Archaeologists excavating ancient Heliopolis in the territory of Cairo have discovered parts of an ancient Egyptian temple built during the reign of Pharaoh Nectanebo I – the founder of the last dynasty. Basalt slabs, well preserved with hieroglyphic inscriptions and carved images, form part of the north and west facades of the temple.
Archaeologists also found remains of structures from the XIX, XXII and XXVI dynasties, including a fragment of the statue of King Seti ΙΙ and many other artifacts.
Heliopolis through the ages
Heliopolis is one of the oldest cities in Egypt. It became famous as a center of sun cult even in pre-dynastic times and retained its significance for more than three millennia until it began to decline under the later rulers of the Hellenistic period in the 1st century BC.
The geographer and historian Strabo, who traveled around Egypt during the time of Emperor Augustus, found Heliopolis in ruins: its inhabitants abandoned the city and the towers adorning ancient sanctus Great was stolen.
In the Middle Ages, Helicopolis were used as a quarry. Gradually, its ruins were hidden under the muddy sediments of the Nile and were partially filled by the structures of growing Cairo.
Only in the second half of the 20th century was the territory of ancient Heliopolis protected from further development, and archaeologists were able to conduct systematic research here.
Pharaoh Nectanebo I
Stone block with inscriptions describing the history of the ancient Egyptian temple in Heliopolis. Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities / Facebook.
Nectanebo I was the founder of the ΧΧΧ dynasty that became the last Egyptian royal. Its history ended in 342 BC when the country was recaptured by the Persians, and 10 years later Egypt became part of the state of Alexander the Great.
Nectanebo I successfully resisted the Persian onslaught, managed to bring Egypt an economic and cultural development, participated in the construction of the temple in the capital Sebennytos themselves, in Memphis, and elsewhere. He also noticed the center of the ancient sanctuary of Heliopolis.
In 2015, archaeologists excavating the eastern part of the Egyptian temple he built, discovered a relief slab, a figurine of the goddess Bastet and the ruins of a workshop. The inscriptions on the stone are mainly dedicated to the ruler of the city, but they also refer to the goddess Hathor.
Archaeologists excavated more sections of the ancient Egyptian temple
For the current season of 2021, archaeologists conducting joint research in Cairo cleared the northern and western sections of an ancient Egyptian temple dedicated to pharaoh Nectanebo I. Scientists have found basalt slabs similar to those found earlier in the eastern part of the building.
The inscriptions on them mention the 13th and 14th years of the king’s reign, that is, the temple was built, apparently, shortly before his death, not earlier than 366 BC. It stood almost in the center of the holy city.
Hieroglyphic texts and reliefs from the ancient Egyptian temple
The hieroglyphic texts and reliefs with deep lines on the basalt slabs decorating the facades of Egyptian temples contain excerpts from the so-called “geographic procession” – a list of regions of Lower Ai Egypt.
For each area, there are indications of names, names of patron deities and the most important places of worship. This written description is accompanied by images of the Nile god of floods and fertility Hapi.
Archaeologists report that some of the slabs are still unfinished. Apparently, after the pharaoh’s death, his successors Teos and Nectanebo II had yet to complete the construction of the sanctuary.
Archaeologists made various other finds dated to different periods of Egyptian history
The head of the German side of the project, Dr Rao, reported on findings from other eras. A small portion of this scattered collection is believed to date back to the Middle Kingdom.
Objects from the New Kingdom include a table for the Sacrifice of Thutmose III, a canon with Ramesses II’s name on it, and a fragment of a sculptural portrait of his nephew Seti II (1204-1198 B.C.E. AD).
A fragment of the human jasper, which is part of the relief, also dates from the early Ramessids (19th Dynasty). Some were found belonging to Ramses II’s son – Pharaoh Merneptah.
Carved stone artifact. Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities / Facebook
Some items have also survived the period of crisis, chaos, and decline of the country following the fall of the New Kingdom, known as the Third Intermediate Period. This is the base of the statue and fragments of a tower made of quartz, installed by king of the XXII dynasty Osorkon I (925-890 BC).
Also discovered are relics of the Late Late Period, left over from the XXVI dynasty pharaohs Psamtik II and his successor Apries (6th century BC). These finds were made to the west of the excavated Egyptian temple.
Another group of artifacts – clay molds for making terracotta figurines and a limestone relief depicting a horseman – may be dated even later than the Nectanebo I sanctuary.
Dr Rao believes their discovery proves that local workshops continued to function even after the construction of Egyptian temples had stopped in the city and that it was approaching the end of its history. centuries of history. By the beginning of the Roman era, the temples of Heliopolis were abandoned.