Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1126, 13 - 19 December 2012
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1126, 13 - 19 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

Regal discoveries cast new light

A royal New Kingdom statue in the Monthu Temple in Luxor, a pair of Ptolemaic lion statues in the Soknopaios Temple in Fayoum and gold Byzantine coins in Beheira.
Nevine El-Aref reveals the latest discoveries to be made in Egypt

Al-Ahram Weekly

This week Italian and French archaeological missions in Luxor, Fayoum and Beheira announced a number of new discoveries that reveal more details of ancient Egypt’s history.
During their recent archaeological season, French excavators at Monthu Temple, located northeast of the Karnak Temple complex in Luxor, unearthed a statue of an unidentified New Kingdom Pharaoh.
The statue was headless but was otherwise very well preserved. Carved in black granite, it was a standing statue of an athletic Pharaoh 1.25 metres tall and wearing the short royal kilt. Although the head is missing, the statue’s artistic features show that it belonged to a ruler in the New Kingdom.
Excavations in the area are continuing in a search for the rest of the statue so it can be identified.
The temple is dedicated to the worship of Monthu, the falcon-headed god of war, who was the patron god of Thebes. It was discovered in 1925 by French archaeologist Fernand Bisson de la Roque, along with a collection of other ancient buildings. The Monthu Temple dates from the reign of Ptolemy VIII and was built to replace an Old Kingdom sanctuary.
The temple was once a major centre for the worship of the Apis bulls, and its halls were decorated with a large number of bull statues and reliefs. These are now on display in several museums around the world.
Archaeologists made other discoveries in Fayoum and Beheira. The Italian archaeological mission from Salento-Litchi University unearthed a pair of limestone statues depicting seated lions which once flanked the main entrance gate of the Graeco-Roman temple of Soknopaios at Dimeh Al-Sibaa in Fayoum.
Dimeh Al-Sibaa, eight kilometres from Lake Qaroun, is the site of the small Graeco-Roman town of Soknopaios Nesos, centre of the ancient Egyptian crocodile god Sobek. It was founded in the Ptolemaic era on an earlier Neolithic settlement, but in the Greek period it was the “island of the crocodile god” while in the Roman period it was a garrison for soldiers.
Studies and excavations show that the town once had an avenue of lions stretching from the gate of Soknopaios Temple, of which the foundation stone is the only existing feature, down towards a quarry which was on the edge of lake Qaroun.
In 1931, an American mission from Michigan University excavated the town and unearthed the ruins of residential houses, two mud-brick temples and the external enclosure wall of the town. A section of this wall almost 10 metres high is still strewn with debris and potsherds.
The lion statues were found hidden in the sand. They were unearthed by the Italian mission during routine excavation and cleaning of the temple and are in a very good state of preservation. They have been transferred to the town storehouse for restoration and cleaning.
Mario Capasso, head of the mission, describes the discovery as important as it is the first time a decorative statue has been found in a small Graeco-Roman temple. It also reveals that the temple was built according to the architectural plan used in the construction of the main temples in the capital city.
At the archaeological site of Kom Al-Ghoraf in Beheira governorate, an Italian mission from Milano University unearthed four gold Byzantine coins. They are very well preserved, with each weighing 4.3 grammes.
The coins come in two pairs of similar depictions. Two show the figure of the Byzantine emperor Phocas (602-610 AD) with a cross in his right hand on the obverse. The reverse of the coin shows the same emperor with a cane in one hand and a cross in the other.
The other two coins feature the image of the Byzantine emperor Heraclius (610-641 AD) along with his two sons, Kontstantinos III and Heracleonas II, on the obverse while the reverse shows a large cross.
Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim says these coins provide Egyptologists with a full and complete view of the shapes and sizes of coins during the Byzantine era, as well as the skills of craftsmanship in the period.
Kom Al-Ghoraf was well known during the Late Period but was intensively destroyed during the late 19th century, although it still contains some ruins showing its ancient features. These include the remains of Roman and Byzantine residential houses and other modest deposits. The site was occupied until the seventh century AD.

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