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Why Do Many Ancient Egyptian Statues Have Broken Noses?

Written by Gargi Sahasrabuddhe a grade 7th student

Most ancient Egyptian statues have noses that are broken, or faces that have been destroyed. It was thought that the statues had been damaged by falling or natural wear and tear over the millennium.

By I Kid You Not , in Explained Facts to Know History , at July 16, 2020 Tags: , , , ,

Written by Gargi Sahasrabuddhe a grade 7th student

Most ancient Egyptian statues have noses that are broken, or faces that have been destroyed. It was thought that the statues had been damaged by falling or natural wear and tear over the millennium.

On closer investigation, however, archeologists noticed that even the 2D reliefs’( carvings on the wall ) noses were broken.

There were many reasons for which the statues were destroyed –

Firstly, petty criminals used to break in temples and tombs, and, even though they were only interested in taking the precious objects, they believed that the statues standing there would pay them back. So, they used to cut off parts of the statue’s body so that the statue would not be able to take revenge on them.

Secondly, kings and influential people of society used to worship several deities and make offerings to their statues. They believed that if they made offerings to them, the statues would , in turn, protect Egypt. Invaders or enemies sometimes used to break a statue’s body parts so that it would not be able to fulfill its function. 

Some Christians (during the Christian period in Egypt)  and Egyptian pharaohs had artwork vandalized, due to iconoclasm.  Iconoclasm is the social belief in the importance of the destruction of icons and other images or monuments, most frequently for religious or political reasons

Thirdly, it seems that the Egyptians believed that the statues were supernatural beings, which had been transformed into divine spirits. They felt that by destroying the nose of the statue, the connection between the supernatural and the people of earth would break.

Skilled sculptors and literate men used to destroy the faces of the statues because the literate men could read and figure out which statue they had to destroy.

Lastly, since the nose was also the organ through which people breathed, the Egyptians cut off the nose believing the spirits of the statue would also die.

Another reason for broken noses was gender discrimination. The statues of the two most powerful woman pharaohs Hatshepsut and Nefertiti also have broken noses. The Egyptians under their rule tried to remove them from Egyptian history altogether. However, some of their statues still exist, though, without their faces.

The pharaoh Akhenaten had Aten (the sun god ) worshipped in the tombs and temples, but after his rule ended, the Egyptians under his rule destroyed all his statues and began worshipping Amun ( also a sun god ) again.

The sculptures were made of granite and basalt and were very hard. Therefore it seems almost impossible that the statues were destroyed by a natural occurrence which makes it even more obvious that this defacement was intentional.

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