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In Photos: Ancient Carving Reveals Roman Emperor

Newly Discovered Carving

Shanhur temple, egypt

(Image credit: Photo by Marleen De Meyer, line drawing by Troy Sagrillo.)

A newfound stone carving reveals Roman Emperor Claudius dressed as an Egyptian pharaoh while wearing an elaborate crown. The hieroglyphs say Claudius is raising the pole of the cult chapel of Egyptian fertility god Min and suggests a ritual like this took place around the summertime.

Lettuce Scene

Shanhur temple, egypt

(Image credit: Photo by Marleen De Meyer, line drawing by Troy Sagrillo.)

A team of researchers have discovered and recorded this relief which was carved in stone on the western exterior wall of the Temple of Isis at Shanhur. To the right the Roman Emperor Claudius is shown as an Egyptian pharaoh while wearing an elaborate crown. He faces the Egyptian god Min, on the left, who is wearing a crown of his own and has an erect penis. In between them a giant pole is being raised by Claudius with a lunar crescent at the top. Eight men, each wearing two feathers, are shown climbing the supporting poles in an unrealistic way, their legs dangling in mid-air.

Shanhur Temple western exterior wall

Shanhur temple, egypt

(Image credit: Photo by Marleen De Meyer.)

The western exterior wall at the Temple of Isis at Shanhur where the scene was uncovered. Originally the temple had 36 scenes on each of the western and eastern exterior walls. The new scene, protected for millennia by a layer of dirt, is one of the best preserved.

Claudius

Shanhur temple, egypt

(Image credit: Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.)

The Roman emperor Claudius (reign A.D. 41-54), whose bust is shown here, was considered the "black sheep" of his family and never expected to become emperor. However, after the murder of Caligula in January A.D. 41, Claudius ascended to the throne. Claudius died in A.D. 54, possibly after being poisoned by a mushroom.

Roman empire map

Shanhur temple, egypt

(Image credit: Public domain.)

Egyptian rulers are shown wearing crowns like this relatively late in Egyptian history. They are worn in Egypt only and not the rest of the Roman Empire (shown here in A.D. 54).

Battle-actium

Shanhur temple, egypt

(Image credit: Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.)

The Battle of Actium, fought in 31 B.C., was a pivotal naval battle which resulted in Octavian (the future Emperor Augustus) defeating the forces of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. Cleopatra committed suicide the following year and Egypt became a province of the Roman empire. The results of this battle meant that future Roman emperors, including Claudius, become the ruler of Egypt even if they never visited the country.

Fertility god

carving of the god Min in the Karnak Temple

In the recently discovered carving, the god Min is wearing his own crown and has an erect penis, because Min was a god of fertility, the researchers said. Shown here in another carving, this one carved into the Karnak Temple, the god Min was often shown in human male form holding his erect penis.