Massive Missing Head of Ancient Ramesses II Statue Uncovered

Egyptian and American researchers recently uncovered the top half of an ancient statue depicting the pharaoh Ramesses II, completing a puzzle that has remained unsolved since 1930, when German archaeologist Günther Roeder initially uncovered the bottom half.

The discovery was made during ongoing work at the site of the ancient city of Hermopolis Magna (Khemenu), present-day el-Ashmunein, located in Middle Egypt. The excavations, which began in January 2023, are part of the City of the Baboon Project — a joint effort between Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities and the University of Colorado, led by researchers Basem Gehad and Yvona Trnka-Amrhein. Throughout its history, the site was an important worship center for the Ancient Egyptian god Thoth, who was frequently associated with the ibis bird and the baboon. Researchers hope to gain a greater understanding of the city’s religious landscape and urban development from the Pharaonic Era to the Islamic period.

“The statue came to light as we began work excavating a temple for the pharaoh Ramesses II that was repurposed by the Roman Emperor Nero,” Gehad and Trnka-Amrhein told Hyperallergic, adding that they had not anticipated finding the upper portion so quickly.

Featuring hieroglyphic writings, the limestone statue depicts a sitting Ramesses II wearing a double crown and headdress adorned with a cobra, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities’s press statement. The ancient pharaoh, also known as Ramesses the Great, ruled Egypt’s New Kingdom as part of the 19th Dynasty over 3,000 years ago, expanding his empire from modern-day Sudan to southern Syria through the erection of massive temples, obelisks, and statues during his 66-year reign, the second longest in Egyptian history.

While the newly uncovered half measures roughly 12 and a half feet in height, researchers estimate that the statue in its entirety may reach as tall as 23 feet.

“This is only the second colossal statue to be found in Middle Egypt, though many are known from major pharaonic sites such as Karnak at Luxor,” the archaeologists continued. “When reunited with its bottom half, it will be the first complete colossal statue from Middle Egypt and the first to be studied with modern technological and archaeological methods.”

The archaeologists said they are still in the initial phases of studying the colossal statue and they plan to release a full scientific publication detailing their research later this year.

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