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date: 22 August 2019

Heliopolis(i)locked

  • Nabil Swelim

Extract

[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 (regc. 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 (...

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