April 18, 2012

Ancient Egyptian art during Seti's Reign

A high point of Egyptian art - Ancient Egyptian Art
During Seti's reign some tremendous building projects were undertaken. The quality of the reliefs that embellished new cult temples and his tomb are virtually unsurpassed in ancient Egyptian art. At Karnak, where his victories were chronicled, Seti began the work of building the great Hypostyle Hall in the Temple of Amun that was to be completed by his son Ramses. One of the wonders of ancient architecture and planning, the Hall covers an area of 335 x 174 ft (102 x 53 m), and has 134 gigantic columns of which the inner 12, slightly higher than the outer rows at 75 ft (23 m) in height, had clerestory lighting via stone grills through which . the only light entered the Hall. Seti's reliefs are on the north side and contrast in their fine style with the later additions.

Hypostyle Hall
At Abydos, the ancient cult centre of the god Osiris, Seti built what is undoubtedly the most remarkable decorated temple amongst all those of ancient Egypt. Its construction indicates Seti's determination to demonstrate his devotion to Egypt's most popular deity, and to link himself with the distant origins of Egyptian monarchy. Unusually, the temple has seven sanctuaries, dedicated for the deified Seti himself (who died during its construction), Ptah, Re-Harakhte, Amun-Re, Osiris, Isis and Horus.

In the main hall the superb reliefs show the king officiating in the temple as priest, offering to the god in his shrine and carrying out all the necessary daily functions of the priestly office in the service of the god. One part of the Abydos temple of particular interest and importance is the so-called 'Hall of Records' or 'Gallery of Lists'. Here Seti is shown with the young Ramses before long official lists of the pharaohs from the earliest times to his own reign. It is notable that the names of the Amarna pharaohs are completely omitted, as if they did not exist in Egyptian history. The cartouche sequence jumps from Amenhotep III directly to Horemheb .

In the desert at the rear of the great temple at Abydos Seti built a most enigmatic structure known as the Osireion. It is set at a lower level than the main temple (and now subject to almost continual flooding because of the high water table) and was originally entered through a long tunnel covered with painted scenes from the Book of Gates. The tunnel leads eventually to a huge hall (100 x 65 ft, 30 x 20 m). This hall was the focal point of the building and it was here that the body of Seti, together with his funerary equipment, rested before being taken for burial in the Valley of the Kings. The whole structure, underground with a central mound surrounded by canal water, reflected the origins of life from the primeval waters.

Apart from a small temple at Abydos dedicated to Seti's father, Ramses I, and his own mortuary temple at Thebes, now largely destroyed, the ultimate building of Seti's reign was his tomb in the Valley of the Kings (KV 17). Discovered by Giovanni Belzoni in October 1817, it is without doubt the finest in the Valley, as well as being the longest and deepest (both measurements being over 300 ft or 100 m). The workmanship in the decorations is superb, with finely delineated low reliefs and vibrant colours. In the burial hall Belzoni found the magnificent translucent alabaster sarcophagus of the king, which, as Belzoni remarked, 'merits the most particular attention, not having its equal in the world'.

The lower box or chest was largely intact, but the sculpted lid with the recumbent figure of Seti had been badly smashed by ancient robbers and its pieces lay round about. Inside and out, the sarcophagus is carved with hieroglyphs, once filled with blue-green paint. On the floor of the chest and the outside of the lid are texts from the Book of Coming Forth by Day, and on the inside walls and the exterior, from the Book of Gates.

Seti Mummy
Seti's mummy, the finest of the surviving royal mummies, shows a noble face. It was not found in his tomb but was amongst the great royal cache of mummies revealed at Deir el-Bahari in 1881. A number of dockets on the mummy record that, before reaching its final resting place, it had been restored during the reign of the High Priest of Amun, Herihor (1080-1074 BC], presumably after the first robbery in the tomb, then again about Year 15 of Smendes (c. 1054 BC). After this Seti's mummy was joined in his tomb for a short while by that of his son, Ramses II, before both were finally hidden in the Deir el-Bahari tomb (DB 320) in Year 10 of Siamun (c. 968 BC).

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