Archaeologists have long believed that Egypt’s pharaohs only ever built six sun temples, structures that were intended to establish rulers’ status as gods while they were still alive. But only two such structures had ever been found—until this week, when an archaeologist said he had discovered the remains of a third one in Abu Ghurab.
According to CNN, the third know sun temple dates back to the 25th century BCE, making this structure one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in Egypt over the past half-century.
The first sun temple was found in 1898. What researchers in the 19th-century did not realize, however, was that the structure they discovered was atop the ruins of another one like it. Massimiliano Nuzzolo, an assistant professor of Egyptology at the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures in Warsaw, told CNN that researchers mistook the ruins as part of the building they were excavating, when in fact it was a whole other structure entirely.
The newly found sun temple was constructed by Nyuserre, a pharaoh associated with Egypt’s Old Kingdom period who ruled for somewhere between two and three dozen years. In the realm of archaeology, Nyuserre is most closely associated with the pyramids he built.
Alongside the remains of the mud-brick structure newly discovered, that Nuzzolo’s team unearthed jars used in rituals, ancient seals, and parts of limestone columns. “The main purpose of the temple was that of being the place for the deification of the living king,” Nuzzolo told CNN.