A team of archaeologists from Egypt and Germany have uncovered the head and torso of a colossal statue under the murky ground waters of a Cairo street. A crowd of onlookers looked on as the towering sculpture was pulled out on Thursday. It may be a likeness of Ramses II, Egypt’s most powerful pharaoh, Ahmed Aboulenein reports for Reuters.
While it now exists in fragments, the 3,000-year-old statue once stood 26-feet tall, according to National Geographic’s Sarah Gibbens. The legs and the hips of the statue are likely submerged beneath houses in the area, and it may prove impossible to extract them, Dietrich Raue, an archaeologist with the University of Leipzig who participated in the excavation, tells CNN’s Thomas Page.
Archaeologists also found the upper part of a life-size statue of Pharaoh Seti II, grandson of Ramses II, while excavating the site.
Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry has hailed the discovery of the colossal statue as “one of the most important ever,” Aboulenein writes in Reuters. The work was not inscribed with the name of Ramses II, but its location suggests that it was rendered in his likeness. The sculpture was found in the eastern part of Cairo, beneath which lie the ruins of the ancient city Heliopolis, where King Ramses II's temple once stood.
Deemed the “Great Ancestor” by his successors, Ramses II ruled over Egypt for 66 years, from 1279 to 1213 B.C. He secured the country’s borders through a number of successful military campaigns, but was perhaps most revered for his defeat of a Hittite army at the Battle of Kadesh. Ramses II also bolstered the country’s infrastructure by sponsoring majestic building projects, Peter F. Dorman and Raymond Oliver Faulkner write in Encyclopaedia Britannica. His best-known contributions are two temples carved into the cliffs of Abu Simbel, which feature four colossal statues of the king.
After spending centuries beneath the dirt, the newly discovered statue is headed to a new home. After excavations wrap up, the fragments will be transported to the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, which is scheduled to open in 2018.