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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

Peter Grossmann

[Abū Mīnā]

Site of a Christian city and pilgrimage centre in the Maryūt Desert, c. 45 km south-west of Alexandria, Egypt. It grew up around the shrine of St Menas, who was martyred during the persecution of the Christians instigated by Diocletian (reg 285–305). The ancient name of the site is not known, and the position of the saint’s grave had been long forgotten until, according to legend, several miracle cures led to its rediscovery. The place then quickly developed into an increasingly major centre of pilgrimage where, among other things, the so-called Menas ampules were manufactured as pilgrim flasks and achieved particular renown. The first excavations of the site were undertaken by Kaufmann in 1905–7. Further excavations have been directed successively by the Coptic Museum in Cairo (1951), Schläger (1963 and 1964), Wolfgang Müller-Wiener (1965–7) and Peter Grossmann (since 1969).

The earliest archaeological remains date to the late 4th century, although the grave itself was in an older hypogeum. The first martyrium basilica erected over the grave dates to the first half of the 5th century and was rapidly enlarged by various reconstructions and extensions. Around the turn of the 5th and 6th centuries, the Great Basilica was added to the east in the form of a transept-basilica, making it the largest church in Egypt (...

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

Bawit  

C. Walters

Site on the west bank of the River Nile, c. 16 km west of Daryūt in the province of Asyūt, Egypt. A large monastery with rich sculptural and painted decoration originally lay in the desert 1 km to the west. According to tradition it was founded by the monk Apollo in the late 4th century ad and was inhabited until the late 12th century. The site was excavated intermittently between 1901 and 1913 by the French Archaeological Institute in Cairo; most of the structural finds were removed to the Coptic Museum in Cairo and the Louvre in Paris. The monastery consisted of an enclosed nucleus with other buildings outside the walls, although it is not known how much of the site was occupied at any given time. Within the enclosed area were two churches. A number of two-storey structures were excavated, of which the ground floors were probably chapels and the upper floors served as living quarters, as in the monastery of Apa Jeremiah at Saqqara (...

Article

Robert S. Bianchi

[Arab. Bahbayt al-Hagar; anc. Egyp. Pr-ḥbyt; Lat. Iseum]

Site in northern Egypt, c. 100 km north of Cairo, an important cult centre for the worship of the goddess Isis, which flourished during the 4th century bc. The modern name is a combination of the ancient Egyptian name and the Arabic epithet ‘al-hagar’ (‘the stone’), referring to the jumbled mass of granite blocks from the collapsed Temple of Isis that now litters the site. The site is mentioned in inscriptions of the New Kingdom, but it rose to prominence during the 30th Dynasty (380–343 bc) when Nectanebo II (reg 360–343 bc) sponsored the construction of the Temple of Isis. The geographic proximity of Behbeit el-Hagar to Sebennytos, the capital during the 30th Dynasty, less than 10 km away, implies that Isis was the Dynasty’s titular deity. Behbeit el-Hagar (Iseum) eventually became the capital of an independent nome (administrative province) during the Ptolemaic period (after ...

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

Edfu  

Eleni Vassilika

[anc. Egyp. Behdet or Djeba; Gr. Apollinopolis; now Idfū.]

Site in Upper Egypt. It is dominated by the Temple of Horus, the most completely preserved of all Egyptian temples, dating mainly to the Ptolemaic period (304–30 bc; see also Egypt, ancient, fig.). To the east of the temple are the ruins of a city (now covered by modern Idfū) dating back at least to the Old Kingdom (c. 2575–c. 2150 bc). The Temple of Horus was built and decorated by the Ptolemies, although the cult of the god Horus at Edfu is attested since the Middle Kingdom (c. 2008–c. 1630 bc). The remains at Edfu include part of a pylon of Ramesses III (reg c. 1187–c. 1156 bc). Blocks from the forecourt, excavated in the 1980s, date back to the New Kingdom (c. 1540–c. 1075 bc), but they may have been dragged there from another site....

Article

Esna  

John Baines

[anc. Egyp. Ta-senet, Gr. Latopolis.]

Egyptian city c. 55 km south of Luxor on the Nile. Inhabited since ancient times, Esna remains important as the terminus of one of the main caravan routes between Egypt and the Sudan, and as a centre of textile production. The only ancient building to survive is part of the Greco-Roman Temple of Khnum, but Deir Manayus wa Shuhada (the ‘Monastery of the Martyrs’), a 4th-century ad Coptic foundation, lies 6 km to the south-west, and the Ottoman mosque of el-Amri in the town centre retains a brick-built minaret of the Fatimid period (ad 969–1171).

The Temple of Khnum, now reduced to its hypostyle hall, formed the core of a complex including a quay (in situ) and a processional approach (untraced); this was related to four further complexes (almost entirely lost) in the region. The earlier, inner part of the temple is represented by its front wall, which was incorporated into the hall and now forms its rear wall. It has carved relief decoration dating to the reigns of Ptolemy VI Philometor (...

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

Barry Bergdoll

(b Cologne, June 15, 1790; d Paris, Dec 31, 1853).

French architect, writer and archaeologist of German birth. In 1810 he left Cologne with his lifelong friend J. I. Hittorff for Paris, enrolling at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1811 under the tutelage of the ardent Neo-classicists Louis-Hippolyte Lebas and François Debret. But from the beginning Gau was exposed to a wider field of historical sources, first as assistant site architect under Debret on the restoration of the abbey church of Saint-Denis (1813–15) and then from 1815 in Nazarene circles in Rome, where he met the archaeologist and philologist Barthold Nieburh (1776–1831), who arranged a scholarship for him from the Prussian government and a trip through the eastern Mediterranean. In Egypt Gau undertook an arduous trip down the Nile to visit and record the monuments of Nubia, which he published as the lavish folio Antiquités de la Nubie. He noted assiduously every trace of colour on the remains, just as he was to do in ...

Article

P. S. Garlake

Complex of dry-stone walls among the hills on the south-eastern edge of the plateau c. 250 km south of Harare in Zimbabwe (see fig.). It was built and occupied between the 11th and 15th centuries ad as the capital of a state of the Bantu-speaking peoples now known as the Shona, for whom zimbabwe means ‘ruler’s court’. It is by far the largest of c. 200 similar stone buildings between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers and is also probably the largest pre-Colonial construction in Sub-Saharan Africa, comprising one of the earliest, most powerful and longest-surviving indigenous states to develop in the African interior.

The earliest surviving written description of Great Zimbabwe appears in João de Barros’s account of the Portuguese conquests of south-east Africa, Da Asia, published in 1552 in Lisbon. This description, derived from reports of Swahili traders on the coast, reveals that Great Zimbabwe was believed to be a former palace of the Mutapa dynasty, which at the time ruled a state further north in the Zambezi Valley and its immediate hinterland. Although the Mutapa king no longer lived there, his kin and courtiers were said to do so. Portuguese relations with the Mutapa state were sustained over centuries, but no Portuguese traveller was ever allowed to visit Great Zimbabwe, although, during the 16th century, a few stayed in the stone-walled ...

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

Edda Bresciani

[Kawm Umbū; anc. Egyp. Nubt: ‘city of gold’, Gr. Ombos]

Site on a promontory of the west bank of the Nile, between Aswan and Edfu. Very little remains of the ancient Egyptian city of Ombos, which in Ptolemaic times (c. 332–30 bc) was capital of the 1st nome of Upper Egypt. However, the temple complex, dedicated to the crocodile-god Sebek and the hawk-god Haroeris (an aspect of Horus), is well preserved. The site was known to early European travellers and to the first Egyptologists, such as Champollion and Rosellini, but the clearance of the temple did not begin until the work of Jacques de Morgan in 1893.

The main temple was first constructed in the reign of Ptolemy VI Philometor (reg 180–145 bc), but its decoration continued throughout the Ptolemaic era (particularly in the reign of Ptolemy XII Auletes; c. 80–51 bc) and the period of Roman rule (Augustus, Tiberius, Domitian and Trajan; c. 30 ...

Article

Richard F. Townsend

Site of a 16th-century rock-cut Aztec temple, c. 60 km south-east of Mexico City. The temple at Malinalco is an example of a widespread type of ritual building described in 16th-century ethno-historical texts and associated with the cult of the earth. Its monolithic inner chamber is the only excavated example to have survived intact. The temple forms part of a ritual and administrative centre built at the hilltop Matlazinca town of Malinalco after it had been incorporated into the Aztec empire. The buildings were begun in 1501, under the Aztec ruler Ahuizotl (reg 1486–1502), as extensions of the symbolic architectural system developed in Tenochtitlán; they are compactly arranged along an artificial terrace partly carved from the steeply sloping mountainside. The façade comprises two sections. Sculptured guardian figures flank the foot of a flight of 13 steps ascending the lower platform. Similar figures flank the front of the upper temple chamber; another figure forms part of the centre of the 3rd to 6th steps, in which the most important sculpture is a large relief carving of a serpent-like mask framing the chamber doorway. The carved mask functions as a hieroglyph for ...

Article

Mammisi  

Ann Bomann

[Copt.: ‘place of birth’]

Type of small temple that first appeared in Egypt in the 30th Dynasty (380–343 bc) and became a common feature of Egyptian temple complexes in the Greco-Roman period (332 bcad 395). The name was invented by the French Egyptologist Jean-François Champollion (1790–1832) to describe the buildings devoted to the birth rites of the mother-goddess (usually Isis or Hathor). The birth house was invariably an annexe within the enclosure wall of a large temple such as those at Edfu, Dendara, Philae and Armant. The concept of such a building developed out of the birth scenes of Queen Hatshepsut (reg c. 1479–c. 1458 bc) at the Deir el-Bahri temple and the birth chamber of Amenophis III (reg c. 1390–c. 1353 bc) at the Luxor temple (see Thebes, §III). The rites of the goddess, as she gave birth to her son Horus or Ihy, followed on from the rites performed in the chambers associated with the god Osiris....

Article

Philae  

Erich Winter

Island situated immediately south of Aswan in Upper Egypt, which was the original location of an ancient temple of the goddess Isis, surrounded by associated cult buildings. The earliest surviving parts of the temple date from the reign of Nectanebo I (reg 380–362 bc), and it was subsequently extended and enlarged until the 2nd century ad. Between 1972 and 1980, in an internationally financed rescue operation mounted by UNESCO, the buildings of Philae were transferred to the higher ground on the neighbouring island of Agilqiyya. In the course of this work some 300 blocks from an older construction, dating to the time of the 26th Dynasty ruler Amasis (reg 570–526 bc), were found in and around the later (Ptolemaic) 2nd pylon. These reliefs of Amasis show that there was already a cult of Isis on Philae in the 26th Dynasty. However, even earlier reliefs, dating to the time of the 25th Dynasty ruler Taharqa (...

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

Eve D’Ambra

[Silene]

Roman villa in Libya. The élite of the great city of Leptis Magna built villas along the Tripolitanian coast, and the Villa Sileen, near the village of Khums(Qums) is an excellent example of this type of domestic architecture in North Africa. Discovered in 1974, the villa was inhabited in the 2nd century ...