Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bonus 28 - Merenptah Battle Relief

Entrance to the Karnak Temple

The Karnak temple complex outside Luxor, Egypt. The precinct of Amun-Re is the only part open to the public. It is the largest religious monument in the world. Originally the inside was not opened to the public but a private sanctuary for the priests to carry out their daily routines.

Merenptah Battle Relief
In the north-south end of the Karnak Temple stands a carved relief by Merenptah (1212–1202 BC).   It appears to correspond to the famous stele found in his mortuary temple on the west bank of the Nile river. The top panel displays the conquered nations and one of them is Israel depicted on the ground being run over by the Egyptian chariots.

Merenptah Battle Relief
In an area between the Hypostyle Hall and the seventh pylon at Karnak Temple, known as the Cour de la Cachette, Merenptah depicted military exploits from his Canaanite campaign in 1210 BC. This wall, originally about 49 m (160 ft) long and 9 m (30 ft) high, was constructed by Ramesses II and already contained the text of his Battle of Kadesh (1275 BC) peace treaty with the Hittites. Merenptah usurped space on both sides of the treaty text to illustrate his Canaanite campaign. Interestingly, he did the same thing with the stele on which is recorded in text form this same military action. After demolishing Pharaoh Amenhotep III’s mortuary temple to build his own, Merenptah appropriated and reused the reverse side of a 3 m (10 ft) tall stone monument originally carved by Amenhotep III. In the Karnak Temple, three cities are depicted being conquered by the Pharaoh. One of them, Ashkelon, is named and apparently the other two are Gezer and Yenoam, as described in Merenptah’s stele. The fourth scene, above and to the right of Ramesses’ peace treaty, did not depict a city but a people group being defeated—also described in the stele. They appear as a confusing jumble of defeated soldiers beneath the horses of Merenptah’s chariot. Like the people in the conquered cities, these soldiers wear ankle-length garments, suggesting they inhabit the same region. Apparently these soldiers were the fourth defeated enemy in Merenptah’s Canaan campaign—Israel—just as recorded in the Merenptah Stele. That makes this the earliest visual portrayal of Israelites ever discovered. The next time Israelites are visually depicted on a relief comes ca. 370 years later on an Assyrian obelisk (Maier 2004:91). 1.


1. Gary A. Byers, “The Bible According To Karnak,” Bible and Spade 17, no. 4 (2004): 100.

For Further Study
Byers, Gary A. “The Bible According To Karnak.” Bible and Spade 17, no. 4 (2004): 98–107.
Maier, Paul L. “Archaeology—Biblical Ally or Adversary?” Bible and Spade 17, no. 3 (2004): 83–95.

No comments:

Post a Comment