A team of archaeologists at ANTINOOPOLIS in Egypt plan to re-erect an enormous, red-granite column to revive tourism at the city founded by Hadrian on the spot where Antinous died.
Remarkably, this column is nearly as tall as the granite columns quarried in Egypt and shipped to Rome for Hadrian's Pantheon.
Unlike many other columns, these columns were not made of segments piled on top of each other ... but rather, were one single column hewn from stone.
"The column in question is only slightly smaller than the columns forming the pediment (front façade) of the Pantheon in Rome," says James B. Heidel, president of the Antinoupolis Foundation.
"And we have the red granite base, sitting upright, plus the three sections of the shaft, also in red granite, lying in a rough line, presumably where they fell, to the north," he adds.
"Our director, Professor Rosario Pintaudi, has already put in an application to the permanent committee of the SCA (the Egyptian antiquities authority) for permission to proceed with re-erecting the column," Heidel says in his newsletter.
"And he has also, together with our archaeologist Fathy Awad, begun discussions with an engineer who would do the work.
"This symbolic raising of the largest column known in the ancient city would be a draw for tourism at the site as well as inaugurate a much-needed program of re-erection and restoration of the Roman urban fabric," Heidel points out.
The column and its relation to the Pantheon indicate an overriding plan by the Emperor for the design of the sacred city to honour his beloved Antinous.
Hadrian's ancient engineers created a FLOOD-CONTROL SYSTEM for Antinoopolis so perfect that modern engineers have decided to use it with only minimal upgrades for a 21st Century project to avert flash-flood damage for modern villagers at the site.
As you can see in the 18th Century geological survey map above, a wide dry-river wadi (arroyo, gully or ravine) flows from high cliffs east of the city (top of map) down through the site, emptying into the Nile (at bottom of map).
When rains occur, this arroyo drains an enormous amount of water from nearby desert through the center of the ancient city.
Why did Antinous decide to build the city on a flash-flood drainage site? First of all, this was the site where Antinous tragically died in the Nile.
But there was another reason: Hadrian recognized that the gap in the cliffs each of the city represented the ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for "horizon" ... which is two hills separated by a canyon.
In Abydos and other Egyptian cities, it is believed the souls of the dead traverse this canyon to reach the next world.
"This is an interesting feature of Hadrian’s design and suggests he intended Antinoupolis to be a classical version of the sacred landscape at Abydos where the sacred wadi believed to contain the tomb of Osiris also has a close relationship to the city," says James B. Heidel, president of the Antinoupolis Foundation.
"Of course, Hadrian’s engineers incorporated an unstable, sometimes filled with flash flood water, wadi into the city with a specific hardscape design including a massive stone canalization and multiple bridges to connect the two halves of the city," he writes in his latest newsletter.
Professor Marcello Spanu has been studying these remains.
We know about the canal walls and the bridges through a series of torrential flash floods and also illegal sand mining with bulldozers that have happened over the last six years or so, the project leader adds.
So, when Egyptian Irrigation Ministry engineers proposed digging a flash-flood control ditch, the Egyptologists showed them the stone works that Hadrian's engineers had put in place 1,900 years ago.
The Egyptian ministry engineers agreed that the ancient flood-control ditch could not be improved upon.
"After many hours of discussion with the quite affable engineer," Heidel says, "he came to understand that Hadrian's designers had already built a major flood control canal in the wadi, and through our urging he promised to simply dig out the ancient canal rather than build a new stone-lined ditch over the top of it."
Meanwhile, the mystery surrounding an INTENTIONALLY BURIED STONE STRUCTURE at Antinoopolis deepened with the discovery of not just one ... but three ... human skeletons interred in sand directly on top of the structure.
With the discovery of the first body last week, archaeologists reluctantly speculated about "human sacrifice" ... but now they believe humans were buried separately but along with sacrificial animals.
The team of archaeologists working at Antinoopolis say the subterranean "stone structure," which they believe may be an underground mortuary temple, is covered by two meters of soil strewn with sacrificial pottery sherds, bones of livestock and a crocodile ... and the skeleton of at least three human beings.
None of the animals was mummified ... nor were the humans,
says James B. Heidel, president of the Antinoupolis Foundation.
Some of the animals ... livestock ... were ritually butchered as normal for a Roman-era sacrifice. But a crocodile was buried intact, without being mummified.
But the human bodies were interred intact, also without being mummified. One of the bodies was accompanied by pottery vessels and ushabti figurines ... small clay dolls representing spirits who tend the deceased in the afterlife.
The experts are certain that the pottery vessels and the bodies date to the earliest days of the city which Hadrian founded at the site where Antinous died in the Nile.
None of the pottery is later than the 2nd or 3rd Century AD, the experts said ... meaning the sacrificial offerings were made at the time when the city was founded and under construction.
The archaeologists are also certain that the site is intact and has not been disturbed by looters over succeeding centuries.
They found bones of large livestock, which appear to have been butchered prior to burial. An intact crocodile skeleton is seen as proof that the site was used as a religious sacrificial offering venue ... since crocodiles were sacred to Ancient Egyptians and not a source of food.
But the human skeleton is a total mystery. In Roman times, human sacrifice was taboo, but the archaeologists say the human bones mixed in amongst the bones of sacrificial animals and pottery suggest a gruesome possibility.
"The human burial is sealed in the same clean sand layer as all the other offerings, and the not unreasonable, but somewhat uncomfortable, hypothesis must now be that at least one human was sacrificed and offered with the animals," says James B. Heidel, president of the Antinoupolis Foundation.
The pottery and bones are in soil which covers the mystery-shrouded "intentionally buried stone structure" which Heidel's team found in January 2017 in the heart of the city founded by Hadrian at the spot where Antinous died in the Nile.
Using ground-penetrating radar, the experts discovered the rectangular stone structure ... 12 by 22 meters in size ... which consists of three successive chambers.
The archaeologists suggest it could be an OSIREION ... symbolic Tomb of Osiris ... raising hopes that this could be the Lost Tomb of Antinous.
The structure was detected with ground-penetrating radar.
It is located near the waterfront peristyle discovered last season.
It is within what possibly was the Great Temple of Antinous and is a rectangular chamber which is subdivided into three sub-chambers ... apparently an antechamber, a middle chamber and an inner sanctum.