Memorial Temple of Amenhetep III and the Colossi of Memnon
The Memorial Temple of Amenhetep III, known in Arabic as ” Kawm al-Haitan” the “Mound of the Walls“, was the largest temple ever built in Egypt. When completed, it included a massive array of pylons, chambers, walls, and statues that covered an area over 385,000 square meters. The temple’s main axis stretches nearly a kilometer from its pylon westward to its rear wall. It was 550 meters wide, extended from near the Rameseum southward to the temple of Madinat Habu and Malqata, Amenhetep’s vast palace.
Indeed, for most visitors, the two huge statues of Amenhetep III, known as the Colossi of Memnon, stand in isolation, and most visitors have no idea that the statues were but a small part of gigantic temple complex.
The statues are truly spectacular: each is cut from a single block of stone that stood over 20 meters tall and weighed a 1,0000 tons. When their crowns were still intact and their bases fully exposed, they stood even taller.
They were carved in beautiful orthoquartzite, one of the hardest stones known and extremely difficult to carve, brought by boat from quarries near Heliopolis, seven hundred kilometers to the north.
The choice of stone, Egyptologists believe, was due to the association of its red color with the solar cult. Transporting the statues was one of the many major projects supervised by Amenhetep, son of Habu, the brilliant official of Amenhetep III whose impressive career led to his eventual deification. The ” Chief Sculptor of the Great Monument of the King in the Red Mountain,” named Men, was responsible for carving them.
The northern ( right) colossus shows Amenhetep III seated on a throne, the arms which are carved Nile gods binding together a lotus and papyrus, symbols of Upper and Lower Egypt.
Beside the king, at much smaller scale, stands his mother, Mutemwia. On the southern colossus, the king is shown with figures of Queen Tiy and an unnamed daughter.
The northern colossus was especially popular with ancient Greek and Roman travelers. In 27 BC, an earthquake cracked the statue, and for the next two hundred years it emitted an eerie whistling noise each morning as the sun rose and the temperature and humidity changed. Greek travelers claimed that this sound was the cry of Memnon, a mythical African warrior slain by Achilles in the Trojan War, to Eos, his mother and goddess of the dawn.