Because Rameses II lived into his eighties at a time when normal life expectancy in Egypt was only about forty, many of his sons predeceased him, and it was his thirteenth son, Merenptah, who finally succeeded him to the throne. Merenptah was by then already sixty, and his reign lasted only ten years. During that time, he maintained peace in northeast Africa and western Asia, led expeditions into Nubia and Libya, and sent food to famine-stricken Hittites in Syria.
His military exploits are recounted in three major inscriptions, one at Karnak, a second at Athribis in the Delta, and a third in his memorial temple at Thebes. This last text includes the first known reference to the people of Israel, which was said to be "wasted, bare of seed." Merenptah’s building activities included additions to the Osireion at Abydos, enlarging government offices at Memphis (and moving his administration from Piramesse to Memphis), and building at Dandarah.
In the Valley of the Kings, his tomb, KV 8, is one of the largest. His memorial temple, which has been made into an open-air museum by the Swiss Institute, is located immediately behind that of Amenhetep III and used the earlier temple as a source of building stone. Merenptah’s mummy was found in 1898 in the royal cache of mummies re-buried in KV 35 (the tomb of Amenhetep II).