Wednesday, February 22, 2012
2012 is turning out to be the year of Amenhotep III. In addition to our work at his jubilee palace-city at Malqata, excavations and restoration projects are going on in the king’s mortuary temple, his tomb in the West Valley of the Kings, and at the tomb of his Steward, Nefersekheru who was probably in charge of all the goings-on at Malqata.
The walls of Amenhotep’s immense mortuary temple disappeared long ago, but what visitors to Egypt know as the Colossi of Memnon, are, in fact, two seated statues of the king that originally flanked the entrance to this temple. At over 700 meters in length (more than 2200 feet) this was the largest single temple ever built in Egypt (Karnak is, of course, much larger, but it consists of several temple buildings, and the main temple was added to over some 2000 years).
Much of the stone of Amenhotep’s mortuary temple was used later for other building projects, and the remains of the temple were eventually covered by a deep deposit of mud from the Nile’s annual inundation. By the 20th Century, little remained above ground save for the two colossi. The temple site, known today as the Kom el-Hetan, was not well documented until 2000 when Dr. Hourig Sourouzian, Director of the Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project began her work.
The temple was originally furnished with a huge number of statues of the king and various deities. In the past decade, more than 80 statues of the goddess Sakhmet have come to light, and more than half a dozen immense statues of the king have been uncovered. The lower half of one of these was recently raised to an upright position, and on our daily drive to Malqata, we watch as work continues on the restoration of this statue.
In addition to his mortuary temple, the Amenhotep III built a magnificent tomb in the West Valley of the Kings (KV or WV 22). In 1989, a Japanese team from Waseda University began working at the tomb and a complete clearance was carried out. Currently, conservation of the wall paintings is in progress and the results are spectacular (we had the chance to visit our Japanese colleagues in the tomb last week).
The University of Chicago’s Epigraphic Survey, headquartered at Chicago House where we’re staying, has been carefully documenting the tomb of (TT 107), who was Steward of the jubilee palace complex at Malqata. The beautiful relief work is being painstakingly copied and plans are underway for the stabilization of this tomb.
From March 3rd to 5th an international symposium will be held in Luxor, that will include all those working on various aspects of “Amenhotep the Magnificent” and his remarkable reign.
– Catharine Roehrig