Egyptian temple south of Luxor jeopardized by groundwater
Kom Mer Temple - Courtesy of Alashanik Ya Baladna, Esna Facebook page

CAIRO: The 4,000-year-old Kom Mer temple south of Luxor is being threatened by rising groundwater and wastewater, a guard at the temple, who asked to remain anonymous over fears of repercussion, told The Cairo Post Friday.

“The foundation of the temple has been suffering from groundwater issues during the past decade, but there has been a notable increase in the groundwater levels, especially at the northern and western parts of the temple, during the last year. It is mainly because of the random drainage system installed in several unlicensed buildings in the neighboring villages,” the guard said.

Kom Mer temple, located in the town of Esna, 45 kilometers south of Luxor, was built during the New Kingdom (1580 B.C.-1080 B.C.) and was dedicated to Khnum, Esna’s local god of creation, Ancient Egyptian History Professor Sherif el-Sabban told The Cairo Post Friday.

The temple was excavated in 1830 by an Italian archaeology mission, Sabban added.

“In addition to the groundwater problem, the neighborhood of the temple has become a breeding ground for rats and mosquitoes due to the piles of garbage and stinking sewage dumped by the residents near the temple,” the guard said.

The deteriorating conditions at Kom Mer temple have raised fears among archaeologists that the saline groundwater could erode the bedrock under the temple and lead to its collapse.

Groundwater flow around the temple, which has caused the groundwater to rise in the area of the temple, is from newly irrigated areas nearby the Nile, Archaeologist Ayman Abd el-Rahman told The Cairo Post Friday.

“The groundwater, with a high salt content, would cause an exfoliation of stones, dissolution of building materials, and crystallization of salts in its walls,” said Abdel-Rahman. Kom Mer temple, like many other temples of ancient Egypt—including Karnak—was built nearby the Nile, and water collected in canals and ditches from the river is used to irrigate crops.

“Pumping groundwater from beneath the monuments, improving sanitation systems and re-digging the canals surrounding the temple will lower the underground water level and solve a considerable part of the groundwater problem,” said Abdel-Rahman, who called on involved parties to ban dumping garbage in the vicinity of the temple.

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