Colossal 3,000-year-old statue unearthed from Cairo pit
Archaeologists from Egypt and Germany began removing the quartzite statue -- estimated to stand 30 feet tall -- from the ground in Matariya, greater Cairo, in front of state representatives and media crews Thursday.
The find comes at the end of a dig that began in 2012, says Dietrich Raue from the University of Leipzig, who heads the German team of archaeologists involved in the excavation.
"It was in an area that was almost completely investigated," he explains. The team had found basalt bases in the dilapidated courtyard, but nothing more substantial. "We thought [the pit] would be empty without any features... so that was a great surprise."
Minister of Antiquities Khaled al-Anani, who was on site for the unveiling, said the figure is most likely Pharaoh Ramses II, otherwise known as Ozymandias.
No inscriptions on the statue identify it as Ramses II, said Mahmoud Afifi, head of Ancient Egyptian antiquities at the ministry, but its discovery near the gate of a temple dedicated to Ramses II temple makes him the most likely subject. But Raue says although the statue was certainly placed there by Ramses II, the jury is still out on who it depicts.
Much of the temple complex of ancient Heliopolis, where the statue was found, was destroyed in the Greco-Roman period, and antiquities were plundered and sent to Alexandria or Europe. Other building materials were recycled as Cairo reinvented itself in later eras.