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The Golden Age of Egypt.

Amenhotep III, the self-proclaimed "Dazzling Sun Disk of All Lands," led his country into an era of unsurpassed power and prosperity. Artifacts from the period now are on display in Forth Worth. Tex.

NEBMAATRA AMENHOTEP III reigned from around 1391 B.C. to 1353. Christening himself the "Dazzling Sun Disk of All Lands," he set the standard for other Egyptian pharaohs to follow. Father of Akhenaten, grandfather of Tutankhamen, and ruler more than 100 years before Ramesses II reigned, Amenhotep established a life of royalty and splendor that his ancestors sought to emulate.

For the first time in modern history, 140 masterpieces from Egypt's Golden Age have been assembled from more than 30 institutions and private collections in Egypt, Europe, and the U.S. ranging in size from the colossal to the most delicate miniature. Highlights include an enormous head of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, weighing more than three tons and standing over seven feet high, as well as monumental granite scupltures of a lion and a ram, which kept watch over the entrance to the temple of Soleb.

Amenhotep ascended the throne when he was a youth, perhaps not yet a teenager. His predecessors in the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt had supported a military economy, fighting numerous wars. Amehotep waged only one campaign as a young pharaoh in order to crush rebellious tribes in the Sudan--after that, he became a pharaoh of peace. During his 38-year reign, Egypt experienced great prosperity from bumper harvests and a steady flow of gold from the eastern desert and the Sudan. Amenhotep presided over this term of peace and prosperity, channeling Egypt's wealth into splendid works of art and architecture. He was a master diplomat, profiting from the peace secured by mutual alliances and promoting Egyptian culture abroad by exporting and trading fine objects.

Amenhotep transformed the Nile Valley all the way from the Sudan in the south to the Mediterranean in the north, embarking on massive building campaigns. The innovative and visionary ruler set his architects to work at Saqqara, Memphis, the Nile Delta, the Sudan, and the city of Waset, which the Greek poet Homer later referred to as "Hundred-gated Thebes." It was in Thebes (modern day Luxor) that Amenhotep realized his greatest architectural accomplishment--his mortuary temple, guarded by the Colossi of Memnon. These imposing four-story statues carved from quartzite remain among the wonders of the ancient world.

In addition to constructing massive structures, Amenhotep nourished the craftsmanship of fine objects, supporting workshops specializing in glassmaking and faience vessels that remain among the finest glazed ceramics produced anywhere in the world until nearly 2,500 years later in Yuan Dynasty China. Well-preserved examples of household items, jewelry, and tomb artifacts have led to a greater understanding of ancient Egyptian culture.

Amenhotep's wife and family played a large role in his life, as evidenced by the many representations of Queen Tiy and their four daughters in the artifacts that remain. Although Tiy was a commoner, she became the first Egyptian pharaoh's wife to figure so prominently in her husband's lifetime. Tiy often appears beside Amenhotep in statuary and tomb and temple reliefs, and her name is paired with his on numerous vessels, jewelry, and small objects.

Still other examples of fine craftsmanship include a rich sarcophagus of gilded and inlaid wood, precious jewelry, combs, intricately carved wooden spoons, and a glass perfume bottle in the shape of a fish, handcrafted long before glassblowing was invented. From the giant head of the king to a tiny sphinx only five centimeters wide, carved in carnelian gemstone, the exhibit "Egypt's Dazzling Sun: Amenhotep Ill and His World," took eight years of assembling to recreate this chapter of ancient history. It is on view at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Tex., through Jan. 31.
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Title Annotation:artifact exhibition, Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
Author:Gottlieb, Wendy
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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