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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Reuse and Restoration


Like members of all pre-modern societies, ancient Egyptians practiced various forms of recycling. The reuse of building materials by rulers is attested throughout Egyptian history and was motivated by ideological and economic concerns. Reuse of masonry from the dilapidated monuments of royal predecessors may have given legitimacy to newer constructions, but in some cases, economic considerations or even antipathy towards an earlier ruler were the decisive factors. Private individuals also made use of the tombs and burial equipment of others—often illicitly—and tomb robbing was a common phenomenon. Ultimately, many monuments were reused in the post-Pharaonic era, including tombs. Restoration of decayed or damaged monuments was a pious aspiration of some rulers. In the wake of Akhenaten’s iconoclastic vendetta against the god Amun and the Theban triad, his successors carried out a large-scale program of restoring vandalized reliefs and inscriptions. Restorations of Tutankhamun and Aye were often usurped by Horemheb and Sety I as part of the damnatio memoriae of the Amarna-era pharaohs. Post-Amarna restorations were sometimes marked by a formulaic inscribed “label.” Restoration inscriptions and physical repairs to damaged reliefs and buildings were also made by the Ptolemaic kings and Roman emperors.

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