulders down. There are traces of what may have been red paint on the statue, suggesting it was probably originally painted. It now resides for viewing at the British Museum in London, England.
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