Artifacts belonging to the era of King Khufu (also known as Cheops), who ruled sometime in the 26th century BC or nearly 4,500 years ago, have been discovered in Cairo’s Ayn-Shams neighborhood by the joint German-Egyptian Archaeological Mission. Ayn-Shams, literally meaning “Eye of the Sun” in Arabic, was part of the ancient city of Heliopolis, a spiritual center of ancient Egyptian sun worship. A first of its kind in the region, the foundations of Ayn-Shams’ Temple of the Sun, along with large stone blocks dating to King Khufu’s reign have been found within the Matariya open-air museum in Cairo, reports Ahram Online .
The New Finds: From 2580-BC King Khufu to 1198-BC Seti II
All the newly uncovered fragments were found in different debris layers dating back to the Roman, Late Roman, Early Islamic, Mamluk, and Ottoman periods.
The King Khufu period (circa 2580 BC) stone blocks, made of granite, were the oldest discoveries at the site so far.
Archaeologists also found the foundations of a courtyard, a pedestal of Amasis or Ahmose II (570-526 BC), and multiple altar installations from the Late Period (525-332 BC). The foundations of the Ayn-Shams Temple of the Sun date back to the New Kingdom (16th century-11th century BC). Other previously unknown large blocks of granite from antiquity were found near the obelisk of Senusret I.
According to Ayman Ashwamy, head of the Egyptian Antiquities Sector at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, numerous fragments of statues, mainly sphinxes, were also uncovered during the Matariya site. He added that the mission was able to successfully show early occupation of the area through the many unearthed archaeological layers that dated to the era of Egypt’s Zero Dynasty (Naqada III period, roughly around 3000 BC).
One of many sphinxes that were found at the Ayn-Shams site in Cairo, where the first-of-its-kind King Khufu evidence was also discovered. ( Ministry of Antiquities )
Mostafa Waziri, Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Archaeology, announced the discovery in a press release . His comments on the King Khufu find were also posted on Twitter. He suggests that the King Khufu stone may have been a part of a building once situated at the legendary pyramids of Giza but was later moved and repurposed during the Ramesside era (19th and 20th Dynasty).
Typically, the Ramesside era has been associated with the use of stones from earlier historical periods and this stone repurposing became common from this period onwards.
Taken all together, the latest evidence found beneath this ancient Cairo neighborhood confirms that Egyptian kings ruled from this location from 1914 BC to 1198 BC. These important Egyptian rulers range from: Amenemhat II (1914–1879 BC); Sesostris III (1882-1842 BC); Amenemhat III (1842-1795 BC); Amenemhat V (1776-1773 BC); Thutmosis III (1479-1425 BC); Amenhotep II; Amenhotep III; Horemheb (1319-1292 BC); Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC); and Seti II (1204-1198 BC).
One of the granite blocks dating to King Khufu’s reign about 4,500 years ago in Egypt! ( Ministry of Antiquities )
Sarcophagi and altars from the era of kings Amenemhat IV, Sobekhotep IV, Ay, Seti I, Osorkon I, Takelot I, and Psamtik I were also recently discovered at the Matariya open-air museum site. In addition, a sculptural quartz model in the form of the sphinx of King Amenhotep II, and the base of a colossal pink granite baboon statue were also found.
An important point of observation was that these fragments were discovered in various debris layers from Roman, Late Roman, Early Islamic, Mamluk, and Ottoman occupations of Egypt’s rich history.
Another of the ancient stones that have been found beneath ancient Cairo, Egypt at the Matariya open-air museum. ( Ministry of Antiquities )
King Khufu and Ancient Egypt’s Golden Age
King Khufu was the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty in the first half of the Old Kingdom period. Though many aspects of his reign are very poorly documented, his major contribution is commissioning the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, reports Heritage Daily.
“For the first time fragments of the Fourth Dynasty king Khufu (c. 2580 BC) were found in Heliopolis,” said Dietrich Raue, co-lead, heading the mission from the German side. “Excavation work also provided additional evidence for the earlier history of the area,” he added, reconfirming what Ashwamy had said earlier.
He was quick to admit that the finds may have been from a hitherto unknown building of King Khufu at Matariya or brought from Giza’s pyramid district as building foundational material in the Ramesside era, when the reusing of old stones for new monuments became common.
In addition, layers of rubble pottery were found alluding to religious and ritual activity in the 3rd millennium BC.
There is also evidence of a large presence at the site during the Third and Fourth Dynasties (cumulatively 2686-2494 BC), often associated with ancient Egypt’s “golden age’.”
A piece of granite from King Pepi I (2280 BC) reign was also found which had an inscription dedicated to Horus.
The mission plans to continue excavations at the site, and archaeologists on both sides of the mission are confident more finds will come to light in the future.
Top image: These images represent just a few of the spectacular finds beneath an ancient district of Cairo, Egypt, which included first-of-its-kind evidence of King Khufu from roughly 4,500 years ago! Source: Ministry of Antiquities
By Sahir Pandey