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Granite statue of Sekhmet
From Thebes, Egypt
18th Dynasty, around 1350 BC
'She who is powerful'
The Egyptian goddess Sekhmet was associated with destruction. According to myth, she was the fiery eye of Re, which he sent against his enemies. In this form she also appeared as the cobra on the brow of the king, rearing to protect him. Her name means 'she who is powerful'. She is represented as a lioness-headed woman, perhaps because the Egyptians observed that it is the female lion who is the hunter.
Amenhotep III (1390-1352 BC) obviously especially revered Sekhmet, as he had an enormous quantity of statues of her erected in his mortuary temple in Western Thebes. It is likely that this statue originated there. There may have originally been 730 statues of Sekhmet (one seated and one standing for each day of the year). According to inscriptions, the theological designers of the temple intended them to be part of a ritual to pacify the goddess' fury on a regular basis. Nearly 600 have now been accounted for; The British Museum has fragments of over 20, the largest collection outside Egypt (where a considerable number of the original group can still be seen in situ).
Sekhmet was increasingly represented as an aggressive manifestation of the goddess Mut. Many of the statues were later moved to the precinct of the Temple of Mut at Karnak by the priest-king Pinudjem I (about 1050 BC). It appears that Amenhotep III's temple, which seems to have fallen into decay quicker than other royal mortuary temples, was a convenient source of ready-made statuary for later kings.
Bryan, 'The statue programme for the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III' in The temple in Ancient Egypt: n (London, The British Museum Press, 1997), pp. 57-81
D. O'Connor, 'The city and the world: worldview and built forms in the reign of Amenhotep III' in Amenhotep III: perspectives on (Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1998)
S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)