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Sphinxes reveal new avenue
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 25 - 11 - 2010

TWELVE sphinx statues from the reign of the 30th- Dynasty Pharaoh Nectanebo I were unearthed last week in Luxor, reports Nevine El-Aref. Archaeologists have unearthed a set of 12 limestone sphinx statues near the road known as the Avenue of the Sphinxes. The discovery was made during routine excavations within the framework of the Ministry of Culture's plan to develop and revitalise the ancient religious path that once connected the temples of Luxor and Karnak.
Unlike other sphinxes found in the area, these latest statues were not located on the Avenue of the Sphinxes but at the end of a newly-discovered road built in the reign of Pharaoh Nectanebo I (380-362 BC). This road also stretched from the Karnak temples to Luxor Temple, ending at the temple dedicated to the goddess Mut.
Mansour Boraik, supervisor of Luxor antiquities, says another ancient Egyptian road that ran from east to west towards the Nile has also been located to the east of the newly-discovered sphinxes.
"This is the first time a road like this has been found," Boraik told Al-Ahram Weekly. He added that although only 20 metres of the road had been found so far, it had been revealed to be a very elegant path and was paved with sandstone blocks brought from the Gabal Al-Silsila quarries north of Aswan.
Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said that the road was originally the path along which priests carried the sacred boat bearing the god Amun from Karnak to Luxor Temple during the Festival of Opet. This annual journey took place so that the god could visit his wife Mut in Luxor temple. The discovery of this avenue means that the route of this journey, which was often referred to in ancient texts, has been revealed for the first time.
Besides the sphinx statues, which are inscribed with the name of Nectanebo I, the excavation team uncovered Roman objects including an oil press and some pottery. Excavations will continue to search for the rest of the road, which it has been suggested could be 600 metres long.
The excavations are part of the Ministry of Culture's programme to restore the ancient monuments of Egypt with a view to developing the entire Luxor governorate into an open-air museum, a project that it is hoped will recover the lost elements of the avenue, restore the sphinxes and return it to how it was in the days of ancient Egypt.
The procession to mark the Festival of Opet, which included priests, royalty and the pious, is being rekindled.
Many of the 1,350 human-headed sphinxes with the bodies of lions that once lined the 2,700-metre- long Avenue of the Sphinxes have been restored . The Avenue of the Sphinxes was built during the reign of Pharaoh Nectanebo I to replace an earlier one built in the 18th Dynasty, as recorded by Queen Hatshepsut (1502-1482 BC) on the walls of her red chapel in Karnak Temple. According to this, she built six chapels dedicated to the god Amun-Re on the route of the avenue during her reign, emphasising that it was long a place of religious significance.
Sadly, however, over the span of history the avenue was lost. Much of it was destroyed as were some of the sphinxes, and those sections of the avenue that were far removed from both temples were covered with sand and buried under random housing.


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