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

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

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Monroe Edgar

This is the continuation of Part III in this series examining minor ruins of temples and other monuments in the Nile Delta. Part IV is the final in this series, and covers Tell el-Retaba, Saft el-Hinna, Samannud (Sebennytos) and Tell el-Yahudiya. 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 II of the series.For information on Tell el-Muqdam, Tell el-Qirqafa and Tell el-Rub'a, see Part III of this series.

Tell el-Retaba

Tell el-Retaba is the site of a fortified military fortress used to guard the Wadi Tumilat approach to the Delta during Ramessid times. It is located about 14 kilometers (8.75 miles) west of Tell el-Maskhuta in the Nile Delta. Along with the fortification, there is also a temple of Atum that also dated from the Ramessid period.

Saft el-Hinna (Saft el-Henna)

A bronze statue of the God Sopdu

Headless statue of Nactanebo I

Right: Headless statue of Nactanebo I; Left: A bronze statue of the God Sopdu

Just to the southeast of the modern city of Zagazig in the Nile Delta is the site of an ancient provincial capital named Per-Sopdu (The House of Sopdu). Sopdu, sometimes referred to as Sopedu, Soped, or Sopedu-Horus, was a falcon style god who came to be very revered in the eastern region as a warrior god and protector of the eastern frontier. He was often represented either as a crouching falcon or as a bearded man wearing a Shesmet girdle and a headdress of two falcon feathers, often carrying a scepter, a battle-axe and an Ankh sign. Here, in 1885, Edouard Naville discovered the enclosure walls of a temple dedicated to that god, measuring 75 x 40 meters (246 x 131 ft). Inside the enclosure wall he discovered a Late Period granite naos of Sopdu built by Nactanebo I. Little of the artifacts discovered in the area predate the reign of Ramesses II.

Samannud (Sebennytos)

The Archaeological Ruins of Samannud (Sebennytos)

Located on the Damietta branch of the Nile in the Egyptian Delta, the modern town of Samannud, a cotton marketing center, is just east of el-Mahalla el-Kubra, and is the site of ancient Tjebnutjer (coptic Djebenoute or Djemnouti), which the Greeks called Sebennytos. It was the capital of Egypt's 12th Lower nome. Manetho, perhaps the greatest of the native Egyptian historians, was from this region, and claims that Tjebnutjer was the home of the 30th Dynasty kings. There are remains, though mostly only a mound, of a temple dedicated to the local god, Onuris-Shu (Anhur-Shu) who was a hunter and sky-god. It was probably at this temple that Manetho served as a priest. It is located on the western side of the modern town. There are scattered granite blocks from the site inscribed with the names of Nectanebo II, Alexander IV, Philip Arrhidaeus and Ptolemy II, with none of the inscriptions appearing to predate the 30th Dynasty. Some items found here are said to have come from neighboring towns, including an Old Kingdom false door, an altar of Amenemhet I, a statue dated to Psammetichus I, a fragment of a shrine of Nepherites and a sculpture dating to the reign of Nactanebo I.

Offer bearers from Nectanebo II present gifts to Onuris-Shu

Offer bearers from Nectanebo II present gifts to Onuris-Shu
From the Temple at Sebenmytos

It should also be noted that today, the area is well known as a part of the route of the Holy Family when they were in Egypt.

Tell el-Yahudiya (Leontopolis)

Ground Plan of the Temple of Ramesses II and the Town and Temple of Osiris at Tell el-Yahudiya (Leontopolis)

Tell el-Yahudiya, also known as "Mound of the Jews, is located only about 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) northeast of Cairo on the Ismailiya road. This is the site of ancient Nay-ta-hut, which dates from at least as early as the Middle Kingdom. Here we find a huge earthen enclosure wall measuring some 515 x 490 meters (1,689 x 1607 ft), that was excavated by Petrie between about 1905 and 1906. This structure that dates from either the Middle Kingdom or the Second Intermediate Period is traditionally thought to be a military enclosure, but could possibly have had a religious purpose, or served as a perimeter wall for both military and religious structures. There are no other good Egyptian parallels for such a massive defensive enclosure wall such as this. The walls are plastered over and have sloping outside facades and that are almost vertical on the interior.

A Polychrome faience tile with a depiction of a captive Libyan, one of the traditional enemies of Egypt.

In the western part of the enclosure wall there was a temple and/or palace of Ramesses III, and colossal statues of Ramesses II found in the northern part of the enclosure suggest that ruler may also have had a cult temple here. In the structure associated with Ramesses III, early scholars discovered enameled tiles imprinted on their back side with Greek letters, with some also bearing the name of Ramesses III. They were decorated with rosettes, rekhyt birds symbolic of the king's subjects, and foreign captives.

Right: a Polychrome faience tile with a depiction of a captive Libyan, one of the traditional enemies of Egypt.

This site is especially noted for a type of pottery dating to the Hyksos period and the Middle Kingdom. It is characterized by a type of juglet, named after the site, and found as far away as Syprus, Syria/Palestine and in the ancient Nubian towns of Buhen and Aniba. Known as Tell el-Yahudiya ware, the juglets were made in a distinctive black fired material which was often decorated with incised zigzag designs filled with white pigment.

Outside the enclosure wall to the northeast are also the remains of a temple that Ptolemy VI allowed Onias, an exiled Jewish priest, to build. Here, Onias established a small Jewish settlement that flourished between the early 2nd Century BC and the 1st Century AD. Vespasian had the temple enclosed when, in 71 AD, the Jews in Jerusalem rebelled.


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

Last Updated: June 9th, 2011