Remains of church, 'nilometer' discovered on Egypt's Avenue of Sphinxes

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Washington, May 12 (ANI): The remains of a 5th century Egyptian Christian church and a "nilometer," a structure used to gauge the level of the Nile during floods, are the latest finds at the "Avenue of Sphinxes".

The Avenue of Sphinx project involves the restoration of a 2.7km ancient processional avenue that links the temples of Luxor and Karnak on the east bank of the Nile River.

Built some 3,400 years ago, the alley was guarded on both sides by 1,350 statues in the shape of sphinxes - mythological creature's with a lion's body and the head of a human or ram.

The pathway, comprising rest places, chapels and sphinxes with ram heads, was originally built by King Amenhotep III (1410-1372 B.C.).

The 30th Dynasty King Nectanebo I (380-362 B.C.) later reconstructed it, replacing the ram-headed sphinxes with his own head.

Divided into five sections, the path is throwing up numerous archaeological remains.

On the second section of the path, the archaeologists discovered the ruins of a 1,600-year-old church.

The stone remains showed the building had been constructed with recycled limestone blocks.

"The blocks originally belonged to the Ptolemaic and Roman temples that stretched along the Avenue of Sphinxes," Discovery News quoted Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, as saying in a statement released by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Hawass added: "They are very well preserved and decorated with scenes depicting Ptolemaic and Roman kings offering sacrifices to ancient Egyptian deities."

At the avenue's fourth section, the team also unearthed remains of a cylindrical sandstone nilometer with New Kingdom (1569-1081 B.C.) clay vessels at its bottom.

The structure, 7 meters in diameter, was encircled by a spiral staircase descending into the Nile.

The steps allowed for a quick reading of increase in water level, thus forecasting floods.

The archaeologists also found a collection of foundation stones used to install the sphinx' statues.

Some of the stones were decorated with scenes depicting King Amenhotep III, who began construction on the avenue.

The fragmented sphinxes are now under restoration. Soon they will be placed on display along a section of the avenue.

Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquity said: Development work at the third section of the path located behind the Mubarak Public Library is at its final stages, and it should be opened to the ublic soon." (ANI)

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