Archaeologists conducting excavations near Cairo, Egypt, have discovered material evidence that gives new insight into the Matariya sun temple in the ancient city of Heliopolis.
Heliopolis, meaning “City of the Sun” was one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt that was occupied since the Predynastic Period. The city was the cult centre of the sun got Atum, who later became identified with Ra and then Horus.
A team of archaeologists from the Institute of Egyptology at Leipzig University, in combination with the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, have excavated basalt reliefs and inscriptions from the Matariya temple built by Kheperkare Nakhtnebef, better known by his Hellenised name of Nectanebo I (380 to 363 BC) who founded the 30th dynasty.
A number of temple building components and statue fragments were also unearthed in the vicinity of the still-standing obelisk of Heliopolis, in addition to a fragments of quartzite statues of Rameses II, an obelisk fragment from the time of King Osorkon I, as well as a sanctuary for the deities Shu and Tefnut from the time of Psamtik II. The researchers stated that the discovery gives new insight into the rise of the regions of Lower Egypt, including the representation of the region of Heliopolis itself.
Dr Dietrich Raue, curator of the Egyptian Museum at Leipzig University said: “The inscriptions provide an insight into the date when the temple was founded in the early summer of 366 BC, the dimensions of the temple, and the materials used. A number of unfinished blocks suggest that construction work abruptly ended following the king’s death and did not recommence”.
“This would make it one of the last, if not the final major structure built after a good 2400 years of continuous construction work by the kings of Egypt at the place where the world was created. Further architectural elements came from the time of Rameses II (1279 to 1213 BC) and his son Merneptah (1213 to 1201 BC).” Added Raue.