“Treasures of the Museum”: the funeral garlands of Ramses II, found by chance in an old box after twenty-eight years of oblivion

“Treasures of the Museum” (5/6). It’s a little note written on old cardboard: “I found this herbarium in the attic in October 1964. J.-C. Jolinon. ” The signatory, Jean-Claude Jolinon, would later become responsible for the botanical collections at the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN). What he had unearthed in the fall of 1964, under a jumble of papers, appeared in the most modest form: half a dozen boards, no more, on which hung faded flowers in faded colors. Which had been patient since the interwar period on the top floor of the botany building, along rue Buffon, in Paris. They had waited so long that a few decades more or less didn’t matter to them. Forgotten. Nothing less than the oldest dried flowers in the world. Nothing less than the funeral garlands of Ramses II.

The name is dreaming. Like Tutankhamun and Cleopatra, it projects those who read it on the banks of the ancient Nile. When we ask the Egyptologist Hélène Guichard, curator of heritage at the Louvre Museum, to situate the character in a few words, we know the thankless exercise: “He is also called Ramses the Great, she begins. He has the longest reign in the history of the Pharaonic dynasties, from 1279 to 1213 BC. AD He died at a very advanced age, 92 or 93, which made him a great old man for the time. This longevity has contributed to his notoriety and reputation, as has the fact that he is a conqueror. He leads many campaigns of geographic expansion: he conquers and stabilizes a good part of Nubia in the south, and also launches against the Hittites, in the north. After several campaigns, he established a peace treaty with them. “

To this image of a great warrior is superimposed that of“A phenomenal builder”, continues Hélène Guichard. “You cannot take a step in Egypt without stumbling upon a monument built, fitted out or decorated by Ramses II. He builds many temples dedicated to the gods but also to his own glory. He finishes the temple of Abydos started by his father Séti Iis, as well as the great hypostyle hall of the temple of Karnak. The list is long but we can also mention its funerary temple, the Ramesseum, and the great temple of Abu Simbel. “

Read also “Egypt: the temples saved from the Nile”, story of a pharaonic heritage rescue

When Ramses II died more than thirty-two centuries ago, his mummy found its place in the Valley of the Kings, in the tomb that the Pharaoh himself had prepared during his lifetime. But even though we were the greatest ruler of Egypt, that does not stop the burial plunderers. To save the mummy, the priests of Amun move it a first time, then a second – probably in XIe century BC – in a hiding place at the site of Deir El-Bahari, not far from the Valley of the Kings. Other pharaohs moved on this occasion, then silence and oblivion enveloped the remains of Ramses II and his colleagues.

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“Treasures of the Museum”: the funeral garlands of Ramses II, found by chance in an old box after twenty-eight years of oblivion