Washington, May 28 : Archaeologists have discovered a portico, or covered entryway, of an ancient Egyptian fertility temple beneath the surface of the Nile River in Egypt.
According to a report in National Geographic News, a team of Egyptian archaeologist-divers found the portico in Aswan while conducting the first-ever underwater surveys of the Nile, which began earlier this year.
The entryway once led to the temple of the ram-headed fertility god Khnum, according to experts.
The temple of Khnum was first erected in the 12th dynasty (1985-1773 B.C.) or 13th dynasty (1773-1650 B.C.) and was later rebuilt and expanded under subsequent regimes, including by the "female pharaoh" Hatshepsut (1473-1458 B.C.)
The massive portico is too large to be removed during the current excavation, but archaeologists removed a one-ton stone with inscriptions that could date from the 22nd dynasty (945-712 B.C.) to 26th dynasty (664-525 B.C.).
The stone itself could be much older, however, because like many objects throughout Egyptian history, the original materials of the Temple of Khnum were reused to construct newer buildings.
The stones found around the portico of the temple, like the one already taken out of the water, often have inscriptions that describe ancient times.
These inscriptions could contain a precise date of the construction of a nearby feature known as the Nilometer, a basin that ancient officials used to measure seasonal floods and thereby determine taxes.
"In the Nilometer one could see how high the flood was," said Cornelius von Pilgrim, director of the Swiss Institute of Architectural and Archaeological Research on Ancient Egypt. "And depending on the height of the flood, one could predict how good the harvest would be. And based on this, they fixed the taxation," he added.
According to von Pilgrim, Khnum's temple was located at a religious, political, military, commercial, and mining center of ancient Egypt.
"This was an enormously important building. It had a major importance for the whole country," he said.
Plans are underway to conduct a complete survey of the Nile from Aswan to Luxor starting in September. In continued underwater surveys, Egyptian archaeologists expect to find more antiquities in the Nile.