My ARCHAEO-Crush for April is…
TEMPLE OF AMENHOTEP III AT SOLEB
Type: monument (jubilee temple)
Civilisation: ancient Egypt
Date: New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep III, circa 1386-1349 BCE
ARCHAEO-Crush: The temple at Soleb, built in Sudan by the Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep III, is probably my favourite Nubian monument. (During the New Kingdom the Egyptians had colonised Sudanese Nubia.) I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for Amenhotep III, but the reason of my ARCHAEO-Crush is much more visceral than that. The temple at Soleb is in fact the first Egyptian temple I ever visited, even though I had visited Egypt 18 years prior. I have a very vivid souvenir of seeing this temple for the very first time, on the trip from Khartoum to Sedeinga. I was on the lorry that crossed the Bayuda Desert and travelled further north to remote towns and villages. It’s a long trip and a fun story that I hope one day to include in the Day in the Life of an Archaeologist chronicle. As I was saying, I was on the lorry, sharing the front seat with the driver and another gentleman, when I saw magnificent ruins in the distance. I knew immediately it was the temple of Amenhotep III at Soleb—its profile is unmistakable. The other passenger, with whom I had been chatting in horrible Arabic (me, at the time I knew about a dozen words!!!) and slightly better English (him), pointed to the ruins and asked me if that’s where I was going to work. No, not there. There are too many columns at this temple. The temple at Sedeinga has only one column still standing. This is Soleb. The temple of Amenhotep at Soleb…
During the dig season, when the Sedeinga dig director offered me to visit Soleb in the company of Hourig Sourouzian, visiting Egyptologist and expert Amenhotep III, I immediately said yes. I had a fabulous day exploring the site with Hourig and two other archaeologists. We also helped her search for fragments of statues of Amenhotep in the old storerooms of the Schiff-Giorgini mission. It was amazing to have the site entirely to ourselves… something you’ll not experience at Luxor or Karnak where you’ll be surrounded by tons of tourists.
The site of Soleb is amazing and one of the most impressive in Sudan: several columns are still standing and two of them actually still hold up an architrave! I could talk about this temple and many others until your ears fall off (I wrote my thesis on Amun temples in Nubia and this temple was included in my corpus). So, instead, I’m leaving you with a few pictures I took of this incredible temple during my one and only visit to Soleb.
Bucket list status: Been there, done that… and would love to do it again!
Additional info: The site of Soleb and its temple are not on the UNESCO World Heritage list.