Archaeologists in Luxor, Egypt, piece together two more pharaoh statues
Archaeologists piece together fresh attractions at world-famous site
Agence France-Presse in Luxor
Archaeologists have unveiled two colossal statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III in Egypt's famed temple city of Luxor, adding to existing attractions.
The two monoliths in red quartzite were raised on Sunday at what European and Egyptian archaeologists said were their original sites in the funerary temple of the king, on the west bank of the Nile.
The temple already is famous for its existing 3,400-year-old Memnon colossi, twin statues of Amenhotep III whose reign archaeologists say marked the political and cultural peak of ancient Egyptian civilisation.
"The world until now knew two Memnon colossi, but from today it will know four colossi of Amenhotep III," said German-Armenian archaeologist Hourig Sourouzian, who heads the project to conserve the Amenhotep III temple.
The existing two statues, both showing the pharaoh seated, are known across the globe.
The two restored additions have weathered severe damage for centuries, Sourouzian said.
"The statues had lain in pieces for centuries in the fields, damaged by destructive forces of nature like earthquake, and later by irrigation water, salt, encroachment and vandalism," she said, as behind her excavators and local villagers washed pieces of artefacts and statues unearthed over recent months.
"This beautiful temple still has enough for us to study and conserve."
One of the "new" statues, its body weighing 250 tonnes, again depicts the pharaoh seated, hands resting on his knees.
It is 11.5 metres high, with a base 1.5 metres high and 3.6 metres wide.
Archaeologists said with its now missing double crown, the original statue would have reached a height of 13.5 metres and weighed 450 tonnes.
The king is depicted wearing a royal pleated kilt held at the waist by a large belt decorated with zigzag lines. Beside his right leg stands a nearly complete figure of Amenhotep III's wife Tiye, wearing a large wig and a long, tight-fitting dress.
A statue of queen mother Mutemwya, originally beside his left leg, was missing,
The second statue, of Amenhotep III standing, has been installed at the north gate of the temple.
The team of archaeologists also showed several other ancient pieces of what they said were parts of other statues of the ancient ruler and his relatives, including a well-preserved alabaster head from another Amenhotep III statue.
Sourouzian said the aim of her team's work was to preserve these monuments and the temple itself, which according to her had suffered at the hands of "nature and mankind".
"Every ruin, every monument has its right to be treated decently," said Sourouzian, whose dream as a student was to conserve the Amenhotep III temple.
"The idea is to stop the dismantling of monuments and keep them at their sites," she said, adding that what was required was steady "international funding" to conserve such sites.
Pharaoh Amenhotep III inherited an empire that spanned from the Euphrates to Sudan, archaeologists say, and he was able to maintain Egypt's position mainly through some canny diplomacy.
The 18th dynasty ruler became king at the age of about 12, with his mother as regent.
Amenhotep III died about 1354BC and was succeeded by his son Amenhotep IV, widely known as Akhenaten.