Sites & cities that bear the name of Pi-Ramesses


Today in : Egypt
First trace of activity : 1,274 B.C.E
Last trace of activity : 1,060 B.C.E
Recorded names : Per-Ra-mes(i)-su, Per-Rameses, Per Ramessu, Qantir, Pi-Ramsès

Description : Pi-Ramesses (; Ancient Egyptian: Per-Ra-mes(i)-su, meaning "House of Ramesses") was the new capital built by the Nineteenth Dynasty Pharaoh Ramesses II (1279–1213 BC) at Qantir, near the old site of Avaris. The city had served as a summer palace under Seti I (c. 1290–1279 BC), and may have been founded by Ramesses I (c. 1292–1290 BC) while he served under Horemheb. Ramesses II was born and raised in the area, and family connections may have played a part in his decision to move his capital so far north; but geopolitical reasons may have been of greater importance, as Pi-Ramesses was much closer to the Egyptian vassal states in Asia and to the border with the hostile Hittite empire. Intelligence and diplomats would reach the pharaoh much more quickly, and the main corps of the army were also encamped in the city and could quickly be mobilised to deal with incursions of Hittites or Shasu nomads from across the Jordan. Pi-Ramesses was built on the banks of the Pelusiac branch of the Nile. With a population of over 300,000, it was one of the largest cities of ancient Egypt. Pi-Ramesses flourished for more than a century after Ramesses' death, and poems were written about its splendour. According to the latest estimates, the city was spread over about 18 km2 (6.9 sq mi) or around 6 km (3.7 mi) long by 3 km (1.9 mi) wide. Its layout, as shown by ground-penetrating radar, consisted of a huge central temple, a large precinct of mansions bordering the river in the west set in a rigid grid pattern of streets, and a disorderly collection of houses and workshops in the east. The palace of Ramesses is believed to lie beneath the modern village of Qantir. An Austrian team of archaeologists headed by Manfred Bietak, who discovered the site, found evidence of many canals and lakes and have described the city as the Venice of Egypt. A surprising discovery in the excavated stables were small cisterns located adjacent to each of the estimated 460 horse tether points. Using mules, which are the same size as the horses of Ramesses' day, it was found a double tethered horse would naturally use the cistern as a toilet leaving the stable floor clean and dry. It was originally thought the demise of Egyptian authority abroad during the Twentieth Dynasty of Egypt made the city less significant, leading to its abandonment as a royal residence. It is now known that the Pelusiac branch of the Nile began silting up c. 1060 BCE, leaving the city without water when the river eventually established a new course to the west now called the Tanitic branch. The Twenty-first Dynasty of Egypt moved the city to the new branch, establishing Djanet (Tanis) on its banks, 100 km (62 mi) to the north-west of Pi-Ramesses, as the new capital of Lower Egypt. The pharaohs of the Twenty-first Dynasty transported all the old Ramesside temples, obelisks, stelae, statues and sphinxes from Pi-Ramesses to the new site. The obelisks and statues, the largest weighing over 200 tons, were transported in one piece while major buildings were dismantled into sections and reassembled at Tanis. Stone from the less important buildings was reused and recycled for the creation of new temples and buildings.

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