The New Annex of the Luxor Museum
by Jane Akshar
Notation: Jane Akshar, operates Flats in Luxor, a member of the AETBI, that offers flats for lease as well as local tours of the Luxor Region.
Recently, I went to visited the new annex of Luxor Museum (in Luxor) in order to see its much heralded new Egyptian military exhibition.I found the experience to be both enlightening and pleasurable.
The exhibition is titled "Thebes Glory Military Technology", and it has a range of exhibits reflecting the great period of Egyptian military history during the 18th and 19th Dynasties. There are many statues of famous pharaohs, articles of war, stele, and most famous of all, the mummies of the two founders of their respective dynasties.
Luxor Museum can not of course compete with the wealth of treasures in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, but for me it is very special and has its own allure. It was so good to browse about and see the treasures properly displayed in temperature and humidity controlled cases. They are also well and accurately labeled. Yes Luxor museum wins hands down for me.
Although the theme of the exhibit is quite clear to a student of Egyptology, due to the lack of graphics a casual visitor will not understand its significance. I did talk the curators office about this and was told that suitable graphics which would unite the various exhibits in a harmonious whole had been planned and it is hoped that they will be installed soon.
The begins with a statue of Tuthmosis III depicting the nine bows of Egypts traditional enemies under his feet. As a young man, he was forced to submit to the wishes of his stepmother and regent, Hatshepsut, who later usurped the throne, but this clever and ambitious man wasted little time. He became a highly successful military commander and eventually won for Egypt the largest empire Egypt would ever control.
In earlier times Egypt had been confined within its natural boundaries, consisting of the two deserts west and east, the cataracts of the south and the Mediterranean Sea in the North. This had protected the civilization for many years but eventually Egypt had been invaded by the Hyksos. These hated invaders were eventually expelled, first back to their capital, Avarice, in the Delta by King Kahmose and then eventually out of Egypt by the founder of the 18th Dynasty Ahmose. However, the Hyksos bought a new kind of warfare to Egypt using horses and the war chariot together with a stronger bow, made not of a single piece of wood but many layers which provided more power. The Egyptians were not slow to see the possibilities of these weapons of war and they soon used them to their advantage. At one point the Egyptian Empire stretched from the 4th cataract in the south, and into Syria and Palestine and West into the Libyan Desert to Zawleten el Rakhem. Therefore, it could justly be said as the inscription from the Temple of Amun at Karnak says all foreign lands unite under the feet of the lord of the two lands Chronologically, the exhibition begins with the reign of Kahmose, the last king of Egypt 17th Dynasty (the last dynasty of the Second Intermediate Period. Kahmose was probably the brother of Ahmose, and it was Ahmose who founded the grand 18th Dynasty. A stele records the victory Kahmose had, in only year three of a short reign, over the Hyskos. It would be another twenty years before Ahmose would eventually expel them finally from Egypt, but this was a great victory and heralded the end for the Shepard Kings.
The chariot of Tutankhamen shown in the museum would have been used for hunting and exercising not for war but it gives one an idea of the flexibility this bought to the battle ground against the slower more cumbersome foot soldiers. The pharaohs took great delight in learning how to maneuver the chariots whilst shooting using a bow. They did this by tying the reins of the chariot around the waist and this can be quite clearly shown in an inscription of Amenhotep II related to target practice. Indeed, Amenhotep II was so good that he used a target of copper rather than wood.
The Egyptians became quite skilled at building weapons of war and these were manufactured in the Royal workshops along with statues of the king and other objects as is shown on the stone block next to the chariot.
The development of the compound bow was also a major development, enabling the Egyptians to fire with greater accuracy and from further away. The arrows were made of wood or reed and carried tips of flint, metal, ivory or wood.
In a side room the mummy of Ahmose is displayed wrapped in a linen shroud. Intriguingly, he appears to have been delicately built and suffered from arthritis leading one to suppose that he relied more on skill and strategy rather than the brute force of a more robust man. What is certain is he finally rid Egypt of the hated invader. The mummy is displayed in subdued lighting and the atmosphere on the day I went was reverential. In some side cases, personal weapons such as daggers and axes are displayed as well as the golden flies awarded to successful campaigners.
The New Kingdom saw the emergence of the Egyptian standing, professional army. Comprising a mixture of young Egyptians, mercenaries and prisoners of war, it was divided into four divisions of 5000 men. Each division was named after one of the four principal national Gods Amun, Ra, Ptah and Seth. These divisions were further divided into companies and each company was divided into groups of 50 men and one officer.
Joining the army allowed many men to become powerful officials and rise through the ranks to positions of great authority. Some of them eventually took the next logical step, towards the end of the 18th Dynasty, of seizing the throne, like Horemheb, who is also represented in the exhibit. There is also Amenhotep son of Hapu who lived during the reign of Amenhotep III. This powerful courtier was awarded the unheard of privilege of having his own mortuary temple built near Medinet Habu. He was responsible for the recruitment of young men into the army.
In another side room is a mummy thought to be that of Ramesses I, and in any event, of a royal person. Returned by the state of Atlanta after years of languishing unnoticed in a provincial museum, this son of Egypt has been returned home.
He takes us into the 19th Dynasty and, after Seti I to Ramesses II, who is frequently considered to be the greatest warrior pharaoh of them all. The Ramasseum, his mortuary temple on the West Bank, is covered with scenes from his great personal battle success. Of course, modern research into his most famous battle at Kadesh now seems to indicate that it may very well have been a draw.
But other pharaohs of the 19th Dynasty were also successful on the battle field and there is an alabaster statue of Seti I just to prove that Ramesses the Great wasnt the only pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty to have led successful military campaigns.
With such a large empire, many officials spent their lives in far flung parts of the empire. Also on display is a statue of Nehre, a commander of the fortress at Zawleten el Rakhem and there is another of Paseur, chief of archers, and his wife Henut who were at Tell el Hibau, the Road of Horus to Syria and Palestine. One might wonder whether these officials were happy to be so far from Egypt. Perhaps some of them lost opportunities out in these remote areas. One such official was Nakhtmin, who was a general under Tutankhamen and Ay and Ays heir apparent. He didnt make it to the throne and was supplanted by Horemheb. Perhaps service closer to home might have enabled him to grab the throne for himself.
The exhibition ends with objects of the traditional enemies of Egypt, Syrian, Nubian and Libyan with atmospheric names like Great Vile one of Kush The
Luxor Museum has always been interesting, and for many tourists, a must see. The new exhibits can only elevate its traditional importance in the city that once was the great Thebes.
Original work by Jane Akshar, who's company, Flats in Luxor, is a member of the AETBI, and offers flats for lease as well as local tours of the Luxor Region.