Church and Nilometer Discovered on the Avenue of Sphinxes

new discoveries at the avenue of sphinxes at luxor egyptArchaeologists working at the Avenue of Sphinxes in Luxor, Egypt, have uncovered the remains of a fifth century Coptic church and a Nilometer, a structure used to measure the level of the Nile during floods.

According to a statement released by the SCA, the church’s remains were found on the second of five sections of the ancient religious path leading to the Karnak temple.

Thechurch was built with limestone blocks originally belonging to the Ptolemaic and Roman temples that once stretched along the Avenue. The blocks are well preserved, with many of them bearing depictions Ptolemaic and Roman kings offering sacrifices to ancient Egyptian gods. One particular block contains information on Muntomhat, mayor of the Luxor area during the 26th Dynasty.

Also this week, in the avenue’s fourth section, the Egyptian team discovered the remains of a Nilometer. Constructed out of sandstone, the Nilometer is a cylindrical structure seven metres in diameter and has spiral steps which used to descend into the Nile. During periods of flooding it was used for measuring the increase in water level of the river. A collection of New Kingdom clay vessels were discovered inside the Nilometer.

The development and restoration works at the Avenue of Sphinxes aim to revive this 2700-metres-long and 76 meters wide ancient route connecting the Luxor and Karnak temples. It is thought that originally no less than 1350 sphinxes were guarding the path.

Other recent discoveries along the Avenue are foundation stones decorated with depictions of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, the chapel of 21st dynasty priest Min-Kheber-Re and a number of fragmented sphinxes that are now being restored in order to be reinstated along the Avenue.

Learn about the restoration of Saint Anthony’s Coptic monastery in this video, and keep an eye on Owen’s blog (next to the author profile you can now find options to subscribe via RSSor e-mail) for news from the Coptic Symposium in Toronto, this year focussing on ‘Egyptian Graffiti’.