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Temple of Khnum in Isna, Egypt


The Temple of Khnum in Isna

See the Feature Article on the Temple of Khnum


The temple, which lies in a pit below the level of the houses in Isna, is dedicated to the god, Khnum. This the ram god that was worshipped through out this area and who fashioned mankind from mud of the Nile on his potter's wheel. He was associated with other gods, including Menhyt (his consort), Nebtu (the goddess of the countryside) and Hka (the manifestation of vital energy).

While all that remains of the temple is the Great Hypostyle Hall, surrounding ruins of the ancient complex and city have yet to be excavated due to the modern housing built on the site. The temple sits atop the ruins of earlier temple(s).

Ptolemy VI originally began this building project, but the Temple of Khnum was a later addition built by the Roman emperor Claudius in the 1st century. The rectangular hall opens to the west. The roof is still intact, supported by 24 columns decorated with a series of text recording hymns to Khnum and relating the annual sacred festivals of Isna with scenes illustrating the surrounding countryside. The sacred festivals are the creation of the universe by Neith, the raising of the sky by Khnum, and his victory over the human rebels. These texts were done between the Graeco-Roman period and the rule of Decius in 250 AD, but were never finished. There are 16 different palm and plant capitals on the columns, still with some good color. Looking up, one might almost feel as though he or she were gazing up in a forest. The columns also record other nearby temples, including one at Kom Mer 7 1/2 miles south of Isna which has been excavated. The west wall of the Temple of Khnum is all that remains of the original Ptolemaic temple and has reliefs of Ptolemy VI and Philometor and Euergetes II.

In the forecourt of the temple are blocks from an early Christian church. Then also is an inscription found on the back of a block from Emperor Decius decreeing that Christians will suffer death if they do not sacrifice to the pagan gods.

See the Feature Article on the Temple of Khnum

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