The benben stone was a sacred object in the temple of Ra at Iunu (now Cairo's modern suburb of Matariya).
Iunu was Egypt's centre of worship of the sun-god Ra, and was known to the ancient Greeks as Heliopolis—“City of the Sun”.
It was here that the mound of creation first appeared (the benben); rising from the timeless, primordial waters, and receiving the golden rays of the sun.
The sacred benben, believed to be shaped like a squat obelisk, was possibly the inspiration for the design of the pyramids and obelisks, designed to catch the first rays of each new dawn.
So it is fitting that at Matariya, the main reminder of its glorious, pious past is the obelisk of King Senusret I (12th Dynasty, ca. 1950 B.C.); Egypt's oldest standing obelisk.
Now a new discovery adds another page to Heliopolis' long history. The Egyptian-German Archaeological Mission has announced new evidence of a temple of King Ramesses II, who was no doubt keen to share in the benben's powers of creation.
Around 450 metres west of the Senusret's obelisk, the Mission discovered a number of blocks from the temple's innermost rooms, privy to only the highest priests and the king himself.
Pictured is a block showing Ramesses II anointing a deity with fragrant oil, using the little finger of his right hand.
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