Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sphinx-lined alley hints at wealth of Egypt's lost empires

The ancient path that Egyptian worshippers and Roman provincials once trod as they crossed between the temples of Luxor and Karnak will be opened to tourists next month, officials announced on Wednesday.

Surrounded by urban sprawl, the sphinx-lined Kabash path in Luxor testifies to the astonishing affluence of an ancient king and later empires that perished long ago but left striking traces of their remote civilisation.

Excavation work on the 2.7 kilometre (1.7 mile) road, which for centuries was covered in sand and buildings, began three years ago.

Archaeologists are now closer to uncovering the entire road that ancient Egyptians promenaded along once a year with the statues of Amun and Mut in a symbolic re-enactment of the deities' marriage.

The fabulously wealthy Pharaoh Amenhotep III, who ruled about 3,400 years ago, built the road during a halcyon era of ancient Egypt to connect the vast Karnak temple in ancient Thebes to the Luxor Temple.

Sphinxes were built on either side of the road, alongside chapels stocked with offerings for the deities.

Touring the uncovered parts of the alley, Egyptian Culture Minister Faruq Hosni said workers had discovered 650 sphinx statues.

Some 1,350 statues are once thought to have flanked the path, and workers have found remnants strewn all along the way.

Zahi Hawass, who heads the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the alley was 2,700 metres (yards) long and 76 metres wide. Pharaohs who succeeded Amenhotep III, most notably Ramses the Great, added work along the road.

"We found the road in its final state, after Pharaoh Nectanebo I (380-363 BC) had built along it," he said.

Nectanebo founded the last dynasty of Egypt's ancient kings, and ruled over a declining nation harried by the expanding Persian Empire.

"Work is underway to restore it to how it was during the days of the pharaohs and to open it to tourists," Hawass said, adding that the opening on March 3 will be attended by President Hosni Mubarak.

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