Some of the many Egyptian statues that are missing their noses

Why are Noses Missing from so Many Egyptian Statues?

(Read the article on one page)

One of the most common questions you will hear within art history’s circles is “Why are the noses missing from so many ancient Egyptian statues?” Is it just a coincidence, or could it possibly be a conspiracy?

Natural Erosion Has Played a Role  

Several archaeologists have suggested erosion could be one of the main reasons this happens to many ancient statues. Harsh winds, shifting mud and sand dunes, the flowing of water, and thousands of years of feet and hands pitter-pattering over relatively delicate materials such as marble and stone will most likely have a pretty damaging effect. Many of these ancient statues have been exposed to these elements for a very long time, while others have been buried under tons of mud and sand for centuries, it's usually the extremities, such as arms, legs and noses that get damaged the most and eventually disappear.

Statues of a young Tutankhamun and his consort Ankesenamun outside at Luxor Temple, Luxor, Egypt.

Statues of a young Tutankhamun and his consort Ankesenamun outside at Luxor Temple, Luxor, Egypt. (Ad Meskens/CC BY SA 3.0)

Human Intervention is Definitely Another Major Factor  

Vandalism could be another major factor as to why this phenomenon appears so frequently. A recent example, not in Egypt, is the statue of the famous philosopher Aristotle, which is welcoming visitors at the entrance of the ancient Assos site, in Turkey. The statue of Aristotle, known as the founder of the first philosophy school in history, was erected in 2009 by the Culture Ministry of Turkey at the entrance to the ancient Assos site in the Ayvacık district, but in 2015 it was vandalized after its right arm was removed, while severe distortion was noted on the statue’s face as well.

Who or what damaged this statue of the Ancient Egyptian pharaoh Haremheb as a scribe? Did vandals take his nose?

Who or what damaged this statue of the Ancient Egyptian pharaoh Haremheb as a scribe? Did vandals take his nose? (Aryeh Shershow/CC BY SA 3.0)

It has also been noted before that several archaeologists during the late 19th and early 20th century, lacking the finer instruments and procedures we have today and in a hurry to be the first to discover the "next big thing", were responsible for some of the most hideous damages ever committed against classical sculpture.

Of course, religion has also played a huge part, even though extremist Muslims aren't the only ones who have been caught in the act as many people falsely believe today. Christians, Jews, and many other known religions have also taken part in the shameful act of vandalism throughout the centuries and are responsible for the de-nosing and dismembering of many cultural and historical treasures.

Video at: http://splash.abc.net.au/home#!/media/1567326/who-broke-the-sphinx-s-nose-

Could it be Racism?

According to some scholars, there was a deliberate attempt by early Egyptologists to deny and hide that Ancient Egypt was an African culture. According to the written account of Vivant Denon, a French artist, writer and archaeologist who etched the image of the Sphinx of Giza around 1798, the facial features of the famous monument appeared to be of African origin,

...Though its proportions are colossal, the outline is pure and graceful; the expression of the head is mild, gracious, and tranquil; the character is African, but the mouth, and lips of which are thick, has a softness and delicacy of execution truly admirable; it seems real life and flesh. Art must have been at a high pitch when this monument was executed; for, if the head wants what is called style, that is the say, the straight and bold lines which give expression to the figures under which the Greeks have designated their deities, yet sufficient justice has been rendered to the fine simplicity and character of nature which is displayed in this figure.

The Great Sphinx in 1867. Note its unrestored condition, still partially buried body, and man standing beneath its ear.

The Great Sphinx in 1867. Note its unrestored condition, still partially buried body, and man standing beneath its ear. (Public Domain)

However, this theory fails to explain why so many ancient Greek and Roman statues are de-nosed and dismembered as well. Noses on the vast majority of ancient Greek and Roman stone sculptures are missing too. While some of these have inevitably broken off accidentally, it’s pretty evident that an overwhelming number of them have been deliberately targeted. Since it’s historically, archaeologically and scientifically proven that the ancient Greeks and Romans were of European (Caucasian) origin, in this case racism wasn’t likely to have been a reason for the intentional de-nosing of those statues.

Humiliation

It has been recorded that later Egyptian dynasties would often deface statues of past monarchs in order to erase or diminish their legacy. In these cases the removal of the nose would be accompanied by other, more extensive facial disfigurements, as well as the destruction of inscriptions and symbols of office.

Busts of Akhenaten and Nefertiti.

Busts of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. (kairoinfo4u/CC BY NC SA 2.0)

In conclusion, the suggestion that the statues had their noses removed specifically to “hide” the race of the individuals they depicted is definitely not a theory to fully dismiss, but it’s only a theory for now, with no solid archaeological proof and evidence verifying it. So, for one to answer with confidence the question why so many Egyptian statues are missing their noses, they should be able to explain with certainty why the same happened with so many statues of Greek, Persian, and Roman origin as well.

Top Image: Some of the many Egyptian statues that are missing their noses - Neferure and Senenmut (CC BY SA 3.0), Great Sphinx of Giza (Diego Delso/CC BY SA 3.0), 'Green Head' of a statue of a priest (Society for the Promotion of the Egyptian Museum Berlin), Head from a female sphinx (Brooklyn Museum), statue of a Man (Public Domain), and Senusret III  (Public Domain).

By: Theodoros Karasavvas

References

Bradley, M. (2015) Effaced: the missing noses of classical antiquity. http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/argonautsandemperors/2015/10/23/effaced-the-missing-noses-of-classical-antiquity/

Kemet Expert (2016). Why are the noses missing from Egyptian statues? http://kemetexpert.com/why_are_the_noses_missing_from_egyptian_statues/

SAFItech (n.d). Why No Noses On Statues? http://www.eastart.net/no-noses-statues/

Comments

I am particularly interested in Archaeology of the Middle Ages and the Ancient World. I believe there is more to history than what is in history books.

William Bradshaw's picture

You are correct. Much of history has been rewritten to hide many facts and to show a certain group of people in a better light. If you wish to know the truth about human civilization then read Secrets of the Pink Kush.

http://secretspinkkush.zappersoftware.com/

William H. Bradhaw, Dipl. T, CPIM
http://SecretsPinkKush.ZapperSoftware.com

That's quite the alphabet soup after your misspelled name.

I just filled out this section, but I guess I will try again. As I said before, I am particularly interested in the Archaeology of the Middle Ages and the Ancient World. I believe there is more to history than is written in history books.

I enjoyed your post.

I enjoyed your post.

William Bradshaw's picture

I have encountered this question about the missing noses and pondered this mystery for a long time. After having gone through 12,000 years of history and having to piece together the truth, I have a strong suspicion that this was not vandalism at all but an attempt to hide history. They do not want people to discover the truth about our real history because it will endanger their nefarious plan to dominate the world.

In my opinion, the real reason for the smashed noses on these statues is to hide the hooked noses that are directly attributable to a Semitic peoples. It was a subset of Semitic people called the Hyksos that invaded Egypt, enslaved the native Egyptians for 511 years and were eventually usurped and then enslaved themselves for 430 years.

The ancestors of the Hyksos eventually left Egypt in what is known as the Exodus. They then regrouped and attacked Egypt under the banner of the Hittites. The Hittites were unable to defeat the real Egyptians and it was a considered a draw by some historians but I would consider it a victory for the real Egyptians. This is well documented on cuneiform tablets. Once must realize that the Hyksos or Hittites or Hebrews were originally from Turkey where they were known as Anatolians or Akkadians.

History has been expunged or rewritten by these people for thousands of years in order to cover up their atrocities, their true purpose and their true masters, the Hidden Ones. The Hidden Ones were ones that actually built the pyramids as well as many other megalithic structures around the globe. The Hidden Ones have been known by many names such as troglodytes, giants, gods, aliens, Big Foot, Sasquatch, Yeti, Rephaim, Anunnaki and Nephilim (which is incorrect as Nephilim were triploid humans which are smaller). As a scientist I merely refer to them as tetraploid humans who have doubled chromosomes.

I provide complete proof of what I have stated here in my book, Secrets of the Pink Kush.

  

William H. Bradhaw, Dipl. T, CPIM
http://SecretsPinkKush.ZapperSoftware.com

I'm afraid most of your comment is biased and based on an unproven notion that North Africa was occupied by black Africans when Egypt was erected. I know the reasons for their missing nose and it has absolutely zero to do with hiding history from a people of an unknown future who would want to find the ethnic background of a particular people or group. I will leave my comment in saying that the Egyptians did not expect to fall Northern Empire to waste away in the Sands of the desert. So to conclude that somehow archaeologist remove the noses of these statues because they believed they were of one particular ethnic group before ever knowing the translation on the walls before ever knowing how many actual Royal mummies there is still left to be found or whether not any invasions from other civilizations had any impact on their genealogy. With that being said no one here is denying that there were Nubians in Egypt. However the Nubians are very distinct and both morphology and culture from that of the Egyptians. But I am getting off track let's get back to the nose issue. There are a lot of statues missing many different body parts but more often than not it is the nose that ends up missing and there is a perfectly reasonable and cultural explanation for this. If you knew anything of the Egyptian religion and their way of thinking anyone with two brain cells to activate would have come to this conclusion themselves. When Engine Egyptians created effigies of the people or royalty in power they saw that statue as no different than the person it represents. Egyptians also like many proud cultures often did not put on for display their shortcomings especially when it came to their present rulers. They always displayed themselves in a positive light giving no evidence in their carvings, hieroglyphs, etchings, or writings to their mistakes. However this does not mean that everyone else around them forgets those mistakes or shortcomings. It is then in their culture that when that particular person dies and they've made a few blunders that may have caught someone their life, or job, or seat in the Royal House, they retaliate. In the Gyptian religion there is What's called the Ka. And it represents every aspect of a single living being all the way down to even their shadow. This entity passes through the living world into the Afterlife with the person or body it represents. What they represent in particular are the human senses; sight, hearing, feeling, taste, and "smelling". In the afterlife of Egypt before heading to the Stars to join the Pharaohs one has to go through the house of Osiris where Sobek and Yenipu (Anubis) await them before the throne. In order for you to reach the house of Osiris your Ka has to have both all the senses from your former life to have them exist in the afterlife. This is where logic fuses with the reason why most of the time you find either the arms or the nose missing from statues of ancient Egypt; it would be because of how the statues are carved and depending on their base the easiest things to break off would indeed be the arms or the nose. It's really a choice of physics when you want you break something quickly because you can't really bust off the ears of an Egyptian statue you really can't bust off the tongue of an Egyptian statue and it takes an awful amount of time to Chisel out the eyes of an Egyptian statue so that leaves only two other senses which is the sense of smell and the sense of touch. Unless the arms are resting on something like a throne or they are carb in such a manner where they're attached to the person side and a rigid form the easiest thing to break off then would be the only thing with the smallest base protruding from the form which of course is the nose. Unless that particular Egyptian did something really really terrible that whom ever intended to dismember their effigy took the time to remove the harder parts of the statue most of the time you're going to find only the nose or the arms missing. If that persons Ka has not all five senses in the afterlife then you cannot enter the house of Osiris. This is in tandem to the reason why Sobek and Anubis await the arrival of Egyptian royalty with the scales between them and the Throne of Osiris to find for themselves whether or not they had committed any wrongdoing. However if the Egyptians during his living life found it shooting to pass judgment upon his or her preparations to meet Osiris in the afterlife and desecrate their effigy then both the soul of that particular Egyptian and their Ka will remain lost in the Darkness of the Void never reaching the stars of the Kings. So to recap any missing parts from a particular statue that they can prove happened in ancient times and not some accident from moving the statue then it's a sure bet that whomever that statue represents piss someone off and when that person died decided that before they could be put in their sarcophagus they would never rejoin the kings of their past! In order to enter the house of Osiris you must have all five senses all five senses are connected to the heart which is weighed against the feather from the wings of Horus. If you have not all your five senses that means your soul and your heart are not complete and you cannot be incomplete to meet Osiris because all the kings and queens have to be perfect and whole before joining their kin in the Egyptian Heaven.

This is called real studying not racist biased bullshit. I am study Egypt from its ancient culture all the way to the Coptic writing form for the past 12 years. In fact the word Coptic is a derivative of the word Egyptian so in reality your reiterating a class of original Egyptians by saying Coptic Egyptian because you're really saying Egyptian Egyptians. It is the same people that still use the Coptic writing and the ancient translation simultaneously and teach it to their children. Furthermore if a royal statue does not have the double cobra on its crown no matter if it is from lower middle or Upper Egypt it is not a Nubian pharaoh. Only the Nubian pharaohs wore the double cobra on their crowns. The first invasion of Nubians in Egypt brought both the upper and lower kingdoms together which is why they used the two headed cobra. King Piye and his Son; Prince Taqahara (ms) took Egypt for themselves and drained their treasury dry hoarding luxuries from many lands and a narcissistic campaign employed by his son to make statues and busts of he and his kin. There reign only last around 77 years but caused an irreversible Devastation of their riches and resources that apparently they never recovered from leaving the delta in ruins. In fact it is Prince Taqahara's face that adorns the Sphinx which apparently was part of his overwhelming narcissism to change the face of Egypt. This is why the head of the Sphinx is very disproportionate to the rest of the body because at one time it was a lion's head.

It's difficult to take you seriously when you spell your name two different ways in the same article. I won't even comment on the alphabet soup after your name. But, thanks for playing.

I agree that quite a bit of history has been lost. I too have noted the absence of noses but the theory of hiding nationality is a new one to me and bears some thought. I’ve always assumed it represented one section of society (either religious or national) making certain their new subjects understood their place.

Cousin_Jack's picture

Knowing nothing about Egypt, maybe it was a form of rebellion? Maybe a war between the Egyptians led to the nose being amputated as a sign as to what someone thought of the rulers gods? Maybe a ruler had an accident with his nose and people decided to do the same to the statues? The reason could relate to something that has happened in Egypts past. Maybe Egyptians simply had an habit of picking their noses and tried to climb inside some of the bigger statues noses? Then I guess you’d smash the noses off the smaller statues just to show that they’re Egyptian and/or old? Maybe yet explorers still have to find a trench full of amputated noses...

Napoleon shot the nose off the Sphinx because he couldn't believe the pyramids were created by Africans and in contemporary times the director of Egyptian antiquities, Zahi Hawass, has done the same even going so far as to paint over teh pictures and white wash them, so there is your answer. Blatant racism

The nose was missing long before Napoleon visited the Sphinx, the legend that his troops used it for target practice is false. The nose was destroyed in 1378 by Muhammad Sa'im al-Dahr—a Sufi Muslim from the khanqah of Sa'id al-Su'ada, because he found locals making offerings to the Sphinx in the hope of increasing their harvest.

The story of Napoleon shooting the nose off the face of the Sphinx is an 'unproven Legend. The Sphinx at the time was covered almost to its ears in sand. Had Napoleon shot the nose off why didn't they find any cannonballs when digging the Sphinx out of the sand? Someone would have found it during the excavation because I doubt he would have retrieved The Cannonball for any reason because once it it's been shot and dented it becomes pretty much useless and indeed would have been dented shooting at solid Stone. I'm not denying whether or not Napoleon could have been racist I'm simply putting as fact because there is no proof that if Napoleon had truly shot the nose off the Sphinx they would have found the Cannonball buried beneath the sand because it was 60 years later when they decided to dig the Sphinx out from the sand.

Could it be that many of statues noses were simply damaged by falling face first? In addition to those being vandalized or purposely damaged.

Looking at papyrus and wall paintings we see the gods presenting the ankh, “life”, to the nose of the person. The Breath of Life entered through the nostrils. And as we know, a painting or statue – even simply speaking the name of a person - was necessary for the individual to live in the Afterworld. There may also have been a belief the statue itself could be made to come to life. My theory is that removing the nose prevented the individual from properly experiencing the next world, and/or so the statue/painting couldn’t come to life.

O que significa caucasiano? Como podemos sabe que os gregos e romanos eras albinos?, sabemos que genética não tem nada haver com fenótipo. Sem dúvidas algumas esculturas mostra vários romanos e gregos com que hoje chamamos de cranio negroide, e a genética Europeu tem em vários povo pretos da Índia, então a genética não e Europeu, e sim asiática, então não podemos basear os romanos e gregos como albinos, já que tem negros com essa genética.

You are missing perhaps the most plausible reason why the noses were often removed. In Ancient Egypt...and in the greater Ancient World removal of the nose was a prescribed punishment for infidelity. A man or woman caught in adultery would bear the outward mark of their 'indiscretion' for the remainder of their lives. This no doubt reduced the incidence of adultery...but it also carried over to the desecration of statues and murals. Defacing a statue or mural by removal of the nose (and often the genitalia) was a very direct and unmistakable method of discrediting and diminishing the reputation of a ruling monarch, Pharaoh or deity.

In the ancient world...and particularly in Egypt, removal of the nose was a prescribed by law as a punishment for infidelity. This procedure was likely to prevent a repeat offence since the effect was truly hideous. It also served as a warning to others as well as a type of 'rap-sheet' on open display to anyone an offender would thereafter encounter. The practice was applied to statues of ruling monarchs, pharaohs and deities as the ultimate form of dishonour. Trust me...this is the true reason so many noses were removed in ancient times.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Ancient Places

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article