A German-Egyptian archaeological team has discovered a statue believed to depict Pharaoh Ramses II who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago, a historical relic which could spur the country’s tourism sector. The 26ft (8 metre) statue was lifted with cranes from the ancient city of Heliopolis near the ruins of the Ramses II temple. The archaeologists also discovered an 80cm long, life-sized limestone statue of Pharaoh Seti II, Ramses II’s grandson.

Ramses the Great was the most powerful and celebrated ruler of ancient Egypt. It is believed he extended the power of Egypt all the way to Syria and Sudan. He was the third of the 19th Dynasty of Egypt and ruled between 1279 to 1213 BCE. He led several military expeditions and expanded the Egyptian Empire to stretch from Syria in the east to Nubia in the south.

The Ramses II temple was one of the largest temples in Egypt, almost double the size of Luxor’s Karnak, but was destroyed in Greco-Roman times. Many of its monoliths were moved to Alexandria or to Europe and stones from the site were looted and used for construction as Cairo developed.

It is believed these excavations will promote Egypt’s tourism sector which has derailed since the Egyptian revolution. In 2011, the number of tourists visiting Egypt slumped to 9.8 million from more than 14.7 million in 2010.

The statue was submerged in ground water in a Cairo slum and many of the residents cheered as it was lifted.

Some of the dignitaries present during the excavation, were the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, Khaled el-Anani, German ambassador to Egypt Julius Georg Luy. The University of Leipzig and the Ministry of Antiquity in Egypt had a joint effort in the project. The University of Leipzig has been working in ancient Heliopolis, where the statue was found, for more than a decade.

When the statue has been restored, it will be set for exhibition at the Grand Egyptian Museum near the Giza Pyramids scheduled to open in 2018.

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