Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Tuesday, November 24: After all the activity at El Kab, you might think that our group would be exhausted, but everyone was still ready to go on yet another non-itinerary addition to the trip - the temple of Esna. A few of us even walked into town from the boat the night before to get a view of the temple at night. While visitors can see only a small portion of this temple, it is not one to be missed. Only the pronaos remains intact, but additional remains may lie under the ancient and modern town debris, which rises as high as the roof the temple. The modern street is on the same level as the roof of the temple and one has to descend to visit the temple itself - a great visual to understand how archaeological layers build up over time. The temple of Esna was dedicated to the god Khnum, often depicted anthropomorphically with a ram-head. We have scene his creative powers before, as he was depicted in Luxor temple fashioning the body and ka of king Amenhotep III on his potter's wheel. Most of the decoration on the temple of Esna was complete by Roman emperors, but the interior of the rear wall was decorated by Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra II.

Temple of Esna

Temple of Esna (compare level of modern town)

Temple of Esna at Night (compare level of modern town)

Esna 67: The so-called "Baptism of Pharaoh" Scene (Claudius 41-54 AD)
Location Esna Inscription 67

Esna 70: Claudius with Nekhbet and Wadyt, tutelary deities of Upper and Lower Egypt(Claudius 41-54 AD)
Location of Esna Inscription 70

Esna 206: The Theology of Neith of Sais
This column contains a very important text concerning the creation of the world. In this text, the main creative deity is Neith, local deity from the city of Sais in the Nile Delta. The text begins: "Ritual performed in this temple of Neith, great one, mother of the god, lady of Upper and Lower Egypt, (and) performed in the temple of Neith, great one, mother of the god, lady of Esna, on Epiphi 13. Father of fathers, mother of mothers, the goddess who came into being at the beginning when she was in the midst of Nun, having come forth from her limbs while the land was still in darkness, the day having united with the night. Land had not come forth. No plants existed ..." One important section of this text describes the creation of Apophis from the umbilical of the sun god: "Now, she disposed of the umbilical cord of her son, whom she made, in the midst of Nun. It turned into a snake of 120 cubits who is called Apophis. His heart created the rebellion against Re with his conferderates who came forth from his eye."

Esna Temple Ceiling

Esna Temple Ceiling

Esna Temple Columns

Esna Temple Columns

Esna 95: Hymn

Esna 95: Copy
Esna 95: Transcription

Esna 103: Cryptographic Ram Text - a hymn written mainly with variations of the ram hieroglyph

Esna 126: Cryptographic Crocodile Text - a hymn written mostly with variants of the crocodile hieroglyph

Pharaoh doing what Pharaoh does - smiting enemies!

Mosque in the town of Esna

Leitz, Christian. "Die beiden kryptographischen Inschriften aus Esna mit den Widdern und Krokodilen." Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur 29 (2001), 251-276
Quack, Joachim Friedrich. "Apopis, Nabelschnur des Re." Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur 34 (2006), 377-379
Sauneron, Serge. Esna II: Le Temple d'Esna. Cairo: IFAO, 1963

Tombs of El Kab

Tuesday, November 24: After visiting the ancient city of El Kab, we crossed over into the desert to see tombs of the nobles of the late Second Intermediate Period and Early New Kingdom (as well as others). The most famous of these tombs is that of Ahmose, son of Ibana, whose biographical text details his role in the battles with the Hyksos under Ahmose as well as his career under Amenhotep I and Tuthmosis I. A nice website about several of these tombs can be found here.

Tomb 3: Paheri
Paheri is shown standing before scenes of agricultural work. The text before him states: "Watching the river in harvest season (and) the river in growing season, all the preparations made in the field by the governor ..."

Tomb 7: Renni
The tomb of Renni contains a series of very important scenes concerning the mummification of the body and the accompanying funerary rituals. Here we see the final preparation of the mummy on the lion-headed funeral bed. Above, the text reads "Making the purification of the scribe Renni, justified." To the left, we see the opening of the mouth ritual, identified by the text between the figures: "Opening of the mouth."

Tomb 5: Ahmose, son of Ibana
Here we see Ahmose standing before his biographical text. The hieroglyphs face towards the right, but you read the text beginning with the column on the left. The text starts: "As for the overseer of the boat crew, Ahmose, son of Ibana, justified, he says: 'Let me speak to you, everyone! Let me inform you about the favors which came to me ..."

Monday, December 14, 2009

El Kab

Tuesday, November 24: In the morning, we made our way from our boat towards El Kab, a site on the east bank of the Nile between Luxor and Aswan. A special surprise had been arranged for us by Dr. Moeller, who knew the Belgian archaeologists working at the site. They graciously agreed to give us a tour of their latest excavations as well as the remains inside the great enclosure wall. It is safe to say that our group really enjoyed the unique and off the beaten track experience!

Evidence for human habitation at the site extends far into the past. A well evidenced lithic industry, known as the Elkabian, has been dated to the 7th millennium. Early Dynastic remains (dynasties 1-2) are represented by a cemetery as well as a unique mastaba tomb constructed on the top of the cliffs towards the east. However, most of the standing architecture inside the city dates to much later periods. Remains of the Late Period temple of Nekhbet and the temple of Sobek and Thoth are poorly preserved, with mostly just the foundations remaining, but there are still fragments of inscriptions to be found, including the cartouche of Darius. There are remains of a sacred lake and what was probably a mammisi ("birth house"). A partially exposed settlement from the Ptolemaic Period in the south east area of the enclosure wall. Stay tuned for the next post about our visit to the tombs of the Second Intermediate Period/New Kingdom in the desert cliffs outside of the city of El Kab!

El Kab greeter

Dr. Moeller atop the massive, mud-brick enclosure wall

Straddling the enclosure wall (Photo by Judy)

Inside enclosure wall where Early Dynastic tombs were discovered (Photo by Judy)

Stefano tries to get an artistic photo across the sand! (Photo by Judy)

Temple Foundations

Cartouche of Darius (Photo by Judy)

Nadine with the magnetometrist (Photo by Jeff)

Our group leaving El Kab

El Kab Landscape

View towards the east

Friday, December 11, 2009

More Balloon Ride Slide Show

Photos: Jeff and Jamie

Photos: Steve and Judy

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Monday, November 23: After Mo'alla, we were treated to a surprise visit to Tod thanks to the quick thinking and planning of Dr. Moeller. At Tod, there are still some remains of the settlement as well as the temple dedicated to the god Montu. The oldest artifact attested at the site is a pillar with the cartouche of the 5th Dynasty king Userkaf. There are blocks from a Middle Kingdom temple and it was in the foundation of this temple that the "Treasure of Tod" was discovered in 1936. Inside four bronze chests were found a hoard of silver vessels from the time of Amenemhat II showing influence from across the Mediterranean (including the Aegean and Mesopotamia). A barque station inscribed by 18th and 19th Dynasty pharaohs such as Tuthmosis III and Ramses III lies just outside of the main temple, the standing remains of which date mostly to the Ptolemaic Period (with a few sections of decoration extending into the reign of Antonius Pius). The temple has been the subject of several publications documenting the archaeological excavations, texts and scenes:

F. Bisson de la Roque. Tôd (1934 à 1936). FIFAO 17. Cairo: IFAO, 1937.

Jean-Claude Grenier. Tôd: Les inscriptions du temple ptolémaïque et romain. I. La salle hypostyle, textes Nos 1-172. Copiées par É. Drioton, G. Posener, et J. Vandier. FIFAO 18:1. Cairo: IFAO, 1980.

Christophe Thiers. Tôd: Les inscriptions du temple ptolémaïque et romain. II. Textes et scènes nos. 173-329. FIFAO 18:2. Cairo: IFAO, 2003.

Christophe Thiers. Tôd: Les inscriptions du temple ptolémaïque et romain. III. Relevé photographique (J.-Fr. Gout). FIFAO 18:3. Cairo: IFAO, 2003.

Further bibliography on individual scenes and texts from Tod and other Ptolemaic/Roman temples can be found in the following volume:

Christian Leitz (ed.). Kurzbibliographie zu den Ubersetzten Tempeltexten des griechisch-romischen Zeit. Contributions by D. Budde, P. Dils, Chr. Leitz, D. Mendel, D.von Recklinghausen, unter mitarbeit von Lothar Goldbrunner und Bettina Ventker. BdE 136. Cairo: IFAO, 2002. Download online here.


Approaching the Temple of Montu (Photo by Judy)

Processional Way and Temple

Userkaf Pillar

The King offers fields to the sacred bull of Montu

Relief from the lower west wall of the Hall of the Goddesses, showing Meskhenet-Weret and Meskhenet-Menkhet with an amulet symbolizing protection (Photo by Judy)
The text before Meskhenet-Weret states (on the left side of the picture): "Preserving this place at night"