“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains,” reads the famous sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley about how great deeds and great people can often fade into the oblivion of history. If there's a moral to the story of Ozymandias, it's that you can be the most powerful person in the world one day, but your busted-up statue could be lying beneath a slum another.
Nearly 3,000 years after his great reign, parts of a massive 8-meter (26 foot) quartzite rock statue of Ozymandias – now referred to as Pharaoh Ramses II – was found buried face down in the mud of suburban Cairo. The discovery was made this week near where a sun temple founded by Ramses II once stood. Now, the area is a poor working-class area known as Matariya.
Teams of Egyptian and German archaeology dug up the statue on Tuesday using a mechanical digger, while locals and camera-wielding news crews watched on. Although they didn't unearth any inscriptions to identify the rock colossus, they believe that the location of the discovery near Ramses II's sun temple is a pretty strong clue that the statue does indeed depict Ozymandias, the king of kings.
“We found the bust of the statue and the lower part of the head and now we removed the head and we found the crown and the right ear and a fragment of the right eye,” Khaled al-Anani, Egyptian antiquities minister, told Reuters.
In a statement from the Ministry of Antiquities, Dr Aymen Ashmawy, head of the Egyptian archeology team describes the discovery as "very important" as it confirms the enormous size of Pharaoh Ramses II’s sun temple and therefore the scale of his power.
Ramses the Great was the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt and a feared military leader between 1279 and 1213 BCE. Although it is a point of contention among historians and there's no actual physical evidence, many believe he could be the pharaoh in the Old Testament's Book of Exodus who enslaved the Israelites. He was most likely in his nineties when he died, after which his remains were buried in the Valley of the Kings. As further proof that time makes fools of us all, his mummified remains now lay in a cabinet at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo surrounded by tourists.