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Ancient Egypt

World's Oldest Stables

by Caroline Hawley, 14 October 1999

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 which 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 recently.

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.



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