An underwater temple for Greek goddess Aphrodite in Alexandria and many storerooms inside the King Sahure Pyramid in Abusir were added to the long list of discoveries announced by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
The Aphrodite temple dating back to the 5th century BC was discovered by an Egyptian-French archaeological mission comprising the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology (IEASM).
SCA Secretary General Mostafa Waziry said that the team also discovered a number of archaeological finds related to the temple of Amun-Gereb, during underwater excavations in the sunken city of Thonis-Heracleion in Abu Qir Bay in Alexandria.
Waziry said that the sunken city of Thonis-Heracleion is regarded as the largest port of Egypt on the Mediterranean coast before Alexander the Great founded the city named after him in 331 BC. The earthquakes that struck the country in the past caused the city to sink under the sea. It was rediscovered in 2000.
More finds were discovered inside the temple, such as bronze and ceramic finds imported from Greece, in addition to the remains of buildings supported by wooden beams dating back to the 5th century BC.
Head of the IEASM Franck Goddio said the mission also found the area in which offerings, vows, and precious items were stored in the Temple of Amun-Gereb.
The findings are a collection of gold jewellery such as earrings in the shape of a lion’s head, a wajit’s eye, a pendant, and alabaster containers that were used to store perfumes and cosmetic ointments.
A set of ritual dishes made of silver that were used in religious and funerary rituals were also found. The mission also found a votive handpiece made of limestone and bronze duck-shaped jug.
The temple of the god Amun was the place where the pharaohs came to obtain their titles of power as world kings from the supreme god of the ancient Egyptian pantheon.
Magdy Shaker, chief archaeologist at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, said that the discovery of the temple of the goddess Aphrodite could help reach Cleopatra’s tomb.
Queen Cleopatra VII was born in Egypt in 69 BC as a descendant of a line of Macedonian-Greek kings in a dynasty that went back 250 years. She was the last queen of the Ptolemaic dynasty that ruled Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great. Cleopatra VII, daughter of King Ptolemy XII, succeeded him on the throne of Egypt in 51 BC, when she shared rule with her younger brother Ptolemy XIII.
“As this discovery dates back to the 5th century BC, it confirms the existence of a city before Alexander established the city.
“The Temple of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, means that there were Greeks living in this country, and there was a kind of religious tolerance because next to it there is a temple to the god Amun. Thus, it shows that Egypt, throughout its life, is a country that accepts all religions, people, and beliefs,” Shaker said.
“This discovery indicates that the city of Alexandria, before the existence of present-day Alexandria, was a commercial and lively city, and there are Greek and Egyptian temples in it, and some vessels for perfumes that were used for religious rituals.”
Abusir, an ancient site between Giza and Saqqara, northern Egypt, was headlined last week after the joint Egyptian-German archaeological mission from the University of Würzburg working in Abusir uncovered for the first time about eight storerooms inside the Pyramid of King Sahure.
The Egyptian-German archaeological mission started working at the site in 2019 through the conservation and restoration project for the Pyramid of King Sahure. The work is supported by the Antiquities Endowment Fund of the American Research Centre in Egypt, with the aim of protecting the internal parts of the Pyramid of Sahure.
Pharaoh Sahure of the 5th Dynasty constructed the first pyramid at Abusir in the late 26th to 25th century BC. He was the second king of the Fifth Dynasty (2400 BC) and the first king to be buried there.
The site was first excavated by German Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt (1863 – 1938) in 1902-1908, and a great many extremely beautiful high reliefs were found. The core of the pyramid is formed with roughly shaped locally quarried limestone blocks. It consisted of five or six steps.
Waziry said that this discovery is important as it contributes to unveiling the architectural philosophy of the pyramid of King Sahure.
“The discovered warehouses will be made available for future study as soon as the mission finishes its work, and will also be opened to receive Egyptian and foreign visitors in the near future,” Waziry added.
Head of the mission, Mohamed Ismail Khaled, said that although the northern and southern parts of the warehouse area were severely damaged, especially the ceiling and floor, it is still possible to see the remains of the original walls and parts of the floor.
“The storehouses were restored and documented accurately archaeologically, which greatly contributed to understanding the interior design of King Sahure’s pyramid,” he said.
The mission also revealed the original dimensions and design of the front room of King Sahure’s burial chamber, which was damaged over time, as its eastern wall suffered severe damage.
Only the northeastern corner and 0.30 metres of the eastern wall could be found. However, the mission built new supporting walls in place of the demolished ones.
Traces of a low corridor that had been mentioned by the British architect John Perring (1813-1869), who was considered one of the first explorers of the interior design of the pyramid in 1836, were also uncovered.
“The corridor was full of debris and rubbish and that he was unable to enter due to the dilapidated structural condition of the pyramid. However, it has been suggested that this low passageway may have led to a set of storerooms for storing funerary furniture,” Khaled said.
The Egyptian-German mission cleaned the corridor using the latest technologies, including 3D laser scanning using the ZEB Horizon GeoSLAM scanner.
The mission, in cooperation with the 3D Geoscan team, conducted a survey of the areas discovered inside the pyramid, which allowed comprehensive mapping of both the vast exterior areas and the narrow corridors and rooms within.