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Akhmim [anc. Egyp. Khent-Min; Gr. Chemmis; Lat. Panopolis]locked

  • Janice W. Yellin

Site of the capital of the 9th Upper Egyptian nome, 200 km north of Luxor, which flourished from Early Dynastic times to the Roman period (c. 2925 bcad 395). Apart from a few excavations during the 20th century, the ruins of the town, as well as temples and extensive cemeteries, have never been completely surveyed or excavated.

Only one of the temples—a rock-cut chapel with relief decoration, dedicated to Min, the principal local god—has survived even partially intact. It was built by a local priest of Min during the reign of the 18th Dynasty king Ay (reg c. 1323–c. 1319 bc) and restored by another priest of Min during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphos (reg 285–246 bc). Within the main city there were two large temples with pylons (ceremonial gateways), one in the north-west area built by Tuthmosis III (reg c. 1479–c. 1426 bc) and restored several times in the Greco-Roman period, and the other built during the Roman period (30 bcad 395) in the south-west sector. Both of these survived until the 14th century ad, when the masonry was dismantled for use in Islamic buildings. Descriptions written by visitors during the Islamic period suggest that the temple dating to the Roman period was comparable in scale and decoration to those at Edfu, Dendara and Philae.

Traces of an Old Kingdom (c. 2575–c. 2150 bc) temple were discovered in excavations at el-Hawawish, which is also the site of the largest and best excavated of the cemeteries at Akhmim. The tombs, dating from the early pharaonic period to Roman times, contained wall paintings and painted wooden coffins. The paintings in the Greco-Roman tombs are very unusual in that they reflect a variety of Classical and Egyptian religious practices and artistic styles. The numerous carved offering tables and funerary stelae (Cairo, Egyp. Mus.; London, BM; Paris, Louvre) are also unusual in their choice of inscriptions and decoration—the offering tables, for instance, are the only Egyptian examples to incorporate human figures in the imagery. It is possible that this unusual decoration on the funerary equipment reflects Akhmim’s importance as an independent religious centre during the Greco-Roman period.

W. Helck, E. Otto and W. Westendorff, eds: Lexikon der Ägyptologie (Wiesbaden, 1975–)