As I moved in to my new apartment just off The University of Memphis Campus before the start of my Senior Year, I decided to take my mom on a tour of the beautiful campus and immediately knew where our first stop would be.
The 50-ton statue is amazing and impressive–much like the pharaoh himself. Ramses was the third pharaoh in the 19th dynasty and reigned for 67 years. The historical record proclaims him a fierce warrior, learned architect, and the husband of one of the greatest royal wives, Nefertari. Ramses is depicted in stone at multiple locations throughout Egypt fighting in his chariot in the Battle of Kadesh against the Hittites. He is highly praised for his architectural achievements, which include the Ramesseum, Pi-Ramesse and six buildings in Nubia, two of which reside at the great temple of Abu Simbel. Since building could only be done in prosperous, peaceful times, the high quantity of architectural projects is particularly impressive and attests not only to this pharaoh’s talent as an architect, but also to his skills as the leader of the Two Lands.
But where did this statue come from?
Naturally, it all ties back to my fantastic school, The University of Memphis (Go Tigers!). In 1987, after the hard work of Dr. Carol Crown to recruit Dr. Frita Reed, which led to the foundation of the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archeology at the U of M, a traveling exhibit was brought to the pyramid entitled Ramses The Great. The exhibit included over 73 artifacts, including a large, but deteriorating statue of—you guessed it—the Great Pharaoh. The City of Memphis promised the Egyptian government that the statue would be restored and, in turn, the Egyptian Government allowed the production of a replica of the statue–the first authorized reproduction of an Ancient Egyptian Artifact outside of Egypt! The new Statue was placed facing East, towards the rising sun, and was seen by over 730,000 people that visited the traveling exhibit during its 4-month stay at the Civic Center Plaza.
When the Memphis pyramid was leased to Bass Pro Shop in August 2011, it was decided that the statue would move to the University of Memphis, where it now stands as a symbol of not only the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology, but as an embodiment of the eternal connection between the two cities of Memphis, TN and Memphis, Egypt.
In the not-to-distant future, I hope to post a picture of me standing next to the original statue in Memphis, Egypt…stay tuned!