Throughout his life, Ramses II went on to build various monuments and thus his legacy of being a builder in Ancient Egypt and Nubia was born. Ramses II constructed monuments such as Abu Simbel, the mortuary temple Ramesseum, Pi-Ramesses in the Delta, and most notably completed the Temple at Karnak. On many already built temples and existing statues he had his own cartouche inscribed to ensure that his name lived on. The inscriptions were deeply carved into the structures to ensure that they could not be easily destroyed or removed by succeeding empires. In addition, Ramses II had an abundance of colossal statues erected which depicted him as pharaoh. It was more statues than any other pharaoh before him had erected. This helped to solidify his existence and reign in the 19th dynasty and make him more powerful.
It is important to note that many of the monuments from previous pharaohs were destroyed and the materials were used to build things that represented Ramses II, his dynasty, and his god-like status. Chefren’s pyramid at Giza became a target for needed materials. As a result, some of the blocks from this structure were taken to help build the base at Ptah’s Great Temple in Memphis.
The Abu Simbel temples are two colossal rock temples located in Nubia, southern Egypt. Today they are also known as the Nubian Monuments. These two temples were originally carved out of a mountainside and were completed as a lasting monument to himself and Queen Nefertari. They were also done to commemorate his supposed victory at the battle of Kadesh. In 1968, however, Abu Simbel was relocated in its entirely in order to protect it from being submerged under water by an artificial water reservoir called Lake Nasser.
The mortuary temple of Ramesseum is located in the Theban necropolis in Upper Egypt close to the current city of Luxor. Mortuary temples were created by the Ancient Egyptians to commemorate the reign of a pharaoh and also to be used by cult followers after a king’s death. In the beginning, throughout the Old and Middle Kingdoms, these mortuary temples were constructed close to pyramids. During the New Kingdom, and as more pharaohs began to build tombs in the Valley of the Kings, the location of mortuary temples changed and they were located in other places as well. The Ancient Egyptians called these temples “house of millions of years.” The name of the Ramesseum temple mortuary was coined by Jean-Froncois Champollion who visited the site in 1829, albeit with a French name.
In addition to Abu Simbel and Rasmesseum, Ramses II also founded a new capital city called Pi-Ramesses. This just meant “House or Domain of Ramesses.” Today it is better known as Qantir (Khatana-Qantir) and is about 60 miles northeast of Cairo. This new capital was located in the Delta and had previously been a summer palace during his father’s reign. This new capital became a scene of huge temples and a spectacular presidential palace for the Pharaoh but more importantly was probably constructed for strategic reasons. It was important because this eastern border location helped to control the threat of continuous invasions. It was also a significant commercial point which connected the Egyptian Kingdom to the Asian World. This new location provided many riches in that agriculturally it was extremely productive. The waterways had an abundance of fish and this added to the wealth of this area. The new capital was comprised of a mixed population; people from Amurru, Canaan, Libya and Nubia. Pi-Ramesses, the capital, kept its status for over a century until after Ramses II’s death. Thereafter, the crowned heads of the XXI Dynasty then moved the capital to Tanis. They destroyed many of the existing buildings in Pi-Ramesses to develop their newfound capital.
In the 1970s, the site of Pi-Ramesses was examined under the direction of Manfred Bietak using magnetometer technology to map out this lost city. Over 75,000 square meters had been measured by 1999. A palace-temple, a cemetery, inferior houses, and a huge horse stable were identified. Below the horse stable layers, a palace like complex showing a gilded gold floor and overlaid by stucco was found. Computer plots constructed by the team went on to show winding roads and even a lakeshore that had likely existed. This instrumental work by this archeological team firmly established this to be the capital of Pi-Ramesses.
One of his most impressive accomplishments was completing the great Hall at the Temple at Karnak. This is a 60,000 square foot area monument comprised of 16 rows and 134 columns; most of the columns stand over 50 feet in height. Additionally, there are 12 outside columns each standing over 80 feet in height. The great hall at Karnak is today still considered one of the greatest feats of the ancient world.
In addition to these other monuments, he also built a fabulous temple for his chief wife, Nefertari. This temple was for a woman he had married in his teens and who died long before Ramses II. The temple was designed with an elaborate array of artistic décor and built much like that for a pharaoh. In this temple, Nefertari was depicted alongside the gods which was a practice usually reserved only for pharaohs. Doing this, however, showed his love and respect for Nefertari and the sensitive side of Ramses II as man.
To our surprise, in 1987, the tomb KV5 was discovered. Eight years later a mysterious 100 foot corridor was found within this tomb. At the end of the corridor, an outline of Ramses II as Osiris was found. Upon further excavations, this tomb has been found to be one of the largest ever built, and was most likely
constructed to bury the many children that Ramses II had fathered; currently 130 corridors have been located. To date, four of Ramses II’s sons have been found buried in this tomb. It is believed that there could be at least 20 sons buried in this site, but the search is still ongoing. The excavations have not yet been completed; however, the promise of new discoveries is sure to be forthcoming.