Imagine walking out of your apartment past a construction site and seeing people unearthing a massive ancient statue that is over 3000 years old. This is exactly what happened for several people in a slum in Eastern Cairo recently on March 9 when a team of archeologists from Germany and Egypt found what they believe to be a statue of Pharaoh Ramses II. The neighborhood where the archeologists discovered the statue is in the eastern part Cairo and is located over the ancient city of Heliopolis, the center of worship for the ancient Egyptian sun god Re. The excavation of the site is particularly difficult to work in because of a rising water table, piling rubble and industrial waste near the site.
The statue measures about 26 feet in height and is made out of the stone quartzite. The remains are missing a inscription bearing the name of the pharaoh, but because of the statue's proximity to a temple devoted to Ramses II, the ministry of antiquities believes that it is a statue of Ramses II. When asked about the discovery, Khaled al-Anani, Egypt's antiquities minister, reported that they had discovered "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." In addition to this exciting new discovery, a limestone statue of Pharaoh Seti II, the grandson of Ramses II, was also found at the site.
Excavation will continue in Cairo and, if the remaining pieces can restore the statue, it will be erected at the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is set to open in 2018.
Pharaoh Ramses II is one of the most famous rulers of ancient Egypt. He ruled Egypt from 1279 to 1213 B.C. His 60 year reign was one of the longest in ancient Egyptian history. Through the course of his rule he led several military exploits to expand Egypt's geographical reach as far south as modern Sudan and as far east as Modern Syria. The prosperity and growth that happened under Ramses's 60 year reign earned him the title: "Ramses the Great."
Just over 10 years ago, archaeologists discovered one of the largest sun temples in Cairo under a marketplace. Housed in the temple were several statues of Ramses II, some of which weighted up to five tons. One statue discovered in the temple depicted Ramses II wearing a leopard's skin; meaning that he likely served as high priest to Ra at the time the temple was erected.
Over time, what used to be the site of Heliopolis became covered by several, modern day residential buildings. Because of this fact, many researchers believe that myriad treasures from the ancient world lie hidden under the wider city of Cairo just waiting to be unearthed.
Here is a brief video of the excavation from March 9: