For nearly forty years in Dynasty XVIII, Amenhetep III ruled over a peaceful country and became known as one of Egypt's greatest builders. But while there was little military activity during his reign, Egypt experienced a burst of creativity that produced some of the largest and most aesthetically impressive monuments of the New Kingdom. There was also extensive foreign trade, gold mines in Egypt and Nubia were intensively exploited, agriculture was booming, and much of the resulting wealth was directed to building activities and the arts.
The memorial temple of Amenhetep III at Kawm al Hitan on the Theban West Bank was the largest building ever constructed in Egypt and covered over 350,000 square meters (eighty-six acres). Standing before it were two huge statues of the king, known as the Colossi of Memnon, each twenty meters (sixty-six feet) tall. South of his temple lay Malqata, the royal palace built for Amenhetep III at the time of his Heb-Sed festivals. Covering several hundred acres, this elaborate collection of buildings lay adjacent to a huge harbor, known today as Birkat Habu, which was dug for the celebration of the king’s Heb-Sed’s. The harbor measured 1 x 2.5 kilometers (0.5 x 1.5 miles) and required digging out 14.5 million cubic meters (512 million cubic feet) of silt from the Nile floodplain. This was a tremendous undertaking-doubly so, since a second such harbor was dug across the Nile on the East Bank.
On the East Bank, Amenhetep III also built the temple at Luxor and the long processional colonnade joining it to Karnak. At these and at many other sites, vast numbers of statues were erected. They include some of the most perfectly preserved statues ever found in Egypt, discovered in a cache at Luxor Temple in 1989. In his memorial temple alone it is estimated that Amenhetep III erected several thousand stone statues, ranging from life-sized to colossal. Amenhetep III was buried in KV 22, one of the earliest tombs to be cut in the West Valley of the Kings. The tomb, discovered by Howard Carter in 1915, was originally carved for Thutmes IV. Amenhetep III’s wife, Tiy, may also have been buried in the West Valley.