Why did Egyptian statues have their noses broken

Brooklyn Museum Egyptian exposition Artsy magazine American Egyptologist

Olga Lukhman

Why do many Egyptian statues have noses damaged? The answer to this question, it seems, was found by the American Egyptologist, an employee of the Brooklyn Museum, Edward Bleiberg. In an interview with Artsy magazine, Bleiberg voiced his version of this damage.

The Egyptologist thinks that tomb robbers caused damage in order to protect themselves from the vengeance of the spirits of dead people, whose treasures were destined for the afterlife, they plundered.

Bleiberg admitted that he used to consider damage as a natural fact for art objects with a thousand-year history. And to look at this phenomenon in a different way was made by his numerous questions from visitors to the Egyptian expositions of the Brooklyn Museum.

“The similarity and repeatability of the damage found in the sculpture speak of its purpose,” said Bleiberg, citing many political, religious, personal and criminal motives for acts of vandalism. The distinction between random damage and deliberate vandalism was reduced to the recognition of such patterns.
The protruding nose on the statue breaks easily, he admitted, but this theory does not work when we see that part of the face is also broken on flat bas-reliefs.
It is important to note that the ancient Egyptians attributed important power to images of the human form. They believed that the essence of a deity could dwell in the form of that deity, and part of the soul of a deceased person could dwell in a statue intended for that particular person. Therefore, acts of vandalism were aimed at “deactivating the power of the image,” as Bleiberg put it.

 The broken nose of the statue symbolized the halt of her life, as the statue stopped “breathing”.
However, the attitude to the statues from the tombs changed over time – as cultural morals changed. In the early Christian period in Egypt, between the 1st and 3rd centuries BC, the local gods “inhabiting the sculptures” were feared as pagan demons. However, after the invasion of Muslims in the 7th century, according to scientists, the Egyptians lost all fear of these ancient ritual objects. During this time, stone statues were regularly cut into rectangles and used as building blocks in various structures


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