Kom el-Heitan
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On the Nile’s west bank, some hundred meters from Medinet Habu and almost directly across the river from Luxor Temple, stand the Colossi of Memnon. These two immense statues mark the location of the remains of King Amenhotep III’s memorial temple (ca. 1390 - 1352 BC), known today as Kom el-Heitan.

This temple was built during the 18th Dynasty, and was at the time the greatest construction on the Theban west bank. Larger than Karnak Temple, it housed a vast number of statues, of the king himself as well as of various deities. This included statues of the lioness-headed Sekhmet: according to Egyptologists, Amenhotep III wanted to represent the Litany of Sekhmet in stone, and placed inside the temple one seated and one standing statue of the avenging goddess for every day of the year. The temple was purposely built to welcome the annual flood within its outer courts and halls to symbolize the creation of the world as it emerged from the retreating waters. Due to this unique feature, however, the temple began to decay shortly after the death of Amenhotep III. Its limestone blocks were pillaged and reused in the temple of Merenptah, built only a century and a half later.

Today, visitors to the site are greeted by the Colossi of Memnon, colossal statues of Amenhotep III flanked by smaller figures of his mother and his wife, Tiye. The two colossi once stood at the entrance to the mortuary temple. Lists of the names of important foreign places are inscribed on the bases, including a reference to the Aegean.

After an earthquake in 27 BC, the northern statue was damaged and began to emit a whistling sound at sunrise. Greek travelers, equating the sight and sound with the Homeric character of Memnon singing to his mother Aurora, dubbed the statues the ‘Colossi of Memnon’. The Roman Emperor Septimius Severus later repaired the damage in the northern statue, silencing its song forever.

Egyptologist Hourig Sourouzian is currently supervising excavations at the site.

Photos may be taken from the parking lot near the colossi; the site itself is closed to the public


On the West Bank at Luxor

IOne of the Colossi of Memnon that guards the site of Kom el Heitan (Kevin Tildsley)


A lifesize sphinx, recently discovered by Hourig Sourouzian (Ramadan Hussein)