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The statue of a pharaoh found in a Cairo mud pit. It is believed to depict Ramesses II.

How Did an Enormous Statue of an Egyptian Pharaoh End Up Fragmented in a Mud Pit?

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A team of archaeologists have unearthed fragments of a gigantic statue, possibly portraying Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II, in a muddy pit at the ancient Heliopolis archaeological site in Cairo, as Egypt's antiquities ministry announced yesterday. Finds also included a limestone bust of Seti II.

A Pharaoh’s Colossal Statue Found in Pieces  

Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany announced yesterday that a team of Egyptian and German archaeologists uncovered two 19th dynasty royal statues from a muddy pit in a Cairo suburb. Cleft in pieces, the huge quartzite statue was discovered in the densely-populated Ain Shams and Matariya districts, where the ancient city of Heliopolis once flourished. The pieces of the statue were spotted near the temple of the King Ramses II in the temple precinct of ancient Heliopolis, also known as “Oun.”

Dietrich Raue, a curator at the Egyptian Museum of the University of Leipzig and head of the German archaeological team that discovered the statue, told 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."

Archaeologists have unearthed fragments of a colossal statue possibly depicting Pharaoh Ramesses II.

Archaeologists have unearthed fragments of a colossal statue possibly depicting Pharaoh Ramesses II. Credit: Dietrich Raue

Raue also added that, according to his early estimations, the statue is about 8 meters (26 ft.) tall. Additionally, Mahmoud Afifi, Head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities at the Ministry, told Ahram Online, “Although there are no engravings that could identify such a statue, its existence at the entrance of King Ramses II’ temple suggests that it could belong to him."

Nearby, the archaeologists also found part of a life-size statue of Pharaoh Seti II. This beautiful bust is about 80 centimeters (nearly 3 ft.) tall and is carved in limestone with detailed facial features.

Pharaoh Ramesses II’s Legacy

Ramesses II is arguably one of the most influential and remembered pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Ramesses II, the third pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty, ascended the throne of Egypt during his late teens in 1279 BC following the death of his father, Seti I. He is known to have ruled ancient Egypt for a total of 66 years, outliving many of his sons in the process – although he is believed to have fathered more than 100 children. As a result of his long and prosperous reign, Ramesses II was able to undertake numerous military campaigns against neighboring regions, as well as building monuments to the gods, and of course, to himself.

A statue of Pharaoh Ramesses II.

A statue of Pharaoh Ramesses II. Source: BigStockPhoto

The Discovery of the Colossal Pharaoh Statute is Described as Particularly Significant

Aymen Ashmawy, head of the Egyptian team on the mission referred to the discovery as "very important" because it highlights how enormous and magnificently constructed the Oun temple was, with authoritative engravings, soaring colossi and obelisks. Unfortunately, as he stated, the temple suffered many damages during the Greco-Roman period, which saw most of its obelisks and colossi being conveyed to Alexandria and Europe. Furthermore, more severe damages took place in the temple during the Islamic era, as many of its blocks were used for the construction of Historic Cairo.

On a happier note, Raue reassured the media that his team will continue to explore the site in order to find more fragments. "We have not finished the excavation of the courtyard," he told Live Science, and added, "It is possible we will find the missing fragments, and — who knows — maybe other statues."

If all the fragments are discovered and the immense statue is pieced together, it will be put on display at the entrance of the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is scheduled to open in 2018.

Top Image: The statue of a pharaoh found in a Cairo mud pit. It is believed to depict Ramesses II.  (Ministry of Antiquities) Insert: Ramses II, granite - British Museum. (Nina Aldin Thune/CC BY SA)

By Theodoros Karasavvas

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Theodoros Karasavvas, J.D.-M.A. has a cum laude degree in Law from the University of Athens, a Masters Degree in Legal History from the University of Pisa, and a First Certificate in English from Cambridge University. When called upon to do... Read More

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