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Egypt restores massive statue of King Thutmose II

Within the scope of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities’ efforts to restore monuments and paintings at the Karnak Temple complex in Luxor, the Supreme Council of Antiquities completed the restoration work of the statue of King Thutmose II on the southern facade of Karnak.
Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities restorers and archaeologists restore the statue of King Thutmose II.

CAIRO — Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced Aug. 22 the completion of the restoration works of the statue of King Thutmose II sitting inside the Karnak Temple in Luxor, far south of Cairo.

According to the ministry, the restoration of the statue of Thutmose II falls within the framework of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities' plan to restore and develop archaeological sites across the country, especially in the governorates of Upper Egypt.

Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mustafa al-Waziri explained in a press statement Aug. 22 that a number of statues and paintings in the Karnak Temple are currently being restored.

He noted that the statue of King Thutmose II is about 10 and 1/2 meters high, made of quartzite and was commissioned by the king himself to be carved in the Red Mountain quarry. The king’s son, King Thutmose III, moved it to its current location in the southern facade of the eighth edifice of the Karnak Temple. This is inscribed on the statue's dorsal column, Waziri added.

The Ministry of Tourism launched the restoration of the statue of King Thutmose II in July of last year. According to the ministry’s official website, “King Thutmose II is the son of King Thutmose I, Dynasty 18, New Kingdom. His reign was secured through his marriage to his half-sister, Hatshepsut, daughter of Thutmose I. His son, Thutmose III, succeeded him on the throne. His mummy was discovered in Al-Deir El-Bahari Cache (TT 320) west of Luxor in 1881.”

Abdel Hakim al-Badri, director of restoration at Karnak Temple, explained in a press statement that the dust and clay calcifications had to be removed during the restoration process of the King Thutmose II statue. The disassembled parts of the statue were reconnected and secured, and cracks in the structure were filled with adhesive paste. 

Badri said that a chemical cleaning was conducted, which included removing traces of bird droppings from the statue.

According to the Aug. 22 Ministry of Tourism statement, the restoration of the statue of Thutmose II comes about 100 years after the discovery of its missing parts. Temple visitors can now see the statue in its entirety, seated on the throne for the first time, the statement added.

In 1923, French archaeologist Maurice Pillet uncovered several parts of the statue of King Thutmose II during excavations he conducted in the southern facade of the Karnak Temple. At the time, the top of the statue up to the chest area was missing.

In his Aug. 22 press statement, Waziri noted that “the restoration work was carried out by Egyptian labor, thanks to the effort of the restorers and archaeologists of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, over the course of a whole year.”

Hussein Abdel Basir, director of the Antiquities Museum at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, told Al-Monitor, “The restoration of the statue of King Thutmose II is one of the very important projects that the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities recently carried out. King Thutmose II has only a few statues and minor monuments in view of his brief reign and the unknown illness he suffered from.” 

Abdel Rahim Rihan, antiquities expert and member of the History and Antiquities Committee of the Supreme Council of Culture, shares the same opinion. He told Al-Monitor, “Thutmose II was the son of Thutmose I and his second wife, Mutnofret. He was the only surviving son for his father and ascended the throne after his death. He ruled from 1493 to 1481 B.C. and was the fourth pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Egypt. He married his half-sister, Hatshepsut, to secure his rule. However, he fell ill as soon as he ascended the throne, and it is believed that Hatshepsut was the real power behind the throne.”

Rihan stressed the importance of restoring the statue of Thutmose II and the ongoing restoration work at the Karnak Temple, as these efforts represent a cultural, tourist and aesthetic value. “These efforts are part of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities’ plan to preserve antiquities of a universal archaeological value. Luxor was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.”

Rihan argued that the restoration work of the antiquities in Luxor, along with the new archaeological discoveries in the area, will boost tourism in the city of Luxor, whether from abroad or domestic, thus increasing the tourism sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP. 

Tourism revenues in Egypt exceeded about $13 billion in 2021, rebounding to pre-pandemic levels, according to January statements by Egypt’s Deputy Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Ghada Shalaby. 

“The restoration work of the statue of Thutmose II allows preserving a magnificent panoramic view of the temples of Luxor,” Rihan said.

In turn, Abdel Basir highlighted the importance of the restoration work at the Karnak Temple. “Karnak is the most important temple in Egypt. It occupies an area of ​​247 acres and is home to numerous edifices and unique monuments. Restoring and cleaning antiquities and historical monuments preserves their attractive colors, which lure tourists, especially from outside the country."

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