April 22, 2009

Archaeologists Find New Temple In Sinai

Archaeologists have unearthed four new temples in the Sinai peninsula, including one of mud brick with fortified walls that served as an important religious center at the eastern gateway to ancient Egypt, antiquities authorities announced Tuesday.

"The discovery is considered among the biggest discoveries in Sinai and includes the largest fortified Pharaonic temple in Sinai, at 80 meters by 70 meters," Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities said in a statement.

The temples date back to the beginning of the rule of Thutmosis II, who reigned from about 1512 BC and was ultimately succeeded by his wife Hatshepsut. She was known as ancient Egypt's most successful female rulers.

Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the find was made in Qantara, 2 1/2 miles east of the Suez Canal. The nearby military path once connected Egypt to Palestine and is close to present-day Rafah, which borders the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

Archaeologist Mohammed Abdel-Maqsoud, chief of the excavation team, said the large brick temple could potentially rewrite the historical and military significance of the Sinai for the ancient Egyptians.

The temple was surrounded by walls four meters thick and contained paintings of a number of Egyptian deities.

The statement said the paintings, which also included depictions of Thutmosis II and Ramses II, indicated that the walls of the temple had been brightly painted.

The grandeur and sheer size of the temple could have been used to impress armies and visiting foreign delegations as they arrived in Egypt, authorities said.

The temple contains three basins for ritual purification and a number of chambers for gods. The statement said it was "an important religious center at Egypt's eastern entrance in Sinai."

Egypt's Pharaohs often ventured across Sinai to fight other civilizations in the area now covered by Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq.

The dig is part of cooperation with the Culture Ministry that started in 1986 to find fortresses along the military road.

Egypt announced last year it had found the ancient headquarters of the Pharaonic army in the same area that guarded the northeastern borders of Egypt for more than 1,500 years.


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