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The Discovery of the Pharaoh’s Tomb Amenhotep II and His Age – Museum of Fine Arts

17 September 2021 – 9 January 2022

Museum of Fine Arts

The exhibition to run in the Museum of Fine Arts from this autumn will present the age of Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep II and the sensational discovery of his tomb with the life-size reconstruction of his burial chamber unearthed in the Valley of the Kings at its focus. Visitors can also familiarise themselves with the history of the great archaeological discovery based on the original documentation of the excavation.

The first version of the temporary exhibition titled The Discovery of the Pharaoh’s Tomb. Amenhotep II and His Age – Egitto. La straordinaria scoperta del faraone Amenofi II – debuted in 2017 in the Museo delle Culture (MUDEC, Museum of Cultures) in Milan under the professional direction of the Department of Egyptology at the University of Milan. The Budapest show will present the age of the Egyptian pharaoh and the sensational discovery of his tomb based on a similar concept but with a completely different ensemble of artefacts.

 Amenhotep II and his age

Amenhotep II ruled Egypt as one of the pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty during the New Kingdom about 3,400 years ago, in the last decades of the 15th century BC. His father was the legendary military leader Pharaoh Thutmose III, whose rule was later remembered by Egyptians as a bygone golden age. Thanks to his successful military campaigns, Egypt’s political influence and commercial domination spread in Africa far south along the Nile – into Nubia, the territory of modern day Sudan – and in the northeast all the way to the Euphrates, the territory of Syria and Palestine. By the standards of the time, Thutmose III had incredible power concentrated in his hands, and Amenhotep II inherited his vast empire. At first he also led significant military campaigns but over time he realised that he would not be able to surpass his father’s great victories and turned his attention to domestic politics, creating a long period of stability and peace.

During the rule of Amenhotep II, most of the important offices and court titles were held by people close to the king: his contemporaries, with whom he grew up in the royal court, as well as the relatives of his wet-nurses and childhood teachers. The pharaoh was famous for his great physical skills: he excelled in archery, rowing, running and horse riding. His outstanding successes in various sports and his love for horses are recorded in contemporary texts.

The discovery of the royal tomb

Like many other pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty, Amenhotep II was buried in the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, located on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes. His tomb was found and excavated in 1898 by Victor Loret, a French Egyptologist. The history of his discovery can be accurately reconstructed based on his excavation journals, photographs and drawings, which are preserved in the archives of the Department of Egyptology at the University of Milan. The discovery of the tomb was a sensation as the pharaoh’s mummy – unlike those in other royal tombs at Thebes – was found in the burial chamber, in a sarcophagus made for him. (The world had to wait twenty-five years for the next, similar discovery: that of the tomb of Tutankhamun, where the royal mummy was also found in the coffin.) Besides the tomb, several items of the original royal grave goods (statues of deities, inscribed vessels and amulets) were unearthed.

An even greater sensation was caused by the discovery of the mummies of another nine pharaohs of the New Kingdom – the predecessors and successors of Amenhotep II – laid in coffins in one of the side chambers connected to the burial chamber. This confirmed that the tomb of Amenhotep II – along with another cache discovered not long before, in 1881 – was used as a royal cache at the beginning of the 1st millennium BC in the Theban necropolis to protect the bodies of the pharaohs, who were worshipped as gods after their deaths, from grave robbers. Thanks to the discovery of the earthly remains of these rulers, the mystery of the empty sarcophagi of the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings was resolved.

Museum of Fine Arts

1146 Budapest, Dózsa György út 41. - Heroes Square

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