April 20, 2012

The Great Harris Papyrus and Ramses III Pharaoh Facts

 The Great Harris Papyrus
This is the longest known papyrus from ancient Egypt. Measuring 133 ft (40.5 m), it consists of 117 columns, each of 12 or 13 lines, and is dated to the day that Ramses III died in 1151. Found with four other papyri in a private tomb at Deir el-Medina in 1855, it takes its name from a Mr A. C. Harris of Alexandria who bought it. It was compiled by Ramses IV, listing all the benefactions his father, Ramses III, had made to the gods during his long reign. The intention was for it to be buried with Ramses III, extolling his virtues to the gods whilst at the same time invoking benefactions on his son.

Harris Papyrus
The bulk of the Great Harris Papyrus is a social document that charts the annual temple festivals and Ramesses’ gifts to them over the 31 years of his reign. A short introduction tells that the papyrus will list all the king’s good works, then it falls into six main sections of which the first three - being concerned with the great shrines of Amun at Thebes, Re at Heliopolis and Ptah at Memphis - take up most space. A fourth section deals with other temples and the fifth is a summary of all the temples in Egypt (with some minor omissions that obviously did not meet the ‘copy’ deadline).

The final, sixth, historical section concerns the beginning of the dynasty and the campaigns of Ramses III. Royal gifts, income and expenditure are all carefully documented - in fact the Great Harris Papyrus is in reality a 'balance sheet’ for Egypt during the reign of Ramses III and, as such, is a unique and invaluable document. It must, at some time, have been part of the official archives of the temple at Medinet Habu, but how it got there from the king’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings (KV 11), and then into the small private tomb where it was found, is a mystery.

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