Egypt changes stance: King Tut’s tomb will stay open (for now)

The famous tomb of King Tutankhamun in Egypt will remain open for the time being, the chief of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities Zahi Hawass announced.

While earlier this week he stated that it and two other tombs in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor would close by the end of the year, now he’s saying that they’ll close at some undetermined time in the future.

Egypt plans to build a Valley of the Replicas to show off exact duplicates of King Tut’s tomb and those of Seti I and Queen Nefertari. These and other tombs are suffering damage due to the large numbers of people passing through. The extra humidity from their breath is causing mold to grow and is damaging the ancient paintings that adorn the walls. The number of visitors to Tutankhamun’s tomb has already been limited to 1,000 a day, down from a peak of 6,000 a day.

Once the Valley of the Replicas is open, and there’s no set date for that yet, King Tut’s tomb will close to everyone except those paying an extra fee that will probably run into the thousands of dollars. The pharaoh’s mummy will remain in its tomb.

[Photo courtesy user Kounosu via Wikimedia Commons]

Archaelogists discover new sphinx-lined road in Luxor, Egypt

Archaeologists in Egypt made a surprising new discovery yesterday when they unearthed 12 new sphinxes buried beneath a modern apartment complex in Luxor. Those stone statues were located not far from the famed Sphinx Alley, which is a popular tourist destination and an impressive display of ancient craftsmanship in the city.

The newly discovered road runs along an Egyptian promenade that is thousands of years old and was once used to as part of a ceremony to celebrate the deities Amun and Mut. Until yesterday, the road was only mentioned in a few historical texts, but the discovery is the first solid proof of its existence. The street runs between two spectacular religious sites – Karnak and Luxor Temples, and was likely lined with dozens of Sphinxes when it was first constructed. Under the rule of Cleopatra, the avenue was renovated and eventually it was used by the conquering Romans.

The popular Sphinx Alley is so named for the 850 statues that have already been discovered along that route. Historians believe that more than 1300 of them were in place when it was built under the rule of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III. Those Sphinxes flanked a number of lesser religious sites where worshipers left offerings for the array of gods in the Egyptian pantheon.

The 12 newly discovered Sphinx statues are not in the best condition. Most are missing their heads and all are in varying degrees of disrepair. Despite that however, the statues will go on display to the public for the first at a new open-air museum in February of 2011, giving Egypt even more amazing artifacts to show to the world.

3000 year old statue of Egyptian pharaoh discovered in Luxor

A 3000 year old statue of Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep III has been discovered near his funeral temple in Luxor. The double statue, which depicts the rular seated next to the Thebian god Amun, stands more than four feet in height and three feet in width. While Amun’s head is no longer in place however, the face of the pharaoh is unmistakable. The statue shows him seated upon a throne and wearing the traditional double crown which signified his dominance over both Upper and Lower Egypt.

Amenhotep III is thought to have ruled during Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, sometime between 1388 and 1351 BC. He is believed to be the wealthiest of all the ancient pharaohs and his funerary temple demonstrated those riches by it’s sheer size. The temple in his honor was more than 700 meters in length and 500 meters in width, with the eastern ended marked by the Colossi of Memnon, two of the better known, and often visited, statues in the Luxor region. At the time of its construction, it was one of the largest religious structures in the entire world.

The statue, which is made out of limestone, is similar to another that was discovered at the temple earlier this year. That one was carved out of granite and depicted Amenhotep seated next to Thoth, the god of wisdom. The massive sculpture was more than 2.5 meters in height and is thought to be the best preserved likeness of the pharaoh that has been discovered to date.

The archeology team that discovered this latest find is focused on finishing the excavation of the statue, but they haven’t ruled out the possibility of even more discoveries either. These two major finds came about because of an ongoing restoration project that is expected to take up to twenty years to complete and will likely reveal even more wonders of this impressive ruler.

[Photo credit: the SCA]