Relief depicting Akhenaten and Nefertiti with three of their daughters under the rays of Aten.

Ancient Egyptian Sun Cult Temple Uncovered Near Cairo

Last year, archeologists discovered another sun temple from ancient Egypt, containing the 4-500-year old remains under Abu Ghurab, near Cairo. The sun temple was made out of clay bricks, and other artifacts, such as old beer bottles, were amongst the temples remains. The ancient Egyptian Sun Cult built the sun temple in dedication to the sun God Ra, during the fifth dynasty. 

The Solar Cult in Ancient Egypt

Archaeologists excavating and finding Sun Temple underneath another temple.
Archaeologists discover ruins underneath another temple. Image credit Lost Treasures of Egypt/National Geographic/Windfall Films.

The Sun Cult dates back to at least the fourth mellenium, CE in Nabta Playa, in southern Egypt. During the first half of the third Millennium, the Sun Cult became an officially recognized cult in ancient Egypt. Over the next hundred years, the Solar Cult gained more importance in Egypt. Eventually, pharoahs even had parts of the pyramid complexes dedicated to the cult.

At the beginning of the fifth dynasty, the ancient Egyptians in the Sun Cult created a new type of monument, specifically dedicated to the Sun God Ra. These monuments were the famed Sun temples.

Sun Temples

Ancient Temple of Karnak in Luxor - Ruined Thebes, Egypt. Walls and Sphinxes at Karnak Temple. Temple of Amon-Ra. Main entrance.
Ancient Sun Temple of Luxor in Egypt. Image credit Yurii Romanchuk via Shutterstock. 

Pharaohs during the fifth dynasty built what they called a solar temple. The ancient Egyptians created the Sun temples in a short time span, of approximately 100 years. Archeologists suspect the temples were important in the development of their religion and the economy in Egypt's Old Kingdom. The building of solar temples stopped when the throne switched to Djedkare. This is likely due to a change in religious beliefs. 

There is little know about the Sun Cult and specifically what happened inside the Sun Cult's Sun temples. There is also little data available about people that lived nearby the temples and what their life was like.

Temple Discovery Near Cairo

The Mysterious alabaster bowls of Abu Ghurab, Egypt.
Mysteious alabaster bowls at Abu Ghurab. Image credit Sailingstone Travel via Shutterstock. 

In 2022, a team of archeologists discovered the remains of a 4,500-year old sun temple from ancient Egypt. It is one of the lost sun temples, dating back to mid-25th century CE. The ancient Egyptians dedicated the temple to the God Ra. The temple was  discovered under another temple at Abu Ghurab, about 12 miles south of Cairo.There were important artifacts found in the temple remains. One of the artifacts was a finely made red vessel and intact beer jars.

The clay constructs possess an entrance portico, a courtyard, and storage rooms. The temple measured to be around 197 feet long and 66 feet wide. The walls of the building were black and white, however the archeologists also noted traces of paintings in red and blue paint.
This has not been the only sun temple discovered. In 1898 archaeologists working at the site discovered the sun temple of Nyuserre. The sixth king of the fifth dynasty created the sun temple of Nyuserre. He ruled Egypt between 2400 and 2370 BCE.
The newly discovered sun temple was likely demolished by the ancient Egyptians before the building was complete. The findings in the temple show seals engraved with the names of kings who ruled before Nyuserra.

Further Exploration

Entrance to Luxor Temple at sunset, a large Ancient Egyptian temple complex located on the east bank of the Nile River in the city today known as Luxor (Thebes). Was consecrated to the god Amon-Ra
Entrance to Luxor Temple at sunset. Example of a Sun Temple. Image credit Alfredo via Adobe Stock. 
Although the discovery was important, it was not completely new. A team of German archaeologists, discovered small parts of the mud brick temple between 2019 and 2022. However, uncovering more of the temple is important in learning more about the sun temples.
Archeologists are planning further excavations of the site to find out which king built the temple and when construction of the temple began. Archeologists who uncovered the temple suspect the temple's building began before the time of Shepseskare or Raneferef.
Historical evidence suggests there were six sun temples built in total, but we have only discovered two others. The new discovery brings archeologists one step closer to finding more of the sun temples and learning more about the sun cult from ancient Egypt.

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