Archaeologists and enthusiasts have been puzzling over Egyptian statues have broken noses for decades.
Statues had a significant role in the culture of Ancient Egypt. Statues of nobles and pharaohs from all the ruling dynasties could be seen among the magnificent architecture, which included luxurious palaces and wonders like the pyramids.
But these statues adhere to a pattern that has archaeologists and history buffs baffled for decades: a case of shattered noses.
There would be as many statues in perfect condition as there would be ones with deterioration, particularly in the nose. Some would shockingly be in perfect shape if it weren’t for a broken nose. This is the mystery of Egyptian monuments and their broken noses, with speculations about colonization and internal political strife among Egyptians cited as possible explanations.
Getting the conspiracy out the way.
Many people who have read into the case of missing or defaced noses in Egyptian statues believe it to be the work of European colonialism. It is said that in an attempt to cleanse the statues of their African roots, the noses were broken as Africans have distinct noses, which are their defining features. This theory, however, is entirely baseless and has no truth value behind it.
Historians have critiqued this by pointing logical fallacies that claim that even if the noses were broken off, other features of the statue would still allow for association with their African roots — features on the statue that weren’t broken off. Despite the horrors that colonialism brought upon the world, breaking Egyptian statues’ noses is undoubtedly not one of them.
A work of Nature?
Knowing that the Europeans weren’t behind this mystery, it is often speculated that this is nothing but merely a work of corrosion. This theory is plausible as the noses of the statues are especially vulnerable because they stick out, and air would affect them the most. Furthermore, there have been many identified cases where natural causes like corrosion are the reason why a part of the face/body of the statue is missing.
However, all of these cases had signs of decay in multiple areas of the statue. The nose wasn’t the only thing targeted, and the accompanying regions like the cheeks or torso of the statues were also damaged. Thus attributing the statues that specifically had only their nose broken off to natural causes is not very likely.
Considering that most of these statues were indoors where they would not be exposed to air makes this theory even weaker.
The Ancient Egyptians viewed Statues as Living Beings.
The theory that does receive the most respect within academia that discusses Egyptian history is that of Iconoclasm and Ancient Egyptian’s belief in the supernatural. Ancient Egypt was known for having a strict religious paradigm, one which believed that individuals’ lives after death were preserved in statues.
While they were aware that these statues couldn’t move, they believed that people’s life force, when they died, were transferred into their respective statues, almost as if they were living beings. To effectively eliminate this life force, the Egyptians believed that they had to destroy the statues.
Hence, it is speculated that people who went to rob the tombs of the nobles and pharaohs would break the nose of the statue first to effectively eliminate this life force as the statue won’t be able to breathe. It sounds ridiculous to think that a statue can breathe, but the Egyptians firmly believed that the nose itself was the source of life for the deceased, and breaking it was the only way they would kill them once and for all.
This theory would explain why so many statues found at burial sites specifically had their noses chopped off with no other sign of natural corrosion.
Where Religious Motives end, Political Motives Start.
Although religious beliefs are strongly theorized to be the reason behind the smashed noses, there were also political reasons for defacing these statues. In the Ancient Egyptian world, the dynasties that came before the current ruling one were often despised and were seen as inferior.
Hence, to solidify their dynasty as the superior one, most rulers would have the statues of previous pharaohs and rulers defaced.
Often they would have the entire statues broken, with severed arms and legs or no remaining torso. In Ancient Egypt, this signified the hatred expressed for those that came before the ruling party. This practice is often deemed synonymous with current politics, where propaganda might be used to tarnish the reputation of the previous governments or ruling parties in order to legitimize the current leader. For the Egyptians, defacing statues was their form of propaganda.
Some causes of broken noses can be attributed to nature and some to simple human error where the statues were knocked over or mishandled. However, there is one growing consensus within the Ancient Egyptian historical academia. The Egyptians were deeply religious people and intentionally broke the statues’ noses to avoid the pharaohs’ wrath while also showing their distaste for previous rulers by ordering these statues to be shattered.
While the mystery of the statues could be solved with ideas of Iconoclasm and religious beliefs, it is clear that these broken noses are definitely not an attempt to whitewash the African race by Western Colonialism.