On Thursday, Egyptian and German archaeologists extracted a 26-foot (8-meter) statue in the El Matareya district of Cairo. It’s believed to depict Pharaoh Ramses II, one of Egypt’s greatest rulers.
The statue, carved out of a tough rock known as quartzite, was submerged in groundwater where it was buried under the streets of a Cairo suburb. Archaeologists also recovered fragments of another statue believed to be of Ramses II’s grandson, Pharaoh Seti II, as well as an obelisk.
Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry is calling the find one of the most important ever, according to Reuters. "We found the bust of the statue and the lower part of the head and now we removed the head and we found the crown and the right ear and a fragment of the right eye," Egyptian antiquities minister Khaled al-Anani said.
Archaeologists will continue to extract the other parts of the statues for study and restoration. If the larger statue is determined to be of Ramses II, it will be installed at the Grand Egyptian Museum next year, according to The Guardian. This isn’t the first time that statues have been found in the area: in 2006, archaeologists discovered a four-ton statue believed to depict Ramses II in a marketplace.
Ramses II — also known as Ozymandias — was one of the empire’s longest rulers, with a six-decade reign from 1279 BCE to 1213 BCE. He ruled during the height of Egypt’s power in the region. The artifacts were discovered in what was one of the oldest cities in ancient Egypt, Heliopolis, which contained a massive temple dedicated to the ruler. The city was known for its temples and historical records by the time Greece expanded its empire to encompass Egypt. However, it was eclipsed by the rise of neighboring cities Cairo and Alexandria, and its temples and statues were dismantled for raw materials.