Impulse Egypt

Guy de la Bedoyere

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Abu Simbel – The Great Temple of Ramesses II

Abu Simbel is a temple built by Ramesses II (c.1279-1213 B.C.E.) in ancient Nubia, where he wished to demonstrate his power and his divine nature. Four colossal (65 feet/20 meters high) statues of him sit in pairs flanking the entrance. The head and torso of the statue to the left of the entrance fell during ancient times, probably the result of an earthquake. This temple faces the east, and Re-Horakhty, one manifestation of the sun god, is shown inside the niche directly above the entrance. The alignment of the temple is such that twice a year the sun’s rays reach into the innermost sanctuary to illuminate the seated statues of Ptah, Amun-Re, Ramesses II, and Re-Horakhty.

The temple was cut out of the sandstone cliffs above the Nile River in an area near the Second Cataract. When the High Dam was being constructed in the early 1960s, international cooperation assembled funds and technical expertise to move this temple to higher ground so that it would not be inundated by the waters of Lake Nasser.

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The Philae Temple Complex, located on an island in the Nile River in Aswan, Egypt, is a stunning example of ancient Egyptian architecture and culture. 

The temple was dedicated to the goddess Isis, one of the most important deities in the Egyptian pantheon. Over the centuries, various rulers and dynasties expanded and modified the temple, resulting in a complex that showcased a rich blend of architectural styles and artistic traditions. 

Despite being partially submerged by the waters of the Nile due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s, the temple complex remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in Egypt and a testament to the enduring legacy of the ancient Egyptians. 

In this article, we will explore the history, significance, and features of the Temple of Isis at Philae, providing a glimpse into one of the most remarkable structures of the ancient world.

 
The Philae Temple Complex is one of Egypt’s most unique and historically significant sites. Located on an island in the Nile River, the complex is a collection of temples built by the ancient Egyptians over several centuries. The complex was originally dedicated to the goddess Isis, who was believed to be a mother figure and protector of Egypt. 

The earliest known temple at Philae dates back to the reign of Pharaoh Nectanebo I (380-362 BC). This temple was dedicated to Isis and her husband, Osiris. During this time, Philae became a major center for the worship of Isis and Osiris. Many other temples were built on the island during this period, including ones dedicated to Horus, Hathor, and Sobek. 

During the Ptolemaic period (323-30 BC), Philae underwent significant changes and additions. The most significant change was the construction of a large temple complex dedicated to Isis by Ptolemy II (285-246 BC). This temple complex featured two main temples: one dedicated to Isis and one dedicated to Osiris. It also included several smaller temples devoted to gods such as Horus and Hathor. 

The Roman period (30 BC-395 AD) saw further changes at Philae. Emperor Augustus (63 BC-14 AD) built a new temple complex devoted to Isis on top of an older structure built by Ptolemy II. This new temple featured two main halls: one for worshipping Isis and one for worshipping Osiris. In addition, Augustus also added several other structures, such as a library, a theater, an amphitheater, and baths. 

In 641 AD, Philae was conquered by Arabs, who destroyed much of its religious monuments to convert it into an Islamic site. However, some original temples were left intact due to their historical significance. In 1858 AD, British engineers restored many of these monuments to preserve them for future generations. 

Today, the Philae Temple Complex is considered one of Egypt’s most important archaeological sites due to its rich history spanning over three thousand years. It is also home to incredible artifacts, such as statues depicting various gods and goddesses from ancient Egyptian mythology and hieroglyphics telling stories about their lives and beliefs.
 
The Aswan Dam was built in 1960 and was designed to help control flooding along the Nile River. The dam also provided electricity to many parts of Egypt and Sudan. However, it threatened many historical sites along the river, including Philae Temple. The rising waters would have completely submerged this ancient monument if not for an international effort to save it. 

In 1959, UNESCO launched an international campaign to save Philae Temple from being flooded by the Aswan Dam and Nile River. The campaign involved several countries worldwide coming together to raise funds for an ambitious project: moving Philae Temple away from its current location on an island in the Nile River to another nearby island that would be safe from flooding. 

The project was successful, as engineers could move all of the temple’s blocks without damaging them. They then reconstructed them on their new island home, Agilkia Island, which was located just 500 meters away from its original location on Philae Island. This relocation saved Philae Temple from being flooded by both the Aswan Dam and the Nile River. 

Visitors can still see this incredible monument on Agilkia Island, preserved since its relocation in 1960. It reminds us how international cooperation can help keep our cultural heritage even during significant change or danger. 

Philae Temple is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is open for visitors year-round to appreciate its unique beauty and history firsthand. It serves as a reminder that even though modernity may threaten our cultural heritage at times, we can still unite as a global community to protect it for future generations.
 

Nubian Museum Aswan
The Nubian Museum, Aswan: A Grand Repository of Nubian Heritage

Perched in the heart of Aswan, the  Nubian Museum gleams as an exquisite epitaph to Nubian culture and civilization. This architectural masterpiece, crafted meticulously by the esteemed architect Mahmoud El-Hakim, stands as a testament to Nubia’s splendid past, a past that has shaped much of Egypt’s rich heritage.

Inaugurated on the 23rd of November, 1997, this grand institution has quickly gained global recognition, earning the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2001. The museum’s construction, costing an estimated LE 75 million, was an investment well-spent, for it now houses a trove of archaeological treasures that narrate the tale of Nubian civilization from its earliest beginnings to its ultimate fusion with modern Egypt.

 
The museum is ensconced in a vast 50,000 square meter area, with 7,000 square meters dedicated solely to the main building. The remaining space unfolds into landscaped gardens and public spaces, which serve as serene backdrops to the colossal artefacts, accentuating their magnificence and underscoring the many development phases of Nubian culture.

A staggering collection of 3,000 Egyptian antiquities, each representing various epochs, reside within the museum. These epochs span the geological, Pharaonic, Roman, Coptic, Islamic, and, of course, the Nubian periods. The outdoor exhibition showcases 90 rare monumental pieces, while the interior halls cradle 50 invaluable artefacts dating back to prehistoric times. Additionally, the museum houses 503 Pharaonic pieces, 52 from the Coptic era, 103 Islamic artefacts, 140 Nubian items, and 360 pieces that echo the history of Aswan itself.

What sets the  Nubian Museum apart is its unique location on a steep cliff, which serves as a natural design canvas for a full-scale depiction of the Nile river, flowing from its origins in Ethiopia and Sudan to Egypt. This geographical tableau blends seamlessly with the museum’s surroundings, creating a harmonious fusion of history, culture, and nature.

The museum is not just a repository of ancient artefacts; it’s also a sanctuary for Egypt’s diverse flora. The surrounding Natural Botanical Garden teems with an array of Egyptian plant species, offering a verdant respite to visitors and a fitting complement to the museum’s cultural richness.
 
In essence, the  Nubian Museum stands as a shining beacon of Nubian heritage in Aswan, beckoning visitors from far and wide to delve into the enchanting saga of a civilization that has left indelible imprints on Egypt’s historical and cultural landscape.
 

The Unfinished Obelisk

Obelisks are iconic monuments and masterpieces of ancient Egyptian engineering. They are found throughout Egypt and usually stand in towering pairs in front of entrances to temples. Known in ancient Egyptian language as tekhen, they are made from a single piece of stone with a rectangular shaft and topped by a gilded pyramidion to reflect the sun’s rays. Obelisks are associated with solar mythology, representing the benben, or first land to come into existence at the dawn of time, and from which the sun-god stood to create the universe. Egyptian kings liked to have obelisks made and dedicated to themselves by carving their names and religious dedications onto the four sides of the obelisk’s shaft.

The Unfinished Obelisk was discovered in the early twentieth century after it had been covered by sand for thousands of years. It remains as you see it today in one of the Aswan quarries, famous for its supply of hard and high-quality stone. Believed to have been commissioned by Hatshepsut (c. 1473–1458 BC) for the temple of Amun in Karnak, work was abandoned because of flaws in the stone and the presence of multiple fissures. Had it been finished, it would have weighed 1168 tonnes, and stood at a height of around 42 metres, taller than any other ancient Egyptian obelisk.

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DEDICATED TO THE GODS SOBEK AND HAROERIS (HORUS)
The temple was built during the Ptolemaic dynasty, which ruled Egypt from 305 BC to 30 BC. It is dedicated to the god Sobek, the crocodile god, and the god, Haroeris (Horus), the falcon god. The temple dedicated is unique in that it has two entrance halls and two sanctuaries dedicated to each god. 

The first part of the Kom Ombo Temple was built during the reign of Ptolemy VI Philometor (180-145 BC). It was expanded by Ptolemy VIII Euergetes (145-116 BC) and completed by Ptolemy XII Auletes (80-51 BC). The temple was then used as a place of worship until it was abandoned in late antiquity. 

Mud brick walls and columns surround it, and the temple has two main parts: an inner sanctuary and an outer courtyard. The inner sanctuary contains several chapels dedicated to Sobek and Haroeris and a birth house for Horus. The outer courtyard contains a large hypostyle hall with columns decorated with hieroglyphs depicting scenes from ancient Egyptian mythology. 

The most impressive feature of the Kom Ombo Temple is its double entrance hall, which leads into two separate sanctuaries dedicated to Sobek and Haroeris. The walls are decorated with reliefs depicting various scenes from ancient Egyptian mythology, such as battles between gods and goddesses or depictions of gods offering offerings to their worshippers. There are also several statues of Sobek and Haroeris throughout the temple complex. 

The Kom Ombo Temple also contains several other features, such as a Nilometer for measuring water levels in the Nile River; an obelisk; a sacred lake; an offering table; several stelae; and numerous statues depicting various gods and goddesses from ancient Egyptian mythology. In addition, several mummified crocodiles are found throughout the temple complex, which was believed to be sacred animals associated with Sobek.

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At Gebel Silsila, the Nile narrows considerably to pass between steep sandstone cliffs, cluttered with ancient rock stelae and graffiti. The good quality sandstone quarries here were systematically worked during the New Kingdom, when huge teams hacked out blocks that were floated down the Nile to Luxor to be used in buildings such as the temple complex of Karnak and the Ramesseum.


Known in Pharaonic times as Khenu (Place of Rowing), Gebel Silsilla was an important centre for the cult of the Nile: every year at the beginning of the inundation season, sacrifices were made here to ensure the fertility of the land. The Nile at its height flowing through the narrow gorge must have been a particularly impressive sight, and noisy, which no doubt explains why the location was chosen as a cult centre. The gorge also marks the change in the bedrock of Egypt, from limestone to sandstone. The sandstone quarries here were worked by thousands of men and from the 18th dynasty or earlier through to the Roman period. The quarries were for centuries the main source in Egypt of material for temple building.

The most attractive monuments are on the west bank, where the rocks are carved with inscriptions and tiny shrines from all periods, as well as adorned with larger chapels. The southern side of the site is marked by a massive pillar of rock, known as the ‘Capstan’, so called because locals believe there was once a chain – silsila in Arabic, from which the place takes its name – that ran from the east to the west bank. Nearby are the three shrines built by Merenptah, Ramses II and Seti I during the New Kingdom. Further north, the main quarry has clear masons’ marks and a group of elaborate private memorial chapels. Several stelae, including a large Stelae of Shoshenq I, mark the northern limit of the quarry. Near the entry to the site is the Speos of Horemheb.

The east bank is out of bounds, but looking across from the west bank one gets a real sense of the grandeur and scale of what the pharaohs undertook, especially the huge passageway cut into the hillside.
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Excavation Website

Temple of Horus at Edfu

This Ptolemaic temple, built between 237 and 57 BC, is one of the best-preserved ancient monuments in Egypt. Preserved by desert sand, which filled the place after the pagan cult was banned, the temple is dedicated to Horus, the avenging son of Isis and Osiris. With its roof intact, it is also one of the most atmospheric of ancient buildings.


Edfu was a settlement and cemetery site from around 3000 BC onward. It was the ‘home’ and cult centre of the falcon god Horus of Behdet (the ancient name for Edfu), although the Temple of Horus as it exists today is Ptolemaic. Started by Ptolemy III (246–221 BC) on 23 August 237 BC, on the site of an earlier and smaller New Kingdom structure, the sandstone temple was completed some 180 years later by Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos, Cleopatra VII’s father. In conception and design it follows the general plan, scale, ornamentation and traditions of Pharaonic architecture, right down to the Egyptian attire worn by Greek pharaohs depicted in the temple’s reliefs. Although it is much newer than cult temples at Luxor or Abydos, its excellent state of preservation helps to fill in many historical gaps; it is, in effect, a 2000-year-old example of an architectural style that was already archaic during Ptolemaic times.

Two hundred years ago the temple was buried by sand, rubble and part of the village of Edfu, which had spread over the roof. Excavation was begun by Auguste Mariette in the mid-19th century. Today the temple is entered via a long row of shops selling tourist tat, and a new visitors centre that houses the ticket office, clean toilets, a cafeteria and a room for showing a 15-minute film on the history of the temple in English.

Touring the Temple

Beyond the Roman mammisi (birth house), with some colourful carvings, the massive 36m-high pylon (gateway) is guarded by two huge but splendid granite statues of Horus as a falcon. The walls are decorated with colossal reliefs of Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos, who is holding his enemies by their hair before Horus and is about to smash their skulls; this is the classic propaganda pose of the almighty pharaoh.

Beyond this pylon, the court of offerings is surrounded on three sides by 32 columns, each with different floral capitals. The walls are decorated with reliefs, including the ‘Feast of the Beautiful Meeting’ just inside the entrance, the meeting being that of Horus of Edfu and Hathor of Dendara, who visited each other’s temples each year and, after two weeks of great fertility celebrations, were magically united.

A second set of Horus falcon statues in black granite once flanked the entrance to the temple’s first or outer hypostyle hall, but today only one remains. Inside the entrance of the outer hypostyle hall, to the left and right, are two small chambers: the one on the right was the temple library where the ritual texts were stored; the chamber on the left was the hall of consecrations, a vestry where freshly laundered robes and ritual vases were kept. The hall itself has 12 columns, and the walls are decorated with reliefs of the temple’s founding.

The inner hypostyle hall also has 12 columns, and in the top left part of the hall is perhaps this temple’s most interesting room: the temple laboratory. Here, all the necessary perfumes and incense recipes were carefully brewed and stored, their ingredients listed on the walls.

Exit the inner hypostyle hall through the large central doorway to enter the offering chamber, or first antechamber, which has an altar where daily offerings of fruit, flowers, wine, milk and other foods were left. On the west side, 242 steps lead up to the rooftop and its fantastic view of the Nile and the surrounding fields. (The roof is closed to visitors.)

The second antechamber gives access to the sanctuary of Horus, which contains the polished-granite shrine that once housed the gold cult statue of Horus. Created during the reign of Nectanebo II (360–343 BC), this shrine, or house of the god, was reused by the Ptolemies in their newer temple. In front of it stands a replica of the wooden barque (boat) in which Horus’ statue would be taken out of the temple in procession during festive occasions: the original is now in the Louvre, Paris.

On the eastern enclosure wall, look for the remains of the Nilometer, which measured the level of the river and helped predict the coming harvest.
 
 

Temple of Esna
For decades, researchers knew there were inscriptions all over the Temple of Esna in Egypt. Millennia of muck coated the walls, but one could make out that something was there, even though it was difficult to see exactly what was depicted.

Now, Al-Monitor’s Hagar Hosny reports, the interior of the ancient temple has been restored, revealing the same rainbow of brilliant color its builders would have seen thousands of years ago.

Not only are the drawings and inscriptions now clearly visible, they’re in full color. That’s common, says Christian Leitz, who heads the University of Tübingen’s Egyptology department, in a statement. “Temples and representations of the gods of antiquity were often painted with bright colors, but they have mostly faded or completely disappeared due to external influences,” he says, per Google Translate.

The University of Tübingen led the major restoration effort alongside Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

In addition to hieroglyphics and some Greek inscriptions on the walls and ceilings of the temple, there are 46 depictions of the goddesses Nekhbet and Wadjet.

The team used alcohol to remove layers of soot, dust, dirt, bird poop, and cobwebs from the 49-foot-tall vestibule that, per Live Science’s Owen Jarus, is the only part of the temple still standing. Located about 30 miles south of Luxor, it was once used as a haven where early Christian Copts escaped Roman persecution.

 
The candles and lamps they burned contributed to the accumulation of grime on the temple walls and ceiling, per Al-Monitor. But the accumulated filth that hid the artwork allowed it to endure.
 
Researchers have determined the temple was dedicated to the god Khnum, his consorts Menhit and Nebtu, his son Heka, and the goddess Neith. Khnum was the Egyptian god of fertility, associated with water and represented as a man with a ram’s head. Menhit was a lion goddess associated with war, Heka was the god of magic and medicine, and Neith was the patroness of the city of Sais.

There are also numerous depictions of the Nekhbet and Wadjet, whom the ancient Egyptians sometimes referred to as the “two ladies,” per Live Science. Nekhbet was a vulture goddess viewed as a protector of Upper Egypt, and Wadjet was a cobra goddess that protected Lower Egypt.

The 46 depictions of the goddesses envision them in the form of vulture bodies with outstretched wings. Nekhbet is depicted wearing the bowling-pin-like crown of Upper Egypt with a vulture’s head, and Wadjet wears the red crown of Lower Egypt with a cobra’s head.

In a statement, Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities says Greek inscriptions were also found on the temple’s western wall.
 
Drawn in red ink, the inscriptions include dates and likely commemorate the year the temple was completed. Based on hieroglyphs on the temple, it was likely in use between about 180 B.C.E. and 250 C.E.

Those dates encompass parts of Egypt’s Ptolemaic and Roman rules. Bassam el-Shammaa, an Egyptology researcher and tour guide, tells Al-Monitor that the Temple of Esna is one of a number of temples the Greeks built in dedication to Egyptian gods as a means of fostering positive relations with the people they ruled.

It’s likely there are buried parts of the Temple of Esna that are yet to be discovered, Shammaa says, and Live Science reports restoration is still ongoing—a little less than half of the temple is yet to be fully cleaned.

Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut

At Deir Al Bahri, the eyes first focus on the dramatic rugged limestone cliffs that rise nearly 300m above the desert plain, only to realise that at the foot of all this immense beauty lies a monument even more extraordinary, the dazzling Temple of Hatshepsut. The almost-modern-looking temple blends in beautifully with the cliffs from which it is partly cut – a marriage made in heaven. Most of what you see has been painstakingly reconstructed.


Continuous excavation and restoration since 1891 have revealed one of ancient Egypt’s finest monuments. It must have been even more stunning in the days of Hatshepsut (1473–1458 BC), when it was approached by a grand sphinx-lined causeway instead of today’s noisy tourist bazaar, when the court was a garden planted with exotic trees and perfumed plants, and when it was linked due east across the Nile to the Temple of Karnak. Called Djeser-djeseru (Most Holy of Holies), it was designed by Senenmut, a courtier at Hatshepsut’s court and perhaps also her lover. If the design seems unusual, note that it did in fact feature all the things a memorial temple usually had, including the rising central axis and a three-part plan, but it had to be adapted to the chosen site: almost exactly on the same line as the Temple of Amun at Karnak, and near an older shrine to the goddess Hathor.

The temple was vandalised over the centuries: Tuthmosis III removed his stepmother’s name whenever he could; Akhenaten removed all references to Amun; and the early Christians turned it into a monastery, Deir Al Bahri (Monastery of the North), and defaced the pagan reliefs.

Deir Al Bahri has been designated as one of the hottest places on earth, so an early morning visit is advisable, also because the reliefs are best seen in the low sunlight. The complex is entered via the great court, where original ancient tree roots are still visible. The colonnades on the lower terrace were closed for restoration at the time of writing. The delicate relief work on the south colonnade, left of the ramp, has reliefs of the transportation of a pair of obelisks commissioned by Hatshepsut from the Aswan quarries to Thebes, and the north one features scenes of birds being caught.

A large ramp leads to the two upper terraces. The best-preserved reliefs are on the middle terrace. The reliefs on the north colonnade record Hatshepsut’s divine birth and at the end of it is the Chapel of Anubis, with well-preserved colourful reliefs of a disfigured Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III in the presence of Anubis, Ra-Horakhty and Hathor. The wonderfully detailed reliefs in the Punt Colonnade to the left of the entrance tell the story of the expedition to the Land of Punt to collect myrrh trees needed for the incense used in temple ceremonies. There are depictions of the strange animals and exotic plants seen there, the foreign architecture and landscapes as well as the different-looking people. At the end of this colonnade is the Hathor Chapel, with two chambers both with Hathor-headed columns. Reliefs on the west wall show, if you have a torch, Hathor as a cow licking Hatshepsut’s hand, and the queen drinking from Hathor’s udder. On the north wall is a faded relief of Hatshepsut’s soldiers in naval dress in the goddess’ honour. Beyond the pillared halls is a three-roomed chapel cut into the rock, now closed to the public, with reliefs of the queen in front of the deities and, behind the door, a small figure of Senenmut, the temple’s architect and, some believe, Hatshepsut’s lover.

The upper terrace, restored by a Polish-Egyptian team over the last 25 years, had 24 colossal Osiris statues, some of which are left. The central pink-granite doorway leads into the Sanctuary of Amun, which is hewn out of the cliff.

On the south side of Hatshepsut’s temple lie the remains of the Temple of Montuhotep, built for the founder of the 11th dynasty and one of the oldest temples thus far discovered in Thebes, and the Temple of Tuthmosis III, Hatshepsut’s successor. Both are in ruins.

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Ramses III’s magnificent memorial temple of Medinat Habu, fronted by sleepy Kom Lolah village and backed by the Theban mountains, is one of the west bank’s most underrated sites. This was one of the first places in Thebes closely associated with the local god Amun. At its height, Medinat Habu contained temples, storage rooms, workshops, administrative buildings, a royal palace and accommodation for priests and officials. It was the centre of the economic life of Thebes for centuries.


Although the complex is most famous for the funerary temple built by Ramses III, Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III also constructed buildings here. They were later added to and altered by a succession of rulers through to the Ptolemies. When the pagan cults were banned, it became an important Christian centre, and was still inhabited as late as the 9th century AD, when a plague was thought to have decimated the town. You can still see the mud-brick remains of the medieval town that gave the site its name (medina means ‘town’ or ‘city’) on top of the enclosure walls.

The original Temple of Amun, built by Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III, was later completely overshadowed by the enormous Funerary Temple of Ramses III, the dominant feature of Medinat Habu. But a chapel from the Hatshepsut period still stands on the right after you have passed the outer gates.

Ramses III was inspired in the construction of his shrine by the Ramesseum of his illustrious forebear, Ramses II. His own temple and the smaller one dedicated to Amun are both enclosed within the massive outer walls of the complex.

Also just inside, to the left of the gate, are the Tomb Chapels of the Divine Adorers, which were built for the principal priestesses of Amun. Outside the eastern gate, one of only two entrances, was a landing quay for a canal that once connected Medinat Habu with the Nile.

You enter the site through the unique Syrian Gate, a large two-storey building modelled after a Syrian fortress: as with the images of the pharaoh smiting his enemies, this harks back to the famous battles between Egyptians and Hittites, particularly at the time of Ramses II. If you follow the wall to the left, you will find a staircase leading to the upper floors. There is not much to see in the rooms but you’ll get some great views out across the village in front of the temple and over the fields to the south.

The well-preserved first pylon marks the front of the temple proper. Ramses III is portrayed in its reliefs as the victor in several wars. Most famous are the fine reliefs of his victory over the Libyans (whom you can recognise by their long robes, sidelocks and beards). There is also a gruesome scene of scribes tallying the number of enemies killed by counting severed hands and genitals.

To the left of the first court are the remains of the Pharaoh’s Palace; the three rooms at the rear were for the royal harem. There is a window between the first court and the Pharaoh’s Palace known as the Window of Appearances, which allowed the pharaoh to show himself to his subjects.

The reliefs of the second pylon feature Ramses III presenting prisoners of war to Amun and his vulture-goddess wife, Mut. Colonnades and reliefs surround the second court, depicting various religious ceremonies.

If you have time to wander about the extensive ruins around the funerary temple, you will see the remains of an early Christian basilica as well as a small sacred lake and, on the south side of the temple, the outline of the palace and the window, looking into the temple courtyard, where Ramses would appear.

It is a wonderful place to visit, especially in the late afternoon when the light softens and the creamy stone glows.

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Approximately 1.5 km southwest of the Valley of the Kings, several wadis extend west from the edge of the low desert into and behind the Qurn, offering accessible but easily protected sites for burials. Here is where the tombs of many of Egypt’s New Kingdom royal family members lie. The most famous of these is the Valley of the Queens (QV). Commonly known in Arabic as Wadi Biban al-Malakat, QV has many other modern names, including Biban al Harim (“Gates of the Harim”) and Biban al Banat (“Gates of the Daughters”). Nearly all refer to female royalty, and it is their tombs for which QV is best known. However, the first people to be buried in QV were not queens but princes and princesses, sons and daughters of New Kingdom pharaohs. Indeed, the ancient name of the valley, ta set neferu, is a phrase that can mean both “The Place of Beauty” and “The Place of (Royal) Children”. The earliest burials in the QV date to the 18th 

Dynasty and were nearly all of royal offspring. It is only from the early 19th Dynasty onward that royal wives and mothers were also interred here. It is worth noting that a relatively small number of New Kingdom royal wives, sons, and daughters were buried in QV and nearby wadis in comparison to what is found in the historical record. 

Lying close to the QV are 3 subsidiary wadis that were also used as burial sites for royal family members and elite officials. The tomb of Prince Ahmose (QV 88) was dug in the eponymous Valley of Prince Ahmose, together with that of an anonymous person (QV 98). Several Christian hermitages (called laurae) were later built here as well. The Valley of the Rope (Vallée du Cord, Wadi Habl), named by European visitors for a length of ancient rope hanging down a nearby cliff face, was the site chosen for several 18th Dynasty tombs (QV 92, QV 93, and QV 97). Lastly, the Valley of Three Pits (Vallée des Trois Puits) contains three shaft tombs (QV 89, QV 90, QV 91) and twelve smaller tombs of the Thutmosid Period (QV A through QV L). 

The numbering system now used in the QV and subsidiary wadis was developed by Ernesto Schiaparelli and Francesco Ballerini of the Turin Museum Italian Archaeological Expedition that excavated in the area from 1903-1905. The original plaques erected by Schiaparelli and Ballerini to commemorate a tomb’s discovery can still be found at a number of the entrances, including QV 44, QV 52, and QV 55. One hundred and eleven tombs have been found in QV and subsidiary wadis thus far, but the names of only about 35% of their owners are known. The others are anonymous, some because their names were never written on the tombs’ walls, some because their names and inscribed grave goods were destroyed by floods or vandalism, and some because their tomb was reused and earlier texts erased. Furthermore, only 22% of the tombs in the QV and subsidiary wadis were decorated. The 18th Dynasty tombs were either left bare or plastered over and it is only from the 19th Dynasty onwards that the walls were decorated with images of the deceased offering to or adoring deities and scenes from various funerary books.

About two kilometers west of the QV, several large wadi systems cut deep into steep cliffs that define the back of the Qurn. These are collectively known as the Western Wadis. The area’s magnificent scenery has been remarked upon by nearly every archaeologist who has made the trek. 

Elizabeth Thomas wrote that “beauty alone … would make its exploration a pleasure.” Howard Carter observed that there was “no doubt” these wadis were cemeteries for 18th Dynasty royal wives and daughters, and that beauty and isolation were features that probably led ancient Egyptians to choose them, together with the more easily accessible Valley of the QueensThe Western Wadis refers to three wadi complexes in the area. Wadi Jabbanat el-Qurud includes several smaller wadis designated by Howard Carter as A, B, C, and D. Its name means Cemetery of the Apes’, due to the fact that 19th century explorers found Late or Ptolemaic burials of over a hundred mummified baboons in Wadi D. Wadi A is the location of two cliff tombs, Wadi A-1 and Wadi A-2, as well as two pit tombs, Wadi A-3 and Wadi A-4While Wadi A-2 is anonymous, Wadi A-1 was cut for Hatshepsut before her accession to the throne. Neferure, a daughter of Hatshepsut, may have been buried in a cliff tomb in Wadi C (Wadi C-1), although some have suggested it is the tomb of Merytra, principal wife of Thutmes III. A tomb in Wadi D (Wadi D-1), variously and confusingly also labelled HC 70, ET B, and D1 by various archaeologists, was dug for three Syrian princesses and minor queens of Thutmes IIIWadi al Gharbi, which includes Wadis E, F, and G, is the largest and most distant of the outliers. Some believe that the 20th Dynasty tomb of the High Priest and last pharaoh at Thebes, Herihor, may lie here undiscovered in Wadi F. However, this is unproved and considered doubtful by many. Lastly, a large complex of subterranean shaft tombs, WB 1, lie further west in Wadi al-Bariyah. In contrast to the hidden cliff tombs of Wadis A-D, these shaft tombs were excavated into a mound some 15m above the broad, flat flood-plain. The burial equipment discovered in and associated with these tombs indicate that they belonged to members of the royal court of Amenhetep IIIMost recently, the joint mission between the New Kingdom Research Foundation and the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities discovered a new royal tomb in Wadi C. This tomb most likely belonged to a great royal wife and several children of a Thutmoside king. The Western Wadis thus served as a precursor to the Valley of the Queens as the burial place of senior members of the royal family, namely Queens. The reason for the shift from the outlying wadis to the QV in the 19th Dynasty is unknown, but may be due to the easier accessibility of the latter.    

Along a path leading from the QV to Dayr al-Madinah, a sanctuary was cut into the bedrock in the late 18th Dynasty in an area now known as the Valley of the Dolmen. It consists of seven chapels for Ptah and Meretseger, deities closely associated with the Theban necropolis and QV. Two man-made structures further along the path, termed “dolmen” and a “menhir” by early European travelers, were also sites of New Kingdom activity. The menhir was a small stone structure with several rooms that may have served as a place of shelter or worship for workmen. The dolmen was a small chamber built of stacked blocks that perhaps served similar functions. In the New Kingdom, security in QV and the surrounding area was maintained by small, stone guard huts along the ridge west of QV and nearby burial sites.  

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Valley of the Kings

The rulers of the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Dynasties of Egypt’s prosperous New Kingdom (c.1550–1069 BC) were buried in a desolate dry river valley across the river from the ancient city of Thebes (modern Luxor), hence its modern name of the Valley of the Kings. This moniker is not entirely accurate, however, since some members of the royal family aside from the king were buried here as well, as were a few non-royal, albeit very high-ranking, individuals. The Valley of the Kings is divided into the East and West Valleys. The eastern is by far the more iconic of the two, as the western valley contains only a handful of tombs. In all, the Valley of the Kings includes over sixty tombs and an additional twenty unfinished ones that are little more than pits.

The site for this royal burial ground was selected carefully. Its location on specifically the west side of the Nile is significant as well. Because the sun god set (died) in the western horizon in order to be reborn, rejuvenated, in the eastern horizon, the west thus came to have funerary associations. Ancient Egyptian cemeteries were generally situated on the west bank of the Nile for this reason.

The powerful kings of the New Kingdom were laid to rest under the shadow of a pyramid-shaped peak rising out of the cliffs surrounding the valley. The selection of even the specific valley in which the royal tombs were excavated was not left to chance. The pyramid was a symbol of rebirth and thus eternal life, and the presence of a natural pyramid was seen as a sign of the divine. This entire area, and the peak itself, was sacred to a funerary aspect of the goddess Hathor: the “Mistress of the West”.

The isolated nature of this valley was yet another reason for its selection as the final resting place of the pharaoh. Tomb robberies occurred even in ancient times. The Egyptians were aware of this, having seen the a fate of the Old and Middle Kingdom pyramids, so they opted for hidden, underground tombs in a secluded desert valley. The first New Kingdom ruler that is confirmed to have been buried in the Valley of the Kings was Thutmose I (c.1504–1492 BC), the third king of the Eighteenth Dynasty. According to Ineni, the high official who was in charge of the digging of his tomb: “I oversaw the excavation of the cliff-tomb of his Person [the king] in privacy; none seeing, none hearing.”

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Deir el-Medina is the modern Arabic name for the worker’s village (now an archaeological site) which was home to the artisans and craftsmen of Thebes who built and decorated the royal tombs in the nearby Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens.

The ancient inhabitants called the village Pa Demi (“the village”) but it was referred to in official correspondence as Set-Ma’at (“The Place of Truth”) because the workers there were thought to be inspired by the gods in creating the eternal homes of the deceased kings and their families. Early in the Christian era the village, then deserted, was occupied by monks who took over the Temple of Hathor for use as a cloister. The temple was referred to as Deir el-Medina (“Monastery of the Town”) and this name finally came to be applied to the entire site.

Unlike most villages in ancient Egypt, which grew up organically from small settlements, Deir el-Medina was a planned community. It was founded by Amenhotep I (c.1541-1520 BCE) specifically to house workers on royal tombs because tomb desecration and robbery had become a serious concern by his time. It was decided that the royalty of Egypt would no longer advertise their final resting places with large monuments but, instead, would be buried in a less accessible area in tombs cut into the cliff walls. These areas would become the necropolises now known as the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens and those who lived in the village were known as “Servants in the Place of Truth” for their important role in creating eternal homes and also remaining discreet regarding tomb contents and location.

 
Deir el-Medina is among the most important archaeological sites in Egypt because of the wealth of information it provides on the daily life of the people who lived there. Serious excavation at the site was begun in 1905 CE by the Italian archaeologist Ernesto Schiaparelli and furthered by a number of others throughout the 20th century CE with some of the most extensive work done by French archaeologist Bernard Bruyere between 1922-1940 CE. At the same time Howard Carter was bringing the treasures of the royalty to light from Tutankhamun’s tomb, Bruyere was uncovering the lives of the working people who would have created that final resting place.

History of the Village
The earliest extant ruins at the site are from the reign of Thutmose I (1520-1492 BCE), son and successor of Amenhotep I, but there is no doubt that it was Amenhotep I who first planned the site. He and his mother, Ahmose-Nefertari, were worshipped as protective gods at the site throughout its history. The workers also venerated the cobra goddess Meretseger (whose name means “She Who Loves Silence”), the personification of the Theban necropolis and protector of the dead and, especially, of their tombs.

By the time of the New Kingdom (c.1570-c.1069 BCE) tomb robbing had become almost epidemic in scope. Although measures such as false doors and labyrinths had been a part of tomb building since the Old Kingdom (c.2613-2181 BCE) they were not effective in keeping robbers from reaching the burial chamber and the vast treasures left there with the deceased. One gains an understanding of exactly how great the wealth in these tombs was when one considers the treasures of Tutankhamun’s tomb discovered by Howard Carter in 1922 CE. Tutankhamun died before he was 20 years old and had not yet amassed the kind of wealth a king like Djoser (c.2670 BCE) or Khufu (2589-2566 BCE) would have had entombed for the afterlife.
 

The two faceless Colossi of Memnon, originally representing Pharaoh Amenhotep III, rising majestically about 18m from the plain, are the first monuments tourists see when they visit the west bank. These magnificent colossi, each cut from a single block of stone and weighing 1000 tonnes, sat at the eastern entrance to the funerary temple of Amenophis III, the largest on the west bank. Egyptologists are currently excavating the temple and their discoveries can be seen behind the colossi.
The colossi were already a great tourist attraction during Graeco-Roman times, when the statues were attributed to Memnon, the legendary African king who was slain by Achilles during the Trojan War. The Greeks and Romans considered it good luck to hear the whistling sound emitted by the northern statue at sunrise, which they believed to be the cry of Memnon greeting his mother Eos, the goddess of dawn. She in turn would weep tears of dew for his untimely death. All this was probably due to a crack in the colossus’ upper body, which appeared after the 27 BC earthquake. As the heat of the morning sun baked the dew-soaked stone, sand particles would break off and resonate inside the cracks in the structure. After Septimus Severus (193–211 AD) repaired the statue in the 3rd century AD, Memnon’s plaintive greeting was heard no more.

The colossi are just off the road, before you reach the Antiquities Inspectorate ticket office, and are usually being snapped and filmed by an army of tourists. Yet few visitors have any idea that these giant enthroned figures are set in front of the main entrance to an equally impressive funerary temple, the largest in Egypt, the remains of which are slowly being brought to light.

Some tiny parts of the temple that stood behind the colossi remain and more is being uncovered now that the excavation is underway. Many statues, among them the huge dyad of Amenhotep III and his wife Tiye that now dominates the central court of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, were later dragged off by other pharaohs, but much still remains beneath the silt. A stele, also now in the Egyptian Museum, describes the temple as being built from ‘white sandstone, with gold throughout, a floor covered with silver, and doors covered with electrum’. No gold or silver has yet been found, but if you wander behind the colossi, you can see the huge area littered with statues and masonry that had long lain under the ground.

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Luxor Temple Complex

Largely built by the New Kingdom pharaohs Amenhotep III (1390–1352 BC) and Ramses II (1279–1213 BC), this temple is a strikingly graceful monument in the heart of the modern town. Also known as the Southern Sanctuary, its main function was during the annual Opet celebrations, when the statues of Amun, Mut and Khonsu were brought from Karnak, along the Avenue of Sphinxes, and reunited here during the inundation.


Visit early when the temple opens, before the crowds arrive, or later at sunset when the stones glow. Whenever you go, be sure to return at night when the temple is lit up, creating an eerie spectacle as shadow and light play off the reliefs and colonnades.

Amenhotep III greatly enlarged an older shrine built by Hatshepsut, and rededicated the massive temple as Amun’s southern ipet (harem), the private quarters of the god. The structure was further added to by Tutankhamun, Ramses II, Alexander the Great and various Romans. The Romans constructed a military fort around the temple that the Arabs later called Al Uqsur (The Fortifications), which was later corrupted to give modern Luxor its name.

In ancient times the temple would have been surrounded by a warren of mud-brick houses, shops and workshops, which now lie under the modern town, but after the decline of the city people moved into the – by then – partly covered temple complex and built their city within it. In the 14th century, a mosque was built in one of the interior courts for the local sheikh (holy man) Abu Al Haggag. Excavation works, begun in 1885, have cleared away the village and debris of centuries to uncover what can be seen of the temple today, but the mosque remains and has been restored after a fire.

The temple is less complex than Karnak, but here again you walk back in time the deeper you go into it. In front of the temple is the beginning of the Avenue of Sphinxes that ran all the way to the temples at Karnak 3km to the north, and is now almost entirely excavated.

The massive 24m-high first pylon was raised by Ramses II and decorated with reliefs of his military exploits, including the Battle of Kadesh. The pylon was originally fronted by six colossal statues of Ramses II, four seated and two standing, but only two of the seated figures and one standing remain. Of the original pair of pink-granite obelisks that stood here, one remains while the other stands in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Beyond lies the Great Court of Ramses II, surrounded by a double row of columns with lotus-bud capitals, the walls of which are decorated with scenes of the pharaoh making offerings to the gods. On the south (rear) wall is a procession of 17 sons of Ramses II with their names and titles. In the northwestern corner of the court is the earlier triple-barque shrine built by Hatshepsut and usurped by her stepson Tuthmosis III for Amun, Mut and Khonsu. Over the southeastern side hangs the 14th-century Mosque of Abu Al Haggag, dedicated to a local sheikh, entered from Sharia Maabad Al Karnak, outside the temple precinct.

Beyond the court is the older, splendid Colonnade of Amenhotep III, built as the grand entrance to the Temple of Amun of the Opet. The walls behind the elegant open papyrus columns were decorated during the reign of the young pharaoh Tutankhamun and celebrate the return to Theban orthodoxy following the wayward reign of the previous pharaoh, Akhenaten. The Opet Festival is depicted in lively detail, with the pharaoh, nobility and common people joining the triumphal procession. Look out for the drummers and acrobats doing backbends.

South of the Colonnade is the Sun Court of Amenhotep III, once enclosed on three sides by double rows of towering papyrus-bundle columns, the best preserved of which, with their architraves extant, are those on the eastern and western sides. In 1989 workmen found a cache of 26 statues here, buried by priests in Roman times, now displayed in the Luxor Museum.

Beyond lies the Hypostyle Hall, the first room of the original Opet temple, with four rows of eight columns each, leading to the temple’s main rooms. The central chamber on the axis south of the Hypostyle Hall was the cult sanctuary of Amun, stuccoed over by the Romans in the 3rd century AD and painted with scenes of Roman officials: some of this is still intact and vivid. Through this chamber, either side of which are chapels dedicated to Mut and Khonsu, is the four-columned antechamber where offerings were made to Amun. Immediately behind the chamber is the Barque Shrine of Amun, rebuilt by Alexander the Great, with reliefs portraying him as an Egyptian pharaoh.

To the east a doorway leads into two rooms. The first is Amenhotep III’s ‘birth room’ with scenes of his symbolic divine birth. You can see the moment of his conception, when the fingers of the god touch those of the queen and ‘his dew filled her body’, according to the accompanying hieroglyphic caption. The Sanctuary of Amenhotep III is the last chamber; it still has the remains of the stone base on which Amun’s statue stood, and although it was once the most sacred part of the temple, the busy street that now runs directly behind it makes it less atmospheric.

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The History and Significance of Luxor Museum and the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities

The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, also known as the Egyptian Museum, is one of the world’s greatest repositories of ancient artifacts. Founded in 1835 by the Egyptian government, the museum houses the world’s most extensive collection of Pharaonic antiquities, including the fabulous treasures of Tutankhamun.

On the other hand, the Luxor Museum, established in 1975, is a beacon of Egypt’s illustrious history. Despite being smaller than its Cairo counterpart, it holds a carefully curated selection of artifacts from the Theban area, which spans different eras of Egyptian history.

The significance of these museums is profound. They stand as a testament to the rich and diverse history of Egypt, with the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities located in the heart of Cairo, a modern metropolis with a vibrant past. Luxor Museum, conversely, is nestled amongst some of Egypt’s most significant archaeological sites, acting as a cultural hub in a city often referred to as the “world’s greatest open-air museum”.

The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities has played a significant role in Egyptology. It has offered generations of scholars unique research opportunities and has contributed to numerous discoveries and advancements in the field. The museum’s extensive collection covers almost every period of Ancient Egyptian history, providing a comprehensive overview of Egypt’s ancient civilization.

Similarly, the Luxor Museum holds importance in its focus on artifacts from the Theban area, providing in-depth insights into the region’s history. The quality of the items on display and their excellent preservation state makes Luxor Museum a destination for anyone seeking a more intimate understanding of Ancient Egypt.

In summary of The Majesty of Egypt: Luxor Museum vs Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, both the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities and the Luxor Museum are fundamental to Egypt’s cultural heritage. They offer glimpses into the past and contribute immensely to the study and understanding of one of the world’s oldest civilizations.

The Most Notable Artifacts in the Luxor Museum and the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities

In the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, the golden treasures of the boy-king Tutankhamun indisputably steal the show. Among these incredible finds, the solid gold death mask of Tutankhamun, adorned with semi-precious stones, is one of the most iconic artifacts of ancient Egypt. The mask, discovered in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings, weighs about 11 kg and depicts the pharaoh’s extraordinarily detailed face.

However, Tutankhamun’s treasure is far from being the museum’s only attraction. The museum houses approximately 120,000 items. Another essential piece is the Narmer Palette, a significant relic from the Early Dynastic period. It is considered one of the first historical documents in the world and signifies the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under King Narmer.

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The Precinct of Mut is an Ancient Egyptian temple compound located in the present city of Luxor (ancient Thebes), on the east bank of the Nile in South Karnak. The compound is one of the four key ancient temples that creates the Karnak Temple Complex. It is approximately 325 meters (1,066 feet) south of the precinct of the god Amun. The precinct itself encompasses approximately 90,000 square meters (968,751 square feet) of the entire area.

The Mut Precinct contains at least six temples: the Mut Temple, the Contra Temple, and Temples A, B, C, and D. Surrounding the Mut Temple proper, on three sides, is a sacred lake called the Isheru. To the south of the sacred lake is a vast amount of land currently being excavated by Dr. Betsy Bryan and her team from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Today, most of the compound is still destroyed, but it is currently being renovated. Surrounding the Mut Temple, the Contra Temple, and Temples A, B, C, and D, is an enclosure wall made of mud brick dating to the 30th Dynasty. The Mut Temple proper was made of mediocre sandstone and it is positioned north and south and is directly aligned with the Precinct of Amun. The Contra Temple, also made of mediocre sandstone, borders the Mut Temple at the south end of it, hence the name, and it possibly dates to the 30th Dynasty with certain alternations made during the Ptolemaic period.

The purpose of the Contra Temple is still unclear, however, Fazzini states that it possibly served as a stopping point in a partially columned passage around the Mut Temple. In the northeast corner is the structure known as Temple A and according to Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition on the Precinct of Mut, it was also called the “Temple of Millions of Years” and was dedicated to Ramsses II and the god Amun-Ra. Within the temple are two stelae, one referring to Ramsses II’s work on Temple A and the other telling of his marriage to Hittite princess.

The Brooklyn Museum states that Temple A did not become a part of the Mut Precinct until the 25th Dynasty under the reign of the Kushite king, Taharqa and during which time it became a birthing house, “mammisi”, where Ancient Egyptians would celebrate the birth of the god Khonsu, the son of Amun-Ra and Mut.

To the east of the Mut Temple is a ruined building referred to as, Temple B, due to the amount of damage of Temple B, excavations are difficult to undergo. To the west of the sacred lake, Isheru, lies Temple C, a small temple built by Ramsses III, it still retains some military scenes on the outer walls, as well as two headless giants of the king himself before the entrance of the temple.: 164  Temple D, or Structure D, was a chapel made during the Ptolemaic period, the front room was dedicated to the goddess Mut and the back room shows evidence of being dedicated to a Ptolemaic ancestor cult.

The Brooklyn Museum mentions one other important monument found on the site is the Taharqa gateway that is about 7 yards wide and is oriented south and west, it was built to enlarge the Mut Precinct and opened a new pathway to Temple A. The sacred lake, Isheru, was man made and held religious importance to the cult of the goddess Mut.

The goddess Mut

The goddess Mut is the wife and consort of the god Amun-Ra. She was also known as the Mother Goddess, Queen of the Goddesses, and Lady of Heaven. Mut was the Egyptian sky goddess and her symbols were the vulture, lioness and the crown of Uraeus (rearing cobra). She was the mother of Khonsu, the god of the moon. Amun-Ra, Mut, and Khonsu made up the Theban Triad.

Who built the Mut Precinct?

Amenhotep III was originally thought to have been the first to build the Mut Temple, but now evidence tells us he contributed later to the site. The earliest dated cartouches are of Thutmose II and III of the 18th Dynasty (some evidence suggest that Thutmose’s name is likely a replacement for Hatshepsut’s erased name).: 4  According to Elizabeth Waraksa, during the 19th Dynasty, Ramsses II worked broadly on Temple A, he placed two massive statues of himself and two alabaster stelae in the front of the temple’s first pylon. During the 20th Dynasty, Ramsses III built Temple C, it was used until the 25th Dynasty when it then became a quarry for renovations for Temple A. During his reign, Kushite ruler Taharqa in the 25th Dynasty made major changes to the Mut Precinct. He built a new sandstone gateway in the northwest of the site that leads to Temple A. He also renovated parts of the Mut Temple proper, erecting a columned porch facing the south. Ptolemy VI during the Ptolemaic period erected a small chapel inside the Mut Temple proper. Several stelae found on the site, mention construction on the site by Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD.

Excavations

Many travelers, like Napoleon and Sir John Gardiner Wilkinson visited the Precinct of Mut between AD 1799 and 1845. The photographs, journals and maps that dated to the early excavations have added insight as to how the Mut Precinct could have looked at the time of each exploration.: 6  However, the first major excavation of the site did not occur until 1895, when Britons Margaret Benson and Janet Gourlay excavated the Precinct of Mut for three seasons (1895–7). During her excavations Benson cleared the First and Second courts, as well as the Contra Temple and uncovered many high quality pieces of statues.: 7  In 1899, she publicized her work, The Temple of Mut in Asher. Excavations were not continued until the 1920s, when Maurice Pillet resumed excavating the Mut Precinct. During his excavations he restored Temples A and C. Later in 1976, Richard A. Fazzini and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, with assistance from the Detroit Institute of Arts, did an efficient investigation of the entire Mut Precinct up until 2001. Starting in January 2001, Dr. Betsy M. Bryan, in association with Johns Hopkins University, began working on the site until 2004. In the winter of 2015, Dr. Bryan went to work on excavating the site again.

Statues of Sekhmet

The site is notable for the statues of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet found there. The statues are made of diorite or “black granite” and initially approximately 570 granodiorite statues were thought to have been at the Precinct of Mut at one time. According to Lythgoe, Amenhotep III, commissioned the many statues to be built as a “forest”. Amenhotep III described Sekhmet as the terrible, mighty goddess of war and strife and her origins came from the earlier Memphite triad as the mother-goddess, and she eventually became recognized with the local Theban deity, Mut.: 3  According to Porter and Moss (1960), most of the statues came from the actual site, but some possibly came from the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III on the west bank of the Nile.: 263  Today the statues can be found in various museums across the globe; in Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts has one seated statue, the Egyptian Museum, Cairo has six statues, and in London, the British Museum has thirty statues, just to name a few examples.

Statues of Sekhmet from Karnak on display in various museums.

Between 2001 and 2004, the Johns Hopkins expedition catalogued quite a number of female figurines found in the industrial areas south of the Sacred Lake. According to Waraksa after the four seasons of excavation, the total number of female figurines the expedition found was 42. There are six types of female figurines that can be found at the Mut Temple. Type 1 are handmade figures of nude females made out of marl clay. Type 2 depict women laying on beds and they can be made in fired clay or limestone. Type 3 figurines are molded from Nile silt or marl clay with flat backs, heavy hairstyles and high foreheads.: 31  The backs of the Type 3 figurines could smoothed by hand or a flat instrument of some kind. Type 4 are made from Nile silt as well and are greatest identified by their pinched heads, projecting arms facing outwards, one existing breast and wide hips. Type 5 figurines are similar to Type 3 in some ways, but they have flat, thin bodies with a smooth finish unlike Type 3 that have thicker and a somewhat rougher appearance. And Type 6, all the figurines found of this type are the lower bodies of females, these figurines appear to be the smallest-sized found at the Mut Precinct and seem to be handmade from Nile silt with a focus on having a large pubic triangle. The significance of these 42 figurines at the Mut Precinct is still questioned, however, Waraksa suggests that possible functions of the figurines could be connected to childbearing, as well as health related rituals.

Recent discoveries

Since 2001, Dr. Bryan has led the excavation behind the Sacred Lake. Between 2002 and 2004, the excavation of the Mut Precinct, conducted by Dr. Bryan and her team, revealed a section of New Kingdom work fixings that included baking and brewing centers, as well as granaries. In January 2006, the expedition, after clearing some debris, found a life-sized statue of Queen Tiy, the wife of Amenhotep III, made of granite and that dates back to the 21st Dynasty.: 31  Dr. Bryan and her team discovered human remains south of the Sacred Lake in 2011, what was interesting about the remains is the orientation of the body, it was faced down and appeared to be constrained, even more interesting is the location of the skull, it seems as if it was purposely placed underneath a sandstone base for a wooden column. In 2012, The Johns Hopkins University expedition, directed by Bryan, found burials behind the Sacred Isheru Lake. Now in January 2015, the main goal of the JHU expedition is to excavate what is now considered a cemetery behind the sacred lake.

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Khonsu temple is situated in the south-west corner of the precinct of Amun-Ra at Karnak. It was built during the reign of Ramses III (1186-1155 BC) and dedicated to Khonsu, son of Mut and Amun. The temple faces Luxor temple to which it is connected by an avenue of sphinxes that have recently been revealed in their entirety. Although the temple is relatively modest in scale (approximately 70 by 30 meters or 230 by 99 feet), it is remarkably complete. It comprises a pylon, a court, a hypostyle hall, a barque shrine and ambulatory, and a number of chapels including one at roof level. Almost all surfaces are decorated with both bas-relief and intaglio carving much of which (especially in the chapels) has survived with intact polychromy.

The temple occupies the site of at least one earlier temple and the bulk of construction is in sandstone except for the granite clad interior of the barque shrine. All of the sandstone blocks are repurposed. Some are from an earlier temple on the site that was dismantled by Ramses III to build the present temple and some are from other temples on the West Bank of Luxor. What is quite extraordinary is that epigraphic research by Chicago House suggests that the use of the blocks respects their origin; in other words, the blocks found in the Khonsu Hypostyle hall come from the Hypostyle hall of an earlier quarried temple.
Auguste Mariette, the founding director of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, first ‘freed’ the Temple of Khonsu of debris in 1858, after which its future preservation as a building, rather than a ruin, became a tangible problem. In the early 20th century, extensive losses at the base of the structure due to water damage, particularly on the pylons and around the door jambs, were consolidated with red brick in cement mortar. Structural steel bracing was introduced in areas of the roof, and joints and losses in the stonework were patched with cement mortar in the interior and on most of the perimeter.

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The Temple of Ptah is a shrine located within the large Precinct of Amun-Re at Karnak, in Luxor, Egypt. It lies to the north of the main Amun temple, just within the boundary wall. The building was erected by the Pharaoh Thutmose III on the site of an earlier Middle Kingdom temple. The edifice was later enlarged by the Ptolemaic Kingdom.
History
This temple is a shrine located within the large Precinct of Amun-Re at the Temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt, dedicated to the ancient Egyptian god Ptah, his wife Sekhmet the goddess of war, and his son Nefertum. The temple was built in the Middle Kingdom, approximately in the 18th century BCE, and additions were made by Thutmose III in the 15th century BCE, during the New Kingdom. The temple underwent successive restorations restored by Shabaka in the 8th century BCE, by the Ptolemies in the last centuries BCE, and under the Roman emperor Tiberius in the 1st century AD.
Gateway
The temple consists of six small gateways built close together. The first, to the west, was constructed by the Ptolemies. The second gateway is a replica of the first but much more enclosed. The third gateway incorporates two engaged columns that connects with the fourth gateway. The fifth gateway serves as the entrance to the portico of four Composite order columns. The sixth gateway crosses through the pylons and runs through directly into the central sanctuary, where the statue of Ptah stands. The sanctuaries of Ptah and Sekhmet are situated here.
Inscriptions and artworks
The first gateway crosses an enclosed cartouche of Ptolemy VI. On the interior façade of the first gateway are passages of Ptolemy XI and Ptolemy XIII. The jambs next to the first gateway depict Nefertum bearing a blue lotus flower.
The second and fourth gateways contain cartouches in the name of Shabaka. The third gateway cartouche is in the name of Ptolemy XIII. The fifth gateway leading to the portico columns of Ptolemy III contains the title of Tuthmosis III and on the gate contains the name of Ptolemy III.
The sixth gateway is the entrance to the sanctuary. This is where the doorpost of the pylon extends beyond the doors. There is a scene of the king wearing the white crown. On the north side the king wears the red crown. On the south wall of the main central chamber scenes in sunk relief can be seen. On the right is a scene of the scepter of Amun with four vertical lines and more inscriptions.
Inside the sanctuary stand two statues. The sanctuary is the most sacred place in the temple, which is why statues of Ptah and another of Sekhmet stand here. Sekhmet’s statue in the chapel is dedicated to the goddess Hathor.
Behind the statue of Ptah, Khonsu holds scepters in his hands: the djed pillar, was scepter, ankh, heka scepter, and nekhakha scepter. There are numerous painting of scenes of the king, showing offering with the sign of Ma’at to the god Amun Re. “The back, outside wall of the temple is also noteworthy. Here, at two different levels going from left to right, are a representation of Ptah in light relief, whose head must have been sculpted on a stone that is now missing, and also one of Hathor, followed by two deified scribes from the Old and New Kingdom.
Renovations and research
Most of the renovations were done under the reigns of Ptolemy III and Ptolemy IV, who were generally concerned with changes to the courtyard. Ptolemy VI built on the westward way between the Temple of Amun and Northern precincts of Karnak. Later constructions were done under the reign of Ptolemy XIII, who added a door between the two twenty-fifth dynasty gates, which was in turn decorated by King Shabaka, may explain why his name were on doors two and four.
Excavations have found figurines of baboons and the gods Osiris, Mut, and Bastet, as well as stelae marked with the name of Ptah. Since October 2008 an interdisciplinary program has been dedicated to the temple, located on the northern end of the temple of Amun-Re. In addition, “Hieroglyphic, hieratic and demotic graffiti are currently being studied to complete the global approach to researches on the Ptah temple.”

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Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis

Thebes, the city of the god Amon, was the capital of Egypt during the period of the Middle and New Kingdoms. With the temples and palaces at Karnak and Luxor, and the necropolises of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, Thebes is a striking testimony to Egyptian civilization at its height.

Ancient Thebes was the city of the God Amun, and it was the capital of Egypt during the period of the Middle and New Kingdoms. It lies about 700 km south of Cairo on the banks of the River Nile. With the temples and palaces at Karnak and Luxor, and the necropolises of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, Thebes is a striking testimony to Egyptian civilization at its height, when the city became the capital of an empire extending from the Euphrates to northern Sudan.

The three-part serial property consists of the two temples of Karnak and Luxor on the East bank of the Nile, and a large archaeological area on the West Bank consisting of seven named temples or complexes, covering an area of 7,390 ha with a buffer zone of 444 ha.

Ancient Thebes was one of the richest and most important cities in ancient Egypt. Throughout most periods of ancient Egyptian history, Thebes functioned as the religious capital of the country. In certain periods, such as the Second Intermediate Period (c. 1650-1550 BCE), following the invasion of the Hyksos (a western Asian people), and their taking over the north of Egypt, establishing their capital in the eastern Delta city known as Avaris, local Egyptian dynasties (Dynasties 16 and 17) ruled from Thebes.

The remains of an ancient town from about 1500 to 1000 BCE was one of the most spectacular in Egypt, with a population of perhaps 50,000. Even in the Middle Kingdom, four centuries earlier, Thebes had earned a reputation as one of the ancient world’s greatest cities. Within it, the Egyptians had built the huge temple complexes of Karnak and Luxor. These are two of the largest religious structures ever constructed, and the homes of priesthoods of great wealth and power. On the West Bank lies the Theban Necropolis covering about 10 km² in which archaeologists have found thousands of tombs, scores of temples, and a multitude of houses, villages, shrines, monasteries, and workstations.

Thebes includes areas on both the east and west banks of the Nile. The east bank contains the living city as well as fourteen temples, the most famous of which are the temples of Luxor and Karnak. The west bank is known as the “City of the Dead”.

Criterion (i): Thebes, the city of the god Amun, is renowned for its temples whose imposing ruins are the glory of Karnak and Luxor. These truly colossal complexes, which have been enlarged numerous times, comprise some of the most fascinating realisations of Antiquity: the ‘Hypostyle Hall’ of Karnak begun by Seti I and completed by Ramses II (measuring 102 metres in width and 53 metres in depth, covers a surface area of 5,000 square metres; its roof is supported by 134 columns, those of the central nave measuring 20.4 metres with a diameter of 3.4 metres); the temple of Amenophis III at Luxor, one of the most refined masterpieces of Egyptian architecture (14th century BCE). The Theban necropolis relinquishes nothing in importance or beauty to these monuments: it suffices to note the tombs of the Valley of the Kings (1500 – 1000 BCE), among which is that of Tutankhamun, those of the Valley of the Queens, where, among others Nephertari, wife of Ramses II, and her mother Tui are entombed; and finally at Deir El Bahari (Thebes west) the funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut with its immense porticos, its superimposed terraces flanking the mountain, and its frescoes which trace her journey to the country of Punt.

Criterion (iii): The few examples which remain among these splendid monuments serve to attest to the antiquity, the uniqueness and unequalled character of the monumental Theban ensembles.

Criterion (vi): The monumental and archaeological complex of Thebes with its temples, tombs, and royal palaces; its villages of artisans and artists; its inscriptions; its innumerable figurative representations, as valuable from an aesthetic as from a documentary point of view, constitute the material witness of the aggregate history of the Egyptian civilization from the Middle Kingdom to the beginning of the Christian era. Moreover, the texts and the paintings are the source of information concerning the people and cultures of neighbouring countries: Nubia, the country of Punt, Libya, as well as Syria and the Hittite and Aegean civilisations.

Integrity

Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis contains within its boundaries sufficient of the key attributes that convey the property’s Outstanding Universal Value, as an ensemble of unique splendour in excellent condition. The perfection of ancient building techniques ensured the resistance of the monuments to natural forces through time. Despite the unavoidable damage of time, they still display their beauty and convey their inestimable artistic and historic value, preserving all the features that directly and tangibly associate them with the events and ideas of religious and the development of methods of burial through the periods. The vicissitudes of history have caused extensive damage that is being successfully addressed with the ongoing restoration and conservation works, which increase both the stability and the legibility of the monuments, tombs and the pyramids of the property.

The property does not suffer any more of the rising of underground water levels, and it is still under pressure from the risks of flooding, tourism / visitor / recreation, major infrastructure and urban development projects, and housing and agricultural encroachment.

Authenticity

The form, design, materials and substance of the monuments of the property from the temples, tombs and settlements characterize it as one of the most authentic among the known monuments of the ancient world. The property preserved almost 80% of its ancient form and material. The interventions in some of the most significant structures have been made in accordance with the international principles of restoration with respect to the legibility of the edifices and to the principle of reversibility. The locations and setting of the monuments have been almost entirely preserved, there are no changes in the authentic character of the site during the last years, and until now there are many events and beliefs associated with the history of Egypt, so that visitors are still able to experience the spiritual character of the archaeological site.

Protection and management requirements

The extent of the property is very large with its components. Its protection is ensured by a comprehensive system of statutory control operated under the provisions of the Protection of Antiquities Law No. 117 of 1983 as amended by the Law No. 3 of 2010, and No. 91 of 2018 and No. 20 of 2020 for the protection of monuments,  which also established the rules for preserving archaeological sites in Egypt, while the Law of Environment No. 4 of 1994 does so for protecting the natural landscape of the site, Urban harmony Law No. 114 of 2006 regulating the demolition of non-perishable buildings and facilities, and preserving the architectural heritage, and Building Law No. 119 of 2008, also known as the “Unified Building Law” that was released by a presidential decree and ratified by the house of parliament on the 11th of May 2008, in order to systemize and regulate the process of building in the whole Republic.

The property is owned by the State, Region and private owners. Its various elements are managed and protected by the Supreme Council of Antiquities through the Antiquities inspectorate of Luxor in coordination with Luxor Governorate and other relevant authorities as a functional and effective management system.

Separately, the Ministry of Antiquities has conducted a number of comprehensive maintenance, conservation and rehabilitation projects at each area of the property. These projects are being carried out with the involvement of all major stakeholders, as well as the local community, in the management of the site. The interventions in these projects have been made in accordance with the international principles of restoration, with respect to the legibility of the edifices and to the principle of reversibility.

Within the property of Ancient Thebes and its Necropolis there are twelve major archaeological sites, and it is a major challenge to formulate one comprehensive management plan for the overall property including conservation, future planning, visitor management and capacity development. Developing an overall effective and comprehensive management system involving all the key stakeholders nationally and locally is essential.

Currently, a comprehensive management plan for the overall property is in developmental stage, and the State Party is working on the boundary modification for the World Heritage property to include the Avenue of Sphinxes, to make sure that all attributes are contained within the boundary of the property.

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Dendara was an important administrative and religious centre as early as the 6th dynasty (c 2320 BC). Although built at the very end of the Pharaonic period, the Temple of Hathor is one of the iconic Egyptian buildings, mostly because it remains largely intact, with a great stone roof and columns, dark chambers, underground crypts and twisting stairways, all carved with hieroglyphs.

All visitors must pass through the visitors centre with its ticket office and bazaar. While it is still mostly unoccupied, before long this may involve running the gauntlet of hassling traders to get to the temple. One advantage is a clean, working toilet. At the time of our visit, it was not possible to buy food or drinks at the site.

Beyond the towering gateway and mud walls, the temple was built on a slight rise. The entrance leads into the outer hypostyle hall, built by Roman emperor Tiberius, the first six of its 24 great stone columns adorned on all four sides with Hathor’s head, defaced by Christians but still an impressive sight. The walls are carved with scenes of Tiberius and his Roman successors presenting offerings to the Egyptian gods: the message here, as throughout the temple, is the continuity of tradition, even under foreign rulers. The ceiling at the far left and right side of the hall is decorated with zodiacs. One section has now been cleaned and the colours are very bright.

The inner temple was built by the Ptolemies. The smaller inner hypostyle hall again has Hathor columns and walls carved with scenes of royal ceremonials, including the founding of the temple. But notice the ‘blank’ cartouches that reveal much about the political instability of late Ptolemaic times – with such a rapid turnover of pharaohs, the stonemasons seem to have been reluctant to carve the names of those who might not be in the job for long. Things reached an all-time low in 80 BC when Ptolemy XI murdered his more popular wife and stepmother Berenice III after only 19 days of co-rule. The outraged citizens of Alexandria dragged the pharaoh from his palace and killed him in revenge.

Beyond the second hypostyle hall, you will find the Hall of Offerings leads to the sanctuary, the most holy part of the temple, home to the goddess’ statue. A further Hathor statue was stored in the crypt beneath her temple, and brought out each year for the New Year Festival, which in ancient times fell in July and coincided with the rising of the Nile. It was carried into the Hall of Offerings, where it rested with statues of other gods before being taken to the roof. The western staircase is decorated with scenes from this procession. In the open-air kiosk on the southwestern corner of the roof, the gods awaited the first reviving rays of the sun-god Ra on New Year’s Day. The statues were later taken down the eastern staircase, which is also decorated with this scene.

The theme of revival continues in two suites of rooms on the roof, decorated with scenes of the revival of Osiris by his sister-wife, Isis. In the centre of the ceiling of the northeastern suite is a plaster cast of the famous ‘Dendara Zodiac’, the original now in the Louvre in Paris. Views of the surrounding countryside from the roof are magnificent.

The exterior walls feature lion-headed gargoyles to cope with the very occasional rainfall and are decorated with scenes of pharaohs paying homage to the gods. The most famous of these is on the rear (south) wall, where Cleopatra stands with Caesarion, her son by Julius Caesar.

Facing this back wall is a small temple of Isis built by Cleopatra’s great rival Octavian (the Emperor Augustus). Walking back towards the front of the Hathor temple on the west side, the palm-filled Sacred Lake supplied the temple’s water. Beyond this, to the north, lie the mudbrick foundations of the sanatorium, where the ill came to seek a cure from the goddess.

Finally there are two mammisi (birth houses): the first was built by the 30th-dynasty Egyptian pharaoh, Nectanebo I (380–362 BC), and decorated by the Ptolemies; the other was built by the Romans and decorated by Emperor Trajan (AD 98–117). Such buildings celebrated divine birth, both of the young gods and the pharaoh himself as the son of the gods. Between the mammisi lie the remains of a 5th-century-AD Coptic basilica.

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The most sacred city in all of Egypt, located on the West Bank of the Nile near modern Sohag. It was the main cult center of Osiris, the god of the dead, Abydos (known as Ibdju in ancient times) was the place to be buried in ancient Egypt. The tomb of king Djer, the third pharaoh of the 1st dynasty (c 3000 BC) was identified by later Egyptians as the tomb of Osiris himself. In the New Kingdom, Seti I built one of the most beautiful temples in Egypt, which remains one of the country’s highlights.

Abydos was used as a necropolis from pre-dynastic to Christian times (c 4000 BC-AD 600), with more than 4500 years of constant use. Much of the site remains unexcavated.

According to the mythology, Osiris’s body was cut into pieces and spread over Egypt, and legend had it that Osiris’s head (some sources claim it was his phallus) was buried at Abydos.

The earliest buildings at Abydos are the tombs of Egypt’s Pre-dynastic and Early Dynastic rulers. The first pharaohs came from a town nearby and were buried at Abydos. Today the oldest remains are from the temple of Osiris-Khentimentiu, dedicated to an ancient jackal god associated with Osiris-Khentimentiu means foremost of the westerners (the west was reserved for the dead) and stresses Osiris’s role as a protective funerary god.

Excavations have unearthed early dynastic royal tombs and several wooden boats. A mud-brick tomb of the First Dynasty king, Djer was thought to be the tomb of Osiris in ancient times. This may have contributed to the growing popularity of the cult of Osiris. The most impressive monument to Osiris at Abydos is the OSIREION, chapel constructed of huge granite blocks and believed to be his false tomb or cenotaph. In the Middle Kingdom (2055–1650 B.C), people made pilgrimages to Abydos, and many left steles, or offering tablets, for Osiris inscribed with their names and prayers.

The mortuary temple of Seti I has an unusual L-shaped ground plan and was built primarily of limestone, with the occasional use of sandstone in different areas throughout the structure. The temple was completed after Seti I’s death, by his son, Ramesses II, whose cartouches are found in certain parts of the temple, along with his characteristic sunk relief style, which is different from the very fine raised relief of his father.

The entrance to the temple is located on the northeast through a large pylon, now destroyed, leading into the first open court, which is also badly damaged. A stairway ramp on the main axis of the temple leads to a raised terrace with a pillared hall that, in turn, leads to the second court through three entrances at the back of the hall. The courtyards were decorated by Ramesses II with scenes from the battle of Kadesh and of the king offering to the gods. Another staircase ramp leads to a raised terrace containing the covered part of the temple. A pillared portico forms the facade and seven gates, all but the central one of which were closed by Ramesses II, lead to the first hypostyle hall. The hall has twelve pairs of sandstone papyrus columns with bud capitals. Another seven gates give access to the second hypostyle hall, which has thirty-six columns similar to the ones in the first hypostyle hall. This hall is beautifully decorated with scenes of Seti I kneeling before the gods.

The second hypostyle hall leads to seven chapels dedicated to seven gods, namely: the deified form of Seti I, Ptah, Re-Hor-Akhty, Amun-Re, Osiris, Isis, and Horus. The state of completion of these shrines indicates they were among the first areas in the temple to be decorated, and were, therefore, completed before Seti I’s death. These chapels are decorated with scenes of the king offering to the gods and of him receiving the symbols of life and dominion, as well as royal insignia, in return. These scenes would have been complemented by the rituals that would have been performed by priests within the chapels’ walls that served to transform the king into the god of death and resurrection, Osiris.

The Osiris chapel leads into a transverse area devoted to the cult of Osiris that includes two halls and two sets of chapels. The three small chapels to the right of the first hall are devoted to the gods Osiris; his consort, Isis, and their son, Horus. In ancient Egyptian religion, the living king represented Horus on earth, and when he died, he became Osiris, ruler of the netherworld. Beyond these three chapels is a secret chamber with two pillars that could only be accessed by the highest priests, for it was where the mysteries of Osiris were enacted.

The temple’s southern extension contains more chapels, including those of the gods Ptah-Sokar and Nefertem, the “Hall of the Barques (where the barks used to carry the statues of the gods during ceremonies were kept), and the unfinished “Hall of the Butchers” (the temple slaughterhouse). The so-called “Gallery of the Ancestors”, which contains the famous Abydos King List, is also located in this section. It is believed that this is where the temple rituals would have started. A procession of priests would then visit the seven chapels, reaching the small chapel of Osiris. The rituals served to transform the deceased king, Seti I, into the god Osiris, with whom deceased Egyptian kings were identified.

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Tell el-Amarna, site of the ruins and tombs of the city of Akhetaton (“Horizon of the Aton”) in Upper Egypt, 44 miles (71 km) north of modern Asyūṭ. On a virgin site on the east bank of the Nile River, Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) built the city about 1348 BCE as the new capital of his kingdom when he abandoned the worship of Amon and devoted himself to worship of the Aton. About four years after Akhenaten’s death (c. 1332), the court returned to Thebes, and the city was abandoned.

Though it had only a brief existence, Akhetaton is one of the few ancient Egyptian cities that has been carefully excavated. Because Akhenaten chose a new, unused site for his capital and because of the relatively short duration of its occupancy, the excavators could reconstruct an unusually accurate picture of the layout of the city.

 
The principal buildings of Akhetaton lay on either side of the Royal Road, the largest of them being the Great Temple of the Aton, primarily a series of walled courts leading to the completely open-air main sanctuary. Near the Great Temple were the palace and the commodious residence of the royal family. The dwellings at Tell el-Amarna were made of baked mud brick, and the walls, floors, and ceilings of many of the rooms were painted in a lively naturalistic style; each large house had a shrine with a stela depicting Akhenaten in the affectionate embrace of his family.
 
Among other major archaeological finds were portrait busts of Queen Nefertiti in the house of the sculptor Thutmose, as well as 300 cuneiform tablets accidentally discovered in 1887 by a peasant woman. From these it was possible to partly reconstruct the foreign affairs of the Egyptian empire in the late 18th dynasty.

Unlike those of Thebes, the nobles’ villas at Akhetaton had only one floor; the roof of the central living room, however, was usually higher than the rest of the house, thus permitting clerestory lighting and ventilation. The workers lived in simple row houses.
Officials’ tombs, resembling those at Thebes, were hewn into the desert hills to the east. Although the painted reliefs in the tomb chapels often appear to have been hastily carried out, they have been a major source of information on the daily life and religion of Akhenaten. Also, the drawings on the tomb walls depicting various religious and royal buildings of the city helped the excavators to interpret the often meagre architectural remains.
 
The tomb of Akhenaten and his family, situated in the side of a dry watercourse east of the city, contained an unprecedented scene of the royal family in mourning over the death of the princess Meketaton, who was buried there. Excavations in the 1890s and late 1970s yielded fragments of Akhenaten’s deliberately smashed sarcophagus and numerous broken ushabti from his interment.

After Akhetaton’s abandonment, its temples were disassembled for new construction projects; Ramses II is known to have reused many stone blocks from the Aton temples for his work at nearby Hermopolis.
 

Greek name for the most important cult centre for the god Thoth (identified with Hermes by the Greeks), situated in the 15th Upper Egyptian nome, on the west bank of the Nile. The ancient Egyptian name for the town was Khmun (‘City of the Eight’), a reference to the Ogdoad of Hermopolis, the eight gods who personified the primeval elements from before creation. The modern name of the town, el-Ashmunein, is derived from the ancient Egyptian name. The remains of various temples have been found at Hermopolis, some dating as far back as the Middle Kingdom. The most important was of course dedicated to Thoth. Nearby there are also extensive underground galleries, constructed mainly between the Late Period and Roman times. Thousands of ibis mummies, the bird sacred to Thoth, have been found in them. A large number of talatat were found in the pylon added by Rameses II to the temple of Thoth, originally from El-`Amarna (Akhetaten), the capital of Egypt during the time of Akhenaten, which lies close by. After the latter’s death, many of the stone blocks from his temples were reused elsewhere as filling in walls and gateways.

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The Red Pyramid is the highest in Dahshur, and its name of “Red” is due to the reddish rusty color of its blocks. It was not this color originally, but a beautiful pure white of limestone of Tura, south of modern Cairo. All pyramids had a casing made of this white limestone, which was reused in medieval times.    

It is the third-largest Egyptian pyramid after those of Khufu and Khafre at Giza. The Red Pyramid was one of three pyramids built by King Sneferu after the Bent Pyramid, located one kilometer to the south, and the so-called Meidum pyramid. This pyramid may have been started in the 13th year of his reign, taking 10 years to be built.

The visitor can enter the pyramid from an entrance on the northern side, leading to a passageway (a meter in height and a meter in width). It then slopes down to another gallery into a chamber with a corbelled roof, similar to an inverted stairway. Another passage leads to a second chamber located in the middle of the pyramid, directly at the western end of that chamber. To the south of it, a passageway leads to a third chamber, which is believed to have been the pyramid’s burial chamber.

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Memphis was one of the oldest and most important cities in ancient Egypt, located at the entrance to the Nile River Valley near the Giza plateau. It served as the capital of ancient Egypt and an important religious cult center.

The original name of the city was Hiku-Ptah (also Hut-Ka-Ptah) but it was later known as Inbu-Hedj which means ‘White Walls’ because it was built of mud brick and then painted white. By the time of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613-2181 BCE) it was known as Men-nefer (“the enduring and beautiful”) which was translated by the Greeks into ‘Memphis.’ It was allegedly founded by the king Menes (c. 3150 BCE) who united the two lands of Egypt into a single country. The kings of the Early Dynastic Period in Egypt (c. 3150-2613 BCE) and Old Kingdom (c. 2613-2181 BCE) ruled from Memphis, and even when it was not the capital, it remained an important commercial and cultural center.

The city features prominently throughout Egypt’s history from the earliest records of the Dynastic Era to the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323-30 BCE) but no doubt existed earlier in the Predynastic Period in Egypt (C. 6000-3150 BCE). The city’s location at the entrance to the Nile River Valley would have made it a natural place for an early settlement. From the earliest times through the end of ancient Egyptian history in the Roman period, Memphis played a role in the lives of the people.
 
Kings ruled there, commerce took place in the markets, the great religious temples drew pilgrims and tourists, and some of the most famous kings of the country constructed their great monuments in or near the city. Alexander the Great had himself crowned pharaoh at Memphis, and the Rosetta Stone, the stele which unlocked the secret of Egyptian hieroglyphics, was originally issued from the city.

After the Romans annexed Egypt, Memphis began to decline. This was hastened by the rise of Christianity in the 4th century CE when people stopped visiting the old temples and shrines of the Egyptian gods. By the 7th century CE, following the Arab Invasion, Memphis was a ruin whose buildings were harvested for stone to lay the foundations for Cairo and for other projects.

The 3rd-century BCE historian Manetho claims that the first king of Egypt, Menes, built the city after the unification of Egypt. At this time the city was known as Hiku-Ptah or Hut-Ka-Ptah meaning ‘Mansion of the Soul of Ptah.’ Ptah was probably an early fertility god during the Predynastic Period but was elevated to the position of ‘Lord of Truth’ and ‘Creator of the World’ by the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period. He was the protector god of the area around Memphis and became the patron deity of the city after it was built in his honor.

Other inscriptions credit the building of Memphis to Menes’ successor Hor-Aha who is said to have visited the site, not the city, and so admired it that he changed the course of the Nile River to make a wide plain for construction. Hor-Aha has been equated with Menes owing to various inscriptions, but ‘Menes’ seems to have been a title meaning ‘He Who Endures,’ not a personal name, and may have been passed down from the first king. The original builder of the city was probably Narmer, the king who unified Egypt, who was known as Menes. The legend of Hor-Aha’s visit and diversion of the river is most likely a version of an earlier tale told of Menes (Narmer) around whom many miraculous legends would grow.

The city’s early name of Hut-Ka-Ptah gave Egypt its Greek name for the country. The Egyptians themselves called their country Kemet which means ‘black land,’ owing to the rich, dark soil. The name Hut-Ka-Ptah was translated by the Greeks as ‘Aegyptos’ which became ‘Egypt.’ It is a testament to the power and fame of early Memphis that the Greeks named the country after the city.

Early History
In the Early Dynastic Period, the city was referred to as Inbu-Hedj (‘White Walls’) because the mud brick walls were painted white and were said to gleam in the sun from miles away. There is no evidence the actual name of the city changed, however. This new epithet for the city probably came about at the beginning of the Third Dynasty of Egypt (c. 2670-c.2613 BCE) when Djoser came to power. Prior to this, the kings were buried at Abydos, but toward the end of the Second Dynasty of Egypt (c. 2890-c.2670 BCE) they were buried near Memphis, close to Giza.


Djoser is said to have elevated the status of the city by making it his capital, but it was already the seat of power in Egypt prior to his reign. It is more probable that he increased the city’s prestige by choosing a nearby site, Saqqara, for his mortuary complex and pyramid tomb. The white walls of the city would have reflected the status of this king and called attention to his eternal home nearby.
 
Egyptologist Kathryn A. Bard writes, “The North Saqqara cemetery is on a prominent limestone ridge overlooking the valley and the presence of large, elaborately niched superstructures would have been very impressive symbols of status” (Shaw, 72). The city walls may have been painted white to further reflect this status. According to Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson, it was not the walls of the city but those of the central palace whose walls were painted white and gave the city its epithet. Wilkinson writes:

With its whitewashed exterior, this building known as White Wall must have been a dazzling sight, comparable in its symbolism to the White House of a modern superpower. Other royal buildings throughout the land were consciously modeled on White Wall. (31)

There is no doubt, however, that the city was already the capital of a unified Egypt prior to Djoser and held in high regard, so it is possible the walls of either the city or the palace were painted white before his reign. Bard notes that “tombs of high officials have been found at nearby North Saqqara and officials of all levels were buried at other sites in the Memphite region. Such funerary evidence suggests that Memphis was the administrative centre of the state” (Shaw, 64). Excavations have unearthed pottery and grave goods dating to the First Dynasty of Egypt, even though Manetho claims that Memphis did not become the capital until the Third Dynasty.

 

Saqqara, the sweeping necropolis and pyramid field of Memphis, the first Capital of Egypt, has been an important historical site for 5,000 years of Egyptian history. This large area about 20 miles south of Cairo features the small square tombs (mastabas) of the kings of the first and second dynasties Most famously, the first king of the third dynasty, Djoser, asked his vizier and chief architect to erect for him the first monument built entirely of stone in ancient Egypt. The result is the famous step pyramid of Saqqara and its surrounding funerary complex, which was enclosed by a huge wall, probably emulating that which surrounded Memphis itself.

While kings of the fourth dynasty selected the Giza Plateau for their funerary monuments, kings of the fifth and sixth dynasties returned south to Saqqara where we find their pyramids and most of their high officials’ tombs. The importance of the necropolis region ebbed back and forth as the capital of Egypt moved, first, to the city of iTt-tAwy in the Middle Kingdom’s 12th dynasty, and then to the south in the New Kingdom to Thebes, where Amun became the State-god. The situation changed again for the brief “Amarna Interlude,” when King Amenophis IV (Akhenaten), built Tell el Amarna in Middle Egypt as his new capital. The New Kingdom royal necropolis was then moved south to Western Thebes in the reign of Amenhotep I, to what is known now as the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens. Most of the high officials and noblemen of this period were also buried in the cliffs of Western Thebes.

Yet these shifts of the capital did not undermine the importance of Memphis as an administrative center and a military post. Amenophis III built a new temple at Saqqara for the Memphite god Ptah, and the Apis Bulls – symbols of Osiris the god of the underworld – were buried at Saqqara as well. Because of the military importance of Memphis, many official and generals settled there and were buried at Saqqara. This trend started from the 18th-dynasty reigns of Thutmosis III and Amenophis III, and continued to the Ramesside period (19th dynasty).

The four most important sectors of the New Kingdom necropolis in Saqqara are:

  1. 1. North and east of the pyramid of King Teti (6th dynasty): Tombs were built above Old Kingdom tombs and close to Teti’s temple.
  2. 2. The eastern cliff: This area, known as the Bubasteion or catacombs for the cats of the Cat-goddess Bastet, dates to the Late Period. Here, rock cut tombs were dug from the beginning of the 18th dynasty – including the Amarna Period – up to the time of Ramses II. The most renowned tombs in this cliff are for Aper-El, vizier of Amenophis III; Maya, wet-nurse of king Tutankhamun and the Hatiay scribe of the Aton temple in Memphis.
  3. 3. South of the King Unas (5th dynasty) causeway: This structure leads to the king’s pyramid, the first in history to have religious texts (Pyramid Texts) on the walls of its burial chamber.
  4. 4. Saqqara North, south of Abusir: Rock-cut tombs here date to the 19th dynasty, mainly to the time of King Ramses II. 
 

Chronologically, New Kingdom tombs in Saqqara can be arranged into the Pre-Amarna period, the Amarna period and the Post-Amarna period. The necropolis south of the Unas causeway is best known for its New Kingdom tombs of officials who cover all of these periods. There, stand-alone, temple-like tombs were erected in a somewhat longitudinal line running south to north. Meanwhile, the tombs’ axis was always east-west, with their pylon gate entrances to the east and their sanctuaries or “holy of holies” to the west.

 

In the 19th century, when parts of these tombs still showed above ground, clandestine excavations and looting swept through Saqqara. As a result, many tomb walls were dismantled and their remnants moved to museums around the world. Thankfully, Karl Richard Lepsius and other scholars visited during this era to record what could be seen, leaving essential documentation to inform the formal excavations to come. This pioneering field work began in 1975, led by Geoffrey Martin and the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) in London. Martin was looking for the tomb of Maya, overseer of the treasury in the time of Tutankhamun. Instead, he found the intended tomb of Horemheb, commander in chief of the army of Tutankhamun. Horemheb later became a ruler himself and was buried in the Valley of the Kings.

In the 1980s, the Dutch mission from Leiden Museums joined the EES team, discovering many tombs of the 19th dynasty. At the same time, Cairo University began excavations headed by Professor Said Tawfik. The result: about 35 tombs were uncovered from 1982-86, most belonging to high officials from the time of Ramses II. These tombs featured the same style and nearly the same architecture as those of the adjoining site. The best-preserved are built of mud brick covered with a limestone revetment (wall), including the tomb of Ramses II’s vizier, whose coffin is still on the site; the tomb of a father and son; and another father-son tomb featuring a family stela. The deep shaft of this tomb proved interesting, as it was reused on different levels for burials dating up to the Late Period.

In 2005, a Cairo University team from the Faculty of Archaeology resumed excavations at Saqqara under my direction. The site immediately began to reveal more tombs of administrative and military officials from the Ramesside period, including the tomb of the mayor of Memphis, royal scribe and head of the treasury, head of the state granaries and a general during the reigns of Sethi I and Ramses II. This tomb has long been sought because a number of its inscribed blocks, statues and pillars were moved in the 19th century to museums outside Egypt.

Famous scenes of what is known as the Devéria Wall, photographed by a French explorer around 1853, were part of the walls in this tomb. The lower register of this scene was found still in place, but the upper registers are missing and not found in any museums or collections. The plan of this tomb resembles that of Maya, which dates to the reign of Akhenaten: a large forecourt-statue room features lateral vaulted storehouses, with a peristyle court and tripartite sanctuary topping a pyramidion.

Also uncovered was the tomb of a royal envoy to all foreign countries and overseer of the guards of the army archive in the Ramesside period. The tomb is smaller than others, but its limestone blocks bear exquisite scenes and interesting inscriptions reflecting the art of the Ramesside period. This tomb is formed by a portico entrance and a small peristyle court with a tripartite sanctuary and a center burial shaft.

In the 2017-18 excavations to the north of these tombs, we found the tomb of the general, Iwrhya (iwrxy), his son and grandson. While excavations are continuing, the reliefs found in or near this site, plus the dimensions of the uncovered walls, indicate the tomb must have been large and had more than one owner. The wall scenes of the statue room display daily activities in a maritime or river port on the eastern frontiers of Egypt (probably the Tell Hebwa fortress), with boats unloading their freights of oil jars and storing them in magazines as well as other daily activities.

One of the most important scenes from this tomb was found on a fragment of wall that had fallen among the debris. The scene depicts an army of infantry and cavalry leaving the gates of the fortress to cross what is probably a canal that had crocodiles in the water. The conservation work on this tomb resumed in 2018-19.

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Abū Ṣīr, ancient site between Al-Jīzah (Giza) and Ṣaqqārah, northern Egypt, where three 5th-dynasty (c. 2465–c. 2325 BCE) kings (Sahure, Neferirkare, and Neuserre) built their pyramids. The pyramids were poorly constructed (in comparison with Egyptian monuments of similar types) and are now in a state of disrepair. The adjoining mortuary temples are notable for their elaborate sculptured wall reliefs and columns in the forms of palm, lotus, and papyrus plants. Near their pyramids a number of the kings, including Userkaf and Neuserre, built sanctuaries with obelisks dedicated to Re, the sun god. In 1979 Abū Ṣīr and other sites in the area—Dahshūr, Ṣaqqārah, Abū Ruwaysh, Memphis, and the Pyramids of Giza—were collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
 
Two significant groups of papyri have been discovered at Abū Ṣīr, one having been recovered in 1893 and another having come to light during excavations in 1982. The Abū Ṣīr papyri are the archives of the temple priesthood of the mortuary cult of Neferirkare and provide important information on the economic function of an Old Kingdom (c. 2575–c. 2130 BCE) funerary endowment.
 
Although numerous excavations in the area have usually yielded disturbed remains, in 1998 a team of archaeologists from Charles University in Prague uncovered the intact sarcophagus of Iufaa, a priest and palace administrator who lived about 525 BCE.
 

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Just south of the Coptic Museum on Sharia Mar Girgis (the main road parallel with the metro), a stone facade inscribed with Coptic and Arabic marks the entrance to the 9th-century (some say 7th-century) Hanging Church, so named because it is suspended over the Water Gate of Roman Babylon. With its three barrel-vaulted, wood-roofed aisles, the interior of the church feels like an upturned ark, resting on 13 elegant pillars representing Christ and his apostles.


Steep stairs lead to a 19th-century facade topped by twin bell towers. In a small inner courtyard, vendors sell taped liturgies and videos of the Coptic pope, Shenouda III. The interior feels very similar to that of a mosque. The ebony- and ivory-inlaid screens hiding the altar show the same intricate geometric designs that are distinguishable from Islamic patterns only by the tiny crosses worked on them. One of the columns is darker than the rest; it is believed to represent Judas.

The church has 110 icons, including a series describing the life and torture of St George and the life of St John the Baptist, and a very sacred painting of Virgin Mary known as the Coptic ‘Mona Lisa’. In the baptistery, off to the right, a panel has been cut out of the floor to reveal the Water Gate below. Still in use, the church is equally crowded with tourists and parishioners who come to pray over a collection of saints’ relics and an icon of Mary.

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The last remaining wonder of the ancient world; for nearly 4000 years, the extraordinary shape, impeccable geometry and sheer bulk of the Giza Pyramids have invited the obvious questions: ‘How were we built, and why?’. Centuries of research have given us parts of the answer. Built as massive tombs on the orders of the pharaohs, they were constructed by teams of workers tens-of-thousands strong. Today they stand as an awe-inspiring tribute to the might, organisation and achievements of ancient Egypt.


Ongoing excavations on the Giza Plateau, along with the discovery of a pyramid-builders’ settlement, complete with areas for large-scale food production and medical facilities, have provided more evidence that the workers were not the slaves of Hollywood tradition, but an organised workforce of Egyptian farmers. During the flood season, when the Nile covered their fields, the same farmers could have been redeployed by the highly structured bureaucracy to work on the pharaoh’s tomb. In this way, the Pyramids can almost be seen as an ancient job-creation scheme. And the flood waters made it easier to transport building stone to the site.

But despite the evidence, some still won’t accept that the ancient Egyptians were capable of such achievements. So-called pyramidologists point to the carving and placement of the stones, precise to the millimetre, and argue the numerological significance of the structures’ dimensions as evidence that the Pyramids were constructed by angels or aliens. It’s easy to laugh at these out-there ideas, but when you see the monuments up close, especially inside, you’ll better understand why so many people believe such awesome structures must have unearthly origins.

Most visitors will make a beeline straight to the four most famous sights; the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre, the Pyramid of Menkaure and the Sphinx. But for those who want to explore further, the desert plateau surrounding the pyramids is littered with tombs, temple ruins and smaller satellite pyramids.

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Egyptian Museum in Cairo

 

 

Located in the heart of Tahrir Square, Cairo, the Egyptian Museum is a unique building designed to host the world’s oldest collection of Pharaonic art and monuments. Built on an area of 13,600 sq. meters, with more than 100 exhibition halls, the museum is a product of a competition launched by the Egyptian Government in 1895 and thus it is considered the first national museum in the Middle East. The original collection, established in the late 19th century, was previously housed at a building in Bulaq. Afterwards it was transferred to the palace of Ismail Pasha in Giza, until its definitive resting place was completed. Several design projects were proposed, but the one presented by the French architect Marcel Dourgnon was chosen as the winner. The cornerstone was laid on 1st April 1897 at Tahrir Square by the Italian company of Giuseppe Garozzo and Francesco Zaffrani. Due to the fact that the competition was specifically created to find the most practical design and architecture strategy for hosting a vast exhibition of antiquities, the Egyptian Museum became the first purpose-built museum edifice in the region, setting a precedent for many other museological institutions that were to emerge during the 20th century.

Besides the site’s original and avant-garde design concept, the building carries an enormous scientific value, since it is considered the museum with the largest ancient Egyptian collection in the world, and has thus always been the flagship of museums for the study, research, conservation, and exhibition practices related to ancient Egypt and the influence it exerted on many other historical civilizations. The Museum displays an extensive collection spanning from prehistory up to the Graeco-Roman period. The museum originally contained a library, conservation laboratories, and an extra piece of land that extends to the Nile-bank, that later became the headquarters of the National Democratic Party, which was burnt down during the 2011 revolution. This land used to provide the museum with direct access to the Nile.

 

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Museums are institutions regarded as centres for education, research and leisure. Throughout the whole 20th century, they have grown to become one of the most indispensable spaces for cultural exchange and dialogue in our societies, as well as for the conservation and preservation of historic, scientific and artistic items. Although the idea of collecting extraordinary or ancient artefacts for contemplation and/or learning is not new, the concept of designing a building in which specific elements (such as organisation of space, lighting, ventilation, etc.) are thought out precisely for the purpose of exhibiting those artefacts is relatively recent. Before the construction of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir, many international museums, such as the Louvre Museum, the Britsh Museum, and many other major museums were housed/located within historic palaces and buildings, while the Egyptian Museum was designed specifically to house a large collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts. While it is not the first purpose-built museum in the world, it is the first in the Middle East and North Africa, and certainly the earliest one dedicated entirely to the ancient Egyptian civilization.

Besides the design and structural aspects of the building, the tangible heritage that is housed within its walls is universally recognized and fundamental in the development, since the end of the 19th century, of the field of Egyptology. The contributions of ancient Egypt to modern civilization are undeniable, and the Egyptian Museum played a very important role in the unveiling of many mysteries about ancient Egypt. Egyptologists from all over the world consider it to be their second home. No research on ancient Egypt would be complete without multiple visits to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

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Heliopolis/Iunu
Greek name for the ancient Egyptian town of Iunu (biblical On). Modern day Heliopolis, a north-western suburb of Cairo, was built on top of many of the ancient monuments. As a result large parts of the site have never been investigated properly. Heliopolis once was the principal cult centre of the sun, hence the Greek name which means ‘city of the sun’. Here the god was worshipped in several forms and under several names, such as Atum, Re-Harakhty and Khepry (and Aten during the reign of Akhenaten, who built a temple here). As Atum he was the creator god who commenced his work here, and became the founder of the Ennead of Heliopolis.

The first-known sun temple was built here, probably as early as the early Old Kingdom, and it is believed that this temple served as a model for the later sun temple of Niuserre at Abu Ghurob. Here there was a double temple, dedicated to Re-Harakhty and Atum. According to a Late Period inventory tablet, one of these temples had at least three courts and three pylons in front of a sanctuary called ‘House of the Benben’, in all probability an open courtyard containing the Benben stone. This stone had an irregular, conical shape and was a symbol of the primeval mound. It was believed that the rays of the rising sun touched this stone first. The name of the stone is derived from the Egyptian word ‘weben’, which means ‘to rise’. The same is true of the benu-bird (a kind of heron, the Greek Phoenix), a manifestation of Atum, the god of Heliopolis. Historically speaking, the benben-stone was the predecessor of the obelisk and perhaps also of the pyramid and pyramidion. Many rulers erected obelisks in Heliopolis, some of which were later transported to other sites, such as the Caesareum in Alexandria from whence they were taken in modern times to London and New York, or Rome.

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