How Mud-Filled Beer Jars Helped Egyptologists Make One of the Greatest Discoveries in Half a Century
Historians believe that six ancient Egyptian sun temples were built in honour of the Sun god Ra by different pharaohs, but only two had previously been found by modern archaeologists – those dedicated to Userkaf and Nyuserre.
Archaeologists believe they have made one of the most important discoveries of the last half-century in the Egyptian desert, uncovering one of the missing ancient Sun temples, reports The Telegraph.
Ra was the most powerful god in ancient Egypt and it's believed that half a dozen temples were erected by pharaohs
of the fifth dynasty to complement their pyramids – their final resting places in the afterlife.
To date, only two of these temples have been found by modern archaeologists: that of Userkaf, lying between the Abusir pyramid field to the south and the locality of Abu Gorab to the north, and that of Nyuserre, the largest and best-preserved of its kind. Both temples dedicated to Ra feature a spacious courtyard dominated by a tall, pyramid-like obelisk aligned with the east-west axis of the sun.
Dr Massimiliano Nuzzolo, assistant professor of Egyptology at the Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, and his colleagues including Dr Mohamed Osman, president of Cairo University since 2017, had focused their efforts on one of the already known sun temples, built by King Nyuserre, who ruled in the 25th century BC. After excavation work, an older base made of mud bricks was revealed underneath.
At the time, the team could not determine if the earlier site had been sacred or not. However, further efforts revealed the two-foot-deep base of a white limestone pillar.
“We knew that there was something below the stone temple of Nyuserre, but we don’t know if it is just another building phase of the same temple or if it is a new temple… Actually, the fact that there is such a huge, monumental entrance would point to a new building. So, why not another sun temple, one of the missing sun temples?” Nuzzolo said.
The discovery of beer jars filled with mud – an ancient Egyptian ritual
offering in only the most sacred places – in the foundation of the building remnants infused the team of experts with the hope that their discovery was, indeed, a sun temple.
“I have now many proofs that what we are excavating here is one of the lost sun temples,” added Dr Massimiliano Nuzzolo.
As for which of the pharaohs ordered the erection of this particular temple, the Egyptologists can only assume it was one from the fifth dynasty.