A team of Egyptian and European archaeologists has unearthed a unique colossal statue of King Amenhotep III at his funerary temple on the west bank of the Nile near Luxor, according to a statement released on Tuesday by Egypt’s ministry of state for antiquities.
Finely carved in alabaster, a stone hewn in the quarries of Hatnub in Middle Egypt, the sculpture shows King Amenhotep III seated, wearing the Nemes headdress (a striped headcloth that pharaohs put on), a pleated kilt and a royal beard.
Measuring 1.20 meters (3.9 feet) in height, the well-preserved face of the pharaoh has been described by antiquities minister Zahi Hawass as “a masterpiece of royal portraiture.”
It features almond-shaped eyes outlined with cosmetic bands, a short nose and a large mouth with wide lips.
“In spite of its large scale, the face is extremely well carved and well proportioned,” Hawass said.
Amenhotep III (1390-1352 B.C.) is believed to be the grandfather of King Tutankhamun and reigned for 38 years during a time when Egypt was at the height of its prosperity and cultural development.
The 18th dynastic king has been widely represented in statues. Indeed, a plethora of fragmented statues has emerged in the past years by his mortuary temple at Kom el-Hettan.
The temple may have been ruined by floods and devastated by a severe earthquake in 27 B.C. It was possibly the largest of its class ever built and originally had two entrances: one on the eastern side guarded by two (still standing) gigantic statues of the pharaoh, known as the Colossi of Memnon, and one at the northern side.
According to Hawass, the newly discovered statue was found in the passageway leading to the third pylon (gate) of the funerary temple, about 200 meters (0.12 miles) behind the Colossi of Memnon.
“The statue is the northern one of a pair of colossi that were once placed at the gate of the third pylon,” Hawass said.
Most likely, both statues collapsed during the earthquake.
The back of one of the two statues’ thrones had already been discovered in a previous excavation and its fragmentary text published.
“The other parts will be gradually uncovered for conservation and the statue restored in its original location in the near future,” Hawass said.
The archaeologists, led by German-Armenian Egyptologist Hourig Sourouzian, also unearthed the head of a deity carved in the igneous rock granodiorite.
Representing a male god wearing a striated wig, the 28.5 cm (11 inch)-high head was found in the central part of the temple’s great court.
Archaeologists also found a red quartzite stele (a slab with an inscribed surface) honoring Amenhotep III, which is now being reconstructed from 27 large pieces and several smaller ones.
Originally 30 feet tall, the stone slab base will be completed next season when its round top will be put back in place.
“This part of the stele bears two scenes representing Amenhotep III and his queen consort, Tiye, bringing offerings to the gods, Amun-Re and Sokar,” said Hawass.
The rest of the stele is decorated with 25 lines of sunken hieroglyphic inscriptions, which list the temples that Amenhotep III dedicated to the great gods of Thebes.