Archaeologists excavating near the Temple of Karnak in Luxor have unearthed a road lined with 12 sphinxes dating to the reign of the King Nectanebo I, (380-363 B.C.), the last pharaoh of the last pharaonic dynasty.
The 65-foot section is the last part of a 1.7-mile ceremonial route known as the Avenue of the Sphinxes because of the huge numbers of sphinxes lining each side. (So far the remains of 850 or so have been found, but archaeologists think there were about 1350 of them originally.)
The Avenue of the Sphinxes joins the two main temples of the city (then called Thebes), Karnak and Luxor, and was first built by Pharaoh Amenhotep III about 3,400 years ago, for religious processions.
Council Secretary-General Zahi Hawass said the statues were found at the end of the King Nectanebo I road that starts at the Temple of Luxor, crosses the road leading to the Temple of the Goddess Mut, and ends at the Temple of Karnak.
“It is the road of the sacred procession of the God Amun on his annual visit to his wife, Goddess Mut, in the Temple of Luxor,” explained Hawass. “This road was referred to in the ancient manuscripts.”
This is the first time concrete evidence of its existence has ever been found. It’s also the first ancient east-west road, running towards the Nile, ever found. The newly-discovered section suggest that the sacred route was more complex that we knew.
The road was kept well-hidden by development starting from the Roman period. In fact, the Supreme Council of Antiquities had to work for 18 months before they even broke ground. There was a modern apartment complex on the spot. The Council had to rehome everyone who lived there before they could knock down the building and excavate the area.
Given all that, it’s not surprising that the sphinxes are in poor condition, most of them missing their heads. Still, they will be restored as much as possible and displayed in an open-air museum come February of next year. By March, the entire Avenue of Sphinxes will be restored.
This is part of a push by the government to revive ancient Thebes and make it a tourist draw beyond just the temples.