Excavation in Ain Shams
Ancient Heliopolis Uncovered

We have been excavating in a suburb of Cairo called Ain Shams (Heliopolis in Greek and Iunu in ancient Egyptian). This was the center for the worship of the sun god, Ra. A number of important remains have been discovered here, and there is evidence that this cult went back at least to the Old Kingdom, if not before, and was active to the end of Egyptian history. Many shrines and temples were built here over the millennia, although we have only fragments left.

The earliest king attested here is Djoser Netjerikhet from the 3rd Dynasty, and an obelisk of the 6th Dynasty king Teti was found here as well. An obelisk of Senwosret I stands in the middle of a park here, and we have built an open-air museum in this area, to display some of the statues and stelae found here. Talatat dating to the reign of the “heretic” king, Akhenaten, have been found at Heliopolis, bearing the name of his beautiful queen, Nefertiti, showing that there was a temple to the Aten (the disk of the sun worshipped by Akhenaten and Nefertiti) built here in the late 18th Dynasty. In another part of Heliopolis, there are remains of temples dating to the 20th Dynasty, and we have also excavated a number of beautiful 26th Dynasty tombs.

The area where we are excavating now is where Ramses II of the 19th Dynasty built an enormous temple for Re, the largest temple of Ramses II ever found. It was built of limestone, and we have uncovered the remains of one pylon, bearing inscriptions of this king. We are excavating the entrance area and the west side, and have found magazines for the storage of wheat, a kiln for making amulets, part of a large statue, the head of which weighs 5 tons and would have stood 6 meters tall, and another head of granite, weighing 2 tons.

Perhaps the most exciting is an unusual seated statue that shows Ramses II in the leopard skin of a priest, showing that he built this temple as the high priest of Re. This statue is in the style of Dynasty 12, and may have been usurped by Ramses II. This is an important discovery, giving us information about the cult of Re.


BACK to The Plateau Homepage

Hit Counter