News and Views From Egypt: March 2001 Slide Lectures

For our March presentation we had three speakers sharing their views of ancient Egypt. Al Berens, the Northrn California Chapter Newsletter Editor; Glenn Meyer, ARCE/NC member and our liaison to Ancient Egypt on the internet; and Dr. Candy Keller, Assistant Professor in the Near Eastern Studies Department at the University of California at Berkeley.

Two Temples of Montu: Medamud and El Tod - Al Berens
Two sites often neglected by visitors to Luxor are temple complexes located 5 miles northeast and 12.5 miles southeast of Luxor off the main highway running along the Nile. Both sites are now entered from the rear of their respective complexes. To get a clear picture of both sites, the modern tourist must start at the back of the sites and move forward toward the entrance. The original quays were built to abutt canals on the western side of the old mudbrick enclosures. Medamud is approximately 300 meters by 100 meters bounded by the village on the north and fields on the south, while the site at El Tod is approximately 200 meters by 100 meters in size.

Medamud to the north of Luxor (known as Madu in ancient times) is off the main road through a sea of sugar cane. Al had read about the site in the Blue Guide to Egypt  but it was his waiter at the ETAP who lived in the village there who convinced him to make the journey. Most of what remains is Ptolemaic and Roman, but a lintel of Rameses III and the lower portion of a seated statue of Senusert I lie in the yard next to the temple. Other blocks there of New Kingdom date are not part of the earlier temple, but are in fact (according to Dr. William Murnane), blocks imported from Thebes for use by the Graeco-Roman builders of the late period temple at the site including some stones from the Temple of the Divine Adoratrices of Amun from North Karnak. In ancient times the site ws reached via a canal from the Nile. A quay is still in situ on the east side of the late period temple. The Graeco-Roman remains are dedicated to the triad Montu, his consort Raettawy (the female counterpart of Re who is depicted like Hathor as a cow with a sun disk upon her head) and their son Harpocrates (Horus the child). The temple is enclosed by a wall built by Tiberius and fronted by three kiosks erected by Ptolemy Xii forming a triple portal leading into a courtyard built by Antonius Pius. All that remains intact are a few columns of the peristyle court. The builders of Graeco-Roman times were careful to preserve a granite doorway constructed by Amenhotep II. Little remains of the main sanctuary but to the rear of the main temple is the sanctuary of the Sacred Bull of Montu where a relief of the king worshipping the living image of the god still exists. Oracles were delivered near this spot. Inscriptional material from the walls of the main temple show that these were embellished by the emperors Domitian and Trajan.

El Tod (known as Djerty in ancient times, Tuphium to the Graeco-Romans) is found on the main road 12.5 miles southeast of Luxor.  It is visited by bus tours that go down to Esna. It is known to have had a mudbrick temple erected in the fifth dynasty. It was the site of a local cult of Montu from Middle Kingdom times. Blocks from the time of Userkaf (part of a chapel) can be seen in the open air magazine running along the entrance to the site. The Cairo museum contains the treasure of Tod, many gold, silver, and lapis lazuli items of foreign manufacture indicating trade with Mesopotamia and the Aegean in the Middle Kingdom found by the French archaeologist F. Bisson de la Roque under the floor of the Middle Kingdom temple. What survives in situ at Tod is mostly New Kingdom and later. A partially preserved barque shrine dating from Tutmose III and restored by Amenhotep II, Seti I, Amenmesse, Rameses III and Rameses IV stands before the small temple. The elegant raised relief of Middle Kingdom and early New Kingdom blocks contrasts sharply with the deep sunk reliefs of Rameses III. Work was begun on a restoration of the temple by Hakoris and Nectanabo I (blocks are found in the open air storerooms) and continued in two phases under the Ptolemies. The Pronaos was constructed under Ptolemy III. The main temple was built by Ptolemy VIII. This temple was built in front of and connected to an earlier structure of Senusert I of which only the front wall still remains. Later Ptolemeic inscriptions are carved into the wall inscriptions of Senusert’s temple. A small Roman kiosk was added before parts of the site were converted for use as Coptic churches. The local mosque overlooks the site, built above the mudbrick enclosure wall.

Favorite Slides of Egypt - Glenn Meyer
An accomplished photographer, Glenn shared about two dozen of his favorite slides from various trips to Egypt. Among the highlights were a fine colossal alabaster statue of Amenirdis, the sister of Piankhy and the Nubian appointee to the position of Divine Adoratrice of Amun.  The windows of the Cairo Museum in late afternoon color the statue a rose color as the sun sets. Another fine slide of a hound  which was found nose to nose with a mummified monkey in KV 50 by Edward R. Aryton for Theodore Davies in 1905, associated with the burial of Amnenhotep II. Glenn also shared with us vistas of modern Cairo in daylight, sunset, and the gaudy lights of nighttime.

Other notable views included those of the Nubian temples saved from the rising Lake Nasser and the subject of Dr. Keller’s talk. Glenn combs the internet for news of what’s happening in Egypt and he mentioned the plans for a new laser sound and light show planned for Abu Simbel which will break the peace of the solemn silence found in his slide of the temple illuminated only by newly installed lights at the site but will bring in much needed tourist revenues to Egypt. He had a magnificent slide of the first hall of Osirid statues of Rameses II at Abu Simbel shot with a 24 mm lens.

One of the more amusing slides was of an Egyptian standing in front of the toilets at Abydos holding a sign which read “Toilets” and a roll of toilet paper in the other outstreched hand. Anyone who has recently waited at Dendera for hours waiting for a clearance to proceed to Abydos could appreciate the meaning of this scene.

Another piece of news has been the discussions by Farouk El Baz and others in KMT and Archaeology magaines of the pyramid form being influenced by natural hills in the Western Desert near quarries for statuary quality stone. Glenn showed several more examples, including some found very close to the Nile south of Aswan which would have been seen even more frequently. One great shot shows the sun rising along the edge of one mountain looking like sunrise at Giza.

Glenn also shared some views of the Sinai, including a sunrise view of St. Catherine’s mountain, named for the early Christian Egyptian saint. Sharing the circumstances of the taking of the shot, Glenn remarked that he was surrounded by a horde of hymn singing German tourists, which belied the peacefulness of the slide.

The Temples of Lake Nasser - Dr. Candy Keller
Dr. Keller shared some of her slides from her recent Bear Treks tour of the saved Nubian temples found at various locations along Lake Nasser and visited by the new cruise boats which ply the lake. She remarked that the number of boats making these cruises will double.

The first slides were of the temples between the old dam and High Dam, and which can be visited by tourists without taking the cruise on Lake Nasser, Philae. Dedicated to Isis, these were the last temples to be closed in the Byzantine era. The Temple of Hathor and the Kiosk of Trajan on Philae, which are so photogenic, were among her first slides. Kalabsha is set on an island just south of the High Dam and can be reached by boat from the lakebank opposite the island. There are really three temples here: Kalabsha, Beit el-Wali and Kertassi.  Kalabsha is a well preserved temple built during the reign of Augustus and dedicated to the Nubian god Mandulus, depicted a a human headed falcon. An impressive causeway runs from lake level to the temple with a huge quay platform. Views from the roof of the temple are impressive. The temple of Beit el-Wali (the House of the Holy Man) is placed northwest of Kalabasha. Most of the temple is rock cut and built by Rameses II commemorating his victories in Syria and Nubia. The temple of Kertassi is on the south side of Kalabsha. Two Hathor columns and four elaborately capitalled collumns are all that remain of this salvage operation.

As you sail down the lake going south you first arrive at Wadi as-Subua (The Valley of the Lions) which refers to the sphinxes which once lined the avenue leading to the temple.  It was also constructed by Rameses II. Much of the decoration was defaced by Christians. The front is free standing and the rear was rockcut. To the north are the remains of the Temple of Dakka, a Ptolemaic temple originally situated forty miles north of its present location. It was dedicated to Thoth of the Sycamore Fig. A third temple is also sited here, the temple of Mahararqa which once stood fifty miles to the north. It was dedicated to Serapis, but the decoration was never completed.

The next temple is Amada, the oldest of the temples, going back to the 18th dynasty.  Tuthmose III, Amenhotep II, and Thutmose IV contributed to this warehouse looking structure. Seti I restored sections of it.  The fine preservation of the temple is due to Christians plastering over the reliefs. The temple, dedicated to Amun-Re and Re-Harakhty contain an inscription relating the crushing of a Libyan-backed rebellion and the back of temple tells the famous story of Amenhotep II’s wars in Syria and his bringing back the bodies of rebel chieftains to hang on the walls of Thebes and one on the prow of his ship sailing through Nubia as a warning. Nearby is the temple of Derr, also dedicated to Rameses II, worshipped as a living god as he was at Abu Simbel. The tomb of Pennut is also sited here, originally it stood at Aniba. Pennut was administrator in Nubia during the reign of Rameses VI and is shown receiving honors from him in this rockcut tomb. Large sections of wall inscriptions have been cut away.

The last site before Abu Simbel itself is Qasr Ibrim, a mostly flooded site which onced housed as many as six temples and a Roman era fort. It was the last bastion of paganism in Nubia. Tourists could once visit the site, but damage by boats and foottraffic in the mostly mudbrick ruins have led to the Egypt Exploration Society convincing the Antiquities Council to bar tourists from the site. Boats still stop for a look however.

The final site is Abu Simbel where the boats turn about and return to Aswan. Dr. Keller noted that Glenn was correct and additional lights and speakers have already been installed for the Sound and Light Show.

We’d like to thank our spreakers for preparing their slides and information to share with all of us.

  • Al Berens
Contact Information:
ARCE Northern California Chapter
P.O. Box 11352
Berkeley, CA 94712-2352
For further information contact
Joan Knudsen, Program Director

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