Friday,15 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1278, (14 - 20 January 2016)
Friday,15 December, 2017
Issue 1278, (14 - 20 January 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Twin discoveries

Geological evidence of the San Turin volcano in Qantara was discovered this week, along with six rock-hewn figures in niches in Aswan, reports Nevine El-Aref

Twin discoveries
Twin discoveries
Al-Ahram Weekly

Two important discoveries took place in Egypt this week, with geological evidence of the San Turin volcano in Qantara suggesting a determinate date for the Tel Al-Dafna archaeological site and two niches with six rock-hewn figures in high relief found near Aswan adding to knowledge of ancient Egyptian religious practices.
The Qantara discovery was made by accident by an Egyptian archaeological mission led by Egyptologist Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud during excavation work at the Tel Al-Dafna archaeological site at Qantara West in Ismailiya, 11 km west of the Suez Canal.

The San Turin volcano, which erupted in antiquity, is considered to be the first major destructive phenomenon known to have occurred in the region.
Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty described the discovery of lava from the volcano as “very important” because it will help in uncovering more of the history of the Tel Al-Dafna site. The oldest archaeological evidence discovered in Tel Al-Dafna dates back to the ancient Egyptian 26th Dynasty, and the lava remains are considerably older.

Abdel-Maqsoud told Al-Ahram Weekly that the mission has also uncovered part of a fortified area surrounded with mud and brick walls that was used to protect the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Psamtik I’s citadel from floods. The citadel was built to protect the country’s eastern borders from invasion. Its fortifications originally housed a collection of fortified residential houses.

Psamtik I also built two other forts, one in the Marya area of the north coast to protect the country from Libyan invasion, and the other on Elephantine Island in Aswan to repel the Ethiopian threat.

Abdel-Maqsoud said a collection of mastaba remains, the ruins of workshops, furnaces used to smelt metals, and ovens for baking bread were also found. A collection of fish and crocodile fossils was also unearthed.
Mahmoud Afifi, the head of the Ancient Egyptian Department at the ministry, said that excavation work at the Tel Al-Dafna site is being carried out by the Antiquities Ministry in collaboration with the housing and defence ministries, as well as the Sinai Construction Authority, within the framework of the development of archaeological sites along the 30 June Corridor.

This section of the Tel Al-Dafna excavation work is in its third phase, he said. Another area, 2,300 metres long and 100 metres wide, has also been excavated but no archaeological evidence was found.

The Tel Al-Dafna site, one of five selected on Egypt’s eastern borders to be developed for Egypt’s military history panorama, is part of the development of archaeological sites along the Suez Canal. The other sites are Tel Habwa, Tel Abu Saify, Pelusium and Tel Al-Maskhouta.

The second discovery was in the Gebel Al-Silsila area in Aswan and was made by a Swedish archaeological mission from Lund University. During its excavations, inside two New Kingdom shrines called Chapel 30 and Chapel 31, the mission stumbled upon two niches with six rock-hewn figures in high relief.

Eldamaty described the discovery as “unexpected” as the Gebel Al-Silsila area has been covered with sand and rock since it was hit by an earthquake in antiquity. Erosion has also impacted the area and its monuments.

He said the rock-hewn figures were discovered despite Argentine Egyptologist Ricardo Caminos having earlier described Chapel 30 as having been “completely destroyed.”

Mission excavation co-director John Ward said that the first niche was found at the back of Chapel 30 and bears two figures depicting the chapel’s owner and his wife sitting on a chair. The man is wearing a shoulder-length wig and is in the Osirian posture, with his arms crossed on the chest. The woman is shown with her left arm resting on the shoulder of her husband, while her right hand is held against her chest.

The second niche was found in Chapel 31 and includes four figures. The first depicts the owner of the chapel, Neferkhewe, who had the title of “overseer of foreign lands” during the reign of the pharaoh Tuthmose III.

The second figure is of his wife Ruwisti, while the third and fourth are of his son and daughter. The Swedish mission has been working in Gebel Al-Silsila’s 32 chapels since 2012. The best preserved is Chapel 31, which retains its full set of architectural elements.

Gebel Al-Silsila (Chain of Mountains) was known in ancient times as Kheny, meaning “palace of rowing,” and it extends from Kom Ombo to Edfu where the Nile narrows and high sandstone cliffs come down to the water’s edge.

The area was used as a quarry site from at least the 18th Dynasty up to the Graeco-Roman era.

The ancient Egyptians carved small shrines into the cliffs, dedicating them to a variety of Nile deities and to the river itself. Smaller shrines were cut by the pharaohs Thutmose I, Hatshepsut and Thutmose III, while Horemheb constructed a rock-cut temple where many kings of the 19th Dynasty and later left their mark.

Gebel Al-Silsila became an important cult centre, and each year at the beginning of the season of inundation offerings and sacrifices were made to the gods associated with the Nile to ensure the country’s wellbeing for the coming year.

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