Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced earlier this week that the ongoing restoration project inside the Temple of Esna in Luxor revealed colorful reliefs and engravings on the ceilings and walls of the structure. Though the temple’s engravings had been previously studied, this is the first time such markings have been detected.
The Temple of Esna, located along the west bank of the Nile River, was originally dedicated to the ram-headed god of creation Khnum, who is associated with procreation and water. The temple’s construction began during the reign of Egyptian pharaoh Tuthmosis III (1479–25 BCE) and was completed during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods (40–250 CE).
The temple currently sits nearly thirty-feet below street level, surrounded by centuries of accumulated desert sand and debris since its abandonment. The hypostyle hall, the only section of the temple that has been excavated, was added during the Roman period and contains well-preserved carvings from as late as the 3rd century CE. Most of the temple, however, has not been explored because it lies under the local town.
Funded by the American Research Center in Egypt, the restoration is the combined effort of an Egyptian-German archaeological mission. In the most recent cleaning, above the temple gate along the roughly 46 foot-high middle ceiling, two rows of 46 eagles were discovered. Some bear the eagle head of Upper Egypt goddess Nekhbet, while others feature the cobra head of Lower Egypt goddess Wadget.
While cleaning the temple’s western wall, researchers additionally uncovered Greek red ink inscriptions dating to the reign of Roman Emperor Domitian (81–96 CE). The inscription records the day and month of ancient Egyptian and Coptic calendars that likely marks the temple’s date of completion.
From 1963 through 1975, French Egyptologist Serge Sauneron studied and documented the temple’s engravings; however, these reliefs had gone unnoticed beneath dust, debris, salt calcifications, and animal excrement.
Below are some photos of the reliefs and engravings revealed this week.