Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed carvings at four ancient temples in the Sinai Peninsula which they hope will shed fresh light on one of the most obscure periods of Pharaonic history.
Rare inscriptions on the temples' walls relate to the Hyksos -- Asiatic peoples who invaded Egypt during the 12th dynasty (1991-1802 BC) and ruled for more than a century from their Nile Delta capital, Avaris.
"There is a carving of King Ramses I standing before the god Set, who was worshipped by the Hyksos. This is the first of its kind," archaeologist Mohammed Abdel Maksud, who heads the mission, told AFP on Tuesday.
The Hyksos, whose name means "foreign rulers" in ancient Greek, were so hated that when Egyptians eventually returned to power, they destroyed all Hyksos monuments and records.
The find, including inscriptions relating to an array of other gods and kings, "opens the door to many secrets of that time and could help rewrite Sinai's history," Maksud said.
The inscriptions will be taken immediately to Cairo for analysis, said Maksud, who has been excavating the area since 1986.
The mud-brick temples were built on top of each other over a 1,000-year period spanning the Middle (2134-1569 BC) and New (1570-1070 BC) Kingdoms on a 70 by 80 metre (230 by 262 feet) site just east of the Suez Canal.
They were housed within Fort Tharo, the largest-ever military city from the Pharaonic period, on the edge of the Sinai desert, part of a series of forts that stretched along the so-called Horus Road to the Gaza border.