CAIRO: Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh el-Damaty announced Saturday the discovery of a limestone chapel that dates back to the reign of 11 Dynasty Pharaoh Mentuhotep II (2046 BC – 1995 BC) in Upper Egypt’s governorate of Sohag, Youm7 reported.
The new discovery is attributed to the efforts of an Egyptian excavation mission from the Ministry of Antiquities that has been carrying out excavations nearby the temple of Pharaoh Seti I in El Araba El Madfuna area south of Sohag, Damaty said.
“While archaeologists from the mission were cleaning the area south of Seti I temple, they stumbled upon a limestone chapel with cartouches bearing the name of Pharaoh Mentuhotep II,” head of the ancient Egyptian antiquities dept. at the Antiquities Ministry, Aly el-Asfar told The Cairo Post.
The chapel, which is very well-perserved, is currently under renovation as some of its relics were damaged from groundwater, said Asfar who added that the chapel was found in an illegal excavation pit 150 meters south of the temple of Seti I.
Preliminary investigations carried out by Tourism and Antiquities policemen revealed that during the past few months, armed gangs had conducted several illegal excavations in the Akhmim and El Araba El Madfuna archaeological sites south of Sohag, Captain Osama al-Gendy of the investigation department at the Tourism and Antiquities Police told The Cairo Post.
Several members of the gang, who are inhabitants of Akhmim, were caught red handed trying to illegally excavate areas in front of their residences and nearby the temple of Seti I in search for treasured artifacts,” Gendy said.
Mentuhotep II is the founder of the 11th Dynasty and the Middle Kingdom Period (2000 B.C-1700 B.C), former head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Abdel Halim Nour el-Din told The Cairo Post.
The capital city of Egypt during Middle Kingdom Period was Luxor, 150 km south of El Araba El Madfuna where the chapel was discovered, Nour el-Din said.
“The significance of the new discovery stems from the scarcity of artifacts and monuments of Mentuhotep II in Sohag,” said Nour el-Din adding that the new discovery might change traditional archaeological axioms.
The political turmoil and the security lapse followed the January 25 Revolution led to an increase in antiquities theft and illegal digging.
Former Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said in a statement that since the outbreak of January 25 Revolution, over 1,524 artifacts were stolen from several museums and archaeological sites across the country.
The looted artifacts are of significant archaeological value as they represent different periods of the ancient Egyptian civilization, Ibrahim said.