The obelisk Berlin 12800 came to Poznań in 2002 as a long-term loan from the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung in Berlin. It constitutes part of the permanent exhibition ‘Death and Life in Ancient Egypt’. The obelisk was placed in the middle of the covered courtyard of the Górka Palace , the seat of the Poznań Archaeological Museum.
The obelisk is made of grey granite or granodiorite. It is 300 cm high, the dimensions of the base are 54 x 53 cm, and the top is 38 x 37 cm. Its weight is approx. 1800 kg.
The obelisk came from the city of Hut-heri-ib (Greek Athribis, present Tell Atrib, a district of town Benha) in the Nile Delta, the capital of the 10 th nome (province) of Lower Egypt . In the antiquity it was standing in front of the temple of god Khenti-kheti, together with another obelisk kept now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Removed from Athribis (in the Middle Ages?), it was used as a threshold in a house in Cairo (traces of this re-use are still visible as worn surface across one of the sides, and a destroyed pyramidion), and after its discovery therein it was bought in 1895 by Carl Reinhardt and transferred to Berlin.
The four sides of the obelisk bear incised hieroglyphic inscriptions with names and titles of three pharaohs of the Nineteenth Dynasty: Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC), Merenptah (1213-1203 BC) and Sethi II (1200-1194 BC). The texts are similarly distributed on all of the sides, they differ, however, in details, giving different names and epithets of the kings, and names of the gods worshipped at Athribis. Ramesses II’s text (the middle column) has been cut in a visible depression, indicating that an earlier inscription may have existed, removed before the decoration of the obelisk by this king. It is therefore probable that Ramesses usurped an obelisk erected at Athribis by an earlier ruler. Merenptah, son and successor of Ramesses II, added his names at the bottom of the obelisk on both sides of his father’s text. Upper parts of both lateral columns were subsequently filled in with the titulary of Sethi II. Signs representing god Seth in the king’s name were destroyed in later times. The reason for this was an increasing hostility against this god, who was considered in the Late Period not only an enemy of Osiris, but also the patron of foreign nations invading Egypt.
The surfaces of the sides of the obelisk at the upper parts of the columns of texts of Ramesses II present noticeable concavities (especially clearly observed on the side ‘D’ of the Ägyptische Inschriften Berli). This suggests that there existed an earlier inscription, removed before engraving Ramesses II’s titulary. Tiny scratches in the stone might be traces of the earlier signs. The author of the Ausführliches Verzeichnis suggested that the obelisk might have dated from the Middle Kingdom (this idea is repeated by PM IV, 70). It seems, however, that the date in the reign of Amenhotep III is more probable. The granite lion statue in the British Museum (EA 857), provenanced from Athribis and bearing the titulary of Ramesses II, appeared to have been usurped by this ruler from Amenhotep III (cf. I. Shaw, P. Nicholson, British Museum Dictionary of Ancient Egypt (London, 1995), p.45, s.v. Atrib, Tell). It is very probable that the granite obelisks and lion figures were part of a decoration programme realised at the temple of Athribis by Amenhotep III (possibly by influence of Amenhotep son of Hapu, who originated from that city).
A quartzite base of an obelisk of Ramesses II was found in the ruins of Athribis. Another, similar base was found re-used at Fustat (now both bases are stored in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo: JE 72147 and TN 11/11/20/20; see Schott, MDAIK 38). A fragment of the shaft of an obelisk with inscriptions of Ramesses II and Sethi II, probably a counterpart of the Berlin obelisk, likewise found at Fustat (now in the Cairo Museum, TN 25/11/18/5), was published by Daressy, ASAE 18, cf. Schott, MDAIK 38.
Königliche Museen Berlin, Ägyptische und Vorderasiatische Altertümer II (1897), pl.116.
Ausführliches Verzeichnis der Ägyptischen Altertümer (1899), pp.124-125, fig.26.
G. Roeder, Ägyptische Inschriften, Museum Berlin, II , pp. 28-34.
G. Daressy, Antiquités trouvées a Foustat, ASAE 18 (1919), p.276.
S. Schott, Zwei Obeliskensockel aus Athribis, MDAIK 8 (1939), pp.190-197.
R. Porter, B. Moss, Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs, and Paintings , vol. IV, p.70.
L. Habachi, A Statue of Bakennifi, Nomarch of Athribis during the Invasion of Egypt by Assurbanipal, MDAIK 15 (1957), pp.71-72.
J. Yoyotte, A propos de l’obelisque unique, Kemi 14 (1957), p.81, n.2.
L. Dąbrowski, La topographie d’Athribis a l’époque romaine, ASAE 57 (1962), p.25.
M. Münster, Untersuchungen zur Göttin Isis vom Alten Reich bis zum Ende des Neuen Reiches, MÄS 11, (Berlin, 1968), pp.156-157.
K. Martin, Ein Garantssymbol des Lebens. Untersuchung zu Ursprung und Geschichte der altägyptischen Obelisken bis zum Ende des Neuen Reiches , HÄB 3, (Hildesheim, 1977), p.197.
P. Vernus, Athribis. Textes et documents relatifs a la géographie aux cultes et a l’histoire d’une ville du Delta égyptien a l’époque pharaonique, BdÉ 74, (Le Caire, 1978), pp.37-41.
L. Habachi, The Obelisks of Egypt . Skyscrapers of the Past ( Cairo , 1984), p.91.
K.-H. Priese et al., Ägyptisches Museum , Berlin, s.a., p.37.
The Exhibition of Art Treasures of Ancient Egypt (Tokyo-Kyoto-Hiroshima-Fukuoka-Sendai, 26 April 1988-29 January 1989), Tokyo 1988, pp. 30-31 (no.5).
K. A. Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions. Historical and Biographical , vol.II, fasc.9, Oxford 1977, pp. 465-466, § 171 (a).
K. A. Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions. Translated and Annotated, vol.II: Ramesses II, Royal Inscriptions, Oxford-Cambridge Mass. 1996, pp.287-289, § 171; pp.323, § 613.