Archaeology

Illegal Dig Unearths Ancient Egyptian Temple

Seven men have been arrested in Egypt after digging up an ancient temple under a house in Giza, just outside Cairo.

Seven men have been arrested in Egypt after digging up an ancient temple under a house in Giza, just outside Cairo.

Egyptian news website Ahram reports that the illegal excavation revealed the remains of a temple from the reign of Pharoah Tuthmose III.

The dig revealed huge limestone blocks covered in hieroglyphics, which belong to a massive temple, according to Egypt's Antiquities Minister Mamdouh El-Damaty.

Ahram reports that two marble columns were also unearthed, along with seven reliefs and a large armless colossus of a seated person, made from red granite.

Major General Momtaz Fathi, an aide to the interior ministry and a director in Egypt's tourism police, said that the find was made in mid October.

The arrests were made after Egypt's tourism and antiquities police heard about the illegal excavation. Police found diving suits, diving masks and oxygen cylinders when they raided the dig, according to Ahram.

The unearthed artifacts were taken to the nearby archaeological site of Saqqara for restoration and further study. The Hod Zeleikha area of Giza where the illegal dig took place has now been declared an archaeological site, according to El-Damaty, who noted that more of the temple will be excavated.

Tuthmose III, known as "the Napoleon of ancient Egypt" as a result of his military successes, reigned from 1479 to 1425 B.C.

Located on the outskirts of Cairo, Giza is best known as the location of the Great Sphinx and the pyramids.

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The sun sets on the minarets and the Great Pyramids of Giza in Old Cairo. An illegal dig in the area turned up an ancient temple.

Are these formations in the Egyptian desert long lost pyramids? Or are they just naturally occurring pyramidal rock outcrops?

The structures were spotted last year by amateur satellite archaeologist Angela Micol. She used Google Earth 5,000 miles away in North Carolina.

Located about 90 miles apart, the two possible pyramid complexes appeared on aerial imagery as an unusual groupings of mounds with intriguing orientations.

One site near the Fayum oasis revealed a four-sided, truncated mound approximately 150 feet wide and three smaller mounds in a diagonal alignment (left).

The other site, just 12 miles from the city of Abu Sidhum along the Nile, featured two large and two small mounds (right).

First reported by Discovery News, Micol’s claim gained widespread media attention and much criticism.

Authoritative geologists and geo-archaeologists dismissed what Micol called “Google Earth anomalies” as windswept natural rock formations -- buttes quite common in the Egyptian desert.

Micol was then contacted by an Egyptian couple -- collectors who claimed to have important historical references for both sites.

According to Medhat Kamal El-Kady, former ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman, and his wife Haidy Farouk Abdel-Hamid, a lawyer, former counselor at the Egyptian presidency and adviser of border issues and international issues of sovereignty, more than 34 maps and 12 old documents in their collection would support the existence of the lost pyramids.

For the site near the Fayum, they cited three maps in particular, dating from 1753 to the late 1880s.

The documents would point to the existence of two buried pyramids (within the red square) which add to the known Fayum pyramids of Lahoun and Hawara.

While the site in the Fayum has not been investigated yet, a preliminary on-the-ground expedition has already occurred at the site near Abu Sidhum.

According to Micol, it provided intriguing data to compare with El-Kady and Farouk’s maps and documents.

Suspecting the mounds were ancient in origin, locals tried to dig into one of the two smaller mounds.

The excavation failed due to striking very hard stone that Aly and Micol believe may be granite.

Aly Soliman believes the big mounds are hiding pyramids as the metal detector used over them signaled metal and showed an underground tunnel heading north.

Apart from the two larger and smaller mounds, the expedition team believes the site features a temple or habitation and a row of what may be mastaba tombs adjacent to the mounds. They are shown in the red rectangle thanks to a false color imaging technique developed by Micol.

“My goal is to go to Egypt with a team of U.S. scientists and videographers to prove if these sites are lost pyramid complexes,” Micol said.