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Colossi of memnon


Perhaps the most imposing monument on the West Bank at Luxor are the famous 'Colossi of Memnon'. The statues are made from blocks of quartzite sandstone quarried at el-Gabal el-Ahmar (near modern-day Cairo).  They are estimated to weigh around 700 tons each and were transported 420 miles overland to Thebes. (They are too heavy to have been transported upstream on the Nile.)  Standing 18 metres (60 feet) high, these two statues depict Amenhotep III in a seated position with his hands on his knees and once flanked the entrance to his temple.  In it's day, this temple complex was the largest and most opulent in Egypt.  Even the temple of Karnak, at that time, was smaller.   The statues now stand virtually alone in a field at the side of the road to the Valley of the Kings.

Both statues are damaged.  The southern statue is a single piece of stone but this, the northern one, has an extensive crack in the lower half and above the waist consists of five layers of stone.  The damage is believed to have occurred in 27 BC, when an earthquake shattered the statue from the waist upwards and cracked the bottom half.  The remaining lower half was then reported to 'sing' within an hour or two of sunrise, usually right at dawn.  The Ancient Greeks thought the statue represented King Memnon and the eerie sound was  him greeting his mother Eos.  It is more likely that the morning sun warmed the moisture collected in the fissure overnight and caused the stone to 'groan'.   Following an attempt by the Roman Empire to reconstruct the statue, the statue has been silent. For the  upper layers, the Romans used a different sandstone, thought to have been quarried near Aswan.











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