A joint German-Egyptian archaeological team revealed
in 1999 that it had uncovered some of the world's oldest horse stables
on the edge of the Nile Delta, about a hundred kilometres to the
north-east of Cairo.
The stables comprised six rows of buildings which would
house at least 460 horses. The stables were linked to Pharaoh Ramses II,
otherwise known as Ramses the Great, who ruled between 1279-1213 BC and
was one of ancient Egypt's most prolific builders.
The head of the excavation team, Edgar Pusch, described
it as the biggest and best preserved stable ever uncovered in the ancient
Near East. He reported that it stretched for more than 17,000 square metres
- six identical rows of buildings, each with rooms containing limestone
basins and stones to tether the hundreds of horse.
Twenty year search
The stable floors were sloped, Doctor Pusch revealed,
in order that they could collect the urine of the horses, which was then
used to fertilise surrounding areas. The archaeologists believed the
horses themselves were used to draw the two-wheeled chariots that were
an important part of warfare at the time, and were used by Ramses II to
fight off invaders.
The German-Egyptian team had been digging in the area,
which is close to the pharaoh's ancient capital, for nearly twenty years
in its search for the temple of a goddess on horseback which had been
depicted on a statue. They concluded several years ago that they may have
uncovered a stable, but they only realised the scale of the find more
Archaeologists in general believe that a wealth of
other discoveries lay beneath the fertile fields of the Nile Delta.
Until recently, most excavation work in Egypt had focused on Upper
and Middle Egypt.