Why are the noses missing from Egyptian statues?

The mystery of the missing noses

One of the most common questions that I have been asked over the years by community members is: ‘Why are the noses missing from Egyptian statues?’. I learned early on that there is a subtext to this question and that what the person is really asking is: ‘Were the noses deliberately removed in order to disguise the appearance of the people of Ancient Kemet?’.

Statue of Rameses II with a missing nose and damaged face
Statue of Rameses II with a missing nose and damaged face

Possible reasons for damage

Before answering the question of the missing noses, it is necessary to look at all of the possible causes of damage, and there are a number of these:

  • Statues were re-used in antiquity. Temples became obsolete during the later Roman period and onwards, because people changed their religion. When people wanted building materials they would simply take them from the nearest free source. A sort of recycling. There is evidence of this right through until the 20th century.
  • Statues covered by sand in Egypt
    Statues covered by sand at the Temple of Rameses II in Nubia

    Natural erosion. Many statues were made from sandstone or limestone, both of which are soft stones that are liable to erode very easily when exposed to sand or weather conditions. You can see from the above photograph how quickly statues can be covered by sand, and sand erodes (damages) the surface. Hard stones such as granite and basalt survive much better.

Coptic inscription on a temple relief
Coptic (Christian) inscription on an earlier temple relief. The face of the king has been damaged deliberately.
Later inscription on a statue of Rameses II detail o
Detail of the later inscription and cross
  • Deliberate damage to change the appearance of the statue. Yes this did happen both soon after statues were made, often when a new ruler or dynasty came to power, and also for religious reasons. The images above show a depiction of Rameses II, who ruled Egypt from around 1279-1213 BCE (before common era and so over 3000 years ago). Between the King’s legs is a much later inscription that can be identified culturally as Coptic (Christian) by the cross. The face and eyes of the king have been chiselled away.
  • Washington obelisk
    The Washington obelisk

    The appropriation (unauthorized theft) of Ancient Egyptian culture by non-African cultures. The Washington Monument is in the form of an ancient Egyptian obelisk and was built to commemorate George Washington. More will be written about obelisks in a future post; it is used here to illustrate how easily an Egyptian symbol can be used out of its original context and by a culture that had no direct link to the original. Many cultures that had no connection to Ancient Egypt have used Kemetic symbols for their own purposes, in order to try to connect to a powerful ancient civilisation.

How do we know who damaged the noses of statues?

why are the noses missing from Egyptian statues. The sphinx at Giza
Detail of the Sphinx at Giza

For many, we will never know. We can assume in the case of the Christian writing next to the damaged representation of Rameses II (above) that the two acts may be related.

Still on the subject of appropriation, many people have suggested that non-African cultures have been keen to disguise the African origins of Ancient Egyptian or Kemetic culture in order to claim them as their own. Stories of Napolean’s army firing at the Sphinx in Giza in order to destroy the nose have circulated for a  number of years. However, I have been unable to find any documented evidence for this prior to the 20th century; and I have looked in detail.

What we do have evidence for, in the form of Arabic manuscripts, is the damage of the face of the sphinx by an 14th century extremist named Mohammed Salim al-Dahr. For further references to the original texts see: Haarmann, U., 1980. Regional sentiment in Medieval Islamic Egypt, in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. vol. 43: 55-66.

why are the noses missing from egyptian statues. The mosque of Abu Haggag, Luxor
The Mosque of Abu Haggag in the grounds of Luxor Temple

Egyptian statues represented gods, kings, other members of the royal family or officials. When people in Egypt converted to Christianity in the form of the Coptic religion, or later Islam they no longer wished to have what they deemed to be ‘pagan’ images surrounding their new places of worship. Many of the old temple sites became churches, monasteries and later the sites of mosques, as seen in the image above at Luxor temple. As mentioned above, the new builders often re-used building materials, that to the modern observer contained beautiful images of a past culture, simply as ballast. In short they did not wish to preserve these images, and the available materials saved them time and money.

A conspiracy in Egyptology?

Yes there was, but it was not as simple as damaging the facial features on statues and reliefs to disguise their identity. There was a deliberate attempt by early Egyptologists to deny that Ancient Egypt was an African culture. It was embedded within the discipline from the start and will form the subject of my next post.


42 thoughts on “Why are the noses missing from Egyptian statues?”

  1. The Egyptian Arab historian al-Maqrīzī wrote in the 15th century that the nose was actually destroyed by a Sufi Muslim named Muhammad Sa’im al-Dahr. In 1378 CE, Egyptian peasants made offerings to the Great Sphinx in the hope of controlling the flood cycle, which would result in a successful harvest. Outraged by this blatant show of devotion, Sa’im al-Dahr destroyed the nose and was later executed for vandalism.

    1. Another example of white washed history bu European and modern Arab.

      When you go to Pyramid most of the paintaing of the Pharon and other menber are nubian(black).

      Nowdays they alter the paintaing of the pharon to make look like modern Arab.

      But people ouside Europ and America know the truth and more and more black people in America are awaking to their real identity (Hamite family or Hebrew isrealite )and understand all the lies.

    2. And some argued vehemently that Al-Maqrīzi interpretation was to demean the fact that it was NOT possible for the Nubian races to be responsible for such sophisticated civilisation culture and scientific prowess as found in Egypt. To him it was better for the Egyptian civilisation to be a terrestrial construct. His assertion that Black Muslims like Emperor Mansa Musah, who had devotion, intellect and stature, were a danger to the faith and followers of islam. He hints that if it were true that the builders of such a civilisation were Nubian in origin, it could encourage the rise of an African reassertive renaissance. “And so these Nubians must be subjugated because they could rise against the growing Empires in lands across the Mediterranean and Middle East” where there was enlightenment and a new world beckons.

      Muhammad Sa’im al-Dahr demise was a hiccup as DEFACING everything of African form and identity was eventually found to hasten the birth of a new era of subjugation of one group of people; the ‘Negro’ for the sake of the re-emergent religions and Empires. This probably accounts for the defacing and ‘whitening’ of anything of black cultural significance. It was effective and soon after that the concept of slavery for international trade commenced and developed and has shaped our world till today.

  2. “Erosion” is such an insult to the collectives intelligence its pathetic. Erosion? Really?

    1. My daughter attends Georgia Cyber Academy and they literally just told the entire class that the nose of the Sphinx was taken off from years of erosion. I pulled up countless pictures of statues that were found in doors, different materials, in pristine condition – all with their noses torn, shot or defaced off the statues. I didn’t even have to say a WORD and as a child – she was able to see that ALL the statues, even with the attempt to hide it looked like her and people see knows. When she challenge the teacher respectfully simply by saying that the statues noses didn’t come off with erosion, the chat was locked and he reiterated the lie and moved on. The system in the US is determined to erase our identity – and its not going to happen. We are going to make SURE that these babies know the TRUTH. If European-descended parents really wanted to see their children be the best they could be – they should teach them to tell the truth at all times. If they told the truth about history ALL of these babies would simply look at history and each other as equal – seeing all of the worlds accomplishments…and mistakes…what better way to have mankind see that there is no race in the first place – we ALL came from the hot sands of Africa if you go back far enough!

  3. The end of the post says your next will go into greater detail about the de-Africanization by early Egyptology. I looked and can’t find your follow up! Did you write it or will you write it? I’m very interested! Thank you for your work.

  4. One thing we know for sure not one grain of sand was moved by a white/Caucasian man they had absolutely no part in it and they can’t accept that, so they say monsters and super heroes built it .

    1. I saw a pic where ankhesenamen‘s nose was totally removed yet her husbands was not? His was obviously African… Strange.. they would remove hers what were they hiding or was it just a slight to her character??

    2. Yes, they destroy the noises because they don’t what the public to know, ancient Egyptian Kings were Nubian

      1. Right on bro these white folks will do anything to distort history they know that black men are the original man and the founders of civilization so to cover this up they chop the nose off the Sphinx to destroy African history. You know these white folks is jealous hearted not all but most and they will go to any length to make they self out to be superior to any other race.

    3. No they just stole the ancient artifacts and brought them to their european museums for profit in the guise of scholarship.

  5. They were Nubian. Beautiful dark skin and broad festures. They would rather attribute African civilization s to aliens than the people. They knocked off the noses because their pronounced features told you very well, who, they were : Black. “Egyptology” only exist for white people to whitesplain a history that is not their own, and want agency over. Dr. Henri Clark. Search him. Good day.

    1. If you read the post, and that following, you will see that I argue for a more engrained conspiracy to whitewash Kemet, based on clear evidence from the early and subsequent academic publications.

    1. In Egypt, people are ethnically diverse as they are across the entire continent of Africa. So some people do “look like Michael Jordan.” Take Kenya for example. East African country. Many people have dark skin and wide noses, etc. East Africans don’t all look one way.

      1. It’s that diversity that many people fail to acknowledge when looking at the population of Kemet. Within mainstream Egyptology you often find that this is ignored and so the ancient people are not seen to be ‘African’ unless they look a certain way, and when they do then they are labelled as ‘Nubian’.

      2. That’s due to race mixing, white people breed with a race and take its culture . Creating a race von mixed origin then stating there claim that black people could not have created this wonderful civilization. The great lies they tell.

        1. The second part of this post: https://kemetexpert.com/egypt-versus-kemet-a-case-of-cognitive-dissonance/ gives an overview of the long history of non-African presence in what we now call Egypt. The largest non-indigenous migration/settlement was not European, but from what we now call the Middle East and later Turkey. This makes the case for European ‘ownership’ even weaker, but it also presents another layer of non-indigenous peoples in this region.

      3. It depends on what time. You’re looking at, 7000 years ago most of the people in that region looked the same, let me just cut to the chase these noses were deliberately broken out the statues to hide the African ethnic appearance of the Pharaohs and many important figures in kemetic history. It’s a fact that racist Europeans and racist Arabs wanted to hide the true identity of the ancient African kemetic people of the Nile Valley. Don’t stick your head in the sand and try to ignore that.

        1. Hi Ron, can you provide credible sources to your assertion that “It’s a fact that racist Europeans and racist Arabs wanted to hide the true identity of the ancient African kemetic people of the Nile Valley.” ?

        2. You are so right! Anything that can be hidden or lied about involving African American People has been done forever! If you think this is BS watch Hidden Figures. Now where is that story in the so called History books??

        3. I am not attempting to reply to anyone, as I do agree with the obvious fact that statues were definitely defaced for racist reasons, I have believed for many years that the people of Egypt did construct all of Egypt…The questions have become How and with what technologies…That still today have not been mastered, meaning angles, huge stones weighing many tons, even knowing the entire reason why they were pyramid structures built all over the Earth…Moreover, How was gold used in pyramids? How was the Nile River used, what chemicals are found under the great pyramids? What are substsance used to line areas of the pyramids….Its to to turn the discussions from whay race did what to who ever had the knowledge to construct these structures,where ever, they came from…The fact that beings of color resonate to the Earth and beyond is becoming difficult to conceal…as the knowledge base increases exponentially,Race is but a distraction from truth….It is time for a mentality inclusion for their is truth to be discovered by unvarnished scientific revelations!!!

      4. The continent of Africa is very large with many different ethnic groups and they come in all sizes, complexion and shapes. The problem is too many in the Western world do not want to except that .Do you really believe that all the peoples in Africa have a wide noses?

  6. If you look at Djoser, Hough and some of the middle kingdom pharaohs they look like Black Africans why the fuss with colour after all Egypt is in Africa

    1. It doesn’t help when highly respected scholars like Henry Louis Gates come along and deny AE they’re Africaness based on the fact he feels some of the artwork doesn’t fit his idea of what Africans should look like – I believe he made a comparison to them not looking like Michael Jordan.

      1. I haven’t yet seen this series, but have heard a lot of (not so positive) feedback. That’s a great pity if he isn’t recognising diversity amongst African peoples.

        1. People have to be insane not to see these statues all have a nose that is wide not narrow and facial features of Africans. People please wdfu!!!!!!

  7. I truly appreciate your writing and research for my own knowledege and to share with others. I believe there is a inner sense of attachment Blacks feel toward Egypt. As a child in public school I read a book about Egyptian I was so taken I draw pictures (Egyptian symbols). My teacher ask me how did I learn to draw so well, he posted is in the classroom. Thank you so much for sharing your finding

    1. Thank you Alexander. It’s such a pity when Kemet plays such a strong existing role in many educational systems that it isn’t fully acknowledged as African.

  8. I also thought that Napoleon had his soldiers shoot off the noses of the statues

    1. No, it was damaged long before then. And since there is a general and firm denial that these representations are of people of African heritage, and they were viewed by collectors and museums as European it wasn’t really in their interests to damage the pieces.

  9. For the True Kemetic Knowledge of this Story, One Needs To Studies
    Dr. Henry Clark. This Man Is So Deep With Knowledge ESPECIALLY
    About The SPINIX And Kemetic
    CULTURE, I believe in him First And He is Blind , all his Life and knows Then The Best. PEACE!!!!

  10. Having read many books on the Black Ancient Egyptians one of the first author’s work I read was Anthony T. Browder. After reading the above article it prompted me to search though my collection of his books and I’ve just found the quote I was looking for in his book co-written with his daughter Atlantis Tye Browder “My First Trip to Africa” page 16

    “My daddy says that when the statue of Hor-em-aket was first built, it had a beautiful face, but in 1798 a Frenchman named Napoleon Bonaparte told his soldiers to shoot the nose and lips off the statue. This is why the face looks so messed up today”

    This is where I found my first knowledge on who damaged the noses of statues. However it is interesting to learn from the blog “Why are the noses missing from Egyptian Statues?” that there are quite a few other relevant reasons too!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your information Patricia, it’s great to have a reference to the story of Napoleon’s army damaging the features of the Sphinx at Giza. I would be really interested if other people have books that refer to this. We know from drawings that people made at the time that the face was already damaged. However, what these stories and explanations show is how people of African descent seem to have inherently known that others were trying to remove ancient Egyptian culture from being a part of African history. What I will be writing about in my next post shows that this was the case, but that it is far more deeply engrained in the history of Egyptology as an academic discipline.

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