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Article

Jaromir Malek

Site of the ancient Egyptian sun temple of King Neuserre (reg c. 2416–c. 2392 bc), on the western bank of the Nile north-west of Abusir, almost opposite the southernmost suburbs of modern Cairo. The temple, called Shesepib re (‘joy of the sun god Re’), is situated at the edge of the Libyan Desert, in the area of the Memphite necropolis.

Six sun temples were built for the state sun god Re-Horakhty by the kings of the 5th Dynasty, but by the late 20th century only two had so far been located. The sun temple of Neuserre was excavated by Friedrich Wilhelm von Bissing in 1898–1901. Nearly all the reliefs were removed, mostly to German collections, and many perished during World War II. The temple was built mainly of limestone. It consists, from east to west, of the valley temple, causeway and upper temple. This arrangement is similar to that of pyramid complexes and suggests a generally accepted concept of a purpose-built temple during the Old Kingdom. A brick-built bark of the sun god was discovered near by....

Article

R. G. Morkot

Site in Egypt, on the west bank of the Nile in Lower Nubia, 280 km south of Aswan. With the construction of the Aswan Dam in the early 1960s, the temple complex was one of a number of ancient monuments saved by being moved to a new site. Having been cut into pieces and reassembled, it now stands on the shores of Lake Nasser, 64 m higher and 180 m west of its ancient site. It is not known whether any small rock-cut chapels already existed at Abu Simbel, but inscriptions from the Middle Kingdom show that it was already an ancient sacred site when Ramesses II (reg c. 1279–c. 1213 bc) chose it for his most grandiose, and most famous, Nubian monument.

The construction of the Great and Small Temples of Abu Simbel began in the early years of Ramesses II, and they were completed by around the 25th year of his reign. The Great Temple (...

Article

Abydos  

John Baines

[anc. Egyp. Abdjw]

Egyptian site, c. 50 km south of Sohag, and necropolis of the ancient city of This (perhaps modern Girga), which was briefly the capital of the newly united Egypt in the Late Predynastic period (c. 3000–c. 2925 bc). As the country’s most ancient capital, it remained significant throughout Egyptian history, becoming the principal cult centre of Osiris, a funerary deity who embodied the tradition of kingship. From the later Middle Kingdom (c. 1750 bc), the Early Dynastic period (c. 2925–c. 2575 bc) royal necropolis was believed to contain the tomb of Osiris; because of this, it was visited by pilgrims until Roman times (30 bcad 395). Large cemeteries continued to accumulate, and they were characterized in the latest period by a distinctive Greco-Egyptian type of stele. These merged Egyptian and Classical styles with a largely Egyptian decorative repertory and were increasingly inscribed in Greek. Thus for two millennia Abydos was an important centre of non-royal art, as well as the location of major temples....

Article

Charles C. Van Siclen III

[Egyp. Per-Bastet; now Tell Basta, nr Zaqāzīq, Egypt]. Site in the eastern Nile Delta 77 km north-east of Cairo. It flourished c. 2575 bcc. ad 300. The ancient city of Basta (Gr. Bubastis) was the home of the feline goddess Bastet (Egyp.: ‘She of Basta’), often associated in the later periods of Egyptian history with the cat. Both the city and the cult of Bastet date back at least to the beginning of the Old Kingdom (c. 2575 bc). Bubastis was a significant political, economic and religious centre, and during the 22nd Dynasty (c. 950–c. 730 bc) it was home to a family of pharaohs named Osorkon and Shoshenq, who ruled the whole of Egypt. The importance of the city declined with shifting trade routes, changing political structures and above all the appearance of Christianity and later Islam, when the site was abandoned. The great temple to Bastet and her joyous festival are both described by Herodotus (...

Article

Dendara  

John Baines

[anc. Egyp. Iunet; Gr. Tentyris.]

Egyptian site on the west bank of the Nile c. 65 km north of Luxor. It was an important provincial centre throughout Egyptian history; its chief artistic monuments are successive temples of the goddess Hathor from the 6th Dynasty (c. 2325–c. 2150 bc) to the 2nd century ad (see fig.). The site stands to the south of the Nile, about 1 km away at the edge of the low desert. The temples stand within a high mud-brick enclosure wall and occupy the north-west part of the sacred space. The site was cleared by Auguste Mariette in the mid-19th century, and work continued sporadically until about 1960.

Activity of Pepy I (reg c. 2289–c. 2256 bc) is referred to in the Greco-Roman temple and attested by a fine statue. The 11th-Dynasty king Mentuhotpe II (reg c. 2008–c. 1957 bc) built a chapel to Hathor and her son Harsomtus which also celebrated his own status (Cairo, Egyp. Mus.). This chapel still stood in the time of Merneptah (...

Article

Faiyum  

R. J. Leprohon and T. G. Wilfong

Egyptian semi-oasis region c. 80 km south-west of Cairo on the Bahr Yusuf, an ancient channel of the Nile (see fig.). In the north-west is Lake Qarun, a remnant of the ancient Lake Moeris, an important part of ancient Egyptian cosmogony since it was reputed by some to be the site of Nun, the primeval ocean. Throughout the Dynastic and Greco-Roman periods (c. 2925 bcad 395) the major god worshipped in the Faiyum was the crocodile-headed Sebek (Gr. Suchos), but the region had a large Jewish community from the 3rd century bc, and Christianity probably arrived in the 1st century ad. Major sites in the Faiyum include the Middle Kingdom monuments at Hawara, el-Lahun and Qasr el-Sagha, and Greco-Roman towns at Qasr Qarun and Kom Ushim. The principal Coptic monuments are the monasteries of Deir el-Azab and Deir el-Malak, and there is a 15th-century mosque in the regional capital of ...

Article

Nabil Swelim

[anc. Egyp. Iunu; Bibl. On; now Tell Hisn]. Site near Cairo, Egypt. It was the capital of the 13th Lower Egyptian nome (administrative province) and a cult centre of the sun-god in its various guises (Re, Atum, Khephri). The symbol of Heliopolis was the benben, the precursor of the pyramid and obelisk, which represented the primeval hill on which the sun first rose. The oldest monolithic benben found at Heliopolis dates to the 6th Dynasty (c. 2325–c. 2150 bc). An obelisk of Sesostris I (reg c. 1918–c. 1875 bc) still stands on the site; two other obelisks of Heliopolitan origin—‘Cleopatra’s needles’—are now in London and New York. Remains of a temenos wall and chapel reliefs testify to the city’s importance as a religious centre as early as the Early Dynastic period (c. 2925–c. 2575 bc). Imhotep, who bore the title ‘Greatest of seers’ and served in Heliopolis under the 3rd Dynasty (...

Article

Raphael Ventura

[Arab. Sarabīṭ al-Khādim]

Site of an Egyptian rock-cut sanctuary on a turquoise-bearing desert plateau in the south-western Sinai Peninsula. The evidence of Egyptian activity at Serabit el-Khadim (mainly associated with mining expeditions between the early 20th century bc and the late 12th) consists of 13 turquoise mines, parts of a temple of Hathor, 12th Dynasty free-standing stelae, rock-cut shrines, rock inscriptions and rough stone enclosures with single stelae.

The temple of Hathor was partly built and partly hewn out of local red sandstone and limestone. The earliest part, constructed in the 12th Dynasty (c. 1938–c. 1756 bc), is an artificial rectangular cave of uncertain function, with a single natural pillar at its centre and niches on the walls. Funerary inscriptions and cult scenes, still bearing traces of colouring, are carved on the walls and pillar. The rest of the temple consists of 12 decorated rooms in a row, starting from a massive pylon. They were constructed by a succession of New Kingdom pharaohs from ...

Article

William J. Murnane, Jean Lauffray, C. E. Loeben, Lanny Bell, Jadwiga Lipinska, C. A. Keller and Nigel Strudwick

[anc. Egyp. Waset; now al-Uqṣur, Luxor]

Site in Upper Egypt that flourished from c. 2100 bc until the end of the Dynastic period (c. 30 bc). Thebes was a favoured royal residence—although not always the national capital—and the home of the god Amun. The influence of Amun spread throughout Egypt and Nubia, and his cult remained the focus of Theban life and artistic achievements long after the city had lost its political significance.

William J. Murnane

Thebes (see fig.) first rose to prominence as the home territory of the kings of the 11th Dynasty (c. 2081–c. 1938 bc), who reunited Egypt after the disorder of the First Intermediate Period (c. 2150–c. 2008 bc). The 11th Dynasty probably originated in Armant, but they set up their capital at Thebes, where their presence is attested mainly by the mortuary complexes of the kings and their retainers on the west bank of the Nile—most notably that of Nebhepetre ...