Egyptian Pharaohs, whether they are stuck in a tomb or immortalized in a statue, are never far from confusion and mystery.
A 9-meter (29-foot) quartzite statue was unearthed in Cairo last week, which at first glance was believed to depict the great Pharaoh Ramses II. However, at a press conference last night, Egypt’s antiquities minister came out to say that it’s more likely to be a lesser known ancient Egyptian ruler.
“We are not going to be categorical, but there is a strong possibility that it’s of Psamtek I,” antiquities minister Khaled el-Anani told The Associated Press reporters in front of the Egyptian museum in Cairo.
Psamtek I (Psamtik I) ruled Egypt from 664 until 610 BCE, around 600 years after Rameses II. The mix-up between the two occurred because the statue was found near a sun temple founded by Ramses II. However, el-Anani revealed yesterday that they had discovered an inscription of one of Psamtek’s names on the statue.
“There is a possibility, albeit small, that Psamtik I reused an older statue that may be of Ramses II,” added el-Anani.
Without a doubt, the confusion brought some much-needed attention to the discovery. Tourism-driven by the ancient past is a source of income for Egypt, although this has been severely hampered since the fallout from the Arab Spring in 2011.
Nevertheless, although Rameses II is a bigger “celebrity” of the ancient world, this find remains an important one. Under his long reign, Psamtik managed to expel the Assyrians from the country, bring stability and unity, and is credited with reviving the art and religion of traditional Egyptian culture.