Parts of a temple dating to the reign of pharaoh Ramses II have been discovered inside a mosque in Luxor, Egypt, officials report. Experts restoring the historic mosque uncovered sections of columns, capitals, and elaborately inscribed reliefs from one of the ancient temple's courtyards built around 1250 B.C.The previously concealed architectural elements reveal well-preserved hieroglyphics and unique scenes depicting the powerful pharaoh. The discovery is likely to touch a nerve amongreligious leaders, because the newly exposed reliefs contain representations of humans and animals, which are forbidden inside mosques, the experts said.The mosque was erected as a shrine to Muslim saint Abul Haggag in the 13th century A.D.
on the site of an earlier Christian church, which was itself built on top of the ancient temple, the archaeologists explained.
The discovery was made during repair work on the mosque after a fire damaged part of the structure in June.
"To do this project of
restoration, [workers] had to reclean and reopen many things, and this
is when the scenes were found, and they are really unique," said Zahi
Hawass, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.
Encryptions and Glyphs
Muslims, frequently built their shrines on top of ancient Egyptian holy
sites, said W. Raymond Johnson, an Egyptologist at the Oriental
Institute at the University of Chicago who has seen the newly exposed
Builders of both faiths
usually erased or defaced ancient artwork in the temples, he said, but
the newfound reliefs remain virtually untouched.
"We are very lucky that these have been so well preserved," Johnson said.
Rather than destroying the
reliefs, the mosques builders carefully hid them away with a protective
layer of straw-reinforced plaster, shielding them from the elements.
"We didn't know we would
find the reliefs and the inscriptions in such good condition," said
Mansour Boraik, general supervisor of the Supreme Council of
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