Massive statue of possibly Ramesses the Great discovered in a mud pit in Cairo

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Last month, we covered two important projects (check here and here) relating to Ramesses II (or Ramesses the Great), the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt, and arguably the ancient realm’s most famous ruler. Well in the March the archaeological streak has continued, with the incredible discovery of a colossal statue in a mud pit located in a suburb of Cairo. Found in fragments by a team of Egyptian and German archaeologists, the statue made of quartzite resided inside the ancient city of Heliopolis, in the courtyard near the ruins of a sun-temple founded by Ramesses II.

Oddly enough, till now the researchers were only able to salvage the head and torso of the massive statue. As Dietrich Raue, head of the German archaeological team and a curator at the Egyptian Museum of the University of Leipzig, told (to Live Science) –

We found two big fragments so far, covering the head and the chest. As of yet, we do not have the base and the legs as well as the kilt.

Now initial examination suggests that the statue is about 26 ft (8 m)tall, though the sculptural scope doesn’t showcase any form of inscription (or motif) that hints at the original subject. However the very location of the statue in front of Ramesses II’s temple alludes to the possibility that the sculpture might have depicted the pharaoh himself.

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The head of the statue.

Interestingly enough, the archaeologists also discovered a statue of pharaoh Seti II, the father of Ramesses II, in a nearby area. The presence of such motifs, complemented by the massive statue of the Ramesses II, suggests that the proximate temple complex was grandiosely designed with “magnificent structures, distinguished engravings, soaring colossi and obelisks” – in the words of Ayman Ashmawy, head of the Egyptian archaeological team.

Unfortunately, the complex suffered various man-made damages during the Ptolemaic and later Roman period (332 BC to 395 AD), with many of the sculptural works and obelisks being transported to Alexandria and even European cities. And later on during the Islamic era (8th – 13th century), most remnants of the temple were unceremoniously reused for the medieval construction of Cairo.

In any case, the archaeologists are looking forth to continue excavating the surrounding areas, especially the courtyard itself, in a hope to locate more fragments and even other statues. And once the colossal statue is pieced together, the superb sculptural ambit will be exhibited at the entrance of the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is scheduled to open in 2018.

UPDATE: According to Egypt’s antiquities minister Khaled el-Anani, the colossal statue probably DOESN’T depict Ramesses II. Preliminary analysis and hypothesis suggests that the sculpture is of Psamtek I, a little known pharaoh from the 26th dynasty who ruled Egypt between 664 and 610 BC.

Source: LiveScience / Images Credit: Dietrich Raue

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