The remains of a massive statue, believed to be over 3,000 years old, have been discovered in a working-class neighbourhood of Cairo. It is believed that the 8 metre tall quartzite statue, weighing 8.5 tonnes, is of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II.
The excavation was carried out jointly by Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities and researchers from the University of Leipzig at the ancient site of Heliopolis. Now under pressure from a huge amount of industrial and domestic waste and a rising water table, Heliopolis was once the centre of the ancient Egyptian cult of the Sun. The discovery is being described as one of the most important ever made in Egypt.
Born in 1303 BC, Ramses II – also transliterated as Rameses and Ramesses, and often referred to as Ramesses the Great – was the third pharaoh of the 19th dynasty of Egypt, who ruled for 66 years from 1279 BC to 1213 BC.
Frequently regarded as the greatest ruler of Egypt’s New Kingdom, which flourished between the sixteenth and eleventh centuries BC, Ramses II presided over an unprecedented expansion of the empire, and commissioned a large number of temples, monuments and cities, including his new capital of Pi-Ramesses in the delta of the Nile.
One of the best known references to the Pharaoh in popular culture was made by the nineteenth century English romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, in his poem “Ozymandias”. It is believed the poem was inspired by a broken statue of Ramses II, now in the possession of the British Museum in London.
Although the recently discovered statue does not bear any inscription, a Sun temple located at Heliopolis close to the site of excavation believed to have been comissioned by Ramses II, lending weight to the likelihood of the statue being that of his.
The team of excavators at Heliopolsi also found a limestone life sized statue of Pharaoh Seti II, who was the grandson of Ramses II in the same area.
Speaking to Reuters about the discovery, Egypt’s antiquities minister Khaled Al-Anani said, “We found the bust of the statue and the lower part of the head and now we removed the head and we found the crown and the right ear and a fragment of the right eye.” He subsequently said on Facebook that further research would follow.
“Dr Ayman Ashmawy, the head of the Egyptian team, indicated that they are going now to complete the research and excavation work of the remaining sections of the statue to confirm the identity of its owner. On the discovered portions there is no inscription found that would make it possible to determine which king it is. But its discovery in front of the gate of the temple of Pharaoh Ramses II suggests that it is likely him,” al-Anani wrote.
The Guardian reported that if the statue was indeed proven to be that of Ramses II, it would be moved to the entrance of the Grand Egyptian Museum that will open in Giza in 2018.
The discovery is expected to boost Egypt’s tourism industry that was massively hit by the 2011 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak.