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French archaeologists in San El-Hagar have discovered hundreds of coloured and inscribed limestone blocks, which they believe were used to build the sacred lake walls of a temple dedicated to the goddess Mut.
General view of the site where French archaeologists discovered hundreds of 3,000-year-old coloured and inscribed limestone blocks. Image: Supreme Council of Antiquities
The limestone blocks may have been created during the reign of the Pharaoh Osorkon II of the 22nd Dynasty and used for either a temple or chapel. The stone may have also been reused in the late period and the Ptolemaic era. Dr. Hawass added that following a complete excavation and study of the blocks, the French mission would reconstruct the original arrangement to determine if they are from a temple or chapel.
Dr. Philippe Brissaud, director of the French mission, confirmed that the sacred lake measures about 30m by 12m with a depth of 6m.
The team has so far cleaned about 120 blocks, 78 of which have inscription out of hundreds still to be revealed. Two blocks belong to Pharaoh Osorkon III or IV, while the inscriptions mention the title “Mistress Mut of Isheru Lake” indicating both goddess and lake during the 21st and 22nd Dynasties.
Dr. Mohamed Abd el Maksoud, at the Ministry of State for Antiquities, said that “this discovery adds great importance to the San El-Hagar site, one of the most archaeologically rich areas of the delta known as the ‘Thebes of the north’. ”
The region is an urgent priority for the Ministry of State for Antiquities who have set aside a budget of over £5 million to lower the water table, control agricultural drainage, and build an open-site museum complete with visitors centre, tourist facilities and a museum store.
A painted limestone block, one of hundreds discovered in Egypt by French archaeologists. Image: Supreme Council of Antiquities
San El-Hagar (known as Tanis during the pharaonic era), is 70km northeast of Zagazig city and is one of Egypt’s oldest cities as well as containing several temples belonging to the god Amun. Tanis was the capital of Egypt during the 21st and 22nd dynasties.
Tanis was made famous on film by Indiana Jones as he discovers the lost “Ark of the Covenant” within the city, which was allegedly consumed by a sandstorm which lasted for an entire year and buried Tanis completely.
In 1939 French Egyptologist Pierre Montet discovered a collection of royal tombs and a treasure known as the Tanis treasure, now on display at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir. It includes gold jewellery inlaid with precious stones and funeral masks.
Excavation work began at this site in 1860 by Auguste Mariette, followed in 1884 by Flinders Petrie who discovered the Temple of Amun inside the old city. From 1928 to 1958 a French mission directed by Pierre Montet excavated the temples of Mut and Horus and the treasure of the royal necropolis, currently on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Now under the direction of Dr. Philippe Brissaud, the inscriptions of this latest discovery are thought to be amongst the best quality reliefs to be found in Egypt.
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