Heads-up: amaz­ing Egyp­tian dis­cov­er­ies

Fortean Times - - Contents -

A 26ft (8m) tall quartzite statue bro­ken into sev­eral pieces was un­earthed on 7 March 2017 in the work­ing class Matariyyah neigh­bour­hood of north­east Cairo by a Ger­man-Egyp­tian archæo­log­i­cal team. Dig­ging on wa­ter­logged waste­land, they first dis­cov­ered the chest be­fore lo­cat­ing its jaw, right ear, part of its right eye, and then even­tu­ally its crown. The top of the crown, the height of a child, was so large it had to be packed in mud and lifted out of the ditch with an ex­ca­va­tor be­fore it could be cleaned. At first the statue was thought to de­pict Ram­ses the Great, the most pow­er­ful ruler of an­cient Egypt and the in­spi­ra­tion for Shel­ley’s poem Ozy­man­dias about the “colossal wreck” of a once-mighty king. Ram­ses in Greek translit­er­ates as Ozy­man­dias, and the ar­rival in Lon­don of a large statue of him is be­lieved to have in­spired Shel­ley’s 1818 son­net and its most fa­mous line: “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and de­spair!”

The up­per part of a life-size statue of Seti II, Ram­ses’s grand­son, was also dis­cov­ered at the site. Al­though much smaller than the other statue, ex­perts said the lime­stone work showed fine artis­tic de­tail. The neigh­bour­hood was built over the site of the an­cient city of He­liopo­lis, a re­li­gious cen­tre ded­i­cated to the wor­ship of the sun god Ra. Ram­ses built a sun tem­ple bear­ing his own name in the area, which is why the larger statue was thought to de­pict him.

“The sun god cre­ated the world in He­liopo­lis,” said Di­et­rich Raue, the head of the Ger­man team. “That’s what I al­ways tell the peo­ple here when they ask if there is any­thing im­por­tant. Ac­cord­ing to the pharaonic be­lief, the world was cre­ated in Matariyyah.” A few days af­ter the dis­cov­ery, an­tiq­ui­ties min­is­ter Khaled el-Anani said the colos­sus al­most cer­tainly de­picts Psamtek I, who ruled be­tween 664 and 610 BC. He is cred­ited with bring­ing sta­bil­ity to Egypt af­ter years of tur­moil. Guardian, 10 Mar; D.Tele­graph, 11 Mar; D.Mail, 11+17 April 2017.

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