Wednesday, 3 September 2008
The Friends of the Colossi
Amenhotep III (Heqawaset) Nubmaatre (1386-1349 BCE) Amun is pleased, Ruler of Thebes, Lord of the truth of Re.
The 37 year (approx) reign of Amenhotep III was one of the most stable and prosperous periods in Egyptian history.
He was the son of Tuthmosis IV and his wife Mutemwiya. He boasted a large harem with many foreign princesses but his chief wife was Tiy a daughter of Yuya and Tuya. Amenhotep and Tiy had more than 6 children with 2 known sons and 4 daughters’, perhaps the most famous of their sons is Akhenaten.
The last 25 years of his reign seems to have been when most of his building work was undertaken funded by the abundant supply of gold and foreign trade. Part of this building work was his mortuary temple on the west bank of Thebes, which was used as a quarry in the 19th dynasty. There are hardly any visible remains of the temple left, but it is fronted by the two enormous seated statues of Amenhotep III with smaller standing figures of his mother and wife, one flanking each side of his legs, the statues are known as the ‘Colossi of Memnon’.
Each statue is made of orthoquartzite, one white and the other red to symbolize Upper and Lower Egypt. They are approximately 18 metres (59 feet) high and weigh around 1,000 tonnes each.
The name Memnon comes from the Greek travellers who visited the site and noticed a whistling sound coming from the northern figure at sunrise, this had happened only after the earthquake of 27 BCE. They equated this with the Memnon the son of Aurora, the goddess of dawn. It was silenced when the Emperor Septimus Severus had it repaired.
The Temple stretches out behind these and covers an area of 350,000 square metres. Only a small amounts of the temple layout was know from some remaining column bases and a repaired stele which is situated 3/4 mile behind the colossi. It is suggested that it had two great courts with other seated colossi statues, a similar long processional way like that at Luxor temple and a large solar court with the large stele at its entrance.
The temple is located on the flood plain and it is thought that the flooding from the yearly inundation came up to the sanctuary which was built on a knoll. The receding of the flood waters would have symbolized to the Egyptians the emergence of the world from the primeval waters of creation. Recent work at the site began in 2000 under a joint German/Egyptian programme led by Dr Hourig Sourouzian and an enormous amount of work has already been accomplished. With continued funding of the excavation we will see the magnificent mortuary temple of Amenhotep III come to live once more.