Erich Lessing

On a wall of his mortuary temple at Thebes, called the Ramesseum, the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II (1279–1213 B.C.) carved scenes showing the Battle of Kadesh—a clash between the Egyptians and the Hittites fought in 1274 B.C. near the Orontes River in modern Syria. Thirteen years later, Ramesses signed a peace treaty with the Hittite king Hattusili III (1267–1237 B.C.), putting an end to the protracted war between the two Late Bronze Age superpowers. The two states exchanged copies of the treaty—with the Hittites inscribing a tablet and sending it to Egypt, and the Egyptians inscribing a tablet and sending it to the Land of Hatti. The tablet, found at Hatttusa, is the Egyptian version of the treaty, written in Akkadian (a Semitic language that served as the lingua franca of the ancient Near East). A reproduction of one of the treaty tablets now hangs on a wall near the entrance to the Security Council of the United Nations in New York.