Younger Memnon

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Younger Memnon colossal figure
The Younger Memnon
Material Granite
Size H: 267 cm (105 in)
W: 203 cm (80 in)
Created 1270BC (circa)
Period/culture 19th Dynasty
Place Ramesseum, Doorway
Present location Room 4, British Museum,
Identification EA 19

The Younger Memnon is an Ancient Egyptian statue, one of two colossal granite heads from the Ramesseum mortuary temple in Thebes, Upper Egypt. It depicts the Nineteenth Dynasty Pharaoh Ramesses II wearing the Nemes head-dress with a cobra diadem on top. The damaged statue has since lost its body and lower legs. It is one of a pair which originally flanked the doorway of the Ramesseum. The head of its pair is still found at the temple.


It is 2.7 m high by 2 meters wide (across the shoulders), weighs 7.25 tons and was cut from a single block of two-coloured granite, with a slight variation of normal conventions in that the eyes look down slightly more than usual and to exploit the different colours (broadly speaking, the head is in one colour, and the body another).



The pair to The Younger Memnon, still at the Ramesseum

Napoleon's men tried but failed to dig and remove it to France during his 1798 expedition there, during which he did acquire but then lost the Rosetta Stone. It was during this attempt that the hole on the right of the torso (just above Ramesses's right nipple) is said to have been made.

File:Belzoni memnon halage 1816.jpg
The Younger Memnon being hauled from Thebes

Following an idea mentioned to him by his friend Johann Ludwig Burckhardt of digging the statue and bringing it to Britain, the British Consul General Henry Salt hired the adventurer Giovanni Belzoni in Cairo in 1815 for this purpose. Using his hydraulics and engineering skills, it was pulled on wooden rollers by ropes to the bank of the Nile opposite Luxor by hundreds of workmen. However, no boat was yet available to take it up to Alexandria and so Belzoni carried out an expedition to Nubia, returning by October. With French collectors also in the area possibly looking to acquire the statue, he then sent workmen to Esna to gain a suitable boat and in the meantime carried out further excavations in Thebes. He finally loaded the products of these digs, plus the Memnon, onto this boat and got it to Cairo by 15 December 1816. There he received and obeyed orders from Salt to unload all but the Memnon, which was then sent on to Alexandria and London without him.

The installation of The Younger Memnon in the BM sculpture gallery by the Royal Engineers

Anticipated by Shelley's poem Ozymandias, the head arrived in 1818 on Weymouth in Deptford. In London it acquired its name "The Younger Memnon", after the "Memnonianum" (the name in classical times for the Ramesseum – the two statues at the entrance of the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III were associated with Memnon in classical times – they are still known as the Colossi of Memnon –, and the British Museum sculpture and its pair seem to have either been mistaken for them or suffered a similar misnaming).

British Museum

It was later acquired from Salt in 1821 by the British Museum and was at first displayed in the old Townley Galleries (now demolished) for several years, then installed (using heavy ropes and lifting equipment and with help from the Royal Engineers) in 1834 in the new Egyptian Sculpture Gallery (now Room 4, where it now resides). The soldiers were commanded by a Waterloo veteran, Major Charles Cornwallis Dansey, lame from a wound sustained there, who therefore sat whilst commanding them. On its arrival there, it could be said to be the first piece of Egyptian sculpture to be recognized as a work of art rather than a curiosity low down in the chain of art (with ancient Greek art at the pinnacle of this chain). It is museum number EA 19. [1]

In February 2010 the statue was featured as object 20 in A History of the World in 100 Objects, a BBC Radio 4 programme by British Museum director Neil MacGregor.[2][3]


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British Museum website
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  • G. Belzoni, Narrative of the operations and recent discoveries within the pyramids, temples, tombs, and excavations in Egypt and Nubia I (London, John Murray, 1822), pp. 61–80
  • S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of ancient Egypt (London, The British Museum Press, 1992), pp. 126–7
  • Albert M. Lythgoe, 'Statues of the Goddess Sekhmet', The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin Vol. 14, No. 10, Part 2 (Oct., 1919), pp. 1+3-23
  • Stephanie Moser, Wondrous Curiosities: Ancient Egypt at the British Museum (University of Chicago Press, 2006), ISBN 0-226-54209-2

External links

This article is about an item held in the British Museum. The object reference is EA 19.
Preceded by A History of the World in 100 Objects
Object 20
Succeeded by
21: Lachish Reliefs

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