A team of archaeologists have found a sun temple dating back thousands of years, the ‘biggest find’ of the last 50 years in the realm of pyramids and ancient pharaohs.
A team of scientists unearthed what they believe is one of Egypt’s lost “sun temples” dating from the mid-25th century BCE.
This sun temple is a very rare find, the third ever found and the first to be dug out in 50 years.
Sun temples were built for ancient Egyptian rulers, pharaohs, during their lifetime, to grant them the status of god, in a culture that worshipped the sun god Ra. On the other hand, the pyramids for which Egypt is better known for, were built to ensure pharaohs were gods in the afterlife as well as their final resting place, the Daily Mail
Archaeologists believe that only six sun temples exist in Egypt, and have located two already. The team uncovered the remains of the third buried beneath another temple at Abu Ghurab, around 12 miles south of Cairo, mission co-director Dr Massimiliano Nuzzolo, an assistant professor of Egyptology at the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures in Warsaw, told
CNN on Monday.
According to the Telegraph, “each sun temple featured a large courtyard encompassing a tall, pyramid-like obelisk that aligned perfectly with the east-west axis of the sun.
This was designed so that on the summer solstice the sun rose and shone through the plaza entrance and basked the obelisk in light at the crack of dawn, with the sun setting at the exact opposite side of the temple.”
“Each king wanted a pyramid for achieving his resurrection but this was not enough for the fifth dynasty kings,” Dr Nuzzolo told the Telegraph.
“They wanted something more. The king built [a sun temple] to turn himself into a god. The sun god.”
The Abu Ghurab site was already well-established as an archaeological hotspot: CNN reports that, “In 1898, archaeologists working at the site discovered the sun temple of Nyuserra, also known as Neuserre or Nyuserre, the sixth king of the 5th dynasty, who ruled Egypt between 2400 and 2370 BCE.”
Dr Nuzzolo and his team dug beneath the remains of the sun temple of Nyuserre Ini, the sixth king of the Fifth Dynasty, and came across an older base, the Daily Mail reports. The mud bricks it was composed of suggested another building was previously present there.
Nuzzolo said it had been partially uncovered in 1898 before but mistakenly identified as part of an existing temple.
“The archaeologists of the 19th century excavated only a very small part of this mud brick building below the stone temple of Nyuserra and concluded that this was a previous building phase of the same temple,” Nuzzolo wrote in an email to NZ Herald.
“Now our finds demonstrate that this was a completely different building, erected before Nyuserra,” he said. Initially, Dr Nuzzolo and colleagues, including Dr Mohamed Osman, “had no evidence of what this building was or if it was sacred,” the Telegraph reports.
They went on to excavate, removing sand and rubble and revealing a “two-foot-deep base of a white limestone pillar,” according to the Telegraph.
“We knew that there was something below the stone temple of Nyuserre, but we don’t know if it is just another building phase of the same temple or if it is a new temple,” Dr Nuzzolo said.
“Actually, the fact that there is such a huge, monumental entrance would point to a new building. So, why not another sun temple, one of the missing sun temples?”
What finally confirmed to the researchers that this building was in fact a sun temple, was “a cache of beer jars filled with mud, a ritual offering reserved for the most sacred places” according to the Telegraph, which quotes them as saying the old site was a temple.
Thus the recent dig confirms that underneath the sun temple of Nyuserre lay another sun temple.
According to CNN, discoveries made by the team include “seals engraved with the names of kings who ruled before Nyuserre, which were once used as jar stoppers, as well as the bases of two limestone columns, which were part of an entrance portico, and a limestone threshold.”
Dr Nuzzolo said the original construction was made entirely of mud bricks. His team, according to CNN, also found dozens of intact beer jars during the dig. Some of the jars are filled with ritual mud, which was only used in specific religious rituals, he added, and the pottery has been dated to the mid-25th century BCE, a generation or two before Nyuserre lived.
The mud brick monument “was impressive in size,” said Nuzzolo, but Nyuserre ritually destroyed it in order to build his own sun temple, CNN reports.
Nuzzolo said the sun temples were dedicated to Ra, with the king presenting himself as the only son of Ra on Earth, legitimising his power through the temple.
“I have now many proofs that what we are excavating here is one of the lost sun temples,” said Dr Nuzzolo, the Telegraph reports.
According to the Telegraph, the builder and the benefactor of the newly-unearthed third sun temple of the six total sun temples built “remains unknown, but it is likely one of the mysterious fifth dynasty rulers.”
THUMBNAIL PHOTO: The relatively newer sun temple of Nyuserre is built on top of the recently discovered third sun temple. (Flickr/cairoinfo4u)
HEADLINE PHOTO: This altar to Ra is part of the relatively newer structure built by Nyuserre over the recently discovered sun temple. (Flickr/cairoinfo4u)
Source: TRTWorld and agencies