Photo from Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Égypte, courtesy of the George Peabody Library of the Johns Hopkins University

After a few weeks’ rest at Philae, Denon made his way back north. Near Thebes he visited the regal colossi of Memnon, twin statues standing guard over the huge mortuary temple of Amenophis III. The statues of the pharaoh were each carved out of a single block of quartzite and stood 64 feet tall. The Greeks dubbed them “Memnon” after the Ethiopian king who died during the Trojan war. The ancients thought they heard the northern statue of Memnon “singing” to his mother Eos, goddess of the dawn; in fact, the heat produced by the morning sun warmed the colossus and produced an eerie musical tone. The emperor Hadrian came to marvel at Memnon’s “voice” in 130 A.D., but the music stopped 70 years later when the statue was repaired.