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The Akhenaten Colossi of Karnak

The Akhenaten Colossi of Karnak

Lise Manniche
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    The Akhenaten Colossi of Karnak
    Book Description:

    Some of the most fascinating sculptures to have survived from ancient Egypt are the colossal statues of Akhenaten, erected at the beginning of his reign in his new temple to the Aten at Karnak. Fragments of more than thirty statues are now known, showing the paradoxical features combining male and female, young and aged, characteristic of representations of this king. Did he look like this in real life? Or was his iconography skilfully devised to mirror his concept of his role in the universe? The author presents the history of the discovery of the statue fragments from 1925 to the present day; the profusion of opinions on the appearance of the king and his alleged medical conditions; and the various suggestions for an interpretation of the perplexing evidence. A complete catalog of all major fragments is included, as well as many pictures not previously published.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-371-0
    Subjects: History, Archaeology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Chapter 1 Discovery
    (pp. 1-16)

    The first person in modern times to set eyes on the extraordinary sculptures of Akhenaten was Maurice Pillet, French architect and director of works for the Egyptian Antiquities Service at Karnak. On 1 July 1925 he was engaged in rescue work east of the eastern gate of the enclosure wall of the Karnak temple where an existing drain, dug alongside the wall on three sides, was being enlarged to protect the temple from damage caused by rising subsoil water. Pillet did not record the circumstances of his discovery, and his name is connected with it only through brief references by...

  6. Chapter 2 Catalog
    (pp. 17-84)

    Two fragments of heads of colossi have surfaced on the art market and are now in England and Germany. All other pieces are in museums or storehouses in Egypt. The head and upper torso of a third were donated to the Louvre in Paris.

    The information for this catalog is derived from various types of sources:¹ 1) publications as indicated; 2) the archives of the Centre Franco-Égyptien d’Étude des Temples de Karnak (CFEETK); 3) the Journal d’Entrée and Temporary Register at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo; 4) personal observations of the fragments displayed in museums and those stored in the Sheikh...

  7. Chapter 3 Interpretation
    (pp. 85-116)

    It would be fair to say that almost every Egyptologist has his or her own opinion on the sculptures of Akhenaten and the colossi in particular. Many have been carefully researched, taking into consideration the multiple aspects of Akhenaten’s universe that may have influenced their appearance. The following may seem like an exercise devised to complicate the obvious, but it is essential in order to attempt to establish the identity of the colossi. Several suggestions have been put forward as to their identity, and as is so often the case in ancient Egypt they are not necessarily mutually exclusive.


  8. Chapter 4 Aesthetics
    (pp. 117-134)

    To spectators in modern times the first encounter with Akhenaten’s colossal statues from Karnak was a shocking experience. With the exception of the battered images of the king flanking his boundary stelae at Amarna, they were the first large-scale sculptures in the round to come to light with the body in a reasonable state of preservation. Like all art that transcends the accepted norm, their immediate effect was disturbing, not just because they were different from what one had come to expect from Egyptian art, but because their strangeness had sexual undertones. The dynamics of any break with tradition, a...

  9. Chapter 5 Pathology
    (pp. 135-148)

    Marc Gabolde, writing in 1998, described the Karnak colossi as being the most “unrealistic” examples of the art of the Amarna period. “The physical characteristics of the king have been accentuated to the point of caricature, but the person remains perfectly identifiable, and even in the most extreme images the essential details of the particular physiognomy of Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten [which Gabolde has listed previously] have been rendered with scrupulous care.” The difficulty is to determine whether or not they relate to a pathological condition.¹

    This problem would be closer to a solution if we had Akhenaten’s body for comparison. The...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 149-164)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 165-174)
  12. Karakôl Numbers Concordance
    (pp. 175-176)
  13. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 177-178)
  14. Index
    (pp. 179-182)