Medinet Habu Canon

The Temple of Medinet Habu is the mortuary temple of Ramesses III on the West bank at Thebes in Upper Egypt.

Ramesses III copied many scenes directly from those at the Ramesseum, which is abundantly clear as there are many almost identical scenes throughout the temple complex. The procession of the Festival of Min is no exception, it is very similar to the Ramesseum scenes. The reliefs are clear with much of the colouring still intact, especially considering that the temple is about 3200 years old. The scenes depict episodes from the Festival of Min, celebrating the continued rule of the king. A large ceremonial procession brought offerings to a figure of Min, the god of fertility and harvests, presided over by Ramesses III himself. Statues of venerated ancestors were also carried along the procession, in all there are sixteen cartouches with the names of nine kings.

The scene is located in the upper register on the east wall of the Second pylon in the Second Court.🧭

Siptah and Amenmesse of the Nineteenth Dynasty are both excluded, as is Tausret who was ousted by Ramesses III’s father Setnakht. Exactly like at the Ramesseum, the scenes can be found in the second court, in the upper register of the second eastern pylon.

Figure: Medinet Habu king list composite
#HieroglyphsName in listPharaoh
1, 5, 8 Medinet Habu Canon: cartouche of Ramesses IIIUser Maat Ra, mery Amun
wsr-mꜢꜤt-rꜤ mri-imn
Ramesses III
2, 6, 9 Medinet Habu Canon: cartouche of SetnakhtUser khau Ra, mery Amun
wsr-ḫꜤw-rꜤ mri-imn
Setnakht
3, 12 Medinet Habu Canon: cartouche of Ramesses IIUser Maat Ra, setep en Ra
wsr-mꜢꜤt-rꜤ stp.n-rꜤ
Ramesses II
4, 11 Medinet Habu Canon: cartouche of MerenptahBa en Ra, mery Amun
bꜢ-n-rꜤ mri-imn
Merenptah
7, 10 Medinet Habu Canon: cartouche of Seti IIUser kheperu Ra, setep en Ra
wsr-ḫprw-rꜤ stp.n-ra
Seti II
13 Medinet Habu Canon: cartouche of Seti IMen Maat Ra
mn-mꜢꜤt-rꜤ
Seti I
14 Medinet Habu Canon: cartouche of Ramesses IMen pehty Ra
mn-pḥti-rꜤ
Ramesses I
15 Medinet Habu Canon: cartouche of HoremhebDjoser kheperu Ra, setep en Ra
ḏsr-ḫprw stp-n-rꜤ
Horemheb
16 Medinet Habu Canon: cartouche of Amenhotep IIINeb Maat Ra
nb-mꜢꜤt-rꜤ
Amenhotep III

The scene was first published by Vivant Denon in 1802 after his return from Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt in 1798-1801. It was a very crude sketch of the procession and only the hieroglyphs of Ramesses III are shown. When Description de l'Égypte was published ten years later it improved upon Denon’s sketch, but omitted the hieroglyphs completely. It was not until Wilkinson’s edition in 1837 that we got the first view of the actual hieroglyphs. Champollion improved upon the details in 1845, which was followed a few years later by Lepsius in 1849. Henri Gauthier published the complete Medinet Habu in 1931, including photos, going over the Festival scenes in detail, examining its similarities with the Ramesseum.

Illustrations

Medinet Habu king list in 1802
Vivant Denon 1802

Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Égypte, plate 134
Size: 7400x2600 (943 kb)

Medinet Habu king list 1809
Description de l'Egypte 1809

Description de l'Egypte, plate 11
Size: 4000x2794 (1.14 mb)

Medinet Habu king list in 1837
Wilkinson 1837

The manners and customs of the ancient Egyptians, plate 76
Size: 5000x1569 (833 kb)

The Epigraphic Survey, Medinet Habu IV, plates 203-205 composite
Epigraphic Survey 1940

Medinet Habu IV, Plates 203-205 composite, colored
Size: 4482x930 (1.4 MB)

Festival scene (right side)
Festival scene (right side)

Medinet Habu 2016
Size: 1820x1077 (400 kB)

Map to location of the Medinet Habu king list
Map to location of the king list

Coordinates: 25°43’11.2" N,   32°36’03.5" E
Size: 1000x563 (139 kb)

Bibliography

  • Dominique Vivant Denon Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Égypte, pendant les campagnes du général Bonaparte. Paris: 1802. Plate 134.
  • Description de l’Égypte, ou, Recueil des observations et des recherches qui ont été faites en Égypte pendant l’expédition de l’armée française. Paris: Imprimerie impériale, 1809. Vol. II, Planches: Antiquités. Plate 11
  • John Gardner Wilkinson The manners and customs of the ancient Egyptians. London: John Murray, 1837. Plate 76.
  • Jean François Champollion Monuments de l’Égypte et de la Nubie. Paris: 1845. Vol. III, plates 213-214
  • Karl Richard Lepsius Denkmaeler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien. Berlin: 1849. Vol. III, plates 212-213
  • Bertha Porter & Rosalind Moss Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs and Paintings. II2. Oxford: 1927. 499–500 (no. 96-98)
  • Henri GauthierLes fêtes du dieu Min”. Recherches d’archéologie, de philologie et d’histoire 2. Paris: 1931.
  • The Epigraphic Survey Medinet Habu—Volume IV Festival Scenes of Ramesses III. OIP 51. Chicago: 1940. pls. 203 & 206
  • Kenneth A. Kitchen Ramesside Inscriptions V. Oxford: 1983. 205:12-13, 209:11-12


End of page
Kinglists
Ancient historians
Terms & information

OK – Old Kingdom
Dynasties 3-6

MK – Middle Kingdom
Dynasties 11-12

NK – New Kingdom
Dynasties 18-20

SIP – Second Intermediate Period
Dynasties 13-17

Thebes – The Southern capital

Memphis – The Northern capital

Epitome – Manetho’s original Aegyptiaca was lost in antiquity, and in the following centuries, it was replaced by Epitomes (summaries) by rivalling advocates of Jewish, Egyptian, and Greek history that saw each side trying to establish the truth according to their point of view.

Vorlage – From the German for prototype or template, a vorlage is a prior version of a manuscript, in this case an earlier version of the canon.

Recto and verso – Recto is the front side and verso is the back side of a written or printed text.

Cartouche – oval band enclosing a pharaohs name

Hieratic – cursive form of hieroglyphic script

Hyksos – Greek form of ḥḳꜢ-ḫꜢswt or “rulers of foreign lands,” referring to peoples who migrated and controlled parts Egypt during the SIP.

Mortuary Temple – where the gods and the king who built the temple were worshipped.

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