Bust of Merneptah

This gray granite bust from a statue of King Merneptah shows the king as a middle-aged man. He wears the nemes headdress topped by the uraeus, or rearing cobra. His names are engraved upon his shoulders.

The torso shows a strong, well-built body, serious face but softer features. The statue was once painted; the headdress was yellow, and the eyes were white and black.

Bust of King Merneptah
Bust of King Merneptah

Ramesses II lived well into his nineties and was one of the oldest kings in Egyptian history, if not the oldest. Ramesses outlived many of his heirs and eventually Merneptah would be the son to succeed him. Merneptah would have been prepared to be pharaoh through the responsibility of his government roles. By Year 40, Merneptah had been promoted to Overseer of the Army. In Year 55, he was officially proclaimed crown prince. At that point, he gained additional responsibilities by serving as Prince Regent for the last twelve years of Ramesses II’s life.

Merneptah was likely the fourth child born to Isetnofret I and Ramesses II. He was Ramesses II’s thirteenth son. He married Isetnofret II, who was likely his full sister or niece, and she would be his Great Royal Wife when he became king. They had at least two sons, Merenptah and Seti, and a daughter, Twosret. When Seti became king, Twosret was his Great Royal Wife; she would eventually become king in her own right. Takhat, the mother of Amenmesse, may have been a secondary queen.

New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty, reign of Merneptah, ca. 1213-1203 BC. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 31414