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Ahmose Meritamun in Hathor wig

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This colossal limestone bust depicts a female figure wearing what is known as the ‘Hathor wig’, which has wide lappets on either side of the face that curve at the ends and a very broad lappet at the back. This sort of wig has been named after the goddess Hathor because it resembles her hairstyle, and the cow horns associated with her divinity.

British Museum. EA93

The inscriptions on the base are broken, but appear to mention two queens. The name Ahmose-Meritamun, wife and sister of Amenhotep I, is probably certainly on the left, while her sister Sitamun, also wife and sister of Amenhotep I, may be on the right. It would appear that the statue, placed next to one of the monarch himself, symbolised two of his main wives.

A uraeus is present but with a broken head. A broad usekh collar consisting of five rows of beads surrounds her neck. The statue’s features have lost their sharpness as the stone has weathered.

The figure would have once shown a seated Ahmose-Meritamun, but only the upper torso remains.

The piece was dated to the Eighteenth or Nineteenth Dynasty. The stylistic evidence, particularly the wig type, clearly indicates that it was carved during the reigns of Hatshepsut or Thutmose III (c. 1479-1425 B.C).

Roland Tefnin investigated the monument in the 1970s and came to the tentative opinion that it might depict Queen Hatshepsut, but that more confirmation would be required from the lower section of the statue. Belzoni discovered the bust while working at Karnak in 1817, on what is now known as the ninth pylon, on the temple’s southern axis.

Belzoni says he found it ‘split at the waist’ and removed the upper part, intending to return for the bottom. The bottom part of a statue of a seated queen, which closely matches Belzoni’s description, has been demonstrated to join the London bust. It was discovered near the statue of Amenhotep I (c. 1525-1504 B.C.). Tefnin proposes that we resolve the tension between the statue’s Thutmoside style and its attribution to an earlier queen by understanding Belzoni’s words ‘was divided at the waist’ as implying that the statue was built of two halves. Since Thutmose III repaired the neighbouring statue of Amenhotep I, it is possible that the upper section of the damaged statue of the queens was also renovated by that king, employing styles current at the start of his solitary reign in the 1450s B.C.

Back of the statue

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