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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

Dominic Montserrat

[Antinoë; now el-Sheikh Ibada]

Egyptian site 75 km north of Asyut. The town was officially founded by the Emperor Hadrian in October ad 130 to commemorate his favourite, Antinous, who had been drowned there. However, there was a Late Predynastic (c. 3000 bc) cemetery on the site and Ramesses II (reg c. 1279–c. 1213 bc) built a temple there using decorated blocks and columns from buildings at Tell el-Amarna. The Roman town was designed on a grid plan and boasted an amphitheatre and hippodrome, a temple to the deified Antinous and a colonnaded main street with a triumphal arch: the last, now destroyed, was still standing when Edmé Jomard (1777–1862) visited and drew the site in 1803. The necropolis of Antinoöpolis has yielded important Roman artefacts, particularly illustrated papyri, textiles (e.g. Lyon, Mus. Hist. Tissus, 28.927 and encaustic mummy portraits of distinctive shape and technique. The last were produced by a local school of artists and often embellished with gilded wreaths and stucco jewellery before being bound into the mummy wrappings (e.g. Detroit, MI, Inst. A., 25.2); their style and iconography blends Egyptian and Hellenistic elements. Brick tombs of the 6th century ...

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

Bucheum  

Elizabeth L. Meyers

Site of an ancient Egyptian animal necropolis on the west bank of the Nile, immediately to the north of Armant, about 15 km south of Luxor. From the 30th Dynasty (380–343 bc) until ad 340, the Bucheum was the burial site of the Buchis (Egyp. bekh) bulls, sacred to the war-god Montu. The site was discovered by Robert Mond in 1927.

The burial preparations of the Buchis bulls differ in several ways from those of the Apis bulls at the Saqqara Serapeum (see Saqqara). Judging from the excavated remains of the Buchis bulls and the documentary evidence provided by the Vienna Papyrus (Vienna, Ksthist. Mus.), their viscera were not removed. Whereas the burial chambers at the Serapeum were elaborate and carved from the living rock, those in the Bucheum were built structures, varying greatly both in architectural size and in quantity of burial equipment (only a few of them incorporating a sarcophagus). As at the Serapeum, records were kept of the dates of birth and death of the sacred bulls. Just as the Apis bulls were identified by particular markings, the Buchis bulls were credited with the ability to accomplish hourly changes in the colour of their hides (which are supposed to have grown in the opposite direction to those of normal bulls, according to the Classical writer Macrobius)....

Article

Gordon Campbell

Product of a technique first used in ancient Egypt and later developed in ancient Rome. The outer of two superimposed layers of glass was ground away to leave a pattern consisting of a pattern standing in relief on a contrasting ground, usually white on dark blue. The finest surviving example is the Portland Vase (early 1st cent. ...

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

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

Faras  

R. G. Morkot

[Egyp. Sehetepneterw; Copt. Pachoras.]

Site in Egypt on the west bank of the Nile, 35 km north of Wadi Halfa. Since the completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1970, Faras has been submerged beneath Lake Nasser. There were three important phases in the history of Faras: the later New Kingdom (c. 1540–c. 1075 bc), when it was rebuilt by Tutankhamun (reg c. 1332–c. 1323 bc) as the administrative capital of Lower Nubia; during the Meroitic period (c. 300 bcad 360), when it was again a regional capital; and Christian times (8th–15th centuries ad) when it was the seat of a bishop.

In terms of Nubian art the Meroitic and Christian phases at Faras are the most important. The large Meroitic cemetery has produced a great quantity of pottery vessels in fine painted wares, and painted pottery has long been recognized as one of the most important aspects of Meroitic art, revealing influences from Pharaonic, Hellenistic and Roman Egypt in its forms and the decorative motifs employed (...

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

A. J. Mills

Egyptian oasis c. 600 km south of Cairo and c. 200 km west of the Nile. Throughout history, Kharga was closely connected with the civilization of the Nile Valley as an important stage in the great overland trade route known as the Darb el-Arbain (‘Forty Days’ Road’) between Egypt and the Sudan. Ancient texts praise the oasis products. The oasis is narrow but measures c. 160 km from north to south; it is dotted with monuments in varying states of preservation. The earliest of these is the Temple of Amun at Hibis (see fig. and Egypt, ancient, §VIII, 2, (i), (a)), which was begun on earlier foundations in the 26th Dynasty (664–525 bc), completed during the reign of Darius I (reg 521–486 bc) and enlarged in later periods. The temple is a well-preserved example of the Saite Renaissance style, while its sandstone walls are decorated with finely cut Persian period reliefs. A series of mud-brick fortified settlements of the Roman period (...

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

Thorsten Opper

Often highly individualistic portraits painted on wood or canvas that were positioned over the head of a mummy. They came into use in Egypt during the Roman Imperial period and partly replaced the more traditional, idealized masks. Some 900 to 1000 examples are currently known; particularly significant collections are in the British Museum and Petrie Museum in London, the Louvre in Paris, the Staatliche Museen in Berlin and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Mummy portraits were found throughout Egypt from the delta to Nubia, but were concentrated in a few cemeteries in the Nile valley, such as Akhmim and Antinoöpolis, and particularly in the Faiyum (er-Rubayat and Hawara), so that they are sometimes also known as ‘Faiyum-portraits’.

The portraits were sometimes painted using very elaborate encaustic techniques, involving layers of coloured, heated wax that produced vivid chromatic tones, but cheaper versions in tempera on white backgrounds and even watercolour also occur. The insufficient state of publication of many portraits has generally not been conducive to studies into workshop connections or the isolation of individual painters; more detailed research on these aspects exists only for examples from Antinoöpolis....

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

Dominic Montserrat

[anc. Egyp. Per-Medjed; Copt. Pemdje; now el-Bahnasa]

Site on the Bahr Yusuf, 50 km north of el-Minya in Egypt. Little is known of the town in the Dynastic period (c. 2925–332 bc), when it was the capital of the 19th Upper Egyptian nome and played an important role in the mythology of Osiris. Its main importance is as a source of Roman-period (30 bcad 395) papyri, which were preserved by the dry climate, encaustic mummy portraits and Early Christian funerary sculpture.

The rubbish heaps of Oxyrhynchus were first excavated by Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt in 1896, and they have since yielded over 10,000 papyri, the largest number from a single site. They provide unique examples of Roman book illustrations, including circus scenes and stories from mythology, as well as more ephemeral works such as preliminary sketches in wash for wall paintings and coloured designs for textiles (all now Oxford, Ashmolean). Papyrus rolls with fine manuscripts of literary texts attest the art of the calligrapher in Roman Egypt; some luxury books found at the site may have been produced in ...