Eight statues of Sekhmet, an Egyptian warrior goddess with a lion's head, were discovered in the Temple of Amenhotep III near the city of Luxor, about 313 miles (504 kilometers) from Cairo.
Three of the black granite statues are nearly complete, with the biggest — representing the goddess sitting on a throne — measured at 6.2 feet (1.9 meters) in length, 1.6 feet (0.5 m) in width and 3.3 feet (1 m) in depth.
Three other partial statues also show the goddess in a seated posture on a throne, while two other statues missing the heads and lower parts portray a standing Sekhmet figure. [Image Gallery: Egypt's Valley of the Kings]
The partially preserved standing figures of Sekhmet hold ankhs — the Egyptian symbol representing life — in their right hands, while their left hands wield papyrus scrolls, according to a statement released on March 15 by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities (EMA).
The team that discovered the statues — members of The Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project — also identified a standing, headless figure of Amenhotep III, the ninth king of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt, wearing a royal cloak. Found close by the goddess sculptures, the black granite pharaoh statue measured 2.5 feet (0.77 m) long and 1.8 feet (0.56 m) wide.
Sekhmet was recognized by the ancient Egyptians as a fierce warrior who battled the enemies of the sun god Ra, one of the most important gods in the Egyptian pantheon. As the pharaoh Amenhotep III was regarded as "the sun king," Sekhmet, known as "the Powerful," was also tasked with protecting his final resting place "for millions of years," the EMA said.
The mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III where the statues were found lies across the Nile River from Luxor, a modern city built atop the ancient metropolis called "Waset" by the Egyptians and known as "Thebes" by the Greeks. Between 1500 and 1000 B.C.E, many of Egypt's leaders, priests and royal scribes were buried in the area, according to the World Monuments Fund (WMF).
Over the years, conservators and archaeologists have discovered and preserved many relics from the vast Amenhotep Temple complex, which the WMF described as measuring "the length of five American football fields" and containing hundreds of sphinxes and free-standing statues.
The eight Sekhmet statues will be displayed to the public in the temple following their cleaning, preservation and documentation.