Foundation Rituals

Longer ritual sequences may consist of several related episodes, as with the temple foundation rites depicted on the west wall. Here Ramesses II conducts a series of rites to construct and dedicate a new temple to Amun. Arranged one after the other on the second register from ground level, these progress from right to left in six episodes: 

  • Stretching the Cord: a surveying rite Ramesses conducts with Seshet, the goddess of writing.
  • Scattering Gypsum Powder: Pharaoh casts powder into the foundation trench to create a protective boundary around the temple.
  • Hacking the Earth: where Pharaoh prepares the temple's foundations with a hoe.
  • Molding the First Brick: using a wooden mold, he forms a mud brick.This is similar to laying the cornerstone in modern building ceremonies.
  • Dedicating the Temple to its Lord: where Ramesses dedicates the completed temple to Amun.
  • Presenting a hecatomb: here the king presents a greatoffering of meat products to celebrate completion of the temple.


Ramesses II scattering gypsum around the temple in the presence of Amun-Re and Amunet.

molding brick

Ramesses II molding a brick before Amun-Re.

 dedicating temple

Ramesses II presenting the temple to Amun-Re.

Amun is present in every case to witness Ramesses II’s acts, yet in the final episode of the foundation ritual, neither appears. Instead Sety I dedicates a hecatomb offering to the Memphite god Ptah. With this sequence, Ramesses never intended to commemorate actual events, either to show current acts or imagine future ones. Instead, these scenes illustrate timeless and idealized ritual acts that any king might perform at any time. In other temples, the foundation ritual sequence can include various numbers and groupings of these and related scenes.