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Akhmim  

Janice W. Yellin

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

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...

Article

Armant  

M. S. Drower

[anc. Gr. Hermonthis; Copt. Ermont]

City in Egypt, on the west bank of the Nile, some 10 km south of Luxor. It was at first called Iunu-Shema (Egyp.: ‘the southern Heliopolis’) and Iunu-Montu (Egyp.: ‘Heliopolis of the war-god Montu’), from which subsequent names derive. It was the capital of the fourth nome (administrative province) of Upper Egypt throughout the Old Kingdom (c. 2575–c. 2150 bc), until the rise of the city of Thebes. Armant was the original home of the Mentuhotpe family, the founders of the 11th Dynasty. Preliminary excavations in the town area (1935–7) uncovered stone relief blocks of many periods; a few delicate reliefs of the 11th Dynasty show Sankhkare Mentuhotpe III in the company of Montu and his consorts the goddesses Iuniyt and Teneniyt. Some lower courses of a New Kingdom temple were uncovered, including the base of an 18th Dynasty Pylon bearing a depiction of a lively procession of Nubian captives headed by a rhinoceros. A granite stele, found near by, records various exploits, such as the capture of a rhinoceros by Tuthmosis III....

Article

Aswan  

Edda Bresciani

[anc. Egyp. Abu, Swenet; Copt. Sawan; Gr. Syene]

Egyptian city at the northern end of the first Nile cataract, c. 900 km south of Cairo. The modern town chiefly stretches along the eastern bank of a sandstone valley, which also contains numerous islands formed by the granite outcrops of the cataract; its ancient monuments are found on both the east and west banks and on some of the islands.

In ancient times Aswan was a garrison town marking the traditional boundary between Egypt and Nubia; as such it served as the capital of the first nome (province) of Egypt and the seat of its governors. The town’s wealth was generated by its position on an important trade route between the Nile Valley and the African lands to the south and by its granite quarries, which provided the material for countless ancient monuments. The islands of the cataract enjoyed religious status as the mythological source of the annual Nile inundation, while the Temple of Isis at ...

Article

Ann Bomann

[anc. Egyp. Hwt-hery-ib; now Tell Atrib]

Site in Egypt, just north-west of Benha in the Nile Delta. The capital of the 10th nome administrative province of Lower Egypt, the town’s religious name, Kemwer (the ‘Great Black One’), was applied to the original local god (personified as a bull), the nome and the city itself. Subsequently the major deity was Khentekhtai, at first represented as a crocodile and additionally, from the 12th Dynasty (c. 1938–c. 1756 bc), as a falcon; mummified falcons dating from the Late Period (c.750–332 bc) have been found. The heart of Osiris was believed to be buried at Athribis, and Isis, Hathor, Sekhmet and Khwit, the major goddess after the New Kingdom (c. 1540–c. 1075 bc), also had cults there. It was also the birthplace of Amenhotpe, son of Hapu, royal architect to Amenophis III (reg c. 1390–c. 1353 bc). Apart from partial soundings and occasional discoveries by the Napoleonic expedition (...

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

A. J. Mills

The largest of Egypt’s western oases (l. c. 120 km), c. 400 km west of Luxor. It was inhabited from earliest times, and although distant from the civilization of the Nile Valley, it was never isolated: most of the preserved monuments show a strong Egyptian influence. The absence of pressure on space and building materials, combined with a kind climate, has left a series of monuments largely complete and in a reasonable condition. Although there is a group of mud-brick mastaba tombs at Balat that dates to the late 6th Dynasty (c. 2325–c. 2150 bc), the best-preserved remains date to the Ptolemaic, Roman and Byzantine periods (304 bcad 641). The Tomb of Kitinos (1st century bc) at Balat is the only masonry tomb with carved relief decoration known in the southern oases. Its style is purely Egyptian, though rather provincial, and typical of the period. More important are the contemporary tombs of Petosiris and Pedubastis at Qaret el-Muzzawaqa, where the painted decoration bears an unusual juxtaposition of religious scenes rendered in the traditional Egyptian style and three excellent zodiac ceilings and several owners’ portraits executed in the much freer Classical style. The nearby sandstone temple of Deir el-Haggar (1st century ...

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

Peter French

[Arab. Tall al-Fara‛īn; anc. Egyp. Pr-Wadjit; Copt. Puoto; Gr. Buto.]

Ancient Egyptian city in the western Delta that flourished during the Predynastic and Saite periods. The ancient Egyptian name of the city was Pr-Wadjit (‘House of Wadjit’), and its principal deities were Wadjit, the snake-goddess, and Horus, the falcon-god. More commonly known as Buto, the site was a sacred place of great iconographic importance.

British excavations (1964–9) revealed a major temple, probably dating from the Saite period (664–525 bc). Egyptian excavations (1987–8) have also uncovered stelae and statues dating to the New Kingdom (c. 1540–c. 1075 bc) and the Late Period (c. 750–332 bc), in the area around the temple. Grants of land were made to the temple according to an early Ptolemaic stele, later reused in a Cairo mosque. Apart from a hoard of bronze hawks (Cairo, Egyptian Mus.), few other objects of artistic importance have been found, due to the wet climate, the salty soil and the fact that surface remains are of an industrial city of the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. Since ...

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

Egyptian site c. 15 km west of Beni Suef. The city of Henen-nesut was known in the Greco-Roman period (332 bcad 395) as Herakleopolis Magna because of the identification of the local ram-headed god Harsaphes with the Greek Herakles. However, it first rose to prominence as the national capital during the First Intermediate Period (c. 2150–c. 2008 bc), when the Herakleopolitan 9th and 10th dynasties ruled Egypt. The city also flourished during the Third Intermediate Period (c. 1075–c. 750 bc), when it became an independent princedom. The site was excavated by Edouard Naville (1890–91), Flinders Petrie (1904) and the Spanish Archaeological Mission under the direction of J. López from 1966.

The earliest remains, in a necropolis of the First Intermediate Period, consist of an important group of tombs belonging to prominent officials. These are decorated with polychrome reliefs depicting offering-bearers and scenes of rural life, as well as stelae of the false-door type (...

Article

Ancient Egyptian site on the east bank of the Nile, c. 30 km south of el-Minya. A Greco-Roman redevelopment of the pharaonic town of Khmun, it is now marked by a mound of ruins c. 1.5 km in diameter, adjacent to the modern settlement of el-Ashmunein. The town was occupied from the Old Kingdom (c. 2575–c. 2150 bc) to the Coptic period (4th–7th century ad). In pharaonic times it was a nome capital and the chief cult centre of Thoth, god of writing and wisdom. Thoth was later identified with Hermes, hence the Greco-Roman name of the city; its earlier name of Khmun means ‘City of the Eight’ and refers to the eight gods who figured in the local creation myths.

In the centre of the town was a large Temple of Thoth, constructed in the New Kingdom (c. 1540–c. 1075 bc), principally in the reigns of ...

Article

Koptos  

Nigel Strudwick

[anc. Egyp. Gebtu; now Qift, Egypt]

Capital city of the 5th nome of Upper Egypt that was occupied throughout the dynastic period (c. 2925–30 bc). Koptos is situated approximately 40 km north of Luxor, near the entrance to the Wadi Hammamat and Wadi Gasus. The site grew in importance because it was the town from which expeditions, bound for the Red Sea and the quarries and gold mines in the wadis, usually set out. The god of Koptos was the fertility deity Min, symbolized by the lettuce and usually represented as a standing ithyphallic figure.

The town, first excavated by Flinders Petrie in 1893–4, included monuments of many periods; the surviving remains, however, consist principally of three temples, in the north, south and middle of the town. The northern temple is that of Min and Isis, a Ptolemaic (c. 260 bc) construction overlying a temple of Tuthmosis III (reg c. 1479–...

Article

Nubia  

William Y. Adams, R. G. Morkot, Timothy Kendall, L. Török and Khalid J. Deemer

Region in the Nile Valley, immediately to the south of Egypt, in which several cultures flourished, from the Khartoum Mesolithic period (c. 10,000–c. 5000 bc) to the establishment of the Islamic Funj sultanate c. ad 1505. Ancient Nubia corresponds essentially to the ‘Aethiopia’ of Herodotus and other Classical writers and the ‘Kush’ of the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews. It extends approximately from Aswan in southern Egypt to Khartoum in Sudan (see fig. 1 and fig. 2). The most northerly part, Lower Nubia, has always been regarded as an Egyptian sphere of influence, and it is included within the borders of the modern Arab Republic of Egypt. Egyptian control of the larger, southerly region, ‘Upper Nubia’, was much more sporadic.

Article

Robert Anderson

[Lat. Primis]. Ancient military stronghold, administrative centre and place of religious pilgrimage on the east bank of the Nile in Egyptian Nubia, 238 km south of Aswan. The rocky headland, occupied in turn by Egyptians, Napatans, Meroites, Ptolemies, Romans, X-group, Nubian Christians and ‘Bosnian’ Muslims, is now largely submerged in Lake Nasser. In the cliff face were four inscribed rock shrines of the New Kingdom, honouring the 18th and 19th Dynasty (c. 1540–c. 1190 bc) pharaohs Hatshepsut, Tuthmosis III, Amenophis II and Ramesses II. These have been removed to Wadi Sabū‛ on the west side of the lake. At river level, two large cemeteries contained Meroitic, X-group, Christian and Muslim burials (c. 150 bcad 1964). Because of subsequent rebuilding, none of the pharaonic remains within the walled fortress is in situ. The earliest of five ruined temples dates to the Nubian pharaoh Taharqa of the 25th Dynasty (...

Article

Saqqara  

Christiane Zivie-Coche and Dominic Montserrat

Egyptian site on a desert plateau c. 20 km south of Cairo and just west of the ancient city of Memphis, which flourished as a necropolis and religious centre in the Dynastic, Late and Greco-Roman periods. In the Coptic period it continued in use as a monastic centre. The necropolis of Saqqara, which stretches for almost 8 km, forms the centre of the Memphite necropolis; its site is dominated by the Step Pyramid of the 3rd Dynasty king Djoser (see fig.). The monuments are divided into two groups, those of North Saqqara (see fig.) and those of South Saqqara.