Egypt statues with no nose! Why were the noses removed from Egyptian statues? A careful study of this issue by experts has shown that this is by no means an accidental phenomenon.
For many years, scientists around the world have been struggling with an insoluble riddle, which was thrown to researchers by one of the oldest and most durable civilizations in the world. The fact is that many Egyptian statues have no noses. So is it just a natural process of destruction or someone’s malicious intent?
Natural destruction or intentional vandalism?
In principle, nothing is surprising in the broken noses of ancient statues: after all, their venerable age is measured in millennia. Destruction is a completely natural process. But as it turned out, everything is not so simple. The question remains open, why, then, are there so many specimens that are otherwise just perfectly preserved, with the exception of the nose?
Why, in general, are the statues well preserved, but only the nose is missing?
Of course, the nose is the most prominent detail on the face, it is theoretically the most vulnerable. If something is destined to break, then it will be the first. Let it be so. But noses have also been removed from artwork such as paintings and bas-reliefs. How, then, can one explain such barbaric treatment of this part of the body in relation to them?
This puzzle has given rise to many hypotheses. Among them, even the fact that the European colonialists did it in order to destroy even hints of the African roots of the ancient Egyptians. According to scientists, this theory has no foundation simply because it is not possible to prove the existence of kinship with one nose. So, despite all the horrors of imperialism, broken noses at the statues are too much. So what could have happened to them then?
Deprive divine power
There is such a thing as “iconoclasticism”. This word comes from the Greek language from the words “image” and “smash”. Literally, this word means iconoclasm.
And here, we are not talking about a religious Christian phenomenon that arose during Byzantium and the Protestant Reformation. Then there was an active struggle against the cult of worship of sacred images. In those days, the icons were destroyed, and those who prayed to them were severely persecuted.
In the case of ancient Egyptian sculptures, we are talking about iconoclasm in its broader sense. Those who did this believed they were very important. The motives for such an attitude can be both political and religious, and even aesthetic.
All this takes on a deeper meaning if we consider the specificity of the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians. They believed that statues and images are guides of the divine essence into the world of ordinary mortals. Accordingly, they believed that when the gods descended from heaven to the temples dedicated to them, they moved into their statues. In other words, the object of worship was not the sculpture or painting itself but the embodiment of a hitherto invisible god.
Both the drawings and the bas-reliefs have the same type of damage. This indicates that a targeted campaign was waged against the noses. Edward Bleiberg decided to tackle this issue closely. He is the Senior Curator of the Exposition of Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Near Eastern Art at the Brooklyn Museum (USA). Visitors too often asked him why many of the statues had their noses broken off. The specialist believes that these statues and images can serve as a place for the “settling” of the deity. Because of this, they can act in the material world.
This is exactly what is written about the ancient Egyptian goddess of love and fertility, Hathor. In the city of Dender, there is a magnificent temple, which was built around 2310-2260. BC. On its walls is inscribed: “She descends from heaven to enter her earthly body and be embodied in it.” That is, the goddess enters the statue. There are writings about the god Osiris in the same temple, who is included in his image on the bas-relief.
In Ancient Egypt, it was believed that a statue or image, after the god had entered it, came to life and possessed divine power. It can be used by waking it up with the help of certain rituals. You can also deprive them of their power – by causing them physical harm. For example, to beat off the nose.
For what purpose?
There can be many reasons for this. For example, those who plundered the tombs were very afraid of the revenge of those whose peace they dared to disturb. In addition, there are always those who wish to rewrite history or even completely change the entire meaning of cultural heritage.
Once upon a time, Tut’s father Akhenaten, who ruled between 1353 and 1336 BC, wanted the god Aton to be at the center of Egyptian religion. This deity personified the solar disk and opposed Amon, the god of black heavenly space, air. To achieve this goal, Akhenaten decided to obliterate the images of Amun. When he died, everything changed again, returned to normal. All the temples of Aten were destroyed, and the Egyptians began to worship Amon again.
In this regard, it is important to mention that not only gods can infuse images. Some deceased people could acquire this ability. Those who have passed all the tests on the way to the Hall of Double Truth. There, at the trial of the god Osiris, they were spiritually justified and earned the right to become deities. This can serve as a consolation for descendants and become a curse.
In addition, always and everywhere, at all times, there is such a thing as the struggle for power. It left many scars on the body of human history. For example, Pharaoh Thutmose III. He ruled in the 15th century BC and was very afraid that his son might be deprived of the throne. Pharaoh wanted to be completely sure that it was his heir who would rule Egypt. To this end, Thutmose ordered the destruction of all evidence of his royal predecessor and his stepmother and aunt Hatshepsut. The latter, during the first two decades of the reign of Thutmose III, was his co-ruler. He tried to erase from the face of the earth all evidence of this, all possible references. First of all, images and sculptures. And Thutmose did it. Nearly.
Among the various ancient Egyptian texts, there are often references to the fact that the perpetrator will face severe punishment concerning vandalism. This suggests that this was common in Egypt. Even though the looting of tombs and damage to any property in the temples was a very serious crime and a grave sin, it still did not stop some.
Why a nose?
The purpose of damaging the image was to completely deprive or at least reduce the deity’s power, which is presented in the form of a sculpture or a bas-relief.
This could be done in different ways:
- If it was necessary that a person could no longer make offerings to the gods, the statue was beaten off.
- If it was necessary to deprive the deity of the ability to hear, the ears were removed.
- If it was necessary to make the statue completely useless, it had to remove its head.
- The most effective and fastest way to get what you want was to remove your nose.
“After all, the nose is the organ through which we breathe, the very breath of life. The easiest way to kill the statue’s inner spirit is to take away the ability to breathe by knocking off its nose,” explains Bleiberg. Just a couple of hammer blows on the chisel, and the problem is solved.
The paradox of all this is that this obsessive desire to destroy images only proves how important they were to this great ancient civilization.