Photo from the collection of Michael G. Wilson, courtesy of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Dubbed the Colossi of Memnon, these 60-foot-tall sandstone statues, erected by Pharaoh Amenophis III (1390–1352 B.C.), loom over the Theban desert plain. In 27 B.C., an earthquake badly damaged the northern colossus (shown at right). When the wind blew through cracks in the stones, the statue produced a melodic whistling sound—or so it was reported in antiquity. The Greeks called the colossus the “Vocal Memnon,” after the mythical Ethiopian prince who sings every morning to his mother, the Greek goddess of the dawn, Eos. Thanks to repair work ordered by the Roman emperor Septimius Severus (193–211 A.D.), the Vocal Memnon had long been silenced by the time Frith visited it. Though Frith marveled at the grandeur of these statues, he was horrified by the excavations at Thebes, particularly by the methods of the pasha (a high-ranking Egyptian official).