CAIRO — The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has recently announced the success of the Egyptian archaeological mission working in the Temple of Tel el-Farain city (Hill of the Pharaohs) — also known by its ancient name of Buto — in Kafr el-Sheikh governorate in the central Nile Delta region, in discovering the remains of a pillared hall at the temple.
In a Nov. 16 statement, the ministry said that the Egyptian archaeological mission “also uncovered a limestone panel representing a deity with a bird's head topped by a white crown surrounded by two feathers, and it is possible that it represents the deity Nakhbet or the deity Mutt.”
“A small stone cabin made of limestone was also discovered on a high level of the floor of the temple. It was protected by thick mud-brick walls, and utensils for offering sacrifices were found next to it. It is likely that it was built to preserve the small statues in the temple,” the statement added.
The ministry statement cited the head of the Egyptian antiquities sector at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Ayman Ashmawy, as saying, “The remains of the pillared hall may date back to the el-Sawy era, as a number of religious pottery vessels dating back to this era were discovered, in addition to stone pieces decorated with engravings depicting scenes dating back to the same era.”
He explained that “the remains of the column hall are located at the southwestern end of the temple, and the area of what has been uncovered so far is about 6.5 m x 4.5 m, and it includes the remains of three columns, representing columns of the style of the papyrus plant called in the past 'wadj.’ The papyrus-style columns were a symbol of the sea facade, and it was associated with the goddess Wadjet.”
Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mustafa Waziri was quoted in the ministry statement as saying that the discovery “is an authentic and important part of the remains of the Buto temple. The discovery constitutes an important scientific and archaeological addition to understanding the architectural planning of the temples’ area in the city of Buto, which extends over an area of 11 acres and is surrounded by a huge wall made of mud bricks, which was erected in the era of the New Kingdom. The wall was later elevated in el-Sawy era.”
Hossam Ghoneim, head of the Egyptian archaeological mission at the Temple of Tel el-Farain and director general of antiquities in Kafr el-Sheikh, told Al-Monitor, “The archaeological mission has been working in Buto since 2016, with the aim to uncover the urban planning of the temple of the city of Buto, as that city was the ancient capital of Egypt in the pre-dynastic era. The myth of Isis and Osiris, which represents the struggle between good and evil, is [believed] to have been born in Buto, and the myth later became the foundation of many belief-related, funerary and political matters that took place in ancient Egypt.”
Ghoneim explained that “the city of Buto is one of the very important cities that have antiquities dating back to more than 4200 years BC. Due to that long period, the temples in the area hold many antiquities dating back to different eras, whether the pre-dynastic, the Pharaonic, Greco-Roman or Islamic eras.”
On the importance of the recent archaeological discovery, Ghoneim indicated that “this discovery of a colonnaded hall is the first of its kind in one of the temples in Lower Egypt. Colonnaded halls are usually found in the temples of Upper Egypt, as these temples were made of solid stones that are characterized by endurance and stability over time, unlike the temples in Lower Egypt, which are mostly designed from mud bricks (brick dried by the sun's rays), because they were the most used at that time.”
He added, “The recent discovery uncovered three columns. Excavation works will continue until the rest of the columns inside the temple are found.”
For his part, Ahmed Badran, professor of Egyptian antiquities and civilization at Cairo University, told Al-Monitor, “What the Egyptian mission found is an important discovery and a scientific addition to completing missing links related to the architectural development of temples in the early ages of the ancient Egyptian civilization. The discovered pottery vessels give an indication of the importance of pottery in el-Sawy era, and they reveal the methods of decoration and inscriptions used back then.”
Badran pointed out that “the city of Buto was a very important religious capital in ancient Egypt, and the ancient Egyptian pilgrims would visit it regularly to visit temples and deities, especially since it is dedicated to the deity Wadjet, which is represented in the image of a cobra, and it continued to adorn the foreheads of kings throughout the Pharaonic times.”
Badran believes “the recent discovery is very important, and it salvaged [some] Egyptian antiquities that were threatened by climate change, because the Delta lands were affected by the rise in sea levels [in the Mediterranean] and the increase in the level of groundwater and salinity, which affects antiquities that have not yet been discovered and threatens their safety.”
For his part, Ghoneim said, “Indeed, climate changes greatly threaten underground antiquities [that have not been discovered yet], because the Delta region is among the regions most affected by climate changes in Egypt, whether due to the [rise] of seawater or the unparalleled high temperatures affecting artifacts.”
In this vein, Ghoneim called on foreign archaeological missions to direct their attention toward the archaeological areas of the Delta to achieve as many new discoveries as possible.
“The mission is continuing its work at the Temple of Tel el-Farain, because it carries with it many secrets that have not yet been discovered and is bound to find new discoveries,” he added.