The Shallatat Gardens discoveries in Egypt.

New finds span time

An incomplete Graeco-Roman statue of an athlete in Alexandria and an enormous collection of prehistoric artefacts in Fayoum are the most recent discoveries in Egypt, Nevine El-Aref reports

At the Shallalat Gardens next to the fortress of Mohamed Ali in Alexandria, a Greek archaeological mission has discovered what is thought may be a statue of Alexander the Great. The statue, of white marble, features an athletic man standing in an upright position. The right leg bent and the part of the left leg below the knee is missing. A 0.16m length of the right arm exists and it has a connection notch, while the left arm is completely missing. Inside the shoulder is a metallic connection. The phallus is broken but the testes are preserved.

Kalliopi Limneou-Popakosta, director of the mission, said that the face was in very good condition except for some slight damage to the nose. The head is of the “heroic” type, with the characteristic turn of the neck and an upward glance of the eyes. The face is handled in the soft Praxitelian manner. The statue has curly hair with a ribbon, and there are sideburns on the cheeks. The body is slightly turned to the right in a “contraposto” style, and once possibly leant on a base, traces of which can be seen under the right buttock.

“This is one of the most important discoveries in the Shallalat Gardens in 100 years,” Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), told Al-Ahram Weekly. He added that the discovery would probably lead to a very significant result concerning this area in the core of Alexandria, which was the site of the throne, the garden area of the royal palace, and the old Alexandria library during the Graeco-Roman era. “Remains of Alexandria’s old royal quarter have been also found,” Hawass said.

Last year a team working with the Graeco Roman Museum in Alexandria unearthed the base of a statue of Ptolemy V carved by the royal guards to glorify him, as well as a number of statues featuring Bacchus, the wine god.

Ahmed Abdel-Fatah, an expert in the antiquities of the Graeco-Roman period, said that the features of the statue were similar to those of Alexander the Great, especially the hair and the nose.

In the area in front of Al-Karn Al-Zahabi (Golden Horn) Island, north of Qarun Lake, an Egyptian mission from the SCA has unearthed an enormous collection of prehistoric objects revealing the skills of the prehistoric people who lived in the area.

The collection is composed of hunting and medicine tools. Needles, necklaces, earrings and bracelets made of animal bones have been unearthed, along with a number of primitive stone dwellings and shelters.

Hawass said that early investigations on the objects discovered revealed that the site was not only used in prehistoric time but continued to be inhabited through the different spans of history up to and including the Islamic era. From ancient Egyptian times, he said, the mission had unearthed a limestone relief bearing the cartouche of the Scorpion king of dynasty zero and a coloured bracelet made of glass. From the Graeco- Roman period the mission found a collection of coins, while fragments of coloured and decorated plates stamped with the name of the Fatimid king Al-Zafer are from the Islamic period.

Khaled Saad, head of the mission and director of the prehistory administration department, said the mission had also found several kinds of needles, showing that there were several methods of weaving leather in prehistoric time. The mission also found a skeleton of a primitive whale similar to those found in Wadi Al-Hitan in Fayoum, as well as skeletons of sawfish, crocodiles, turtles and harks’ teeth.

Jewellery made of semi-precious stones and bones have been also unearthed as well as arrows, knives and grindstones from the prehistoric era, dated about 7100 BC.

Twenty-five rock-hewn tombs have been located on the sides of a nearby hill, Saad says, as well as a great number of human bones. A seven-metre deep shaft has also been found on the hill. Inside it were two chambers filled with sand and contained a complete human skeleton.

Clockwise from above: the marble statue; the shaft leading to tombs; workers remove the dust; a collection of smoking pipes, medicine tools, coins and arrows photos courtesy of SCA

21 – 27 May 2009
Issue No. 948

Al-Ahram Weekly

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