Colossal statue of Ramses II found in Egypt

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A joint Egyptian American archaeological mission working in Ashmunin in Minya, some 250km south of Cairo, has unearthed the top part of a colossal statue of King Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great who reigned as Pharaoh in 1279–1213 BC.

(Editor’s note: Scholars and historians have proposed various theories about the possible Pharaohs who could have been in power during the Exodus, including Ramses II.)

The mission was carrying excavation works in Ashmunin. It operates under Bassem Gehad and Yvona Trnka, working together with teams from Egypt’s Supreme Council of Activities, and the University of Colorado.

The importance of the discovery, Mostafa Waziri, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities announced in a press release, is that the archaeological studies carried out on the top part of the statue prove that it complements the bottom part of the same statue which was discovered in 1930 by German archaeologist G. Roeder.

Cleaning and reinforcement works are being carried out, Dr Waziri pointed out, in preparation for further study and revisulaising the statue as a whole.

According to Adel Okasha, head of the Central Department of Antiquities of Central Egypt, the mission began excavation works in the region during the past year in an attempt to uncover the religious centre of the city of Ashmunin during the New Kingdom (c.1539 – 1075 BC) and up until the Roman era which ended in AD640, which includes a number of temples, among them a temple of Ramses II. Unearthing this huge piece of the statue of Ramses promises more archaeological discoveries to come, Dr Okasha said.

Dr Gehad, head of the mission’s Egyptian side explained that the discovered part is made of limestone and is about 3.80 metres high. It depicts King Ramses II in a sitting position, wearing the double crown of South and North Egypt, and a headdress topped with a royal cobra. The upper part of the statue’s back column features hieroglyphic inscriptions of titles to glorify the king. Once reassembled with the bottom part, Dr Gehad divulged, the statue could rise up to 7 metres in height.

For her part, Dr Trnka, head of the mission’s American side, said that the mission succeeded during its first excavation season to restore and reinstall the huge granite columns located on the northern side of the Ashmunin Basilica, which were built over the ruins of an older Ptolemaic Temple, and was dedicated to the Holy Virgin during the sixth century AD. The Ptolomies were the Greek rulers of Egypt in 305 – 30BC.

The city of Ashmunin was known in ancient Egypt as “Khnum”, meaning the City of the Eight; it was the seat of the Egyptian cult of “Thamun”. During the Greco-Roman era, it was known as “Hermopolis Magna”, and was the capital of the fifteenth region in Egypt, and a hub for the worship of the god Djehuti. — Watani International