By Laura Fenton
Currently located outside The Pyramid in downtown Memphis, the Ramesses II statue
will make its way to campus later this year. It will be a perfect complement to the
U of M’s Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology and Egyptology program.
Ramesses II is packing his cartouche and moving to the University of Memphis.
The 25-foot statue will soon relocate from outside The Pyramid in downtown Memphis
to the U of M campus along Central Avenue. Although an exact date has not been determined,
the move should be during the Spring 2012 semester.
Once officially erected, Ramesses II will bring attention to the Egyptology program,
Egyptian artifacts in the campus museums and the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archeology,
according to Dean Richard Ranta of the College of Communication and Fine Arts.
“It is a significant focal point, that shouts at you in a 5,000-pound way, that we
have a major Egyptian study presence here,” Ranta said.
The statue will be located between Harris Hall and the Theatre Building, in front
of the colonnades and facing Central Avenue.
Before the statue can relocate, the U of M must construct a base for which Ramesses
II will rest.
“We have to prepare the site because it’s heavy,” Ranta said. “You can’t just put
it on top of that concrete sidewalk because it would crack it all to smithereens.”
The concrete base will not only support the weight of the statue, but it will ensure
it stands upright. Support beams will be installed at the bottom portion of the legs
will be that will help the statue withstand 90 mph winds.
After the site is ready, the statue will most likely move from downtown by crane and
The local Ramesses II, a replica of the 50-ton one in Egypt, stood outside The Pyramid
since 1991. It is modeled after a statue of Ramesses II near the visitor’s center
at the site of ancient Memphis near Cairo.
An artist’s rendition shows where the Ramesses II statute will stand after being transported
to the U of M campus later this year.
The original statue in Egypt is actually 700 years older than the reign of Ramesses
II during the 12th Dynasty. It was first a statue of King Sesostris, but Ramesses II chose to retouch
the facial features, chest area and add a cartouche, or oblong nameplate with hieroglyphics,
to resemble him. This was a common practice for successors.
“We might see it as stealing, but they (the Egyptians of the time) looked at it in
a very positive way, in the sense that it underscores the idea of the continuity of
leadership and divine kingship in ancient Egypt,” said Lorelei Corcoran, director
of the IEAA.
It makes sense to have the statue at the U of M because the University has a direct
link to Ramesses II.
Graduate students in the Egyptology department have the opportunity to conduct fieldwork
at the Hypostyle Hall during their studies at the U of M. The fieldwork project has
received three National Endowments for the Arts grant awards. Ramesses II helped to
decorate a major part of the Hypostyle Hall where students and faculty conduct research.
The University also has the capabilities for the upkeep of the statue. Both the Art
Museum personnel and the IEAA staff know the proper means to clean and care for weathering
and any chipping of the statue.
Once the draft of the contract is approved, the City of Memphis will lease the statue
to the University for $1 annually for 99 years.
Until then, the excitement of the statue’s relocation builds.
“It’s something that will be of interest to us, so it won’t be stuck in a corner and
forgotten,” Ranta said.