Egypt digs up two giant statues dating back 3,000 years
CAIRO // Two giant statues dating back more than 3,000 years have been unearthed in one of Cairo’s most densely populated neighbourhoods.
Archaeologists have been excavating the site in Matareya since 2005 to ensure no antiquities were lost when a mall was constructed there. Busts and other remains from the Temple of Ra were found earlier.
The colossal sculptures, whose discovery was announced on Thursday, are thought to depict royal personages from the 19th dynasty which ruled Egypt around 1200BC. It is uncertain who exactly the statues represent but the larger one could be Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great, according to Egypt’s ministry of antiquities.
The statues are in pieces, and only parts believed to be of the larger one have been retrieved so far. Images of a backhoe removing a section of an elongated head the size of a full-grown man drew accusations on Egyptian social media of cavalier treatment of a rare and fragile antique.
Residents of Matareya are now calling it “the statue that they broke”, but Dietrich Raue, the German leader of a joint German-Egyptian team overseeing the excavation of the site, denied that it was broken while being recovered.
Abdel Fattah Ali Ahmad, a member of the team, said the high water table would not have permitted slower or more careful excavation of the statue. Workers had to pump water out of the pit before pieces of the statue could be removed, and it had flooded again by Friday.
Matareya, in the northern Cairo, is one of the Egyptian capital’s most densely populated neighbourhoods. The district stands on the ancient city of Heliopolis, which was larger than Karnak, Egypt’s most famous temple complex. It is famous for an obelisk in the Masalla area of the neighbourhood, which is near the site where the statues were found.
The Egyptian-German team has faced many obstacles in this area, including having to remove 13 metres of rubbish and debris from one site.
In a Facebook post, minister of antiquities Khalid Al Anani said the statues would be displayed in the Grand Egyptian Museum that his ministry says will open next year.
Updated: March 10, 2017 04:00 AM