Archaeologists Unearth the Long-Lost Top Half of an Enormous Ramses II Statue

A German researcher found the lower section of the Egyptian pharaoh’s likeness nearly 100 years ago

Ramses Statue
The fully intact statue would have measured nearly 23 feet tall. Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Archaeologists in Egypt have uncovered the upper half of a towering statue of Ramses II, cracking a century-long mystery. Found in the ancient city of Hermopolis (now Ashmunein), the 12.5-foot-tall limestone fragment lines up perfectly with the lower section of a sculpture discovered nearby in 1930.

The ancient statue depicts Ramses in a seated position, adorned with a crown and a headdress topped with a cobra, according to a statement from the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. The dual crown indicates Ramses’ simultaneous authority over the kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt, while the cobra represents royalty, writes the National’s Kamal Tabikha.

The upper area of the back column of the statue is etched with hieroglyphs that list Ramses’ many titles, glorifying the king as “one of ancient Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs,” says Bassem Jihad, head of the excavation team, in the statement, per a translation by Reuters.

Preliminary scans have confirmed that the carved limestone block is a continuation of the lower section of the statue, which was found in the same area in 1930 by German archaeologist Günther Roeder. With its halves combined, the statue would have loomed at a height of nearly 23 feet.

As the third pharaoh of Egypt’s 19th dynasty, Ramses ruled over a sprawling empire that stretched from modern-day Sudan to Syria. During his reign—which spanned 1279 to 1213 B.C.E., making it the second-longest of any Egyptian monarch—he ushered the kingdom into a golden age of power and wealth. Known as Ramses the Great, the pharaoh’s legacy was cemented by a slew of monuments and statues constructed in his name, both during and after his reign.

The joint Egyptian and American dig team originally began its exploration of the Ashmunein area with the goal of discovering a religious complex from Egypt’s New Kingdom era (1550 to 1070 B.C.E.). Though the researchers ultimately stumbled onto something entirely different, they remained pleased with their results.

“Though we have not found the complex we were initially looking for, a statue of such importance is a sign that we are digging in the right place,” Adel Okasha, an antiquities official who oversaw the dig, tells the National.

Next, the team will create a model envisioning what the statue looked like in antiquity, when it was fully intact.

“Not only is it a wonderful opportunity to have a whole other massive statue of the famed king, it also adds to our general understanding and fills gaps in our data on the large corpus of Ramses II’s statuary,” Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist at the American University in Cairo, tells the National. “Through each discovery, we have been able to trace changes in the style during the course of his very long reign.”

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