CAIRO — The pharaonic statue that was discovered in a Cairo slum last week, believed to depict to Ramses II, one of ancient Egypt’s best known rulers, most likely is of a lesser-known pharaoh, the Egyptian authorities said on Thursday.
Khaled El-Enany, the Egyptian antiquities minister, said that the royal colossus found on March 7 in Matariya, an impoverished Cairo neighborhood, was probably a statue of Psamtik I.
The colossus bore a strong resemblance to Ramses II, one of the most influential figures of the ancient world, who was celebrated for architectural wonders and military conquests. During his long reign, from 1279 to 1213 B.C., the Egyptian empire extended all the way from Sudan in the south to modern-day Syria in the east.
The assertion on Thursday was based on the hieroglyphic inscription found on the back of the colossus, which bore one of the five names of Psamtik I, a pharaoh who ruled Egypt for about 50 years six centuries after the time of Ramses.
“We are not going to be categorical, but there is a strong possibility that it’s of Psamtik I,” Mr. Enany told reporters at news conference in the front of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where the two excavated fragments of the colossus were sent on Thursday. But, he added, “there is a possibility, albeit small, that Psamtik I reused an older statue that may be of Ramses II.”
The Egyptian-German team of archaeologists that discovered the statue has only excavated its broken head and torso. The rest of the statue, which they say is 30 feet tall, is still missing. The chunks that were found weigh more than 51 tons and their slow procession from Matariya, in east Cairo, to the Egyptian museum, in the heart of the capital, was broadcast live on state television.
Archaeologists say the statue might have been destroyed by early Christians, or by the Muslim rulers of Cairo in the 11th century, who often dismantled ancient temples to build fortifications.
Under Psamtik I (pronounced SAM-tick), Egypt regained stability after years of political upheaval and returned to its past artistic glory.
The current leaders of Egypt hope that the publicity about the statue will revive tourism, which has languished since the 2011 popular uprising that toppled another leader whose long rule was compared to that of the pharoahs: President Hosni Mubarak.