CAIRO: Nobody in the Egyptian Ministry of Culture could believe that an illegal attempt by a civilian to prospect for monuments underneath his own home would lead to a grand discovery.
But that is just what happened when this week the ministry began archaeological excavations in the Mit Rahinah area, neighboring the pyramids of Giza.
The illegal digging by the 60-year-old resident alerted the authorities who arrested him in the first week of this month. The tourism authorities then went in and were surprised by the discovery.
The archaeological mission discovered an entire temple underneath the village of Mit Rahinah.
According to a statement issued by the ministry, 19 chunks of pink granite and limestone bearing inscriptions depicting Ptah, the god of creation and of the ancient city Manf, were also discovered.
Among the finds were also an artifact traceable to the reign of Ramesses II and inscriptions showing the king practicing a religious ritual.
Egyptian researcher Abdel-Magid Abdul Aziz said Ptah was idolized in Manf. In one image, the god is depicted as a human wrapped in a tight-fitting cloth.
The deity was also in charge of memorial holidays and responsible for several inventions, holding the title Master of all Makers.
“There’s a statue of the god Ptah in the Egyptian Museum, in its traditional form as a mummy,” Abdul Aziz said.
“His hands come out from the folds of his robe ... as depicted in art pieces. Ptah appears as a bearded, buried man,” he added.
“Often he wears a hat, with his hands clutching Ankh (the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol for the key of life).”
Ayman Ashmawy, head of ancient Egyptian artifacts at the Ministry of Antiquities, said: “The artifacts are in the process of being restored, and have been moved to the museum’s open garden in Mit Rahinah.” He added that work was being done to discover and restore the rest of the temple.
As for the illegal prospecting of the area by its people, Ashmawy said the residents of Mit Rahinah were seeking to exploit the monuments.
He added that the law forbids prospecting for archaeological monuments, and that doing so could lead to a long prison sentence and a major fine, up to hundreds of thousands of Egyptian pounds.
Mit Rahinah contains a large number of monuments, which have been discovered by chance. The area is home to an open museum, 20 km south of Cairo.
“What we see from current discoveries in Mit Rahinah are just snapshots of an ancient city that was once vibrant,” Ilham Ahmed, chief inspector of the archaeological mission, told Arab News.