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Along the avenue
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 13 - 05 - 2010

The remins of a fifth-century church and a Nilometer have been uncovered this week by an Egyptian mission carrying out routine excavations at the Avenue of Sphinxes in Luxor, Nevine El-Aref reports
The excavations came within the framework of the Ministry of Culture's plan to develop and revitalise the ancient religious path that once connected Luxor and Karnak temples.
Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said that the remains of the church were found on the second section of the path, which is divided into five sections. Archaeological investigations revealed that the church was built with limestone blocks that were originally parts of Ptolemaic temples and had been reused. The blocks are very well preserved and decorated with scenes depicting Ptolemaic and Roman rulers offering sacrifices to ancient Egyptian deities.
Hawass believes that the blocks belonged to the Ptolemaic and Roman temples that once stretched along the avenue. They were removed and reused during the Coptic era in the construction of churches. One of the church's blocks contains information concerning the 26th-Dynasty mayor of the Luxor area, Muntomhat.
Sabri Abdel-Aziz, head of the Ancient Egyptian Department at the SCA, said that in the avenue's fourth section the mission had also discovered the remains of a cylindrical sandstone Nilometer with spiral steps. The structure is seven metres in diameter, and inside, a collection of New Kingdom clay vessels has been unearthed.
Mansour Boraik, the general supervisor of Luxor monuments, said that a collection of foundation stones used to install sphinx statues had also been discovered. Some of the stones are decorated with scenes depicting Pharaoh Amenhotep III (1410-1372 BC), who began construction on the Avenue of Sphinxes to connect Luxor Temple to the Karnak complex.
The SCA is now conducting comprehensive restoration work at the Avenue of Sphinxes in order to recreate this 2,700-metre-long path after clearing the area of encroachment. In the course of the excavations, the mission has unearthed 128 sphinxes statues which will be put on display in their original positions on the path after restoration. A chapel of the 21st Dynasty priest Min-Kheber-Re has been also found.
Development of the third section of the path located behind the Mubarak Public Library is in its final stages, and it should be opened to the public soon.


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