Chamber discovered by ancient temple in Matareya, smuggled artifact to be returned from UK

Courtesy: Ministry of Antiquities

Over the past two days, the Ministry of Antiquities announced that a team of German and local archaeologists discovered an underground compartment by the Ancient Egyptian temple of Heliopolis in northern Cairo.

Meanwhile, in another development, the ministry claims that it is receiving an ancient artifact from London which had previously been smuggled out of the country.

The ministry issued a statement on its official website on Wednesday claiming that a smuggled artifact depicting the Ancient Egyptian god Amoun-Ra (estimated to be 3,400 years old) is in the process of being returned to Egypt, and is scheduled to arrive from London “over the next few weeks.”

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The ministry claims this engraved artifact is part of a column from the Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor (formerly Thebes), believed to date back to the reign of the Eighteenth Dynasty Pharaoh Thutmose IV.

The ministry’s statement explained that this artifact was in the possession of a private collector in London, who voluntarily agreed to hand over the piece after he was informed that it was a genuine fragment from an Ancient Egyptian temple.

The ministry claimed that it is fighting to preserve the country’s historical and cultural legacy on both the “legal and diplomatic fronts” in order to reclaim all of Egypt’s artifacts which had been illegally smuggled out of the country.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the ministry announced in another online statement that a buried chamber had been discovered by the Temple of Heliopolis, located in the modern-day district of Matareya, in northern Cairo.

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This discovery was made by a joint team of Egyptian and German archaeologists led by Egyptologist Dietrich Raue. The discovery of this chamber is unprecedented, according to the Ministry of Antiquities, as this is the first time such a space is discovered by Heliopolis Temple.

However, the dimensions of this chamber (chapel, or underground compartment) are not yet known as it is immersed in groundwater. This groundwater will reportedly be drained, ahead of future excavations.

According to Raue, his team also unearthed the exterior walls of the Temple of Heliopolis. The remains of these ancient walls, constructed of adobe/mudbrick, reportedly measuring up to 15 meters wide in some parts.

According to the ministry’s statement, this chamber is marked by a basalt block has been associated with Pharaoh Nectanebo I, who ruled over Egypt around circa 379-360 BC, during the reign of the 30th dynasty.

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Elsewhere in this temple another discovery was made: partial remains of a royal statue bearing the cartouche of Pharaoh Merneptah. This 19th dynasty king reigned around the years 1213-1203 BC.

According to the joint team of Egyptian-German archaeologists, further excavations are due to be undertaken in search of clues regarding the history and mysteries of Heliopolis Temple.