Ancient Egypt: Military Buildings at Fortress from Ramses II Reign Discovered

Two more buildings at the site of an ancient Egyptian military fortress dating to the reign of Ramses II have been discovered by archaeologists working in the Beheira Governorate, north west of Cairo.

The two units attached to the fortress and residential building are believed to have been used as storage sheds for food, a statement from Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities said. The fortress dates to the 19th Dynasty, between 1279 and 1213 BC.

What is interesting about the storage sheds, the Ministry said, is the way in which the food had been preserved.

Archaeologists working at the site found animal and fish bones, as well as pottery kilns and vessels, examination of which indicated the ancient Egyptians would dry out food in order to preserve it. The grain had been roasted "to cleanse the insects and rid them of moisture and the effect of the heat before storing them in ... silos to ensure their survival, possibly without causing decay," the statement said.

The ancient Egyptians are known to have preserved food in a number of ways, including fermentation, salting, drying and smoking.

The buildings were both surrounded by a square-shaped mud-brick wall. They were separated by a rectangular courtyard. They were located in the north-west corner of the military fortress.

Previous excavations at the fortress showed that the external walls, which had pillars and towers, had internal and external reinforcements.

Ramses II's reign has seen many successful military campaigns into the Levant. He established several cities to secure Egypt's borders.

The pharaoh is believed to be one of the longest-reigning in ancient Egypt—he is thought to have taken the throne in his late teens and lived until his early 90s, ruling for over 60 years. He was buried in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

The Sphinx of Ramses II—a 25,000-pound stone carving of a lion with a human head—was excavated by W. M. Flinders Petrie in 1913. It was transported over 6,000 miles to the U.S., arriving in South Philadelphia in October of the same year. It was transported to the Penn Museum via horse-drawn cart through the city and was initially placed in the museum's courtyard. However, concerns about its preservation meant it was moved inside, eventually finding a home in the Egypt Gallery in 1926, where it has been ever since.

Now, however, it is set to see sunlight for the first time in almost 100 years as it is moved into the Main Entrance Hall. "The Sphinx will serve as the centerpiece to the grand Main Entrance Hall, welcoming visitors to explore our outstanding collections that do much more than illustrate the past; they unlock the wonder of the human story to foster empathy, build connections, and create understanding in a complex world," Julian Siggers, Williams Director at the Penn Museum, said in a statement.

"The Sphinx has long been our unofficial mascot; this move puts it front and center, as the anchor of our new visitor experience."

This article has been updated to include more information on ancient Egyptian food preservation.

Ramses II
Sphinx of Ramses II Penn Museum