Black granite statues of a fierce lion-headed goddess discovered in Egypt

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Archaeologists have discovered 27 fragmented statues of the fierce lion-headed goddess Sekhmet in Egypt’s southern city of Luxor.

The black granite statues of the goddess, known as the Lady of War, were found in the ground at the Colossi of Memnon area on the city’s west bank, which used to be a capital for ancient Egypt.  Sekhmet had the body of a woman and the head of a fierce lioness, with a headpiece featuring the sun disk. In Egyptian mythology, Sekhmet was a powerful warrior goddess as well as a solar deity, sometimes called the daughter and protector of the sun god Ra.

The newly found statues are about two metres (six and a half feet) high and carved in black granite, the antiquities ministry said citing Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. The statues have the goddess’s head ‘crowned by a sundisk’ while a cobra ‘adorns her forehead,’ Mr Waziri said.

Some are of Sekhmet ‘sitting on the throne, holding the symbol of life in her left hand’ while others are of her ‘standing and holding the papyrus sceptre,’ he added.

Sekhmet’s name comes from the Ancient Egyptian word ‘sekhem’ which means ‘power or might’ and she has also been described as the ‘mistress of dread’ and ‘she who mauls’.

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In order to placate her wrath, her priestesses performed a ritual before a different statue of the goddess on each day of the year, perhaps explaining why so many have survived.

The excavation began on November 7 and lasted till the end of the month, said Hourig Sourouzian, who led the Egyptian-European mission. The mission found additional statues at the end of November, bringing the total number to 39, Ms Sourouzian told AFP.

The statues that were found closer to the Earth’s surface were in good condition, unlike the others found deeper in the ground, Ms Sourouzian said.

The mission was preparing the discovered statues for display, she said. The mission has discovered 287 statues of Sekhmet since it began its excavation work in 1998, the ministry said.

Luxor, a city of half a million people on the banks of the Nile, a former Egyptian capital known as Thebes during ancient times, abounds with temples and tombs built by Egypt’s pharaohs. It’s thought that 700 statues of Sekhmet once stood at the temple of Amenhotep III, on the west bank of the Nile.

To further pacify Sekhmet, festivals were celebrated at the end of battle, so that the destruction would come to an end.

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And in an annual festival of intoxication held at the beginning of the year, the ancient Egyptians danced and played music to soothe the wildness of the goddess and drank great quantities of wine ritually.

Three of the Sekhmet statues were almost complete, measuring six feet (1.9 metres) tall, 1.6 feet (half a metre) wide and three feet (one metre) deep, while the others are damaged with only parts remaining.

Archaeologists also recovered two middle portions of statues showing the goddess was standing holding a papyrus sceptre in her left hand and a life symbol in her right.

While the statues are not particularly rare, with similar discovered in the temple of Amenhotep III during the past seasons, they are still impressive.

The Temple of Amenhotep III was the largest of the mortuary temples near Thebes when it was built some 3,300 years ago, covering a staggering 3,767,369 square feet (350,000 square metres).

It’s thought the statues surrounded a large peristyle court in and the hypostyle hall of the vast temple.

‘Each statue is a masterpiece of sculpture, combining the head of a lion with the body of a woman wearing a tripartite wig and a long tight fitting dress,’ the ministry said.

Source Credit: Daily Mail


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