Lost temple uncovered

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 2 Aug 2022

The remains of a mudbrick structure believed to be one of four lost Temples of the Sun have been uncovered in the Abusir Necropolis

Remains of the temple
Remains of the temple


In the Abu Ghorab area north of the Abusir Necropolis, a joint Polish-Italian archaeological mission claims to have uncovered one of four lost Temples of the Sun built by Fifth Dynasty kings that are known about from historical texts but have hitherto never been found.

Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said that the discovery was made during excavation work carried out inside the temple of the Fifth Dynasty king Nyuserre.

He said that preliminary studies indicated that the structure may be one of the four Temples of the Sun that are known about through historical sources but have never been discovered. Further excavations at the site would reveal more evidence, he said.

The remains of the building are entered through a limestone doorway that leads to an area between vaults to the north and a great courtyard to the west, where there is a mud-paved floor containing huge quartz blocks, some embedded under the floor of the temple.

Ayman Ashmawi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector at the SCA, said that the remains of the discovered structure were built of mudbrick, and a part of them had been removed by Nyuserre to build his temple.

A collection of clay vessels was unearthed at the site indicating that it may have been used in rituals for establishing the temple. The foundation deposits were found at the level of the adobe wall and consisted of beer cups and medium-sized pots, some of which have a red edge.

“Fragments of clay seals bearing royal names, including those of the Fifth Dynasty king Shepseskar, about whom little is known, have been found,” said Rosanna Birelli, head of the mission from the University of Naples.

She said that the new discovery revealed the existence of various activities at the site in antiquity, a fact that could change our knowledge of the history of this ruler in particular and the history of the Fifth Dynasty in general.

Massimiliano Nozolo, head of the Polish Academy of Sciences Mission from Warsaw, confirmed that the mission would finish its work soon, with the aim of revealing the ancient temple and the secrets it holds.

The Sun Temples were built by the kings of the Fifth Dynasty around 4,500 years ago and dedicated to the Sun deity Re. Six of the temples are known from historical inscriptions, but only two have been uncovered, belonging to the kings Nyuserre and Userkaf.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 4 August, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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