Dig Diary, March 10, 2017:

It is very hot in Luxor right now, so the team often takes a break under the marquee that the Hopkins University team has loaned us (thank you, Betsy!). From left to right are Dr. Jacobus van Dijk of Groningen, who is studying the Sakhmet statues and their epithets with me; our senior Egyptian inspector, Mme Shemaa Mahmoud Ahmed; our second inspector, Mr. Yusuf Mohamed Ahmed; and me. Mary McKercher, of course, is behind the camera as usual.

While we’re not excavating this year (the season is too short), we are carrying out a few useful, small projects. First, at the request of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) we began on March 4 to cut back the reeds that have once again taken over the northern ends of the sacred lake, particularly on the east side. You can see how thick and tall they have grown in the past year.

Our second project is to clean off the dirt that has accumulated over the past 35 years or so on a Ramesses II doorjamb that we discovered lying on what’s left of the mud brick core of Temple A’s 2nd Pylon. We’ll build a small wall around it to prevent further encroachment. We decided to remove the large undecorated block standing beside it because it obscured a re-used relief in the pylon’s stone facing.

This was no easy task as the rock is not only heavy but awkwardly shaped. However, our workers were able to get it up and out fairly quickly; they do this kind of thing all the time. We admire both their strength and their skill.

To our surprise, we found that the bottom of the Ramesses II block, which we had never cleared, was also decorated! The way the block is lying, the “new” scene, probably from the east face of the 25th Dynasty pylon, is upside down. Seen right side up here, it consists of the crowns of 2 facing figures and several columns of text. The tall plumes on the right probably belong to Amun, and the plumes and sun disk are probably a king. Unfortunately no names are preserved.

You are looking southeast at Temple A’s 2nd Pylon, built in Dynasty 25. The blocks came almost entirely from earlier monuments, including the Ramesses III temple southwest of the sacred lake, which was no longer in use. The reliefs and sculptures were split apart when necessary and their rear surfaces smoothed to form the face of the pylon. This is most obvious in the pylon’s north wing (bottom of picture) where the decay of the mud brick core has made the blocks more visible. The south wing seems to have been built entirely of stone.

Here’s a more detailed view of the inner side of the east facing. The two torsos and upside down head came from the Ramesses III temple. Other reliefs date from earlier in the New Kingdom. The relief on the left, by the way, is the one that was partially hidden by the block we moved.

At the end of a long, hot day, we sit on our hotel balcony and watch the sun set. One evening recently, this enormous flock of ibises flew by heading north. There must have been hundreds altogether.

At the end of a long, hot day, we sit on our hotel balcony and watch the sun set over the Nile. It is a sight that never fails to awe and amaze us.

Posted by Richard Fazzini


The Colossi of Memnon are 2 sandstone statues of the Egyptian Pharoah Amenhotep III which have stood for the past 3,400 years in the Theban Necropolis, just west of the city of Luxor in Egypt. They were built to stand guard at the entrance of Amenhotep’s memorial temple, little of which remains today. Its foundation was too close to the Nile, and slowly eroded away over the centuries.

At 18 meters tall (60 feet) and weigh approximately 720 tons each, the Colossi are all that remain, but both have suffered extensive damage over the years. While the southern statue still remains a single piece of stone, its northern counterpart is decidedly broken, the result of a supposed earthquake around 27 BC. But after splitting in half, the statue was reputed to “sing” on occasion – usually within an hour or two of sunrise, most often right at dawn, and most often in February and March. Local legend had it that hearing the “Vocal Memnon” (as it had been nicknamed) would bring good luck, but also inspire some kind of oracular power or moment of foresight in the listener. In any case, the legend became known outside of Egypt, and the colossi were visited by a steady stream of travellers, not the least of which including various Roman Emperors.

There have been several explanations for the phenomenon ranging from man made to natural. In the case of the latter, it was likely the sound of dew evaporating from inside the inherently porous sandstone. In any case The last recorded instance of anyone hearing the sound was in 196, though it is said that around 199, Roman Emperor Septimius Severus attempted to rebuild the northern statue as a means to gain favour with the oracle.

detail from the throne of one of the colossal statues of King Ramses II located in front of the Pylon of the ‘Ipet-Resyt’ Temple of Amon (the “Temple of Luxor”):
the Nile-God Hapy in His two forms of Hapi of Upper Egypt (at left, with lilies) and Hapi of Lower Egypt (at right, with papyrus flowers) performing the sm3-t3wy, the ritual for the “Union of the Two Lands”.
On the top of the sm3-t3wy symbol, the cartouche with the name of King Ramses II as “Son of Ra”,
Rˁ-msj-sw-mrj-Jmn , “Ra is the one Who gave Him birth (Ramses), Beloved of Amon”,
flanked by the two Uraei and by the “Horus-name” of the King (represented twice),
K3-nḫt-mrj-M3ˁt , “The Strong Bull, Beloved of Maat”