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Egypt Unveils 4,300 Year-Old Statue

January 18, 1998

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ The oldest metal statue in the world, a 4,300-year-old figure of an Egyptian pharaoh, was unveiled Saturday after completion of its restoration.

The copper statue of Pepy I was found buried in a temple at Edfu in southern Egypt, where it was preserved by the constant climate of the surrounding sand and mud, said its restorer, Christian Eckmann of Roman-Germanic Museum in Mainz, Germany.

The statuette, about 60 centimeters (2 feet) high, was restored together with a life-sized statue of Pepy as part of a 500,000 German mark ($274,000) project funded by the museum, the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, and the German government.

At the unveiling ceremony in the Egyptian Museum, German Ambassador Wolf-Dietrich Schilling said his country had not forgotten killing of nine German tourists in an attack last September by a former mental asylum patient and his brother.

``We need some time,″ Schilling told the Associated Press, ``but we Germans, like many other peoples in the world, admire the culture (of Egypt) and therefore, at a convenient and proper time, we will come back.″

He said Germany had not told its citizens not to visit Egypt, but it was advising travelers of the museum incident and the Nov. 17 attack when six Muslim militant gunmen killed 58 tourists and four Egyptians at a Pharaonic temple outside the southern city of Luxor.

``We are continuing not to suggest to travel in southern areas and middle Egypt,″ Schilling said.

In a second ceremony Saturday, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Antiquities, Gaballah Ali Gaballah, unveiled a newly-restored sabil, or water fountain, that is the oldest fountain in Egypt.

The Sabil of al-Nasr Mohammed ibn Qalawun in the ancient quarter of Cairo was built in the 14th century to provide passers-by with free drinking water in a gesture intended to confer honor on its sponsor, a local governor.

The 40,000 mark ($22,000) restoration took seven months and was funded by the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo.

However, the fountain remains dry. The institute’s restoration architect, May al-Ibrashy, said they had not restored the water supply because they had not been able to determine how it functioned and to what level the water rose.

``For us to restore water, we would be doing something that, historically speaking, is incorrect because we will be guessing and we do not like to do this in restoration,″ al-Ibrashy said.

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