CAIRO: Ancient Egyptian treasures, including a colossal pink granite statue, were discovered under farmland in the Houd Zelikha village, south of Giza, according to a statement on the Facebook page of the Antiquities Ministry Tuesday.
The 2.5-meter tall statue, along with the remains of pedestals and limestone reliefs, was found submerged in the groundwater under the farmland of a local. They featured cartouches bearing the names of Thutmose III (1479 B.C.–1425 B.C.), according to the statement.
“The new discovery is most likely an ancient Egyptian temple that dates back to the New Kingdom Period (1580 B.C.-1080 B.C.),” said Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty in the statement.
He added that the discovered items are being transported to the ministry’s storehouses in Sakkara.
Preliminary investigations carried out by the Tourism and Antiquities Police Department (TAPD) in August revealed that armed gangs had conducted illegal excavations in the Houd Zelikha village, TAPD head Maj. Gen. Momtaz Fathy told The Cairo Post Thursday.
“Members of the gang, including a 40-year-old lawyer, a farmer and two Palestinian nationals, were arrested in possession of waterproof wireless drills, diving suits, underwater breathing apparatuses and depth gauges,” said Fathy.
Since no treasures were found in August, the gang members were released later that month, said Fathy, who added that the local who owns the land informed the department he found an ancient statue under his farm.
In a phone interview with Al-Hayat TV Wednesday, Mohamed Amer, the landowner of the property, said he accidentally came across the treasures while digging to install a water pump for irrigation.
“When I saw the statue, I informed the head of the Badrashin archaeological site, who advised me to file a report at the Tourism and Antiquities Police Department, which I did. Several antiquities traders offered me millions of pounds to leave the land and travel abroad, but I refused,” said Amer.
An archaeology committee from the Antiquities Ministry is currently carrying out excavations in the area seeking further information, Antiquities Ministry Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Department head Youssef Khalifa told The Cairo Post Thursday.
Since the outbreak of the January 25 Revolution in 2011 and the consequent security lapse across Egypt, the TAPD, in coordination with Cairo Airport authorities, has thwarted several attempts to smuggle Egyptian antiquities out of the country.
Former Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said in a statement that since the outbreak of the 2011 revolution, over 1,524 artifacts were stolen from several museums and archaeological sites across the country.