Excavation and restoration on the Avenue of Sphinxes

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Egypt’s Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, and Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), along with the governor of Luxor, Samir Farag, will embark today on an inspection tour along the Avenue of Sphinxes that connects the Luxor and Karnak temples.

Built by the 30th Dynasty king Nectanebo I (380-362 BC), the avenue is 2,700 meters long and 76 meters wide, and lined with a number of statues in the shape of sphinxes. Queen Hatshepsut recorded on her red chapel in Karnak temple that she built six chapels dedicated to the god Amun-Re on the route of this avenue during her reign, emphasising that it was long a place of religious significance.

The Avenue of Sphinxes is one of the most important archaeological and religious paths in Luxor, as it was the location of important religious ceremonies in ancient times, most notably the Beautiful Feast of Opet.

The Opet Festival was celebrated annually in Thebes, during the New Kingdom period and later. The statues of the gods of the Theban Triad - Amun, Khonsu and Mut - were escorted, hidden from sight in a sacred barque, in a joyous procession down the Avenue of Sphinxes from the temple of Amun in Karnak, to the temple of Luxor in order to relive their marriage.

Dr. Hawass said that developing the Avenue of Sphinxes is part of the SCA’s collaboration with the Luxor government - one of the issues is to tackle air pollution damaging the monuments - to develop the whole city into an open-air museum.

Along the avenue there were originally 1350 sphinxes. Many of the stone guardians were removed and reused during the Roman period and the Middle Ages.

The excavation also revealed reliefs and the cartouches of several kings and queens. One of the reliefs bears the name of Queen Cleopatra VII. Dr. Hawass believes that this queen likely visited this avenue during her Nile trip with Mark Anthony and implemented restoration work that was marked with her cartouche.

Remains of Queen Hatshepsut’s chapels, which were reused by King Nectanebo I in the construction of sphinxes, have been found, along with a collection of Roman buildings - remains of wine factories and a huge cistern for water.

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