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Pink granite statue of Ramses II uncovered in Giza.    Source: Ministry of Antiquities

Illegal Dig Leads to Unique Pink Statue of Ramses II

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The Egyptian Supreme Antiquities Council have announced a historic discovery. A very rare pink or rose granite statue of one of the greatest of pharaohs, Ramses II has been unearthed. What makes the find remarkable is that it bears a unique symbol of the pharaoh’s life-force or soul, the first time this symbol has been found on a piece of statuary in Egypt.

Illegal Excavation Reveals Finds

important discovery was made by chance and as a result of an illegal excavation. A 62-year-old man decided to dig for artifacts under his house in Mit Rahina Village near the Pyramids at Giza, west of Cairo. He excavated without permission but such private excavations are against the law because ‘there is an increased risk of irreparable damage to the artifacts, as well as a risk of having the items smuggled’ according to the Cairo Scene. Thankfully, the authorities intervened, and while they stopped the man, they decided to continue his excavations. To their amazement they made a series of astounding finds.

Part of the temple to Ptah that has been recovered from the site. (Ministry of Antiquities)

Lost temple found

They unearthed a previously unknown temple dedicated to Ptah, the Egyptian God of craft-persons, builders and fertility. According to the Cairo Scene ‘in the city of Memphis, he was revered as the Master of Men’.

19 huge, carved stone blocks from the temple have been revealed. (Ministry of Antiquities)

The archaeologists also unearthed the statue of the mighty monarch that was made out of rare rose or pink granite. Only the upper part has been found intact and the rest is in fragments.

Newsweek quotes Moustafa Waziri, Secretary-General of the Council of Antiquities as stating that the statue is of Ramses II is in the ‘Elka’ pose, which is a ‘symbol of strength, vitality, and spirit’. The likeness of Ramses is wearing a wig and a large crown. The experts were able to positively identify that the statue was of the pharaoh, as an engraving of Nakht Mari Matt, an epitaph associated with Ramses, which means strong bull, was found engraved onto the back of the statue. The part of the statue, that is intact is 3.1 feet (1.05m) tall and a foot and a half wide (45cm).

Pink granite statue of Ramses II (Ministry of Antiquities)

Ramses II

Ramses II ruled Egypt between 1279 and 1213 BC and reigned until he was 90. This pharaoh is often regarded as the greatest monarch in the New Kingdom and is known by the epithet Ramses the Great. Archaeologists also found engravings of the pharaoh celebrating the ritual of Heb Sed. This was a lavish ceremony to mark the 30 th jubilee of his rule.

A relief with Ramses II undergoing the religious Heb Sed ritual. (Ministry of Antiquities)

A relief with Ramses II undergoing the religious Heb Sed ritual. (Ministry of Antiquities)

During an examination of the statue, archaeologists found a symbol signifying ‘Ka’. The Ka was believed to represent the soul or spirit of a person, in this case, Ramses II, in Egyptian cosmology. It was bestowed on a person at birth and was believed to exist after their physical death.

The Ka or Pharaoh’s Soul

Waziri explained that the pink statue was intended to be the final resting place for the Ka of the person after death. The discovery of a stone statue with such a symbol is unprecedented. The Secretary-General stated that ‘the only Ka statue that was previously found is made of wood and it belongs to one of the kings of thirteenth dynasty’ according to the Ministry statement.

The bust and the blocks have been moved to the Mit Rahina open-air museum. Here specialists are going to clean and restore the statue. It is expected that the statue will eventually go on display after it has been preserved. Further digs will take place at the site and more discoveries could yet be made. There is no indication as to how the authorities will treat the man whose illegal dig led to the discovery of the rare pink statue and the temple.

Top image: Pink granite statue of Ramses II uncovered in Giza.    Source: Ministry of Antiquities

By Ed Whelan

Ed Whelan's picture


My name is Edward Whelan and I graduated with a PhD in history in 2008. Between 2010-2012 I worked in the Limerick City Archives. I have written a book and several peer reviewed journal articles. At present I am a... Read More

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