Ramesses II and Offering Table


This limestone statue, which stands at 171cm tall, depicts the 19th Dynasty king, Ramesses II, knelt before a hes-vase shaped offering platform, whilst the king himself holds an offering tray.

British Museum. EA96

The bottom has been restored onto a modern platform, but the rest of the statue is in remarkable condition. Ramesses II can be seen wearing a striped nemes (headdress), with cobra uraeus, a sign of his royal status. He wears a false beard, also striped. His features are recongizable; almond deep set eyes, an aquiline prominent nose and a slight smile upon his lips.

British Museum. EA96

Upon his shoulders are cartouches with the king’s prenomen and nomen. The prenomen, also called cartouche name or throne name (Ancient Egyptian: 𓆥 nswt-bjtj “of the Sedge and Bee”) of Ancient Egypt, was one of the five royal names of pharaohs. The first pharaoh to have a Sedge and Bee name was Den during the First Dynasty. The nomen was one of the “great five names”. It was introduced by king Djedefre, third pharaoh of the 4th Dynasty, as an emendation to the traditional nswt-bity crest. The nomen was later separated from the prenomen to become an independent royal name.


Hes-Vase detail: Here you see it is inscribed with two cartouches, showcasing the king’s names and title.

The shape of the offering stand is of an Ancient Egyptian hes-vase. A hes-vase was a vessel used for purification and libations in funerary and other religious rituals. Sacred oils and/or water would be poured from the vessel. The hieroglyph “hes” is named after the vase, which can mean “to favour” or “to praise.”

Ramesses II, being the king, would therefore be the head of the Ancient Egyptian priesthood, thus be in the centre stage of such religious rites and rituals, which included the purification of a person or item, deceased or alive, via liquid poured from the hes-vase.

A faience hes-vase from the 18th Dynasty, now on display at the Brooklyn Museum. 48.55a-b


Limestone statue of Ramesses II before an offering table in the shape of a “hes-vase”
New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty, c. 1280 B.C.
From Abydos.
Now at the British Museum. EA96


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