May 18, 2015
Archaeologists uncover long lost Egyptian temple
Archeologists have uncovered a twice-forgotten Ancient Egyptian temple located in the southern part of the African country, according to an announcement on Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities official Facebook page.Mamdouh Eldamaty, Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities, said via translated Facebook post the discovery significantly elevates the historical importance of the Gebel Elsilsila site, which was previously considered just a sandstone quarry.
The discovery also shows that the site had major religious significance for the nearby ancient settlement of Kheny.
Sacred, forgotten ground
Gebel Elsilsila is located on both side of the Southern Nile and served as a quarry from around the 15th century BC until Roman times. In fact, many of Ancient Egypt’s iconic temples were built from sandstone excavated from Gebel Elsilsila.
“We know that huge quantities of sandstone for temple building were quarried there,” site director Maria Nilsson told Discovery News. “Now this finding changes the history of the site, and it firmly establishes Gebel el Silsila as not only a quarry, but also a sacred location.”
Sobek, god of crocodiles, was the principal deity in the region around the time the temple was in use. However, Nilsson said her team can’t definitively say “to whom the temple was dedicated.”
The temple had been somewhat forgotten until a map published by German Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt in 1934 made note of the site based on records from earlier in the 20th century. However, the site failed to catch the attention of the larger research community and was once again forgotten--until recently.
Nilsson and her team based their investigations partly on Borchardt’s map as well as unpublished sketch by renowned Egyptologist Peter Lacovara. The researchers were able to uncover foundations measuring about 115 feet by 60 feet, four visible dressed floor levels, column bases, as well as inner and exterior walls. The team also found two sandstone fragments painted with the Egyptian star and sky, a sign the temple featured a starred ceiling.
“The oldest building phase of the temple was made up by limestone, which is unique within a sandstone quarry, and may signify the official changeover from limestone construction to sandstone,” Nilsson noted.
The researchers also uncovered hundreds of decorated blocks and more than 300 decorated limestone fragments depicting iconography of the early Thutmosid period, which lasted from 1500 to 1450 BC. Hieroglyphic text said the name of the site was Kheny or Khenu.
“The limestone scenes had been destroyed during antiquity to be reused as foundation filling together with sand and pebbles for a later construction phase,” Nilsson said. “A square decorated limestone base was still intact.”
The team added that they plan to continue excavating the site to further determine its significance.