(RepublicanPeak.com)- Archeologists have discovered broken statues at the sun temple in Heliopolis, the archeological site of the once major Egyptian city near what is now Cairo.
In a statement last Monday, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said the broken stone statues include depictions of ancient Egyptian royalty, including Ramesses II, Ramesses IX, Hormheb, and Psamtik II.
While sun temples dedicated to the ancient Egyptian sun god Ra have been found at multiple sites in Egypt, the sun temple at Heliopolis (or Iunu in Egyptian) holds particular importance.
According to dig leader Dietrich Raue, the director of the Cairo department at the German Archeological Institute, Egyptians believed that the world’s first sunrise occurred at Heliopolis.
In an email to Live Science, Raue explained that the Egyptian pharaohs celebrated their connection to the creator and sun god at Heliopolis, building obelisks, statues, and other monuments to honor the sun god and legitimize their rule.
Raue said one of the major duties of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs was “serving the gods,” and part of that was dedicating statues. No pharaoh could rule Egypt without receiving the blessing of the sun god, Raue explained.
The most recent fragments discovered show the heads of pharaohs on sphinxes. These statues would have been placed in front of the city gates or at the sun temple beside obelisks, Raue explained. The statues were destroyed and likely reused for building material, he added.
Egyptology professor Peter Brand from the University of Memphis told Live Science that there is still much about Heliopolis that remains unknown. For example, although Ramesses II expanded the Egyptian empire, it isn’t clear if he rebuilt parts of the sun temple at Heliopolis or if he continued using an older temple.
Brand said archaeologists at Heliopolis have “only scratched the surface” as much of its three millennia of pharaonic history is still waiting “beneath the desert sands” to be discovered.