The end and the beginning in the Temple of Heliopolis

Heliopolis 2 Vanessa Liebler for the i3mainz, CC BY SA 4.0

This project builds on the research data management of the preceding project in Heliopolis. The i3mainz provides assistance to the Heliopolis project in the implementation and expansion of the data management strategy.


The project, located in the temple compound of the ancient Egyptian sun god in Cairo’s Matariya district, continues the work of its predecessor, The cult center of the sun god in Heliopolis (Egypt). The size of the temple and the rising water table, along with steadily advancing urban development in the immediate vicinity of the site, prevent a complete stratigraphic investigation of the sun temple. However, the reconstruction of the uppermost and therefore the last monuments in the area of the temple dating from the 4th century B.C. that has not yet been built over appears realistic. The excavations planned by the University of Leipzig in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities as part of the project are likely to provide answers to the question of the final state of construction of the sun temple at Matariya before it was abandoned in favor of other city-building projects, especially in Alexandria, and it saw its monuments carted away. In addition to the excavations, the project is also dedicated to collecting evidence of the temple’s continued existence in the realm of ideas and memory in Roman and Arabic cultural contexts, right through to the European Renaissance. The parts of the project conducted by Mainz build on the results and methods of the preceding project. The state-of-the-art collection and processing of digital datasets is ensured by the research data management devised in Mainz, which will be implemented in the new project, working with the Leipzig team. The i3mainz has expanded the data management strategy for the upcoming work in the magazines and the building history analyses and adapted it for publication of the data in the Heidelberg repository Propylaeum.


Regular GIS workshops organised by i3mainz continued the successful transfer of knowledge and the transfer of geodata into a geoinformation system (GIS). Late period components, including column drums, and other finds from the excavations in Heliopolis were documented in the magazine of the Ministry of Matariya. For this work under special temporal and spatial conditions, i3mainz developed a documentation concept that ensured rapid but quality-assured three-dimensional recording of the objects using the Structure from Motion(SFM) method. Two research stays in Cairo were used for the practical realisation of the concept. The Gigamesh software developed at i3mainz and elsewhere was trialled in close cooperation with the building researcher involved to analyse the 3D models, particularly the architectural elements, and requirements for further development of the software were determined.