THE GREAT BELZONI’S GREATEST FINDS
SARCOPHAGUS LID OF RAMESSES III
Location: Valley of the Kings Today: Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge Belzoni may not have discovered the tomb of Ramesses III, but he extricated the three-metre-high, seven-ton lid of the sarcophagus. It had been offered to him as a meek peace offering by his rival, Drovetti, who could not have known – with it buried in sand and laying upside down – how magnificent it would be. Carved from red granite, the cartouche depicts Ramesses III as Osiris, god of the afterlife, with goddesses Isis and Nephtys on each side.
HEAD AND ARM OF AMENHOTEP III
Location: Karnak Today: British Museum, London Among Belzoni’s many finds at Karnak were the granite head and arm of a colossal statue of 18thdynasty pharaoh Amenhotep III, which he unearthed with his friend Henry Beechey at the Mut temple enclosure in 1817. It took eight days to move the 2.9-metre head just a mile.
STATUES OF SEKHMET
Location: Karnak Today: World Museum, Liverpool Although several statues of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet were discovered in near-perfect condition, that did not stop the Great Belzoni carving his name into them.
Location: Island of Philae Today: Kingston Lacy, Dorset Finding the red granite obelisk in 1815 was the easy part. Moving it on behalf of English explorer William John Bankes, who wanted it for his country estate, proved torturous.
ENTRANCE TO PYRAMID OF KHAFRE
Location: Giza Finding a way into the secondlargest of the pyramids of Giza had proven such a futile task that general belief held that it was solid throughout. Even Belzoni’s own workers called him ‘magnoon’ (madman) for looking for an entrance, yet it only took him a matter of weeks of examining the stones to unlock the mystery. He found the lost entrance on the northern face in 1818.
ENTRANCE TO ABU SIMBEL
Location: Aswan Today: Relocated to Lake Nasser When Belzoni first reached the Great Temple of Abu Simbel, only the head of one of the four giant statues of Ramesses II remained visible. It took two digs, plenty of local help and the ingenious use of palisades to find the entrance. Unfortunately, it contained few treasures.
SARCOPHAGUS OF SETI I
Location: Valley of the Kings Today: Sir John Soane’s Museum, London In the heart of Seti I’s cavernous and intricately decorated tomb, Belzoni saw something on 17 October 1817 he declared to have no equal in the world. It was a three-metre sarcophagus, cut from a single piece of alabaster and decorated with inscriptions and hundreds of figures.
THE YOUNGER MEMNON
Location: Ramesseum mortuary temple, Thebes Today: British Museum, London Belzoni succeeded where no one else could – transporting the much-desired carved head from a statue of Ramesses II to the Nile. Dragging the granite giant, weighing over seven tons, required 80 men, days of toil in sweltering heat and Belzoni’s tireless determination. It would be sent on to the British Museum, but under the name of Henry Salt.