Icons of Egyptian goddess found in temple dig

EGYPTOLOGISTS have discovered two 3,400-year-old statues of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet and a rare statue depicting a king with Nubian features, an archaeological conservation director said yesterday.

Sekhmet, a war goddess, embodied the cruel powers of the sun and was also responsible for both curing and causing illness.

The excavation team believe the statues were excavated from elsewhere, then hidden at a temple in Luxor either to sell, or to protect them from robbers.

One of the Sekhmet statues, made of granite and about 5ft high, was holding a symbol representing life and a scroll of papyrus. "It's extremely beautiful. Only the feet are missing and the base," said Dr Hourig Sourouzian, the director of the team that found the relics.

The team, working under the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo, found the statues at the temple of 18th-dynasty pharaoh Amenhotep III in Luxor while working on a project to protect the temple from Nile water.

They found only the black diorite bust of the other Sekhmet statue. The bust, about 3ft high, suggested the statue was of monumental proportions, Dr Sourouzian said.

They also discovered the red granite head of a statue of a king they believe to be a ruler from the Kushite period, which lasted from 747BC to 656BC. Kush was south of ancient Egypt, now mostly part of Sudan.

"As soon as we cleaned it, we realised it's a Kushite king with southern features, with full cheeks and very bulging lips. Statues of Kushite kings are extremely rare," Dr Sourouzian said.

None of the statues belonged in the area where they were buried, she said, leading her to believe they were deliberately moved and hidden for later retrieval. "These were possibly deposited in the first half of the 20th or maybe the 19th century."

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