|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
20 - 26 December 2001
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Unearthing SinaiEarlier this week, the remains of a unique Pharaonic temple and two Graeco-Roman public baths were discovered in North Sinai. Nevine El-Aref reports
The fortified city of Qantara East (Sharq) in North Sinai is often hailed by historians as Egypt's eastern gateway to the Delta. Its chequered history is a reminder of several military clashes, from Pharaonic times to the early seventies.
Due to its immense strategic importance as a vital commercial and military stop between Egypt and Asia, Qantara East became the starting point of the famous Horus military road -- which operated from ancient Egyptian times until the Ottoman period. It has also played a major role in Egyptian- Israeli wars over the years.
In peacetime, the city was an important trading post and in the Graeco- Roman period it became one of Egypt's busiest ports -- second only to Alexandria. Ships from the eastern Mediterranean and caravans from Syria and Palestine came to the port to trade goods like wine, oil, and honey, which were transported to Egypt and the Red Sea by Nile barge and overland roads.
But this week, it seems that North Sinai has also become an extremely fruitful archaeological site. It all started when an Egyptian mission carrying out routine excavation in Tel Habuwa, an archaeological site located five kilometres from Qantara East in north Sinai, chanced upon a unique mud-brick temple dating back to the Pharaonic era.
The discovery created great excitement. "It is an important find because Pharaonic temples constructed with mud-brick are a medium not commonly used by the ancient Egyptians, who built their temples with limestone blocks," said Mohamed Abdel- Maqsoud, head of Antiquities in Lower Egypt.
The temple is 2,400 metres wide and is comprised of a huge entrance gate leading to a pillar hall and the Holy of Holies, where a collection of bronze statues depicting the after-life god Osiris was unearthed.
A number of bronze and limestone scarabs featuring Osiris and Horus were also among the artifacts discovered.
According to Ramadan Helmi, chief inspector at Qantara East, some archaeological remains found inside the temple reveal that it was also used to worship Osiris during the late Pharaonic period.
But the most important discovery of all is a black granite dyad, or a pair statue, showing an embracing couple.
Some distance to the north-east in Tel EL-Lulli, another archaeological area, the Egyptian mission also came upon two magnificent Graeco-Roman public baths with polychrome mosaic floors in geometric designs. The baths date back to the third century AD.
A number of water basins and water channels to bring cold and hot water into the baths were also discovered. Refaat El-Guindi, the chief inspector responsible for the excavation, told Al- Ahram Weekly that a complete ancient drainage system including pipes and dried-out water channels has been unearthed around both baths.
The Egyptian excavation team will continue their work in the area The long military road running from Qantara to Rafah shows the different types of military architecture in Egypt. The road, and the new discoveries, reveal more about the history of Egypt's eastern gateway than ever before.
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