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Thursday, October 14, 1999 Published at 23:28 GMT 00:28 UK

World: Middle East

Egypt unearths world's oldest stables

Chariots played an important role in ancient Egyptian life

By Caroline Hawley in Cairo

A joint German-Egyptian archeological team says it has uncovered some of the world's oldest horse stables on the edge of the Nile Delta, about 100km northeast of Cairo.

The stables comprise six rows of buildings which would house at least 460 horses.

They have linked the stables to the pharaoh Ramses II, who ruled more than 3,000 years ago 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 from the ancient Near East.

He told the BBC 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.

20 year search

The stable floors were sloped, Doctor Pusch says, to collect the urine of the horses, which was then used to fertilise surrounding areas.

Archaeologists believe the horses themselves were used to draw the two-wheeled chariots that 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 20 years searching for the temple of a goddess on horseback 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 recently.

Archaeologists believe that a wealth of other discoveries lies beneath the fertile fields of the Nile Delta. Until recently, most excavation work in Egypt has focused on Upper and Middle Egypt.

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