On Saturday 23rd of March, The Egyptian-European mission celebrated the end of the first season by holding an event to start reassembling the two colossal statues of Amenhotep III on concrete pedestals which were constructed especially for that. Footage below shows the event on Saturday.
Two colossi of Amenhotep III were standing at the North Gate of the Funerary Temple of the king, facing north. Each was a monolith of quartzite hewn in the quarries of Gebel El-Ahmar near Ancient Heliopolis, and transported to Thebes to precede the Northern Gate of the funerary temple precinct of Amenhotep III. Both colossi represent the king striding, crowned by the white crown of Upper Egypt and wearing the pleated kilt.
Toppled in antiquity by a heavy earthquake at about 1200 B.C., the two colossi were fallen in South-East direction and broken into several pieces, and remained lying until today. The largest piece weighs ca. 44 tons, the total weight of each colossus is estimated to be 110 tons and the total height including the base is ca. 13m.
These colossi were seen and described in the past first by the scholars of the French Expedition in 1821 and later by Borchardt in 1933. In modern times, they were left lying in privately owned agricultural fields. The original ground of the temple lies 2.50m below the actual surface of the fields, and the stone is threatened by constant irrigation and assaults of salt.
Since 1998 The Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project, a European-Egyptian team directed by Hourig Sourouzian and Rainer Stadelmann, has applied to the SCA to save and raise these colossi which are part of the concession of the Amenhotep III temple precinct. Over the years the request has been approved by the Permanent Committee of the SCA/MSA, awaiting that the land would be declared property of the Egyptian Antiquities. Recently, in 2010-2011, a team of the Ministry of Antiquities directed by Abd al-Ghaffar Wagdy had re-uncovered the statues in an attempt to raise them, but the work had been interrupted.
Actually, the Permanent Committee entrusted salvage works on the two colossi to a joint Egyptian-European mission between the Ministry of State for Antiquities and ‘The Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project’ directed by Mohamed Abdelmaksoud and Hourig Sourouzian. The initial phase of the project is financed by grants of the Association des Amis des Colosses de Memnon, Memnon Verein, World Monuments Fund Robert Wilson Challenge to Conserve Our Heritage, Horus Egyptology Society and Neil Stevenson.
The joint mission has just completed its first season, which included 40 working days. During this time the following tasks were achieved. The colossal pieces have been moved on solid ground for cleaning, documentation and desalination, before being reassembled. The operation of moving started on 18 February 2013, in the presence of Adel Abd El Sattar, Secretary General of Antiquities, with the authorities of the MSA and HE Ezzat Saad, Governor of Luxor. The moving operation was led by Rais Mohamed Ali El-Ghassab of the SCA and Miguel Lopez of the ‘Memnon/Amenhotep III Project’.
The plan to reassemble the pieces and raise the colossi in the same direction, on solid foundations 110m to the West and 8m higher on the bedrock belonging to the Antiquities has been approved by the Permanent Committee of the SCA. The plan is designed by architect Nairy Hampikian, field manager of the works on this site the foundations have been structurally calculated by structure Engineer Mohamed El-Esawy, who also supervised their execution. The new reinforced concrete bases were placed only after the investigation of the soil and archaeological soundings, which assured the joint team that the ground was absolutely free of any antiquities.
The governor of Luxor, Dr. Ezzat Saad was asked to throw a coin on the pedestals were the colossi will be re-erected which he did along side the other guests.
Dr. Ezzat Saad then visited the site were the ongoing work behind the colossi of Memnon.
For previous posts on the same project:
Exclusive footage: EmergencyProject to save two colossal statues of Amenhotep III at the North Gate of his Funerary Templein Luxor,West Bank