Al-Ahram Weekly Online   11 - 17 September 2008
Issue No. 914
Front Page
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

More than a blink

After 36 years of globetrotting the lost eye of Amenhotep III is back in its homeland, reports Nevine El-Aref


Amenhotep III -- his name means Amun is Satisfied -- succeeded to the throne on the death of his father Thutmose IV. Much of his reign was spent consolidating the home base, strengthening Egypt's borders and in construction. He was one of the great Pharaonic builders.

Though many of Amenhotep III's building projects no longer exist, his makeover of Karnak Temples has survived, including embellishments to the already monumental Temple of Amun, the new East Temple to the sun god and his own festival building. He had his workers dismantle the peristyle court in front of the Fourth Pylon and the shrines associated with it, using them to fill for a new pylon on the east- west axis. At the south end of Karnak he began construction on the Tenth Pylon and to balance the south temple complex he built a new shrine to Maat, daughter of the sun-god.

At Luxor Temple his innovations include building the colonnaded court, a masterpiece of balance for which credit should be given to Amenhotep's architect.

In 1970, during routine excavations in the area of Amenhotep's mortuary temple on the West Bank at Luxor -- built on the flood plain little beyond the ground plan of the temple has survived -- a large limestone statue of King Amenhotep III was found. In 1972 it was moved to the Luxor Museum, and at some point during the short journey the left eye was chipped off the statue. Its whereabouts remained a mystery until 2006 when it reappeared in an exhibition shown at the Museum of Antiquities and Ludwig Collection (MALC) in Basel, Switzerland.

Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Al-Ahram Weekly that after being removed from the statue the eye was smuggled out of Egypt and fell into the hands of an American antiquities dealer called Norbert Shem. It was subsequently sold to a German antiquities dealer who lent it to MALC.

Negotiations for the return of the eye began in December 2006.

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