Ostracon of Ramesses III Crushing an Enemy

One of the most typical royal scenes is reproduced on this ostracon, king Ramesses III in the act of crushing the defeated enemy. The scene was widely used on pylons and external walls of temples. On this piece the king is shown upright, his head adorned with red crown topped by the two feathers and the ram’s horn; leaning forward, he grasps the tightly bound arms of a kneeling Nubian captive with both hands.

The prisoner’s ethnic group is identified by the typical garb with large festooned neckpiece and by his short curly hair. In front of the king there are two cartouches containing the king’s name over a short line of text: “The Lord of the Two Lands, Usermaatre Meryamun, the Lord of the Two Lands, Ramesses, the one who crushes the foreign lands”.

Ostracon of Ramesses III Crushing an Enemy
Ostracon of Ramesses III Crushing an Enemy. Photo: Su Bayfield

Ostracon, the Greek term for potsherd, is used by Egyptologists to refer to sherds of pottery or limestone flakes, which were used as a cheap and readily available material on which write or draw. The text and drawings often consist of letters, bills, personal notes, inventories, sketches and scribal exercises, but also of literary texts, like love poems and wisdom texts.

New Kingdom, 20th Dynasty, reign of Ramesses III, ca. 1186-1155 BC. Limestone with black ink drawing. From Deir el-Medina. Schiaparelli excavations, 1905. Now in the Egyptian Museum of Turin. Cat. 6279