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Title: Pi-Ramses  
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Subject: Ptah, Historical urban community sizes
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Pi-Ramesses (/pɪər.ɑːmɛs/); (Pi-Ramesses Aa-nakhtu, meaning "House of Ramesses, Great in Victory")[1] was the new capital built by the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt Pharaoh Ramesses II (Ramesses the Great, reigned 1279–1213 BC) at Qantir near the old site of Avaris. The city had previously served as a summer palace under Seti I (c. 1290–1279 BC) and may have been originally founded by Ramesses I (c. 1292–1290 BC) while he served under Horemheb.


In 1884, Flinders Petrie arrived in Egypt to begin his excavations there. His first dig was at Tanis, where he arrived with 170 workmen. Later in the 1930s, the ruins at Tanis were explored by Pierre Montet.

The masses of broken Ramesside stonework at Tanis led archaeologists to identify it as Pi-Ramesses. Yet it eventually came to be recognised that none of these monuments and inscriptions originated at the site.[2] In the 1960s Manfred Bietak, recognised that Pi-Ramesses was known to have been located on the then-easternmost branch of the Nile.

He painstakingly mapped all the branches of the ancient Delta and established that the Pelusiac branch was the easternmost during Ramesses' reign while the Tanitic branch (i.e. the branch on which Tanis was located) did not exist at all. Excavations were therefore begun at the site of the highest Ramesside pottery location, Tell el-Dab'a and Qantir.

Although there were no traces of any previous habitation visible on the surface, discoveries soon identified Tell el-Dab'a as the Hyksos capital Avaris. Qantir was recognized as the site of the Ramesside capital Pi-Ramesses.[3]

Qantir/Pi-Ramesses lies some 30 kilometers to the south of Tanis; Tell el-Dab´a, the site of Avaris, is situated about 2 km. south of Qantir.[2]


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.[4]

Built on the banks of the Pelusiac branch of the Nile and with a population of over 300,000, making it 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.[5]

It was originally thought the demise of Egyptian authority abroad during the

Biblical Ramesses

The biblical

The Bible describes Ramesses as a "store-city". The exact meaning of the Hebrew phrase is not certain, but some have suggested that it refers to supply depots on or near the frontier. This would be an appropriate description for Pithom (Tel al-Maskhuta) in the 6th century BCE, but not for the royal capital in the time of Ramesses, when the nearest frontier was far off in the north of Syria. Only after the original royal function of Pi-Ramesses had been forgotten could the ruins have been re-interpreted as a fortress on Egypt's frontier.[2]


External links

  • Tell el-Dabʿa Homepage - available in German and English
Preceded by
Capital of Egypt
1279 BC - 1078 BC
Succeeded by

Coordinates: 30°47′58″N 31°50′03″E / 30.799370°N 31.834217°E / 30.799370; 31.834217 (Pi-Ramesses (Per-Ramessu, Raamses))da:Pi-ramses

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