Ancient Egypt: Mysterious Statues Of Sphinx And Pharaonic God Of Death Thousands Of Years Old Uncovered

With one exception, all of the artefacts were fragmentary, having been damaged in antiquity. J. Maucor

Archaeologists in Egypt have uncovered dozens of statues of Pharaonic gods, including Osiris, left in burial pits for thousands of years.

In a recent study, the joint French and Egyptian excavation team says that the revered statues were buried when they stopped being used for worship in the ancient Egyptian temples at Karnak.

Read more: Who Built Ancient Egypt's Great Pyramid? Hidden Text Holds Clues to Thousand-Year-Old Mystery

One of the 2,000-year-old statues, depicting the god of craftsmen and sculptors Ptah, likely sat in the temple over a period of years but was then ceremonially buried when it was replaced. Such statues were likely to be swapped when they became damaged and were deemed past their prime.

"We can consider that when a new statue was erected in the temple, this one [of Ptah] was set aside in a pit," study co-researcher Christophe Thiers, director of the French-Egyptian Center for the Study of the Temples of Karnak said.

"The other artifacts were also previously damaged during their 'lifetime' in the temple, and then they were buried with the Ptah statue," he added.

The team discovered 38 objects in the ceremonial pit in southern Egypt. The artifacts, which appeared to have been buried in a particular order, included 14 statuettes of Osiris, three baboon statues representing the Egyptian god of wisdom Thoth, and a cat statue.

The statue of Ptah was one of the largest items retrieved and would likely have needed two or three people to carry it.

Experts have been able to date the different items to different Egyptian periods. The large Ptah statue dates back to the New Kingdom and a sphinx has the hallmarks of the Ptolemaic period.

However, all the items seem to have been buried at a similar time, during the second half of the Ptolemaic period, between the second century B.C. and the middle of the first century B.C.

The researchers believe the statues were also placed together because of their relationships to each other. "[Ptah] is waiting for rebirth," lead researcher Guillaume Charloux, told Live Science. "It's protected by the sphinx. It's surrounded by the Osiris statues. We have the feeling here that it's waiting for rebirth, like mummies of pharaohs."