Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Colossus to be restored - Al Ahram Weekly

Colossus to be restored

A broken colossus of Ramses II found near the Akhmim Open-Air Museum in Upper Egypt is under restoration

The open-air museum in Akhmim
The open-air museum in Akhmim
The open-air museum in Akhmim

Decades after it was discovered in parts in 1981 in the vicinity of the Akhmim Open-Air Museum near the Upper Egyptian city of Sohag, a colossal statue of Ramses II is now under restoration with the aim of documenting, reassembling, and re-erecting it beside the beautiful colossus of his daughter-queen Merit-Amun, reports Nevine El-Aref.

In the museum a dozen restorers and other workers are busy at work brushing the dust of time from the scattered parts of the colossus of Ramses II as another group consolidates and reassembles it with a view to re-erecting it in its original location inside the temple.

Beside Merit-Amun's colossus a group of workers are erecting the mounting that will eventually hold the statue after it has been lifted up.

"The restoration of the colossus is within the framework of the Ministry of Antiquities' efforts to promote the Sohag governorate's archaeological sites and make the area more tourist friendly as well as to continue its goal of preserving and conserving the area's monuments," Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), told Al-Ahram Weekly.

He said that a new visitor centre had been established, while a route with signs, maps and billboards containing information about every monument on the site was under development. A new lighting system is to be installed to make the site accessible at night. "All the work will be officially inaugurated next month after the completion of the restoration," Waziri said.

Akhmim lies on the east bank of the Nile about 100km north of Luxor. As well as being the hub of ancient Egypt's weaving industry, Akhmim was once the capital of the ninth nome of Upper Egypt and the religious centre of the fertility god Min.

The town has yielded remains dating from prehistoric times and through the Pharaonic period, including the Old Kingdom cemetery of Al-Hawawish which contains 848 rock-hewn tombs.

There is little data in Akhmim from the Middle Kingdom, but more material remains from later periods of history. A great temple dedicated to the god Min was built there during the ninth century BCE, and the remains of this structure later impressed the Arab historians who passed through Akhmim and mentioned seeing a gigantic temple larger than the Karnak complex in Luxor.

One even reported that the sun had had time to rise and set before he had finished exploring the ruins.

Akhmim was later a centre of Christianity in Upper Egypt, and during the Christian era the ancient temples were destroyed, and the modern town erected over their ruins. Akhmim is now atop of a high mound, with archaeological wealth hidden beneath its foundations which has yet to be explored with potentially significant results.

Although many of the ancient buildings in Akhmim were dismantled to be used in the construction of other monuments at a later period, many of these later buildings still exist in their original locations. Among them are a Graeco-Roman temple and many fragments of statues of Ramses II and a beautiful limestone colossus of Merit-Amun, now re-erected in the open-air museum.

The statue is 11 metres tall and depicts Merit-Amun wearing a close-fitting pleated robe and crowned with a modius decorated with serpents and the double feathers of a wife of the god Amun. The museum also houses a beautiful statue of the Roman goddess of love Venus and a collection of stelae and architectural elements from the surrounding structures.

The remains of the colossal statue of Ramses II, originally thought to have been about 15 metres tall and weighing 45 tons, were discovered in an area adjacent to the museum. The lower part of the limestone statue is seated on a throne, to the right and left of which are figures of two of the Pharaoh's daughters and the princess-queens Merit-Amun and Bint-Anath.

The statue and throne are carved from a single block of stone and stand on a limestone base covered with carved hieroglyphic texts. The base also carries a register of captured enemies surmounting rings that bear the name of their home cities. The remains of colours are still visible. A colossal face that matches the base of the statue showing the Pharaoh wearing a false beard has also been found.

Early studies have revealed that the statue might have stood in front of the entrance pylon to a great temple of Ramses II at Akhmim, suggesting the existence of a second statue on the other side which could still be buried in the sand.

The first traces of the discovery were made in early 1981 when the local Akhmim council decided to build a post office 50 metres from the Museum. An archaeological inspection of the site revealed the base of a statue inscribed with the names and titles of Ramses II and surrounded by mudbrick walls. Also unearthed were votive stelae that had been set up in the temple, statues of individuals who may have worked there, and royal crowns carved in granite.

However, a large modern cemetery obstructed any further exploration, and the excavations were put on hold. The site was backfilled with sand and the statue base was packed with debris for protection. The excavations were later resumed in January 2003, when the rest of the statue was found.

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