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Giant Statue Probably Depicting Pharaoh Ramses II Discovered In Cairo Slum

Archaeologists from Egypt and Germany have found parts of an 8-meter-high colossal statue submerged in water in a Cairo slum that they say may depict Pharaoh Ramses II, who reigned Egypt more than 3000 years ago.

Pharaoh Amnhotep II, 1400 BC, statue made of granite

The discovery, hailed by the Antiquities Ministry as one of the most important ever, was made near the ruins of Ramses II’s temple in the ancient city of Heliopolis, located in the eastern part of modern-day Cairo.

Egyptian workers lift parts of the statue with an excavator.

“Last Tuesday they called me to announce the big discovery of a colossus of a king, most probably Ramses II, made out of quartzite,” Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said at the site of the statue’s unveiling on Thursday.

The most powerful and celebrated ruler of ancient Egypt, the pharaoh also known as Ramses the Great was the third of the 19th dynasty of Egypt and ruled from 1279 to 1213 BC.

He led several military expeditions and expanded the Egyptian empire to stretch from Syria in the east to Nubia in the south. His successors called him the “Great Ancestor”.

“We found the bust of the statue and the lower part of the head and now we removed the head and we found the crown and the right ear and a fragment of the right eye,” Anani said.

On Thursday, archaeologists, officials, local residents, and members of the news media looked on as a massive forklift pulled the statue’s head out of the water.

The joint Egyptian-German expedition also found the upper part of a life-sized limestone statue of Pharaoh Seti II, Ramses II’s grandson, that is 80 centimetres long.

Archaeologists say the sun temple at Heliopolis was founded by Ramses II, suggesting the statue was likely his.

Egyptian workers look at the site of a new discovery by a team of German-Egyptian archaeologists in Cairo’s Matariya District on Thursday.

It is one of the largest temples in Egypt, almost twice the size of Luxor’s Karnak, but was destroyed in Greco-Roman times. Many of its turrets were shipped to Alexandria or to Europe, and stones from the site were looted and used for construction as Cairo developed.

Now, experts will attempt to dissect the remains of both statues before restoring them. If they are successful and the statue is proven to depict Ramses II, it will be moved to the entrance of the Grand Egyptian Museum.

The discovery was made in the working-class area of ​​Matariya, among unfinished buildings and muddy streets.

Dietrich Raue, leader of the German expedition, says that the ancient Egyptians believed that Heliopolis was inhabited by the sun god, meaning it was the limit for any royal residence.

“The sun god created the world in Heliopolis, in Matariya. That’s what I always tell the people here when they say, ‘Is there anything important?’

“According to the pharaonic belief, the world was created in Matariya,” Raue said.

“That means everything had to be built here. Statues, temples, obelisks, everything. But … the king never lived in Matariya, because it was the sun god living here.”

A quartzite colossus possibly of Ramses II and limestone bust of Seti II have been discovered at the ancient Heliopolis archaeological site in the Matariya area of Cairo.

The find could be a boon for Egypt’s tourism industry, which has suffered many setbacks since the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011 but remains a vital source of foreign currency.