Amenhotep III and Royal Priest Limestone Heads Discovered in Ruins in Egypt

Amenhotep III and Royal Priest Limestone Heads Discovered in Ruins in Egypt

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Giant limestone heads have been unearthed in Egypt, including those of royal priests and 18th dynasty king Amenhotep III. The discovery of the stone head depicting Amenhotep III was a surprise find during restoration work being done at the foundations of the Armant Temple.

Ahram Online reports that the French Institute for Oriental Studies (IFAO) excavated the limestone head which is unfortunately in very bad condition, the face being totally damaged. However it is now undergoing restoration.

Aly El-Asfar, head of the Central Administration of Upper Egypt, told Ahram Online that last year five limestone heads of royal temple priests were discovered, each one 50 centimeters (20 inches) high, and topped with a crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. They are estimated to date to the Middle Kingdom.

The falcon-headed god of war Montu was worshipped at the Armant Temple (or The temple of Montu-Re ). The town of Armant, known in Greek as Hermonthis, is 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of Luxor, Egypt.

Print of ancient Hermonthis

Print of ancient Hermonthis (1838), from David Robert’s book ‘Egypt and Nubia’ ( Wikimedia Commons )

Built during the Old Kingdom, the temple was reused in the Ptolemaic period, and renovations and decorations were added by the Romans centuries later. “Because of Montu's strong association with raging bulls, the temple was a major center for the worship for bulls, containing many statues and reliefs of the animal. Most of these statues are now located in museums around the world,” writes Ahram Online. Bull burials were held there, and extensive cemeteries from all periods have been located around the site as well. In the nineteenth century the temple building blocks were used to build a sugar factory, and now mere ruins remain.

Egyptian Archaeology magazine notes, “There are only limited remains of temple walls still preserved above ground and the current excavations are concentrated on investigating and recording the Ptolemaic foundations in which blocks of both the Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom temples have been found.” The magazine continues that Christophe Thiers, Director of the Armant project, and his team began their research work in 2002.

Detail of Montu

Detail of Montu, the falcon-headed god worshipped at Armant Temple. He is often distinguished by his multi-plumed headdress and his association with raging bulls, strength and war. Wikipedia

Previous Amenhotep III finds at the vast funerary complex of Luxor include large statues , carved reliefs, and an alabaster head with eyes, ears and nose intact.

The reign of Amenhotep III marked the zenith of ancient Egyptian civilization, both in terms of political power and cultural achievement, under his 36 year reign. Countries like Babylonia, Assyria, and Mitani were emerging as potential new rivals, and Amenhotep began writing to the other rulers of the Near East, carving letters on small stones that messengers took to foreign princes. The Amarna letters, as they became known after they were found in 1887, were the key to Amenhotep's success, especially when backed up with gifts from Egypt's great wealth.

Bas-relief of Amenhotep III at Luxor

Bas-relief of Amenhotep III at Luxor. Wikimedia

The 18th dynasty ruler became king at the age of around 12, with his mother as regent. He died in around 1354 BC and was succeeded by his son Amenhotep IV, widely known as Akhenaten.

Featured Image: Priest heads unearthed at Armant Temple, Luxor, Egypt. Credit: CNRS-CFEETK/Christophe Thiers

By Liz Leafloor   

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