Headless bust of goddess Sekhmet
Egyptian archaeologists excavating the Mortuary Temple of King Amenhotep III in Luxor have unearthed a number of statues of the goddess Sekhmet, daughter of the ancient Egyptian sun god Re, project director Hourig Sourouzian told Ahram Online on Thursday.
"They are of great artistic quality" Sourouzian said of the statues, which were found in four parts, including three busts and one headless torso, in the Kom El-Hettan archaeological area on Luxor's west bank.
Sourouzian oversees the work of the Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project, which is working to save the remains of the more than 3,000 year-old temple and eventually restore its dispersed artefacts to the site, to be presented in their original layout.
The project director said her team found the Sekhmet pieces in very good condition, buried in the temple's hypostyle hall—a roofed structure supported by columns. Several other statues of the goddess have been found previously on the same site.
According to Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Department at the Ministry of Antiquities, the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet was charged with defending her father Re against enemies.
The many statues of the goddess in the temple of Amenhotep III would also have been intended to protect the ruler from evil and disease, Afifi told Ahram Online.
"All statues of the goddess are now stored in warehouses supervised by the Ministry of Antiquities for security reasons,” Afifi said, adding that when excavations at the temple are completed and the site is opened to visitors, the statues will be placed back in their original setting.
In addition to the statues of Sekhmet, Sourouzian's team have uncovered large pieces of sphinxes carved in limestone, as well as a small torso of a deity in black granite, within the vicinity of the funerary temple's third pylon.
“The sphinxes are in a bad state of preservation and will need to be treated before being exposed,” she said.
Egypt's Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany is set to travel to Luxor on Monday, to inspect the newly discovered statues and attend the opening of a temporary exhibit to celebrate the 41st anniversary of the Luxor Museum.
The exhibit will display a collection of 40 artefacts discovered by archaeologists on the Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project.
The artefacts will include a collection of amulets, Greco-Roman coins, remains of clay pots and religious stelae—stone tablets or columns erected as tombstones or boundary markers.