The Vocal Memnon mysterious ancient Egypt sound

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Than Ball

On the opposite side of the Nile from the ruins of Karnak sit two 23 meter (75 foot) tall built by Amenhotep III in the 13th Century BC to guard a mortuary temple.

Historically people believed that one of these statues could produce mysterious sounds or actually speak, leading to the monolith being dubbed ‘The Vocal Memnon’.

Despite being an effigy of a Pharaoh, the talking statue did not receive much attention until after the Roman conquest of Egypt, where it was revered by Greeks and Romans and not Egyptians.

Even stranger is the fact that the Greeks associated the site with the demi-god Memnon, even though both statues were built to resemble Amenhotep III.

The myth… I always love great stories!

According to legend Memnon led an army in Troy’s defense during the Trojan war, but was defeated by Achilles. Pressured by Memnon’s mother, Eos the Goddess of Dawn, Zeus decided to allow Memnon to live again, though only during sunrise.

An earthquake in 27BC significantly damaged both statues, causing one of them to split in half, leaving only the waist down. People claimed that they could hear this half-a-monolith speaking during the first few hours of the dawn, and The Greeks came to believe that this was Memnon, enjoying his brief moments of life each day, as promised by Zeus.

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Dennis Jarvis

The sounds emitted by the statue were believed to be Memnon greeting his mother and were said to sound like some one striking brass or snapping a harp string. The phenomenon ended when the statue was repaired by Emperor Septimus Severus in 199AD.

The phenomenon inspired many poets, writers and others artists, though the source of the mysterious sound is currently unknown and it’s difficult to research since it has not been heard for over 1800 years.

The most likely explanation is that the noise was produced by a change in temperature during dawn which reacted with the many cracks and fissures in the statue’s bottom half, caused by the earthquake in 27BC.

Or was it really the voice of demi-god Memnon?

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