A Majestic Rediscovery: Enormous Pharaoh Sculpture Unearthed in Cairo Suburb

A momentous archaeological find has taken place in a Cairo suburb—a colossal statue of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh has been discovered, captivating the attention of Egyptologists from both Egypt and Germany.

The statue is believed to depict none other than Ramses II, one of history’s most renowned rulers. Ramses II, often referred to as “Ramses the Great,” reigned over Egypt for an astonishing 66 years—a rare feat in the ancient world, where royal reigns were often short-lived and tumultuous. Under Ramses II’s rule, Egypt flourished, expanding its empire northwards to what is now Syria and southwards to present-day Sudan.

Ramses II: The Great Ancestor

Ramses II left an indelible mark on Egypt’s landscape. His name is synonymous with ancient Egypt itself, as he commissioned numerous architectural marvels across the country. His iconic cartouche and distinctive features adorn countless structures, with his face adorning the colossi at Abu Simbel. The Ramesseum, his memorial complex, houses sculptures and inscriptions that pay tribute to the Great Ancestor.

While Ramses II is often associated with the biblical figure of the “pharaoh of the Exodus,” there is no definitive evidence to support this claim. However, the ancient Greek poet Percy Shelley immortalized Ramses II as “Ozymandias” in his renowned sonnet, inspired by the ruined busts of Ramses II found at the Ramesseum. These busts, coupled with the description of the statues by an ancient Greek historian, led to the evocative lines, “King of Kings Ozymandias am I. If any want to know how great I am and where I lie, let him outdo me in my work.”

The newly discovered colossus may end up looking something like this—a statue of Ramses II unearthed in Tanis, Egypt. Both statues sport the telltale hedjet, the bowling-pin shaped white crown of Upper Egypt.

The Rediscovered Colossus

The recently unearthed statue, currently lacking inscriptions, has archaeologists speculating that it may indeed depict Ramses II. The suburb of Matareya, where the discovery was made, was once part of Heliopolis—an ancient city dedicated to the worship of the Egyptian sun god, Ra. Ramses II, whose name means “born of Ra,” dedicated numerous temples and structures to the deity. In 2006, archaeologists discovered an expansive sun temple in Cairo, housing colossal statues of Ramses II weighing up to five tons. Among them was a statue depicting the pharaoh adorned in a leopard’s skin, potentially indicating his role as a high priest of Ra during the temple’s construction.

The Persistence of the Past

The Heliopolis site has endured centuries of plundering and neglect, with remnants largely overlooked. The remarkable survival of this massive statue prompts the question of why it endured while others were lost. It is speculated that early Christians or Muslim rulers of Cairo during the 11th century repurposed limestone stonework from ancient temples to construct the city’s fortifications, potentially resulting in the destruction of statues like this colossus. However, as the statue is crafted from quartzite, it was likely disregarded and cast aside.

The excavation of the site in Heliopolis began in 2012, in anticipation of a redevelopment project that will erect new structures atop the ancient remains. The race against time, coupled with challenges such as a rising water table, industrial waste, and accumulated rubble, makes the excavation of this ancient site a formidable task.

As the vibrant city of Cairo and its suburbs continue to flourish, it is a reminder that beneath its modern facade lies a treasure trove of untold ancient wonders. With thousands of undiscovered sites awaiting exploration, each archaeological find brings us closer to unraveling therich tapestry of Egypt’s illustrious past. The colossal pharaoh sculpture serves as a majestic reminder of the enduring legacy of Ramses II and the captivating stories that await discovery beneath the bustling city streets.

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