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article imageLost remains of ancient Egyptian temple found at bottom of quarry

By Karen Graham     May 19, 2015 in Science
Luxor - Archaeologists excavating an ancient quarry at Gebel el Silsila, dating back to the New Kingdom and Roman eras of Egypt's past, have unearthed the lost temple of Kheny.
The quarry itself is historic, and was once used to provide high-quality sandstone for structures throughout Egypt, including Luxor and Karnak for a period of about 1.500 years during the New Kingdom period to the start of Roman times.
Gebel el Silsila was an important cult center
The quarry is located on both sides of the Nile River about 65 Kilometers North of Aswan, between Edfu and Kom Ombo. The cliffs rise up on both sides of this narrow stretch of the Nile River, forming a gorge and make it a perfect site for a quarry. During the Dynasty XVIII, river travelers would carve small shrines into the cliffs that ran down to the water's edge.
The ruins of Gebel el-Silsila  Aswan  Egypt.
The ruins of Gebel el-Silsila, Aswan, Egypt.
Egyptologists say Gebel el Silsila became an important cult center, and each year, at the start of the season of inundation of the Nile, offerings and sacrifices were made to the gods associated with the river to ensure the coming years prosperity and good crops. The main deity was Sobek, the god of crocodiles who controlled the waters.
The temple at Khenu (the Place of Rowing)
“We know that huge quantities of sandstone for temple building were quarried there,” Lund University archaeologist Maria Nilsson, director of the Gebel el Silsila Survey Project, told Discovery News.
An overview of the temple site in 2015.
An overview of the temple site in 2015.
Excavations at the site revealed the remains of foundations and stonework of a temple known in ancient times as Khenu (the Place of Rowing). The Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, Mamdouh El-Damaty called the find very important. It is believed the temple was built around 1550 BC during the Tuthmosis I era and continued to be used during the reigns of Amenhotep III and Ramses II.
The foundations of the temple measure approximately 35.2 meters (115.5 feet) by 18.2 meters (59.7 feet). From the arrangement of the blockwork, there appears to have been four visible floor levels, along with column bases and inner and outer walls. On the west side of the building, there appear to be the marks of five column bases while two painted fragments of sandstone with depictions of the Egyptian star give scientists clues that the temple had a starred ceiling.
The temple once boasted a starred ceiling  as revealed from these two painted sandstone  fragments f...
The temple once boasted a starred ceiling, as revealed from these two painted sandstone fragments featuring the Egyptian star and sky.
Gebel el Silsila Survey Project
What was once lost has now been found
The present day excavation at Gebel el-Silsila began in 2012 with the unearthing of various cartouches for Amenhotep III and Ramses II, as well as hundreds of pieces of rock bearing inscriptions. But we owe the discovery of the temple to German Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt in 1934.
Surprisingly, the remains of the temple of Kheny were first recorded sometime between 1906 and 1925. It was described in a map drawn by Borchardt as being a destroyed Ramesside temple. He published the map in 1934.
Nilsson and associate director John Ward were able to locate the temple by studying the rudimentary map drawn by Borchardt along with an unpublished drawing by Egyptologist Peter Lacovara, curator at the M. C. Carlos Museum in Emory University.
According to Nilsson and Ward, the temple site shows at least four chronological periods that span 1,500 years of use, starting with the reigns of Thutmosis/Hatshepsut, Amenhotep III, Ramses II to Roman times. “The oldest building phase of the temple was made up by limestone, which is unique within a sandstone quarry, and may signify the official changeover from limestone construction to sandstone,” Nilsson said.
Beads recovered from among the ruins date back to the 18th Dynasty.
Beads recovered from among the ruins date back to the 18th Dynasty.
Gebel el Silsila Survey Project
Evidence of how the Egyptians moved hundred-ton stones
The most exciting discovery made by the team occurred in January this year. The Lund University team found an inscription detailing the transfer of two obelisks. The inscriptions portrayed the technique used in detaching the huge stone blocks and how they were loaded into sailing boats.
The scientists have also unearthed stables, rock-hewn shelters for workers at the quarries, and a sphinx like the ones lining the avenues at Luxor and Karnak. There are also many personal items, such as pottery fragments, beads of different colors and a blue scarab. Nilsson said,
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