Located in Upper Egypt (which really means south of Cairo), Luxor is a city rich in history. It used to be called Thebes, in ancient times (and the capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom). Now, Luxor is visited by many archaeologists and thousands of visitors each year. Luxor has been called the world’s greatest open air museum, because it holds the temple ruins of Karnak and Luxor. Opposite Luxor on the Nile lies the Necropolis, including the famous Valley of the Kings (Tut!) and Valley of the Queens. The local economy is largely dependent upon tourism.
In the early 2000s, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) embarked on a project to uncover the famed Avenue of Sphinxes in Luxor, led by Dr. Zahi Hawas. The Avenue of Sphinxes is long – 2,700 meters (and 76 meters wide), and (as you may have guessed) lined with enormous statues of sphinxes. It is the most important archaeological and religious road in Luxor, as it was historically used annually to ferry statues of gods (Amun, Khonsu, and Mut) from the Temple of Amun in Karnak to the temple of Luxor. There were originally 1350 sphinxes. During the excavations, archaeologists have found reliefs and cartouches from Cleopatra and other kings and queens. They also found remains of chapels along the path build by Queen Hatshepsut, as well as Roman buildings.
- Read this account of the excavations by Dr. Hawas. The SCA had to raze a residential neighborhood to complete excavations. Then watch this video of the razing. Discuss the ramifications of tearing down people’s homes for a larger architectural plan (as they did in Paris in the late 1800s).
- Check out this map of Egypt, and click on various ancient sites to learn more. Then take this quiz on Ancient Egypt – how did you score?
- Read this article on Luxor and the important ruins at each end of the Avenue of Sphinxes. Would you like to visit Luxor? What would you like to see first?
This lesson was contributed by Jessie Voigts, get to know her! Want more lesson ideas? See last week’s Teach Through Educational Travel: Japan’s Hasedera Kamakura Statues – perfect for your next classroom activity.