Ancient Egyptian Temple Entrance Found in Nile River

Andrew Bossone in Cairo, Egypt
for National Geographic News
May 27, 2008

Archaeologists have discovered a portico, or covered entryway, of an ancient Egyptian temple beneath the surface of the Nile River.

The entryway once led to the temple of the ram-headed fertility god Khnum, experts say.

A team of Egyptian archaeologist-divers found the portico in Aswan while conducting the first-ever underwater surveys of the Nile, which began earlier this year.

"The Nile has shifted, and this part of the temple began to be a part of [the river]," said Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

(Hawass is also a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

Today's Nile obscures many objects from ancient times, and archaeologists believe the underwater excavations will reveal other significant artifacts.

Surviving Time

The massive portico is too large to be removed during the current excavation, but archaeologists removed a one-ton stone with inscriptions that could date from the 22nd dynasty (945-712 B.C.) to 26th dynasty (664-525 B.C.).

The stone itself could be much older, however, because like many objects throughout Egyptian history, the original materials of the Temple of Khnum were reused to construct newer buildings.

"In a town that was continuously inhabited, of course [older buildings] were always demolished," said Cornelius von Pilgrim, director of the Swiss Institute of Architectural and Archaeological Research on Ancient Egypt.

"While doing this [demolition], all the architectural elements, all the stones, were used in new houses, new buildings."

The temple of Khnum was first erected in the 12th dynasty (1985-1773 B.C.) or 13th dynasty (1773-1650 B.C.) and was later rebuilt and expanded under subsequent regimes, including by the "female pharaoh" Hatshepsut (1473-1458 B.C.)

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