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Presentation of arms
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 01 - 04 - 2004

The military glory of the Ancient Egyptians will soon be revealed at Luxor Museum's new extension. Nevine El-Aref toured its halls and watched inspectors putting the artefacts in place
In the early days of Ancient Egypt, warriors used only simple equipment to make war on foreign tribes. Wooden arrows, knives and bone boomerangs served their purposes quite efficiently. For a long time there was little need to improve weaponry.
However, when the eastern Hyksos invaded Egypt and took control of the Delta, the role of the armed forces in Egyptian society changed. The Theban Pharaohs of the 17th and 18th dynasties adopted new weapons and military strategies as a prerequisite for liberating the country and re- establishing control. Thus the Egyptian military spirit was born. The army turned more and more professional, the nobility taking on the role of officers, fighting among the charioteers and king's men.
Egypt undertook its vast military expansion in Asia and Nubia to protect the country's borders, and its troops became more specialised. Archers with heavy shields used battering rams and scaling ladders; there were trench diggers and, after the re- conquest of Nubia, Kushite shock troops and Nubian archers joined Egypt's military ranks.
Military commanders such as Horemheb and Ramses I became Pharaohs, while yet other kings surrounded themselves with former soldiers whose loyalty and self- sacrifice they had experienced. Didu, a professional soldier who was appointed to a responsible post guarding the desert east of Thebes, first became the Pharaoh's envoy to foreign countries, then a standard bearer of the royal guard, captain of the ship Meri-amen, and finally commander of the police force. After a long and blameless service Neb-amen, a standard bearer, was appointed chief of police of western Thebes.
A new wing has been added to the Luxor Museum to demonstrate how the Egyptian army formed the backbone of Egypt's enduring civilisation during the country's Golden Age. The wing is in its final stages of preparation before its official opening by Culture Minister Farouk Hosni late next month. Two of the most important royal mummies, those of the New Kingdom Pharaohs Ahmose I and Ramses I, have already been taken there, and dozens of workmen, museologists and architects are busily completing the exhibition.
"The extension was originally built in 1993, but the actual work to transform it into a museum only began eight months ago," said Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), adding that although its interior design was similar to that of the main museum building it had "a modern twist".
The simple, two-storey building is connected by a ramp, which reveals how well-organised the Egyptian army was during the New Kingdom by displaying 140 objects carefully selected from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, storehouses at Karnak and Luxor temples, and objects from the basement of the Luxor Museum.
"To design this extension has been a real challenge," Hussein El-Shaburi, the extension's interior designer, told Al-Ahram Weekly. "I had to maintain the spirit of Luxor Museum's original designer, architect Mahmoud El-Hakim, and yet adapt the space to accommodate the chosen objects."
The extension is small, which presented two problems when the project started. The first, El-Shaburi said, was providing a decent display area for the chosen artefacts. The second was how best to display the mummies of Ahmose I and Ramses I within the limited space. "We realised we had to provide a dramatic and spiritual atmosphere for them, without unduly interrupting the display of other objects which need clear lighting," El-Shaburi said.
To overcome this problem, El-Shaburi told the Weekly, it was decided to create a special area with three steps leading up to it. "To pay respect to these great Pharaohs, the space separating the mummies from the museum's visitors has been intentionally created by putting each inside a plexi-glass showcase on a truncated stand of the Pyramid. This stand can easily be opened to enable the museum curators to readjust the humidity and pressure around the mummies, and restore them if necessary without removing them."
Engineer Abdel-Hamid Qutb, head of engineering affairs at the SCA, said these were not only the problems. He said the heavy weight of some of the objects represented a real challenge. For example, the alabaster statue of Seti I was too heavy to be removed manually to the second level of the museum. "So we had to install an elevator, which was not part of the original plan," he said.
Two weeks ago, while workmen were putting the final touches to the museum extension, an ancient royal funeral procession was re-enacted. Placed on a wooden horse-drawn chariot decorated with white, orange and yellow flowers, the mummy of Ramses I set out on a journey down the avenue of rams from Karnak Temple. Two rows of soldiers with musical instruments played a military march, while clapping and trilling filled the air. Dozens of children wearing white robes and holding bunches of flowers lined the route leading to the bank of the Nile where a boat was docked. On it was the mummy of the warrior Pharaoh Ahmose I, and when the mummy of Ramses joined its royal partner in history, both embarked on a cruise to their final resting place: the new museum extension is devoted to the display of the Military Golden Age of the Pharaohs.
The national anthem was played as both mummies were "re-buried" in two high-tech plexi-glass showcases along with their own military arms.
Those lucky enough to be in Luxor and take part in the ceremony were transported back in time to the royal funeral processions as they were held thousands of years ago. "It was really a thrilling experience that touched me deeply," professor Ali Radwan, head of the Arab Archaeologists Union, told the Weekly. "It was a fitting way to both greet and mourn two Pharaohs who devoted their lives to defeating invaders and contributing to the wonderful Ancient Egyptian civilisation."
Radwan said the ritual reminded him of a similar event held in France during the 1980s, when the mummy of Ramses II arrived to be restored under the supervision of UNESCO. When the royal mummy was taken out of the plane, a French guard of honour lined the path and both the Egyptian and French national anthems were played. "Three thousand years after Ramses II was laid to rest, he was being treated as a head of state," Radwan said.
Surrounded by reporters and photographers as he uncovered the mummies of Ahmose I and Ramses I from the huge wooden crates wrapped in the Egyptian flag, Hawass said: "I am very pleased. Both mummies have finally returned to where they originally belonged, to Luxor or Ancient Thebes."
After 130 years of being shunted between museums and archaeological laboratories in North America, Hawass said, the mummy of Ramses I had returned to a peaceful place of rest to continue its eternal spiritual journey.
, who was originally a major-general in the army of Horemheb, is believed to have been taken out of Egypt in 1871 as part of a sell-off of treasures looted from Luxor's Valley of the Kings. Tomb robbers from the Abdel-Rasoul family had chanced upon a cache of royal mummies at Deir Al-Baheri, and had sold off a number of them along, with coffins and funerary artefacts. The mummy then came into the possession of Canada's Niagara Falls Museum, from where it went to the Michael C Carlos Museum. There it was then subjected to several intensive studies to determine its identity. When the curators realised that there was a 90 per cent chance that the mummy was that of Ramses I, they offered to return it to Egypt. It was officially handed last October.
As for the mummy of Ahmose I, the Pharaoh who succeeded in liberating Egypt from the Hyksos and expelling them from the country, this was also among the royal mummies recovered from the Deir Al-Bahari cache. Since then it has been on display with its counterparts in the Mausoleum of Royal Mummies at the Egyptian Museum. It is more appropriately and fittingly displayed in the new extension of the Luxor Museum.
The extension has been created with a view to combining educational and cultural aspects of Ancient Egyptian history. The mummies will fit within the exhibition, which is devoted to the Egyptian army in the Golden Age.
"Some people believe that the Ancient Egyptians built their great empire with force of arms, but on the contrary, they built it with peace and passion," Hawass said. He added that the first ever peace treaty was signed during the reign of Ramses II, after his victory over the Hittites.
Commenting on the new museum extension, Mahmoud Mabrouk told the Weekly that when Egypt reached the zenith of its glory -- thanks to its military might -- it was able to launch a revival in art and architecture.
"Indeed, it is to the powerful Pharaohs of the New Kingdom that the capital, Thebes, owes its present allure," Mabrouk said.
He continued that on display will be a broad collection of military paraphernalia such as swords, knives, war chariots, armoured shields and arrows, along with stone balls and instruments used to sharpen weapons.
Two ostraca show graphic plans of the tombs of Seti I and Ramses IV, and statues of well-known warrior kings including a black schist statue of Ramses III, who defeated the Libyans and fought against "the people of the sea". Another black granite statue is of Tuthmosis III, who led Egypt to victory against the Hittites at Megiddo, while other statues are of Seti I, Ramses II and Ramses IV.
Afaf Fanous head of the restoration department at the museum told the weekly that the most impressive item of all is a reconstruction wall painted sandstone blocks known as talatat, which comes from one of the temples erected at Karnak by Akhnaten. These blocks, along with thousands of others were discovered dismantled and buried away within one of the great pylons as an attempt by later Pharaohs to obliterate evidence of Akhnaten and his heretical ways. These blocks have been unearthed by a French expedition many years ago and was stored in the storage of Karnak temples. "We have been digging inside five huge store houses overstaffed with hundreds of objects searching for these blocks," said Fanous. "But after four months we were able to stumble upon almost 92 pieces of them." she added.
Put together like a giant jigsaw puzzle, the blocks formed a wall, the greater part of which depicts in brightly coloured relief incidents of Ancient Egyptian daily life. Missing parts of the relief has been completed with plain drawing to give a complete view of the master piece.
Holeyl Ghali head of antiquities of Upper Egypt said that statues of well-known warriors kings are also within the display. Among them are a black chest statue of Ramses III who defeated the Lybians and Asia troops. This statue was found in 2002 by an American mission from Hopkins University inside a temple dedicated to Ramses III within the walls of Mut temples in Karnak. A black granite statue of King Tuthmosis III who led Egypt to a great victory against the Hittites in Magedo War is on display. Statues of kings Seti I, Ramses II and IV are also exposed.
Mabrouk promissed that the military extension to the Luxor Museum will be full of fascinating objects, a fitting complement to the existing display at one of Egypt's finest museums.

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