Archeology: Unearthing Egypt's God of, er, 'Fertility'

Article excerpt

Byline: Jerry Adler

He is politely called the god of "fertility," but the Egyptian deity Min had a lot more on his mind than agriculture. Invariably depicted with a large, erect penis, he was the god Pharaoh would pray to when he needed Egyptian women to conceive more soldiers for his Army, and his favorite offering was lettuce, considered a powerful aphrodisiac by the ancient Egyptians. Ninth-century Arab travelers who visited the temple to Min in Upper Egypt, built by Ramses II around 1300 B.C., came away wowed, describing it as larger than Karnak--but the site was long ago lost and buried by the modern city of Akhmim. A tantalizing trace turned up 15 years ago during an excavation for a post office, in the form of a giant statue of Ramses' Queen Meritamon--one of his several dozen wives, and also (as was customary with pharaohs) his daughter. But no further discoveries were made at the site.

Until three months ago, that is, when authorities nabbed a grave robber who had broken through the wall of a crypt in Akhmim's cemetery. …