British Museum

The largest papyrus manuscript to survive from ancient Egypt, Papyrus Harris I was written immediately after the death of Ramesses III about 1153 B.C.E. The scroll, 133 feet long by 16 ½ inches high and containing 117 columns of 12 or 13 lines each, recounts the gifts, benevolent activities and military victories of the pharaoh. Three of the seven main sections are illustrated with a depiction of Ramesses worshiping the gods to whom the section is devoted. The almost-perfectly-preserved scroll is written in hieratic characters, a cursive form of Egyptian writing. Scholars differ as to whether the papyrus—found by natives near Deir el-Medineh, Thebes, in 1855—is an accurate account of Ramesses’ deeds or only political rhetoric.