LUXOR, Egypt – Two huge statues of Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III that were toppled by an earthquake in the year 1,200 B.C., have been re-erected on their bases at the northern entrance to the ruler’s funerary temple on the west bank of the Nile River.
An international team of archaeologists headed by Armenia’s Hourig Sourouzian and Egypt’s Abdelkarim Karrar on Sunday unveiled the second of the two colossal restored statues in the presence of Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamduh al Damati and Luxor Gov. Tarek Saad el Din.
The two statues, which had broken into some 200 chunks of stone and had lain submerged in the river had suffered the ravages of 3,200 years of humidity, erosion and vandalism.
The project to raise them, which was deemed an emergency by archaeological and cultural authorities, was undertaken in two stages within a single year, an unusual feat.
The first stage was completed between January and March 2014, when more than 200 fragments of the statues were removed from the water, transported 50 meters (yards) to dry land and reassembled into the first of the two colossi standing 12.35 meters (40.5 feet) high and showing the pharaoh striding forward.
In November, the second stage was carried out, in which the second statue – this one standing 12.93 meters (42.4 feet) high and weighing 110 tons – was raised and reassembled over the course of a month and 10 days.
“It’s the best reconstruction of colossal (statues) in the world,” the technical director of the operation, Spanish archaeologist and restoration expert Miguel Angel Lopez, told Efe.
The project was made possible thanks to a system of compressed air cushions and pulleys capable of moving items weighing up to 70 tons.
The huge pieces of stone were glued together with various types of resins and reinforced with steel spikes.
Plans are for the entire temple – which also includes the famous Colossi of Memnon, which are also huge, albeit seated and badly damaged, statues of Amenhotep III, as well as three patios, a peristyle, a sanctuary and other archaeological elements – to be made into a museum in which assorted monumental art and other works commissioned by the pharaoh will be displayed.
Amenhotep III was the son of Pharaoh Thutmose IV and belonged to the 18th Egyptian dynasty, which ruled Egypt from 1554-1304 B.C., during which time the empire’s capital was located at Thebes.
The pharaoh – who was the grandfather of Tutankhamen – died in about 1354 B.C. and experts say his reign marked Ancient Egyptian civilization’s political and cultural zenith.