Tuesday, October 10, 2017

New Discovery, Cairo: The Lower Part of 26th Dynasty King Psamtik I Colossus Uncovered in Cairo's Matariya

The lower part of a statue of Psamtik I has been unearthed in Souk Al-Khamis area in Matariya district following earlier discoveries in March. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The Egyptian-German Archaeological Mission uncovered most of the remaining parts of the recently discovered colossus of 26th Dynasty King Psamtik I (664-610 BC) while excavating at the temple of Heliopolis in the Souk Al-Khamis area of Matariya district in east Cairo.

Aymen Ashmawy, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Department and leader of the Egyptian excavation team, told Ahram Online that the joint mission has unearthed around 1,920 separate quartzite blocks comprising the lower part of King Psamtik I colossus.

The mission is composed of archaeologists from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, the Georg Steidorff Egyptian Museum at the University of Leipzig and the University for Applied Sciences, Mainz. 

"Early studies carried out on the newly found blocks of the colossus reveal that most comprise parts of the pharaoh's kilt, legs and three toes," Ashmawi pointed out. The studies also suggest that the buried colossus was constructed in a standing position, not a seated one, he stated.

The excavations were focused around the location in which the upper body of Psamtik's colossus had been found back in March 2017, according to Dietrich Raue, the head of the German archaeological team which participated in the mission. 

The statue's first part was found just to the north of its more recently uncovered lower part. Evidence suggests the sculpture had been destroyed at an uncertain date and its fragments scattered around a 20-meter diameter area.

Wider Discoveries

The team also uncovered numerous granite blocks that belong to other statues, including one of King Ramses II, the god Rahurakhti, and others yet unidentified. Ashmawy noted that the mission will continue to uncover more of the colossus' lower part during the next archaeological season. The coming find could reveal a total of 2,000 fragments and blocks.

Among the most prominent parts of the uncovered section, he said, is the back pillar engraved with the sacred Horus-name of Psamtik I, "a fact that confirm that the discovered colossus is that of King Psamtik I, and not King Ramses II as some suggested." Upon initial discovery, some archaeologists had believed that it may have belonged to King Ramses II, but the engravings on its back pillar dispelled that hypothesis.

The mission also found a gigantic fragment of the Eye of Horus which was likely a part of a larger statue of deity Rahurakhti. Ashmawy asserted that studies on the newly discovered eye fragment show that this statue could have been up to six meters tall, making it the tallest statue of the deity known from ancient Egypt.

Among the pieces of king Psamtik I's statue, Raue explained, the mission found a collection of red granite fragments of a King Ramses II statue engraved with his Horus name. Also found in the debris were fragments of a Late Period statue decorated with depictions of gods and demons in the style of the Horus-the-saviour stelae and statues. This kind of statue was commonly used in ancient Egyptian temples and believed to hold healing powers for ill individuals. At the northern edge of the area, Raue said, a poorly preserved eight-ton fragment was also extracted. Due to its deteriorated state, Egyptologists were not able to determine its exact dating or to whom it belongs.

Eissa Zidan, head of the restoration department at the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), told Ahram Online that the newly discovered fragments of king Psamtik I's colossus were transported to the museum for cleaning, restoration and archaeological documentation. After a full study of the artifacts, Zidan noted, a plan will be devised to reconstruct the parts of the colossus and put it on display at the GEM.

The upper part of the colossus, which includes of the torso and a large part of the head and crown, is currently on display at the museological garden of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir. Until its discovery last spring, it had sat under the water table in Souk Al-Khamis neighborhood, an area heavily congested with housing.

Al-Matariya was once Egypt's capital city, in which most Egyptian kings erected their monuments within its temples for about 2400 years. Because of the area's proximity to continued human settlement, the site was heavily destroyed in subsequent millenia, from Late Roman times onward to the Mameluk era and until today. Blocks of the area's ancient temples were re-used to build various monuments in Old Cairo, such as Bab el-Nasr and others.

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