Conservation work at the temple of Amenhotep III at Thebes, By The Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project

Dipl. Rest. Christina Verbeek | 22.12.2016 | 6229 Aufrufe | 3 | Artikel

Die Kolosse von Memnon (1.1.1900)

CTT Conference, 11 February 2016 in Luxor | Paper Hourig Sourouzian, Elena Mora Ruedas, Maria Antonia Moreno, Miguel Angel Lopez Marcos

The report on conservation of the mission which follows the introduction has been submitted by the head conservators on behalf of all members of the different workshops involved in conservation: Rais Mohamed Aly El-Ghassab and his team, Tayeb Hasan Ibrahim, Ali Hasan Ibrahim, Ahmed Mohamed Ali “Abdelrazik”, Mohamed Azab “Abu Hakim”, Mohamed Abdelbaset “Baree”, Hassan Demerdash, Sayed Haggag Mohamed “Lambo”, with their respective teams, and teams of conservation workshop.

I. Introduction: the site, the project, aims and Achievements (by Hourig Sourouzian)


The Funerary Temple of Amenhotep III called ‘House for Millions of Years’ in ancient Egypt, was built within the 39 years of reign of king Amenhotep III (1387-1348 BC).  

The temple was the largest of its kind. It was surrounded by an enclosure wall of 550m long and 700 m wide, which also included temples of auxiliary deities, processional ways, gardens, pools, workshops, storerooms, treasure houses, priests dwellings, administrative buildings, etc. (Fig. 1)


The main temple dedicated to Amon-Re expanded West to East. It was preceded by three large brick pylons each preceded by a pair of royal colossi, giving access to three courts and leading to a great peristyle court surrounded by porticoes of papyrus bundle columns, which led through the hypostyle hall to the main bark sanctuaries in the axis, as well as to the royal funerary temple in the south, and to the open sun court in the north. (Fig. 2)

Fig. 2. A proposed reconstruction of the main temple of Amenhotep III (by N. Hampikian)

Some 150 years after its achievement, around 1200 BC, the temple was toppled by a heavy earthquake, traces of which were revealed by the archaeo-seismologists of the Armenian Academy of Sciences with whom we work in cooperation since 2007.  

The site was then used as a quarry and most of the material, stone as well as bricks, was reused in the surrounding temples and later buildings, starting from the reign of Merenptah, son and successor of Ramesses II. Thereafter the remains were regularly disturbed by floods from the mountain and, during the last centuries, they were covered with alluvial layers of the Nile, up to 3m above original temple ground. The only monuments still standing in place were the two colossal statues of Amenhotep III seated at the gate of the First Pylon, now known as the Colossi of Memnon.  

The ruins of the devastated temple lay for centuries half submerged until the first collectors have surfaced in the Nineteenth Century and taken with them colossal heads of royal statues, divine effigies, and principally statues of the goddess Sekhmet, all of which are now dispersed in Museums and Egyptian collections all over the world. Within a vast irrigated area, the site itself was used as planation for crops until the 1950s. Since then, the site lies considerably lower than the level of the surrounding fields and suffers from the flaw of water activated by the irrigation.

Very little conservation was carried out in the temple. A few interventions in the beginning of the Twentieth Century were followed in the 1950s and 60s by archaeological investigations carried out by the Egyptian Antiquities Service, and ended in two seasons of cooperation with the Swiss Institute in 1964 and 1970, the results of which were later published in 1981. [1]

Ever since, the visible remains of the temple were lying fragmented and in bad condition, half buried in mud and water, which caused salt crystallizations on the surface of the stone. Moreover, the site was invaded by glowing vegetation, which regularly activated fires, and lastly, it was threatened by encroachments and vandalism. (Fig. 3).


Fig. 3. The site shortly before the work of the Memnon/Amenhotep III Project.
©Theban Mapping Project.

A specific action restricted to the Memnon Colossi was taken on the request of the Egyptian Antiquities Service in 1989 and 1990 by Rainer Stadelmann, then director of the German Archaeological Institute, with an architectural and photogrammetric survey of the Colossi.[2] Afterward, Rainer Stadelmann, Nairy Hampikian and  Hourig Sourouzian became concerned about the worsening conditions of the remains of the temple of Amenhotep III beyond the Memnon Colossi. It was then clear that only an urgent survey and rescue excavations could save this once glorious site. When a last devastating fire in 1996, had given a coup de grâce to the abandoned site, this actual project was initiated with the decision to take action and save the site.


The aim of The Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project is to preserve the last remains of this once prestigious temple and present them with their dignity in their original places.  

The project enjoys the cooperation of the Ministry of Antiquities, supported by HE The Minister of Antiquities, Prof. Dr. Khaled El-Enany, and previously Prof. Dr. Mamdouh Eldamaty.  

Over years, the project made emergency interventions, realized larger conservation programs, along with a site protection and site management project.[3]  

The project could start with a grant of the World Monumens Fund in 1998, and could continue thank to the generosity of Monique Hennessy through the Association des Amis des Colosses de Memnon followed by Farida Khelfa, Christian Louboutin and Henri Seydoux; further financial support was kindly given by the Memnon Verein, American Research Center in Egypt, Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, and the kind contributions of friends of the site, Ulrike Köhle, Stephanie and Bernhard Buchner,  Horus Egyptology Society, Neil Stevenson, Chesterfield Association for the Study of Ancient Egypt.    

The multinational team is composed by members of diverse disciplines, all indispensable in a project for emergency salvage and conservation. The team of conservators specialized in stone treatment takes a great part in the mission.

Each season, ca. 300 local workmen specialized in conservation and excavation form the core of the project, all working under the surveillance of the representatives of the local Inspectorate and the Conservation Department of the Ministry, and under the direction of the chief of workmen Rais Mohamed Ali Ayyat, including a team of 40 workmen specialized in stone transportation, under the guidance of Rais Mohamed Ali el-Ghassab, and a group of guards and security people.  

Most of the workers are brilliant young men, eager to learn and to help their families. Having started restoration work with this project, they are now trained and skillful conservators.  

Hence this project is not only destined to save the damaged and fragmented monuments of the site but also to employ, train and form young assistants in conservation. Among them we count several experienced members, who are qualified enough to join other conservation teams during our absence from Luxor, especially official teams of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.


Over years, the regularly defoliated site, with its newly raised monuments all over the main temple and beyond, have obtained a completely new look, which the visitors can enjoy, even from the street. (Fig. 4) 


Fig. 4. The site today, with the Colossi of Memnon and the newly raised royal colossi at the Second Pylon in the background.

The tasks realized by The Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project up to now, can be summarized as follows:  

- The Colossi of Memnon at the First Pylon: have been cleaned and were subject to diverse investigations and surveys: photogrammetry, geology, archaeo-seismology, structure, stability, polychromy, geology, history.   Regular small archaeological sondages reveal each season pieces fallen from the colossi and their plinths, beside providing information on the soil and the foundations. From the collected pieces many have joined the statues or their pedestals, among them, a huge block obtained by joining several scattered fragments was put back in its original place at the right rear corner of the plinth of the southern colossus. (Fig. 5)


Fig. 5. The Colossi of Memnon in 2015, with pieces put back on the statues and their plinths.

- At the Second Pylon: A new pair of seated royal colossi in quartzite just raised (see the conservators’ report below). These colossi stand now 100m to the West of the Memnon Colossi. (Fig. 6). They precede the remains of the brick pylon, which has been protected with modern bricks of same dimensions, fabricated on site in accordance with the ancient traditional methods.  

Fig. 6. The newly raised pair of royal colossi in quartzite at the Second Pylon.

- At the Third Pylon, two more royal colossi in alabaster, found lying fragmented and half buried under 3m of Nile alluvia, are in the process of reassembly. These statues are unique by their size and material and can be considered as masterpieces of monumental sculpture. (Fig. 7)

Fig. 7. Northern alabaster colossus of Amenhotep III fallen at the gate of the Third Pylon.

- In the Peristyle Court, after dewatering the zone, extensive conservation operations have been carried out over years on the ramp leading to the entrance of the Peristyle, the pavement, the column bases and other architectural remains have been cleaned, consolidated and protected. Stelae, statues and wall reliefs were reassembled. (Fig. 8-9) 

Fig. 8. The Peristyle Court today, seen from the West, with the sandstone pavement and the two quartzite stelae.

Fig. 9. The western portico before our works in 1998.

  • The Northern Stela in the Peristyle Court, found broken into pieces of quartzite scattered all over the court, which were recollected, transported, and grouped. The foundations of the stela were reinforced in 2010, and its lower blocks placed. In 2011, the re-erection started and reached 7,40 m, 4/5 of the height, with 27 pieces which were lifted, put in place and joined. In 2012 the Northern Stela was completed and stood symmetrically to its southern companion. Now the height of the stela has reached 9,60m. It is 1,60 m deep, 3,20 wide. (Fig. 8)
  • The Southern Stela, lifted by the Antiquities Service in the 1950s, has now been completed with new pieces found during our clearance works, and the earlier mortars have been renewed. (Fig. 8)  
  • The colossal statues of the standing king in quartzite have been reassembled from hundreds of fragments and two of them have been raised. The feet of four other statues are now placed on their pedestals and piece of their bodies are in re-assembly. (Fig. 17). A quartzite head belonging to one of these colossi was reconstructed with more than 100 scattered pieces, completed with the eyes and put on display in the Luxor Museum of Art. 

Fig. 17. Royal quartzite statues remounted in the west portico ; on their reassembled bases, the gaps are concealed with light mortar.

  • The pieces of colossal statues of the standing king in red granite have been simultaneously grouped and treated, their feet reassembled and are now put on display.  The head and the feet of such a standing royal statue were placed at the south-east corner of the court, where the statue was found. The statue is now completed with the chest and part of the body. It reaches a height of 8 meters. (Fig. 18).

Fig. 18. Raising of a red granite royal statue at the south-east corner of the Peristyle Court.

  • A unique monumental statue of a hippopotamus in alabaster. The headless statue (1,34m high, 1,80m long and 0,79m wide) is the largest statue of the hippopotamus goddess venerated as the “Great White”. After thorough treatment it has been put on display in the peristyle court.
  • Three quartzite sphinxes, a large granodiorite statue of Amenhotep III , and the 128 statues and statue parts of the goddess Sekhmet, all discovered within the rubble refilling the foundation pits of the façade and the side walls of the Peristyle Court, were treated and conserved.
  • Sandstone blocks fallen from the façade and the walls of the peristyle, decorated withepisodes of the celebration of the royal jubilee, as well as with scenes depicting the nature, animals in a desertic landscape, and children bathing in a pool. Likewise, rare pieces of architraves were recovered, joined and restored by the conservation teams. They bear texts with the name and dedication texts of the king, among them one stating that “Amenhotep III made a temple of millions of years to his father Amon-Re”.  

- At the North Gate a completely new pair of royal colossi in quartzite has just been lifted. They represent Amenhotep III standing at the Northern Gate of his vast temple precinct. These colossi were found lying fragmented in the fields since their collapse by the earthquake. In 2013, in cooperation with the Ministry of Antiquities, 'The Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project' carried out an Emergency salvage project was carried out to lift their pieces and plan the raising of the colossi. These colossi now stand on solid ground in the north of the temple precinct. (Fig. 10).


Fig. 10. The recently raised quartzite Colossi of Amenhotep III at the Northern Gate of the temple Precinct in 2016.

Site protection and site management, initial plan and proposition
Along with thorough architectural research, Nairy Hampikian elaborated a project for the site management to be realized in consecutive phases, starting with the Peristyle Court. This project is especially destined to secure the site, in order to be authorized to bring back in the Peristyle Court the numerous statues of Sekhmet, and put on display decorated blocks remaining from the walls and columns. This project was submitted to the Ministry of Antiquities for approval, and could be realized as soon as it will be approved and with the hope that it can be financed.[4] 

II. The Problems, the Methods of Conservation, the Results (by Elena Mora Ruedas and Maria Antonia Moreno)

Since the beginning of its works The Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project has treated a great amount of architectural remains and fragmented statues in the temple of Amenhotep III. These remains consist of different materials: Colossal royal statues (14 to 17 m high) in quartzite at the gates of the First and Second Pylons, and  alabaster at the Third Pylon; colossi of smaller size (ca. 9 m) in quartzite and red granite, which are integrated in the porticoes of the great peristyle court of the temple, as well as other types of statues in black granite, one royal statue of 3m high and not less than 128  statues of the goddess Sekhmet. The architectural remains such as remains of doors, column bases and pavement slabs, as well as decorated blocks fallen from the temple walls and columns, are all in sandstone.

This variety of stones with very different properties, their destruction by natural catastrophes and their decay by time, as well as the environmental conditions of the area, have led to the current condition of the ruined temple. Thus the aim of this project is to conserve the last remains of the temple, to reassemble and preserve the largest possible number of monuments and put them on display in their original location.

- Causes of decay and condition survey of fragments, blocks and statues
The causes of the disappearance and the current conditions of the remains preserved are very different: according to written sources and current studies an earthquake took place around 1200 BC, destroying the temple, after which the site was used as a quarry.  Most of the material was reused in the surrounding temples and later buildings. (Fig. 11) 


Fig. 11. Impact of salt, calcite and water on the quartzite pieces before cleaning and desalination.

Many very concrete agents of deterioration have been acting on the materials. These factors act in conjunction, being generated mutually. The presence of the two most harmful agents of alteration, humidity and temperature, vary considerably due to the changes of weather. These variations of temperature can produce changes in the material due to differential expansion in the minerals that compose the stones; in this case, generating tensions that can produce cracks and fissures or worsen the preexisting fissures in the stone. The humidity absorbed by capillary action, and the salts existing in the zone, generate a series of processes that result in a number of secondary reactions, which contribute to the disintegration of the materials. The migration and recrystallization of the soluble salts from the water constitute the most active cause of alteration. Calcium carbonate is one of the most abundant substances; it does not disintegrate but forms very hard concretions (see fig. 11).

In addition to the vegetation that grows in the site throughout the year, many of the blocks and fragments from the excavation have biological deposits, like algae and fungi. These deposits have formed because the water level is usually quite high in certain times of year, leaving the blocks and fragments submerged for long periods. Which, together with carbonate concretions, are difficult to remove, because they have penetrated into the pores of the stone and harden considerably when is dry.  

In case of the statues or elements exposed since a long time or recently uncovered, the constant strong winds and windblown particles generate a large abrasive action that often results in a great deal of erosion, and even can to come off small flaking.  

The direct solar light acts as a whitening agent due to the acceleration of changes in surface temperature caused by ultraviolet rays and infrared beams.  

Dust can be accumulated in very concrete parts, which, in combination with salts and humidity, can form crusts and films of hard dirt, sometimes hygroscopic, producing increased volume of deposit and in turn increasing the size of small cracks that can cause small fragments become detached.  

Formation defects can occur during the process of formation of the rocks as hollows, cavities or weak zones occur. The ancient Egyptians had faced these defects in the process of carving and polishing the statues, which resulted in repairs by filling the gaps with solid stone.  

- General interventions and treatments 
Since the beginning of the project, conservation and restoration interventions were carried out on the statues and the architectural remains of the Temple.

The first part of our work is documenting each item, for that we have a database where all the information of every piece is collected along with graphic documentation, photographs and drawings. Prior to any practical conservation work we elaborate condition reports, maps with the different types of deterioration and damage, and also record the ancient restorations. (Fig. 12 & 13)


Fig. 12. Cleaning the surface of the quartzite with mechanical methods.


Fig. 13. Desalination of the quartzite with poultices.

Our restoration and conservation work mostly consists in cleaning, desalination and consolidation treatments, searching for joints between fragments and gluing them.

The most generalized treatment that all blocks and fragments require is cleaning. All fragments and blocks have been cleaned in a way depending on the deposits and damage they carried. Dirt and all extraneous products that could generate damage or hamper recognition of the object were removed. The cleaning also facilitates the adhesion of the fragments. However we are careful that the cleaning treatments should never damage the material. The cleaning is performed in different ways:

Aqueous method: we use deionized water as a dissolvent to remove of softer dirt, in many cases vaporized water with very good results. Sometimes we have the help of solvents such as alcohol to help with the evaporation of the damp or the dissolution of the more resistant deposits.

For mechanical cleaning, scalpels and brushes are used for harder deposits; in some cases we soften the dirt deposits and biological colonization by applying poultices or cellulose pulps impregnated with deionized water - in this case salts are eliminated simultaneously. When crusts and calcite concretions are too hard, they are removed by micro-blasting equipment, using an abrasive calcium carbonate or aluminum oxide, always lesser hardness than the original stone. Fracture zones are always cleaning well to ensure good gluing surface. All workers are protected by the best security measures for health, with costumes tyvek coveralls with attached hood and full-face mask when such cleanings are performed. (Fig. 14)  


Fig. 14. Head of red granite royal statue before, during and after cleaning.

In some cases we find traces of polychromy, mostly on the sandstones. Due to the conditions of the site and the problems with the damp most of the painted decoration is not preserved.  

A very important treatment is desalination, with the aim to remove soluble salts from the surface or from inside the stone. Soluble salts are most noxious agents for the stone, as they generate microfissures, granular disintegration and loss of cohesion of the components of the stone. To eliminate surface salts, we use cellulose fibers (Arbocel® BC 200) and/or absorbent clays (Sepiolite) impregnated with deionized water. Wherever possible, not only desalination treatment is performed, but also isolation of the statues and architectural remains, preventing any damp source nearby, because the moisture would continue to act on the stone by capillary action. It is vital to eliminate or avoid as much as possible sources of moisture from the monuments (see Fig. 13).  

Some of the remains need sometimes consolidation treatments, sandstone and granites are the stones which require it most. In al these years we have seen that the product that best acts in these materials is Ethyl Silicate, usually lowered with White Spirit, and the proportion depends on each case.

Over years The Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project has formed a very skillful and talented team of Egyptian conservators specialized not only in cleaning and desalination but also in searching of joints between fragments of statues and random decorated blocks with astonishing results. This part of the work is essential to obtain groupings leading to final re-assemblies thus reducing the number of lose fragments on the site. Once documented, cleaned and located the joints between fragments, the gluing works are performed in groups, to gradually reduce as much as possible the number of the constitutive fragments. (Fig. 15 & 16)


Fig. 15. Looking for joins on quartzite pieces and reconstruction of colossal face from small fragments.


Fig. 16. Conservation of red granite statue pieces from the south-east porticoes of the Peristyle Court.

Gluing fragments is our aim is to guarantee the integrity of the monument, and avoid significant losses of material. For the adhesion of large pieces or blocks we use epoxy resins, capable to create solid and lasting unions between surfaces. In the case of smaller fragments or flakes, other acrylic resins are being used, such as Paraloid B72 or Acril 33. All the joined and glued fragments are thoroughly mapped.

Filling cracks - jointing mortars: The application of jointing mortars will be justified only by reasons of protection and conservation, to prevent the spread of cracks and fissures, water seepage, deposits of dirt and micro-organisms and plant growth. Jointing mortars should not be placed over the original material. We use mortars that are made with natural hydraulic lime or slaked lime, sand containing silica and natural pigments. Mortar test is performed always to find the most suitable, depending on the color of the stone and its granulometry.

Each year numerous preventive conservation works are performed, one of the most important is the protection of the architectural elements and statues. We avoid as much as possible exposure of the statues to atmospheric agents until all the treatments are finished, we use white fabrics and the other protectors (bricks, clay and mud).

III. Conservation and reconstruction of the quartzite Colossi of Amenhotep III at the Second Pylon (by Michel Angel Lopez Marcos)

Simultaneously to the works for the reassembly and raising of the South Stela and the standing royal colossi in the Peristyle Court (see figs 8, 17 & 18), as well as the pair of the standing royal colossi newly raised at the northern gate of the temple precinct (fig. 10), we achieved, with the team of stone specialists the extraordinary task of raising two seated  colossal statues of Amenhotep III in quartzite fallen at the Second Pylon.

These colossi were hewn in a hard block of quartzite from the quarries of Gebel el-Ahmar near Cairo, and were transported upstream to Thebes. They represent Amenhotep III seated on a decorated throne, accompanied by a very well preserved statue of queen Tiye standing near his right leg. They were found lying fragmented within the ruins of the funerary temple of Amenhotep III, which had been destroyed by a very heavy earthquake around 1200 BC. Fallen on their right flank in S-E direction, they remained lying in front of the Second Pylon, broken into many large pieces and thousands of small fragments.

After having been uncovered, documented and studied by the Egyptologists and the team of documentists, work focused since 2004 on lifting, moving, conserving and raising the Colossi of the Second Pylon. All work has been possible thanks to the collaboration of the excellent team of stone specialists led by Mohammed Ali Gassab, to the assistance of Christian Perzlmeier, and thanks to all members of the restoration team, the documentists, and the workers.

During the 2004 season, the lower part of the North Colossus weighing 250 tons was lifted with the help of air bags. The idea of lifting the colossus with air bags is due to Eng. Jürgen Meier who introduced the technique on the site. We later used this method also for moving the colossus back and forth, and also to raise, as it will be shown below. (Fig. 19)


Fig. 19. The lower part of the North Colossus partly lifted with air bags in 2004.

In 2005 the colossus was moved over 12 meters north-east, on solid ground, to study of the place where it had fallen, and to make possible an excavation in order to find and consolidate the foundation of the statue.

It was then placed in the horizontal position for stability, and after the foundation was consolidated, the team prepared the Colossus to be brought back, rotated so that its base was parallel to the edge of the plinth, and made ready to be raised.

The operation was very difficult because of the bad condition of the colossus. The statue was badly fractured and showed two big structural cracks. This made the manipulation and repositioning of the colossus difficult. The aim was to seek the horizontal position for the concrete base. The next step was to make an armed formwork for the concrete base, before pivoting the lower part of the colossus. Afterward the lower part was brought closer to the concrete base by moving it 12,40m, rotating it 98° on its own axis and moving it northward 5.90m.  Finally, the next step was to erect the colossus on its east side.

The base is made of concrete measures of 6.70 m x 3.60 m x 0.61 m, reaching a weight of 11.2 tones. The iron structure was made with corrugated steel rods 22mm. In the angle for pivoting angular 100x100mm included. A total of 111 holes were made to include the base steel colossus. To glue we used Hilti RE-500.

The lower part of the colossus was then lifted to introduce underneath the sledge of a solid wooden base mounted on a steel plate, placed in turn on a steel sheet. Between the steel plates and the sheet grease was smeared.

Then we began to rotate the colossus, with the help of air cushions and chain hoists of 20 tons. After the colossus was placed parallel to the base, it was moved towards the contact area. The contact was successfully made with great precision. At this point, the whole system had to be change in order to begin the raising the colossus.

The sledges and steel plates were removed and large wooden beams were placed parallel to the base with a slope of 5%. With the help of air cushions placed underneath, inflated through a compressor, the lifting of the colossus began. (Fig. 21).


Fig. 21. One step in the 6 day operation to raise the lower part of the North Colossus in 2012.

Once passed the 55 degrees two hoists were placed from the north at the concrete base to combine both systems and assure the balance. Thus two other hoists were placed in the opposite direction, and anchored to the road with special anchors Hilti HKD 24.

Finally, after reaching 62°, we stopped to use the cushions and continued the work with hoists only, at first with minimal capacity. The centre of gravity gradually switched until the pressure was vertical.  During this, the large wooden beams piled under the north edge of the base in order to support the colossus in case of collapse, were progressively removed.  

On 13 February 2012, on the sixth working day, i.e. a week after starting the raising operation with one Friday off, the erection work was completed successfully.

In the succeeding spring season 2013, a scaffolding made of large timber balks was built around the colossus to enable the heaving and fixing of detached parts, such as the right knee, the right arm and parts of the torso. Once the scaffolding finished, 2 chain hoist of 20 tons each and a third one of 10 tons were placed in the principal girders.

Piece by piece, the right leg with the royal hand resting on the knee, weighing 22 tons, the part of the chest 17 tons, and the right arm of 5.5 tons were moved on timber ramps and locks, up to the scaffolding and lifting with the help of the chain hoist. The adhesions were reinforced by spikes of steel of diverse size. (Fig. 22)


Fig. 22. Placing the right knee of the North Colossus, with the help of timber scaffoldings.

The next season, in 2014, we could start the operation of lifting the 16ton heavy head up to its original position. The head was first placed behind the back of the colossus. It was lifted up to 1,85 m, with the help of four air cushions (each 1m x 1m) while preparing a gravel ramp of 1,20 m high, with an inclination of less than 1° (gravel size 20mm) leading to the statue. On the top of this ramp was placed a row of two parallel wooden beams (section 40 cm x 40 cm), on which were installed on the iron rolls and the wooden sledge supporting the head (height of rolls and sledge: 20cm). After finishing this operation the air cushions were deflated and taken out, the head was lowered at 5 cm (the necessary height to remove the air cushions) and put on the sledge. The head was then pulled forward on the ramp 14,5 m and placed near to the back of the statue.

The head was lifted in three steps up to the top because we had to change the belts/strings three times. We started lifting the 16 ton fragment to the first floor rate and even a little bit higher to install the first wooden platform then lowered the head on the platform and changed the length of the belt and put the chain hoist again. With the second and third platforms we continued this process and after 3 days the head reached the level of the neck of the colossus. On the fourth day it was advanced to the vertical of the colossus. This step was difficult due to the lateral thrust of the scaffolding. To permanently place the head, it was necessary to change the site to place the sling horizontally. An old crack just opened on the left side of the head was sealed with injections of epoxy and work could continue safely. The almost horizontal fracture of the head facilitated the action of sticking, but made difficult the injection epoxy. It was necessary to open channels in the bonding area, to enable the expansion of the epoxy resin. The joints all around were sealed with lime mortar and Primal, bonded with inorganic pigments. For the injection Huntsman Hardener HY PY 1092 and Araldite1092 was used.

On the fifth day, 19 February 2014, the last major piece was definitely placed on the Colossus, which now reached a total height of 11.40 m. (Fig. 23)


Fig. 23. The North Colossus just before and after the placement of the head in 2014.

Work continued with surface cleaning and specific desalination, followed by the fixing of smaller fragments with Araldite 2015. This thixotropic adhesive perfect for this kind of work, permits handling for hours and can support up to 600 kilograms traction effort. The larger pieces weighing more than 600k have been stuck with HILTI HR 500, more appropriate for heavy weights and capable to support more than 1,5 tons traction. In some cases the pieces have been reinforced with the inclusion of corrugated steel tangs of 10-16 mm. (Fig. 24)


Fig. 24. The team celebrating the successful raising of the South Colossus in March 2015.

[1] H. Ricke, L. Habachi, G. Haeny, Untersuchungen im Totentempel Amenophis’ III., Beiträge Ägyptische Bauforschung 11, 1981.

[2] The results of the survey were then published  by the Memnon/Amenhotep  III Project along with the subsequent initial  work in the temple proper. See: H. Sourouzian, R. Stadelmann , «The Temple of Amenhotep III at Thebes. Excavation and Conservation at Kom el-Hettân (Second Report on third and fourth seasons in 2000/2001)», MDAIK 59, 2003, p. 425-446, pl. 71-76.

[3] On these activities see our reports in MDAIK 57, 2001, p. 271-280 ; MDAIK 59, 2003, p. 425-446 ; MDAIK 60, 2004, p. 173-236 ; MDAIK 63, 2007, p. 247-335 ; ASAE 80, 2006, p. 323-520; ASAE 85, 2011, p. 273-552; CRAIB 2000, p. 1022-23, 1032-38; CRAIB 2008, p. 802-808 and809-827 ; CRAIB 2011, p. 989-1011; AW 2002/5, p. 539-244, 2004/6, p. 49-52, 2005/6, p. 70-82, 2006/6, p. 95-98, 2007/6, p. 63-69, 208/6, p. 73-76, 2009/6, p. 75-79 ; 2011/6, p. 72-77; 2013/1, p. 59-64, 2014/4, p. 48-56; EA 16, 2000, p. 14-15 ; EA 21, 2002, p. 36-37 ; EA 29, 2006, p. 21-24 ; EA33, 2008, p. 33-35; EA 39, 2011, p. 29-32; EA 44, 2014, 39-41; EA 46, 2015, p. 20-22. See also Orientalia 28, 2009, p. 178-179; Archéologia 2002, p. 4; ‘Beyond Memnon’ in ICON World Monuments 2004, p. 10-16; A. Lawler, in : Smithsonian Nov. 2007, p. 47-50 and Smithsonian Collector’s Edition Fall 2009, p. 90-97 ; A. Herold in : GEO Epoche 32, 2008, p. 108; G. Bloch-Champfort, ‘Les secrets du temple d’Aménophis III’, Connaissance des Arts n° 683, 2011, p. 104-109.

[4] The preliminary outcomes of the architectural research and a preliminary site management proposal have been published by Nairy Hampikian in our Fifth Report; see ASAE 85, 2011, p. 487- 491 and 492-504, figs 75-85


von Jerry Fisher | 15.09.2017 | 14:53 Uhr
Thank you so much for all your work.

Ever since I was a child over 40 years ago I have fallen in love with ancient cultures from around the Mediterranean. Egypt has always been endlessly fascinating.

I started with old books from the late 19th and early 20th centuries (all that my local library had at that time) and was drawn in with the romantic and dramatic descriptions. The Colossi of Memnon was a landmark throughout many of those books.

Thanks to your work, the mortuary temples of Amenhotep III have changed from vague descriptions to concrete reality. I can't wait to read future updates from your work. I also applaud your preservation efforts. Your example is the template for future preservation at other sites across Egypt. May all that is divine and good be with everyone there.

Sincerely, Jerry Fisher


von Thomas Flynn | 27.11.2017 | 14:39 Uhr
A fascinating and impressive look at this site, many thanks Christina!

I would love to explore the proposed 3D reconstruction of the temple in full 3D on Sketchfab (where I work).

You can already find some related 3D scans like this model of a statue of a seated Amenhotep III by the British Museum:

Or this scan of the colossal bust of Ramesses II I made myself:

I would value your feedback on such an idea, best regards,


von Dylan Bickerstaffe | 28.11.2017 | 10:50 Uhr
It is very good to see how much survived below ground, and how much has been achieved over the years (I remember it when there were just the colossi and the stela). Hopefully matches will also be made pieces currently residing in museums, and replicas added on site.

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