Excavators find head of a Ramses II statue; major temple could be nearby

Egypt's antiquities council said Thursday that archaeologists have unearthed a 3,000-year-old red granite head thought to portray the 19th Dynasty pharaoh Ramses II.

The Supreme Council of Antiquities said the discovery was made recently at Tell Basta, about 50 miles northeast of Cairo.

The council's statement says the 30-inch-high head belonged to a colossal statue of Ramses II that once stood in the area. Its nose is broken and the beard that was once attached to the king's chin is missing.

“The discovery is important because it may indicate that the excavators are close to the ruins of a major temple of Ramses II in the area,” antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said.

The site at Tell Basta was dedicated to the cat-goddess Bastet and was an important center from the Old Kingdom until the end of the Roman Period.

Archeologists are still digging on the location for the rest of the statue.

Ramses II reigned over Egypt for about 68 years, from 1304 to 1237 B.C. and is thought to have lived to the age of 90.

He covered the country with monuments to his exploits. His mummy, on display in Cairo's National Museum, is one of the country's biggest tourist attractions.