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Egypt: Minor Temple and Other Ruins of the Nile Delta, Part III


Minor Temple and Other Ruins of the Nile Delta in Egypt, Part III

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Monroe Edgar

This is the continuation of Part II in this series examining minor ruins of temples and other monuments in the Nile Delta. For information on Abusir (in the Delta), Tell Atrib (Arhribis), Ausim (Letopolis), Behbeit el-Hagar, and Tell el-Dab'a, as well as a listing of the major ruins in the Nile Delta, please see Minor Temple and Other Ruins of the Nile Delta, Part I. For information on Ezbet Rushdi, Tell Far'un (Tell Fara'un), Kom el-Hisn (ancient Imu), Kom Abu Billo (known to the Greeks as Terenuthis) and Tell el-Maskhuta near Ismaliya, please see part two of the series and for information on Tell el-Retaba, Saft el-Hinna, Samannud (Sebennytos) and Tell el-Yahudiya, see part four.


Tell el-Muqdam (Leontopolis)

The Lion of Leontopolis

About 10 kilometers (6.25 miles) southeast of the modern town of Mit Ghamir on the Damietta branch of the Nile are the several mounds that represent all that is left of ancient Taremu (Leontopolis, or "City of the Lions"). The ancient Egyptian name for the site means, "Land of the Fish". The remains cover more than 30 hectares (304,260 square meters). Some Egyptologists believe that in ancient times, this was the home of the kings who ruled during Egypt's 23rd Dynasty, though most now locate the capital of this period at Thebes. It was also a regional capital during the Greek (Ptolemaic) Period and was probably the center of a powerful Delta kingdom during the Third Intermediate Period (about 1069 through 664 BC). It was also the ancient capital of the Eleventh Lower Egyptian Nome (province).

Leontopolis was mentioned by Strabo in his Geography reference work, and the name appears sporadically in other classical and coptic documents.

There was once a temple of the local lion-god, Mihos (hence, Leontopolis, "City of the Lions") located here, and while ruined, its location has been found on the eastern part of the site. However, it has not been completely investigated and the date of this temple is unknown. The goddess Bastet, who was considered the mother of Mihos, was probably also worshipped in the area.

Notable were the excavations of C.C. Edgar in the area that produced the "Treasures of Queen Kama". Her apparently undisturbed sarcophagus provided a number of jewelry and other items, including a grand gilded silver pectoral with inlayed lazuli and a human headed scorpion amulet of gold and inlayed agate. A number of bronze inlay statues of Mihos (the lion) were also discovered in the area.

Apparently, current excavations are being conducted at Tell el-Muqdam by UC Berkeley under the direction of Carol A. Redmount and Dr. Renee Friedman.. One of this group's objectives is to document these comparatively well preserved ruins in order to enhance our understanding of history including the development and the character of Egyptian urbanism, particularly in the Delta region. They also hope to gain valuable information on the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt's history, a time we know relatively little about, but this focus seems to be shifting into the Persian period.

Some of the findings and discoveries of this group include:

  1. No discoveries have been made that date prior to the Third Intermediate Period, when it is now believed the cities were founded (the newer Roman city was built beside the more ancient city).

  2. Of the 24 sites documented at the turn of the century, only 9 still survive, due to the expansion of local agricultural land.

  3. The site was probably originally located on the ancient Mendesian Nile branch, which slowly migrated eastward over a period of time, with the development of the area expanding towards this migration.

  4. There is considerable evidence at the site suggesting trade with Greece and the Levant.

  5. One of the remaining sites located about a kilometer from Muqdam produced Third Intermediate Period pottery. Unfortunately, this site has recently been turned over to farmers for agricultural use.

  6. Atop the ruins were discovered a red granite torso of Ramesses II, and a red granite block with some of his titles.

  7. Other surface discoveries include objects dating mainly from the Saite Period (664-525 BC) through the Late Roman/Coptic Period (about the 4th Century AD).

  8. From test excavations, a number of small items have been discovered. These test indicate that remains date from the Roman, Greek, Persian and Saite periods, and include domestic, industrial, monumental and possibly cult elements. Small items that have been discovered include erotic figurines, mostly male, a number of terra cottas, glass, amulets, including a wadjet eye mold, stamped jar handles originating outside of Egypt, a few sculpture fragments and many potsherds.

  9. The ruins of the site extend far beyond the ground water level. The bottom level of these layers has not yet been completely identified, but it seem that the lowest level may be as much as four or more meters below the water level in places. Most of the earliest remains are, of course, beneath this ground water level.

  10. According to information provided to these excavators by locals, a cache of statues discovered here was smuggled out of Egypt as late as the 1970s.

Some of the latest excavations have demonstrated that during the Saite period, and especially during the Persian period, the occupation of the site was very large and important. A number of different districts within the area have been identified, including an elite domestic district (Carnel Station), a non-elite domestic district (Qasr Station) and an industrial sector (Iuput Station). Within the domestic districts, the excavators have identified neighborhood fragments, including roads and houses. Apparently within this last district was located what was probably a Greek period bronze smelting installation.

Tell el-Qirqafa

Tell el-Qirqafa is located near the village of el-Kjhata'na about 6 kilometers (3.75 miles) north of Faqus. It is in the eastern Delta. There was apparently a temple located here that dated from the Middle Kingdom sometime between the reigns of Amenemhet I and Senusret III. We have not identified the deity or deities that were worshipped in the temple, but the remains of a granite entrance gate and a small pillared hall are known to Egyptologists.

Recent excavations in the area have demonstrated three distinctive strata, with the deepest dating to the late Hyksos period and the latest to the New Kingdom. Recent objects discovered include, surprisingly, fragments of Minoan painted wall plaster and some 15- scarabs, 18 of which bear royal names of the early 8th Dynasty (First Intermediate Period).

Tell el-Rub'a (Tell El Robee, Greek Mendes)

The remains of the ancient sixteenth nome capital Djedet, or Per-banebdjedet (Greek Mendes), which means "House of the Ram Lord of djedet", are located in the northern Delta near the modern village of el-Simbellawein. It may have originally been known as Enebet to the ancient Egyptians. Known today as Tell el-Rub'a, it could have served as a royal residence or even the capital of the 29th Dynasty.

The Ram of Djedet in Egypt

The site has seen several excavations, mostly by North American groups including the University of Toronto and Pennsylvania Statue University team led by Donald Redford. Apparently some of the latest work of this group has focused on an Old Kingdom necropolis estimated to contain over 9,000 interments.

Mendes was referred to in the sarcophagi Book as the Ba dwellers where Re and Osiris met and their Ba unified to conceive their son. Mendes was also mentioned in the geographic list carved over the white compartment in the Karnak temple. The area is rich in monuments and remains of Egypt's Old Kingdom and has proven to also contain artifacts from the predynastic eras.

Mastaba tombs and houses uncovered at Tell el-Rub'a in 1977

Mastaba tombs and houses uncovered at Tell el-Rub'a in 1977

The worship of a ram god (Amun Re) in this area was ancient, and increased in importance as the god was associated with the soul (ba) of Osiris, Re and all the other gods. Along with a temple to this god, there were no doubt others dedicated to a number of different deities.

Remains at the site include a Late Period (or New Kingdom) temple enclosure probably originally built by Amasis (Ahmosis), and later restored by Ptolemy II Philadelphus. This architectural element is still visible, along with a red granite naos. The naos was originally one of four that might have been related to the first four divine generations manifested in the ram god, consisting of Re, Shu, Geb and Osiris. The naos is approximately eight meters (26 ft) tall. Beneath the temple, the remains of an earlier temple possibly of the Middle Kingdom have been discovered. Beneath the Middle Kingdom temple, stratification remains apparently date to the First Intermediate Period. Apparently, a fire occurred about this time period (end of the Old Kingdom or First Intermediate Period). Burnt mudbrick was discovered, along with the bodies of victims who were apparently attempting to escape the fire.

Red Granite Naos at Tell el-Rub'a

Red Granite Naos at Tell el-Rub'a

South of the Late Period temple, the remains of an Old Kingdom Temple have also been unearthed.

While not much else is clearly visible, recent excavations have found a number of New Kingdom monuments built by kings such as Ramesses II, Merenptah and Ramesses III. Some of these monuments may have been relocated here after Pi-Ramesse was abandoned. In addition to temples, Tel er-Rub'a has produced the remains of mortuary, industrial, and residential areas.


References:

Title

Author

Date

Publisher

Reference Number

Atlas of Ancient Egypt

Baines, John; Malek, Jaromir

1980

Les Livres De France

None Stated

Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt, The

Wilkinson, Richard H.

2000

Thames and Hudson, Ltd

ISBN 0-500-05100-3

Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The

Shaw, Ian

2000

Oxford University Press

ISBN 0-19-815034-2

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Last Updated: June 9th, 2011

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