Eight statues depicting the ancient Egyptian goddess Sekhmet have been discovered in the Temple of Amenhotep III. Archaeologists found the black granite statues during an excavation project at the temple, which was built over 3,300 years ago.
Six of the statues are sitting on a throne and holding a symbol of life in the right hand. Three of the statues are almost complete, while the others have been damaged with only portions remaining.
The two other statues represent Sekhmet standing up. Both of the heads and lower parts are mission, but the middle section shows her holding a papyrus sceptre in the left hand, and a symbol of life in the right.
Sekhmet is the goddess of the Sun and was said to protect the Sun God Re by warding off his enemies. She is depicted with a lion's head and a woman's body and was seen as a protector of the Pharaohs.
All of the statues showed Sekhmet with a tripartite wig and a long, tight-fitting dress. The maximum height of the eight newly-discovered statues was 1.9m. They were 0.5m wide and around 1m in depth, Egypt's Antiquities Ministry said. All eight of the statues will now be cleaned, desalinated and documented.
Along with the statues of Sekhmet, the team from the Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project also found the middle part of a royal statue, carved from black granite. This represented Amenhotep III standing and wearing a jubilee cloak.
Many similar statues depicting Sekhmet have been found in the Temple of Amenhotep III. Two statues found a century ago are currently housed at the Egyptian Museum. All of the newly-discovered statues are to be put on display in the temple, when it is eventually opened to visitors.
The Temple of Amenhotep III was the largest of the mortuary temples in the Theban area at the time of construction. While little remains of it today, at the time it covered an area of around 350,000 square metres. Amenhotep III was the ninth Pharaoh of the 18<sup>th dynasty ruling in the 13<sup>th century BC. His reign was a period of prosperity, when ancient Egypt reached its peak of international power.