Archaeologists on Sunday unveiled two colossal statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III in Egypt’s famed temple city of Luxor, adding to an existing pair of world-renowned tourist attractions.
The two monoliths in red quartzite were raised at what European and Egyptian archaeologists said were their original sites in the funerary temple of the king, on the west bank of the Nile.
The temple is already famous for its existing 3,400-year-old Memnon colossi — twin statues of Amenhotep III whose reign archaeologists say marked the political and cultural zenith of ancient Egyptian civilisation.
“The world until now knew two Memnon colossi, but from today it will know four colossi of Amenhotep III,” said German-Armenian archaeologist Hourig Sourouzian, who heads the project to conserve the Amenhotep III temple.
The existing two statues, both showing the pharaoh seated, are known across the globe. The two restored additions have weathered severe damage for centuries, Sourouzian said.
“The statues had lain in pieces for centuries in the fields, damaged by destructive forces of nature like earthquake, and later by irrigation water, salt, encroachment and vandalism,” she said, as behind her excavators and local villagers washed pieces of artefacts and statues unearthed over the past months.
“This beautiful temple still has enough for us to study and conserve.” One of the “new” statues — its body weighing 250 tonnes — again depicts the pharaoh seated, hands resting on his knees.
It is 11.5 metres (38 feet) tall, with a base 1.5 metres high and 3.6 metres wide. Archaeologists said with its now missing double crown, the original statue would have reached a height of 13.5 metres and weighed 450 tonnes.