Read Dr. Raymond Johnson detailed opinion
The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities celebrated the World Heritage Day 2019 in the same manner like in the past couple of years by announcing new discoveries and revealing new restoration or preservation projects been carried out by the Egyptian teams of the ministry.
This year, The Egyptian Prime Minister (Mostafa Madbouly) with Dr. Khalid El-Enany (Minister of Antiquities) were accompanied by a large delegation of Parliament members,foreigner ambassadors as well as Egyptian movie stars and the world famous Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass, to reveal the latest colossus statue in an engaging ceremony.
The hours and days since the celebration took place were filled with controversy between Egyptian specialists on social media and through Arabic news outlets. The Egyptian media fed the fire by trying to collect different opinions disapproving of the restoration work done and blaming the ministry for work they applauded and celebrated hours earlier.
The same media outlets and even the same reporters who were racing to take selfies with the Egyptian officials at the footstep of the re-erected colossus statue, flipped at the first turn and circulated the accusations to the ministry of not following the archaeological evidence that supports a different image of how the Luxor Temple façade looked like and where the newly re-erected statue should have been.
The ministry tried respond through different employees whether from the officials of Luxor Temple speaking straight to the media which is usually the ministry don’t approve of unless they want to objections to be answered without an official statements.
There were some local media outlets trying to show the foreign experts opinions maybe in an attempt to support the ministry’s point or claim themselves a safe spot in the middle.
A few foreign experts were quoted in Arabic media aiming mainly to calm to public in Egypt and they were praising the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities in general which is understandable since they work very closely and under the permission and supervision of the ministry.
Below, Luxor Times brings to you the EXACT words of Dr. W. Raymond Johnson.
“The reliefs of the Luxor Temple pylon façade at the back of the first court that depict the pylons, the two obelisks, the flagpoles, and the statues, were carved before the statues were put in place, and reflect the original plan that was never completely carried out. The original plan seems to have been for all of the pylon colossal sculptures to be original grey granodiorite statues of Ramesses II, striding and seated. But for some reason that plan changed (perhaps to meet a deadline for completion?) and two earlier red-granite statues were brought in and reinscribed for Ramesses II, one for the far east side and one for the far west side. The westernmost colossus, still standing, was originally Amenhotep III, and is also different – it had a white crown, not a double crown, and is also red granite. The easternmost red-granite colossus that Dr. Mostafa has just reassembled with the financial support of Chicago House and the US Embassy, was a late 18th Dynasty colossal statue, possibly of Horemheb (the face is reworked). The pieces of the statue that survive indicate that it was in the Osiride pose. The base of the statue that was still in situ against the pylon was too small for a striding statue, which indicates that the statue was standing and not striding. I believe that the reconstruction, and original position, are 100% correct.
Sometimes plans change, as you well know, even in ancient Egypt! Remember that inside the first court, Ramesses II’s colossal statues inscribed with the early form of his name (Ra-ms-ss) were placed alongside Amenhotep III statues (the original Ramesses II statues do not have bull tails between their legs, while the original Amenhotep III statues all have bull tails between their legs). When Ramesses II erected the statues there, the original names of Amenhotep III were left intact, because Ramesses II wanted to be associated with the glorious king who built three quarters of Luxor Temple. Later, just before Ramesses II’s first jubilee, he changed his mind, and he erased Amenhotep III’s names and reinscribed the colossi with his own name, in the later form (Ra-ms-sw), taking over their identity. All of Ramesses II’s original statues in the first court are inscribed with the early form of Ramesses’ name, while the original Amenhotep III statues are inscribed with Ramesses II’s later name. This tells us that Ramesses II didn’t appropriate the Amenhotep III statues until many years after he placed them in the court. Another change of plan.
It is my opinion that the outermost colossal statues in red granite on the far eastern and far western sides of the pylons were both part of a revised plan for the pylon façade, and that the reconstruction is correct. SCA Secretary General Mostafa Waziri and Bosh Mohandis Ahmed Mohamed Ali (Abdel Razk) have done an extraordinary job, and have brought the Luxor Temple pylon façade back to glorious life. All Egyptian Temples of the New Kingdom were decorated in a similar manner, but Luxor temple is now the only temple in Egypt that now has all six of its original colossal sculptures in their original places. Mabruk to the SCA, the Ministry, and to Egypt for this wonderful work. We and the US Embassy, Cairo, were happy to help with financial support, but the work was done by a completely Egyptian team under the direction of Chief Engineer/Bosh Mohandis Abdel Razk, who is a real genius. Luxor temple director Ahmed Araby is also to be commended for overseeing the work for the Ministry. The Ministry is very, very lucky to have them.
Dr. W. Raymond Johnson
Director, Epigraphic Survey
Chicago House, Luxor, Egypt”
Now, why would we take these words as unbiased or even accurate?
There are several reasons, first of all: a long history of studying everything to do with Luxor temple, archaeological and architectural elements, if there is a stone there so Dr. Johnson would be the one to know where it is, where it came from and why. So he doesn’t need to be nice to the ministry if it is not accurate what he knows for well.
From his statement, it shows that the Oriental Institute presented by Chicago House as well as the American Embassy in Cairo has contributed financially in the restoration and re-erection of the colossus, Wouldn’t it have been easier not to be a part of it from beginning based on the fact that it is misplaced statue and would cause an issue for the ministry which everyone trying to be on its good side?
Finally, The Egyptian teams of archaeologists and restorers are working all over Egypt at different sites and most of them are not even heard of because either the ministry doesn’t know how to show their work to the world unless it is on a colossus scale or they are overshadowed by non-Egyptian professionals.
Luxor temple is now the only temple in Egypt that now has all six of its original colossal sculptures in their original places.Dr. Raymond Johnson
The fact now is: Luxor Temple façade changed over the years several times. It was changed the day the western obelisk was taken away to France and made it look like a one tusk elephant. It was changed again when the local huts and houses were moved in the first half of the 20thcentury.
In 21stcentury, the façade has its statuary elements for the first time in many years, maybe the real next controversy which no one will ever be able to conceal is to restore the main missing part of the temple façade which is Ramses II obelisk (Standing tall in Concorde Square in Paris since 1836) Maybe if social media was active then, a worthy cause would be been served and it was still standing in Luxor).
At the end, we are looking forward to the official scientific publications of the Ministry of Antiquities documenting all the steps of research and restoration process. It is a fountain of knowledge for the future generations who we are all working hard to reserve our human civilization for them to witness and experience without losing its essence as that would be the ultimate mistake that wouldn’t even need a discussion to settle it.