A collection of 27 fragmented statues of the lioness goddess Sekhmet has been uncovered during excavation work at the King Amenhotep III funerary temple at Kom al-Hitan on Luxor’s west bank.
The discovery was made by an Egyptian-European archaeological mission led by archaeologist Hourig Sourouzian as part of the King Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project.
Mustafa Waziri, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the black-granite statues have a maximum height of about two metres. Some statues depict Sekhmet sitting on a throne, holding the symbol of life in her left hand, while others show her standing and holding a papyrus sceptre before her chest. The head of Sekhmet is crowned with a sun-disk, while a uraeus serpent adorns her forehead.
Dr Sourouzian said the statues were in various conditions of preservation: those statues that were not buried so deep in the ground are in a good state of preservation. Others that were found at deeper levels are in a bad condition due to subterranean water and salt, which damaged the surface.
“The sculptures are of a high artistic quality and of the greatest archaeological interest,” Sourouzian said. The importance and quality of the statues, she said, explains why they survived a period of extensive quarrying of the temple remains in the Ramesside Period, after a heavy earthquake had toppled the walls and the columns of the temple in 1200 B.C.
Dr Sourouzian pointed out that the statues are now in restoration. They will be cleaned and desalinated, as they were lying in a layer of mud and crushed sandstone. All statues of the goddess will be placed back in their original setting when the site protection project is completed.
Ayman Ashmawy, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, said that the European mission had worked with the Antiquities Ministry to complete of the Amenhotep III Temple protection project. The mission began excavation work in 1998, and about 287 statues of Sekhmet have been unearthed since then, he said.
The King Amenhotep III temple is the largest of its kind. It was once a magnificent structure with an unprecedented number of royal and divine statues, among them hundreds of statues of Sekhmet.
Sekhmet, whose name means the “Powerful One”, is one of three figures in the Triad of Memphis sculpture, which also features Ptah and Ramses III.
3 December 2017