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  • Ancient Egypt

    This is the face/head of a king of Ancient Egypt. His name was Ramesses II, and 3,000 years ago he was one of the world's greatest rulers.

    Egypt was rich and powerful, its civilization made possible by the River Nile, the longest river in Africa.

    Every year the Nile flooded, as the floodwaters went down they left behind on both banks a layer of thick, fertile mud.

    Villages and cities were safe on low hills, and the river banks farm crops and animals flourished, thanks to the water and rich, black soil brought by the life-giving Nile.

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  • Ramesses II

    The Egyptians believed they owed their good fortune to the gods, and to their kings or pharaohs who were worshipped as gods.

    Kings led Egypt's army into battle against their enemies, and Ramesses II was a famous warrior; his most famous battle was at Qadesh (in Syria), when the Egyptians fought the Hittites led by King Muwatallis - a battle both sides claimed they won!

    Ramesses II became king in 1279, and reigned for 67 years, dying aged over 90.

    He had many wives and more than 100 children. He ordered the building of many magnificent temples and statues.

    He was buried in a rock-cut tomb in the Valley of the Kings - earlier kings of Egypt were buried inside pyramids.

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  • Big bust

    This bust (head and shoulders) comes from a statue of Ramesses II set up at a huge funerary temple close to the city of Thebes beside the Nile.

    Carved from a single block of granite rock, it's 2.6 m high and weighs over 7 tons.

    The king wears the royal head-dress topped by a cobra snake emblem.

    The colossal statue showed people what a mighty king Ramesses was, and was intended to last forever.

    In the late 1700s, the head was found by French soldiers of Napoleon Bonaparte's army in Egypt, and in 1818, Giovanni Belzoni, an Italian 'mummy-hunter' and the Indiana Jones of his day, shipped it to England, where it caused a sensation, almost as great as the opening of Tutankhamen's tomb 100 years later.

    People could see for themselves a wonder from a lost civilization, and admire the skill of artists who created the image, one of the largest pieces of Egyptian sculpture in the British Museum.

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Fun Facts
  • Men and women at the court of the king in Egypt wore elegant make-up, especially around the eyes.

  • In Ancient Egypt, there were rules about battles. Rival kings agreed the time and place, and battles were never fought at night.

  • To keep cool at parties in Ancient Egypt, guests wore cones of perfumed animal fat on their heads. As the fat melted, cooling perfume trickled over the skin.

  • A pharaoh or king in Egypt wore a bull's tail, to show how strong he was.

  • At the battle of Kadesh, Ramesses probably had about 20,000 soldiers - a very big army for the time.

  • Paintings of Ancient Egyptian children show children wearing no clothes. But we know from archaeology finds that they sometimes wore tunics and short skirts, like kilts.

  • At the battle of Kadesh, the Egyptians got a shock. Hundreds of Hittite chariots charged them, in an ambush. Ramesses led the fight-back after his camp was raided.

  • Egyptians liked this story of a sneaky trick. At a peace meeting during a siege, the enemy prince got drunk. He foolishly asked to see the king's war-club. An Egyptian general fetched it, hit him with it, and took him prisoner!

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