Ancient Egyptian Temple Entrance Found in Nile River

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(See related photos: "Mummy of Egypt's 'Lost Queen' Found" [June 27, 2007].)

Two large columns and more stones of the temple will be removed from the river when excavations resume later this year.

The stones found around the portico of the temple, like the one already taken out of the water, often have inscriptions that describe ancient times.

These inscriptions could contain a precise date of the construction of a nearby feature known as the Nilometer, a basin that ancient officials used to measure seasonal floods and thereby determine taxes.

"In the Nilometer one could see how high the flood was," von Pilgrim said. "And depending on the height of the flood, one could predict how good the harvest would be. And based on this they fixed the taxation."

Khnum's temple was located at a religious, political, military, commercial, and mining center of ancient Egypt, von Pilgrim added.

"This was an enormously important building. It had a major importance for the whole country," he said.

Beneath the Surface

Plans are underway to conduct a complete survey of the Nile from Aswan to Luxor starting in September (see Egypt map).

In continued underwater surveys Egyptian archaeologists expect to find more antiquities in the Nile, not only because of waters that rose throughout the centuries, but also because of accidents and natural disasters that caused objects to fall underwater.

Parts of an ancient Christian church were discovered during this excavation across from Khnum beneath the east bank of the Nile, the team reported.

The archaeologists also believe shipping accidents could have been common given the high volume of traffic in Aswan's harbor. Aswan was a bustling port for the sandstone and the red and black granite quarries that supplied the ancient world with building materials.

In other places in the Nile, excavators such as the 19th-century French archaeologist Auguste Mariette, lost important archaeological objects in the water as they were being shipped to Europe from sites up and down the Nile.

"Auguste Mariette moved obelisks from Dar Abu Naga in Luxor," Hawass said.

"There were two obelisks that were drowned 10 meters (32 feet) opposite the Temple of Karnak. And that is [only] what is known."

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