ARCHAEOLOGISTS from Yorkshire are playing a pivotal role in giving a new lease of life to the ruins of the capital of Ancient Egypt.
The team from York University are part of a major scheme to regenerate the site at Memphis which for many centuries was Egypt’s capital.
Memphis is a UNESCO World Heritage site but for the last three decades its spectacular monuments have been under increasing threat from urban expansion. However thanks to a £1m grant from USAID, the two-year project will create an Ancient Memphis Walking Circuit at Mit Rahina as part of a wider heritage, outreach and training programme.
The Memphis Circuit will link eight key sites including the western gate and hypostyle hall of the Great Ptah Temple, which was excavated in the 19th century, and the White Walls Chapel, a unique monument containing a group of three seated statues – the deity Ptah flanked by two female deities, now identified as Tjesmet and Menefer. The project involves students documenting and interpreting an endangered area within the Memphis precinct as well as employing 120 local people to clean and stabilise it.
Dr Sara Perry is heading a team from York University’s Department of Archaeology who are developing a “fully integrated heritage interpretation and outreach training program” for the Memphis project.
She said: “Memphis is a truly phenomenal site which is already well known in the popular imagination, but now has the potential to become an internationally renowned cultural destination.
“The temples at Memphis were among the most important in Ancient Egypt and only Luxor is comparable in political, religious and economic importance. The creator god Ptah was associated with Memphis and it is here that he had one of the largest temples ever built in his name in the New Kingdom. In fact, this is where Egypt actually got its name: Memphis was referred to as Hikuptah (The temple of the ka of Ptah) which the Greeks pronounced as Aigyptos, and which we now translate as ‘Egypt’.
“This project aims to inspire people both locally and globally in the regeneration of what is one of Egypt’s most important sites, giving the world a greater insight into its significance for human history.”