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Egyptian Museum Of Barcelona Discovers Remains Of Temple Of Ptolemy I

Some workers dismantle the stones of an Egyptian temple, now missing, to raise with them a Christian church. It is the synthesis of the film, real, on which a new discovery announced in scoop from the Egyptian Museum of Barcelona , which participates in the archaeological project together with the German University of Tübingen and the Superior Council of Egyptian Antiquities sheds light .

It was workers from the 6th century AD who, to build a Coptic church, reused pieces of a temple erected 800 years earlier for the pharaoh Ptolemy I (367-283 BC, general of Alexander the Great and the first king of the dynasty that I would die with the famous Cleopatra VII).

The discovery consists of 60 large blocks of calcareous stone, beautifully carved and preserved, that those Christians had used as foundations and pavement of the new church they had in hand at the current site of Kom al-Akhmar, in Sharuna, 180 kilometers to the south. from Cairo.

Of course, when placing them, they left visible only the smooth reverse of the areas sculpted with cornices, moldings and decorative friezes with images as pagan for them as those of the goddess of love, Hathor , the cartridges with the name of Ptolemy I and hieroglyphs, which would remain buried and hidden from the new Coptic faithful.

Perhaps they had not reached the level of fanaticism of other areas where they had no hobbies in destroying the reliefs of Ancient Egypt with blows.

It is an important discovery of Middle Egypt, argue two of its responsible Egyptologists, the curator of the Egyptian Museum Luis Manuel Gonzálvez and the director of the Clos Archaeological Foundation, Mariàngela Taulé, before the president and patron of the entity, Jordi Clos .

After 15 years of excavating in the area (the same time it took Howard Carter to find Tutankhamun’s tomb), two campaigns ago (2019-2020) Taulé and Gonzálvez got “goose bumps” when one night they arrived at the site warned by the workers who were making a drainage system for some nearby crops and they tripped over the blocks.

“We immediately saw the importance and forcefulness of its size, the beauty and the art of the hieroglyphics, perfectly defined. The project had acquired another dimension ”, and now, they affirm, there is work left for several years.

General view of the excavation area with some of the Ptolemaic temple blocks.
“It is one of the few temples that Ptolemy I erected outside Alexandria, then the capital of Egypt, and it is the one that has the most elements preserved,” Gonzálvez points out. It reveals to us that Sharuna, a provincial city, where we have also found a cemetery with well-built tombs, then lived one of the most important moments in its history ”.

Searching for the original location
The blocks found, which belong to the upper courses of the temple, which suggests that many more can be found under other levels, were part of the walls of the ancient temple of Ptolemy I built 2,000 years ago and whose original location they continue to search after that in 1838 the Egyptologist Nestor L’Hôte recorded its existence.

“He was talking about a bare structure about to disappear but when other archaeologists looked for it, the trace had already been lost,” says Gonzálvez, who adds that signs have been appearing during the 20th century. So far, the mission has uncovered tombs, grave goods, and a cave with more than 500 falcon mummies.

The decorated blocks of the Ptolemaic temple, in the warehouse-residence of the archaeological mission.
Part of the work that they will continue to do now is to insist on finding their original location , which they believe should not be far because of the difficulty of moving such heavy blocks. The studies will also focus on making a hypothetical reconstruction of the Ptolemaic temple , of which the hieroglyphs provide information about its foundation.

Temporary exhibition in summer
In parallel, the Egyptian Museum is already preparing a temporary exhibition for this summer to show all the information about the discovery, the reconstruction of the original temple, the history and the progress of the archaeological project. “We will accompany it with unpublished pieces from the time of Ptolemy I” , adds Clos, and with exact replicas on a real scale of many of the blocks.

Some aftershocks that, explains Taulé, have already been carried out “in the midst of a pandemic and with the pressure that we could not finish the job anyway.” They have used the technique of geometry, which consists of taking about 500 high-quality photos of each block (they already have about 20,000) to reproduce the image geometrically and then make the three-dimensional models in the laboratory from Barcelona and print them in 3D. 21st century techniques for pharaonic pieces.

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