The Nile once flowed near ancient Egyptian temple at Karnak: experts

December 18th, 2007 - 7:25 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Dec (ANI): A series of discoveries at the foot of Egypt ’s famous Temple of Amun at Karnak have led archaeologists to believe that the river Nile once flowed near the temple.

The discoveries include ancient ceremonial baths, a pharaoh’s private entry ramp, and the remains of a massive wall built some 3,000 years ago that reinforce what was then the bank of the Nile River .

A host of other artifacts, including hundreds of bronze coins, have also been discovered. All these discoveries are causing experts to reconsider the history of the largest religious complex from ancient Egyptian times.

According to the archaeologists, the discovery of the embankment wall is particularly intriguing, which is the first evidence that the Nile once ran alongside the temple.

Portions of the embankment were accidentally discovered while building a new plaza and performing routine maintenance near the temple’s facade.

In the process of excavating the wall the other artifacts and features were also discovered.

“[The discovery of the wall] changes the landscape [of Luxor ],” National Geographic quoted Mansour Boraik, general supervisor of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Luxor , as saying.

He added: “It changes also our theory about the settlement of Luxor , and it changes our theory about the construction of the temple itself.”

According to Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt ’s Supreme Council of Antiquities and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, the sandstone wall that measure roughly 23 feet (7 meters) in height and 8 feet (2.5 meters) in width may have been even higher in antiquity.

He added: “This is the largest embankment ever built in any place in ancient Egypt . This embankment is very important because it protected the Temple [at] Karnak from the [annual] Nile flood.”

The tomb of Neferhotep, an official from that period, depicted a large rectangular pool in front of the temple that was linked to the Nile through a canal.

Boraik said that the Archaeologists had first discovered small parts of this wall in the 1970s but assumed it to be the back wall of the pool.

That theory held until January, when Egyptian archaeologists found a piece of the same wall several meters away, too far off to be part of the enclosed basin.

Now experts think that the pool depicted in ancient drawings was backfilled in ancient times and the temple was expanded on top of it, built to the edge of where the Nile flowed 3,000 years ago.

“It means that the Nile was reaching the foot of Karnak in the time of the pharaohs. It changes everything. Completely Reevaluating ( Karnak ) said Boraik.

This theory is supported by tests of the sediment at the base of the bank wall, which depict alternating levels of silt and sand hinting that once running water flowed there.

Based on cartouches and other writings found on the wall, experts believe construction started in the 22nd dynasty (945-715 B.C.) and was completed by the middle of the fourth century B.C.

This discovery reveals the ancient city of Thebes , of which Karnak was the religious center, he added.

Archaeologists also discovered two public baths and a jar holding more than 300 coins dating to the era of Macedonian rule of Egypt , from the first to the fourth centuries B.C.

The complete excavation of one of the giant circular baths revealed an intricate mosaic tile floor and seating for 16 people.

The other partially excavated bath has been found to have seats lined by statuettes of dolphins.

As the baths were discovered just outside the wall, so experts thought that they were built on the plateau of silt left behind after the Nile moved to the west.

The jar of bronze coins, indicating the fondness of Macedonian rulers Ptolemy I, II, and III, were discovered near the baths and are currently being cleaned to reveal their inscriptions.

The baths may be used as purification sites where visitors could wash before entering the temple complex.

Other experts think that they may be the first signs of a much larger residential area that has yet to be explored.

A giant ramp leading up to the temple complex has also been excavated. It is inscribed with the name of the pharaoh Taharka (or Taharqa), who ruled in the late seventh century B.C.

The ramp probably served as the ruler’s personal landing area, extending directly into the Nile to allow the pharaoh to move directly from his boat to the temple.

The archaeologists said that this makes it more likely that ancient boats may also be buried in the former riverbed, including pieces of the gigantic ceremonial barges known to have carried images of the gods during religious processions,

“Now that we know the Nile has moved to the west, it means something is waiting for future generations of archaeologists and Egyptologists to possibly recover,” Johnson of the University of Chicago said.

“It’s a wonderful gift now that you realize there is something down there, he added. (ANI)

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