During routine excavation work, French excavators working at the San El-Hagar archaeological site unearthed hundreds of painted limestone blocks that were once used in the construction of the temple of the XXII dynasty king Osorkon II.
Minister of State for Antiquities Zahi Hawass said that early studies on site revealed that these blocks were dismantled and reused in the construction of edifices during the Late Ancient Egyptian period and the Ptolemaic era.
He promised that after unearthing all the blocks the archaeological team would study and reconstruct the blocks into their original shape in order to discover whether they formed a temple or a chapel.
French archaeologist Philip Brissaud, head of the French mission, claims the newly discovered blocks were reused in the construction of the enclosed wall of goddess Mut’s sacred lake, which the mission has been working hard to locate since last year. The lake is 30 meters in width, 12 meters long and six meters deep.
In his report, Brousseau wrote that cleaning 120 blocks revealed that 78 of them were skillfully painted and decorated while two were engraved with the names of kings Osorkon III or IV.
Meanwhile, he continued, other blocks bear hieroglyphic text with the name of the goddess Mut, the lady of Usher lake, which makes finding the sacred lake at San El Hagar temple, like the one that was found at Karnak's temples on Luxor’s east bank, even more important.
Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, general supervisor of the minister’s office, describes the discovery as "very important” because it will add to the history of a great archaeological place in Lower Egypt. San El-Hagar, he explains, displays monuments from the Ramesside period that were once transferred in antiquity from king Ramsess II’s capital Per-Ramsess, now Kantir. It also has monuments that can be dated to the Graeco-Roman and Ptolemaic eras.
Abdel Maqsoud asserted that following the completion of the discovery of all the blocks the French mission will reconstruct these blocks according to the paintings and decorations engraved on them in order to discover what kind of edifice these blocks form. This reconstruction work, Abdel Maqsoud pointed out, reminded him of the dismantling and reconstruction of the chapel of king Senousert I and queen Hatshepsut’s red chapel in the Karnak temples.
He stated that the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) is now developing the site to make it more tourist friendly.
The first phase has already begun, with a budget of LE50 million, which includes reducing and controlling the level of subterranean water leaking from the urban settlement and agricultural lands neighbouring the site.
A visitor center will also be installed at the site as well as a museuological warehouse.
Ibrahim Soliman, director of San El-Hagra site, said the site is located on the northern side of Zagazig and includes a collection of temples, the largest one dedicated to the ancient Egyptian god Amun. It was the capital city during the XXI and XXII dynasties.
In 1939 french Egyptologist Pierre Montet discovered a collection of royal tombs and a treasure known as the Tanis treasure, now on display at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir. It includes gold jewellery inlaid with precious stones and funeral masks.