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EDFU, EGYPT

Edfu is an Egyptian city, located on the west bank of the Nile River between Esna and Aswan, with a population of approximately sixty thousand people. For the ancient history of the city, see below. Edfu is the site of the Ptolemaic Temple of Horus and an ancient settlement, Tell Edfu . About 5 km (3 miles) north of Edfu are remains of ancient pyramids.

The remains of the ancient settlement of Edfu are situated about 50m to the west of the Ptolemaic temple - To the left of the older temple Pylon. This settlement is known as Wetjeset-hor and the Latin name was Apollinopolis Magna. According to Notitia Dignitatum, part of Legio II Traiana Fortis was camped in Apollo superior, which was the Roman name for the town.

Although unassuming and unglamorous to the visiting tourists, Tell Edfu is a monument that contains evidence of more Egyptian history and is of more archaeological interest than the Ptolemaic temple. Although major parts of the settlement show severe signs of erosion, cut away or have been exposed during sebakh-digging, enough is preserved to gain information from as far back as the Predynastic Period. The remains of the settlement (tell) provides an insight into the development of Edfu as a provincial town from the end of the Old Kingdom until the Byzantine period. The settlement at Edfu was the capital of the Second Upper Egypt nome, and played an important role within the region. The oldest part of the town which can be dated to the late Old Kingdom lies on the eastern part of the tell, not far from the Ptolemaic temple. There is evidence that the town flourished during the First Intermediate Period when it expanded extensively to the west. Interestingly, it is one of few settlements in southern Egypt that thrived when it seems that the north, especially around the delta, was in economic decline.

Today, the Tell Edfu monument is preserved in some areas up to 20m high and contains complete archaeological sequences of occupation dating to the Old Kingdom until the Graeco-Roman period, more than 3000 years of history, therefore providing ideal conditions to study the development of a provincial town. A central part of the site was explored by Henri Henne from the Institute for Egyptology in Lille in 1921 and 1922. His team identified the remains of a small sanctuary from the Late or Ptolemaic period, possibly the Osiris chapel built by Psamtek I. Henne was followed by Octave Guéraud in 1928 then y Maurice Alliot in 1931 who each explored and excavated different aspects of the settlement remains. The top layers of the settlement containing the Byzantine, Roman and Ptolemaic remains and the Old and Middle Kingdom cemetery at the southern western corner were recorded by a Franco-Polish mission in the late 1930s, directed by Kazimierz Michałowski and B. Bruyère and Bernard Mathieu. Three elaborate reports on the archaeology of Tell Edfu were only partially published by the Franco-Polish mission. In 1954, a second Polish mission headed by Maria Ludwika Bernhard also explored the settlement. Unfortunately, since the mid 1950s no new detailed discoveries or thorough research has been completed at the tell except for recent work done by Barry Kemp, from the University of Cambridge, and by PhD students.

No larger remains dating earlier than the 5th Dynasty have been found at Edfu. The ancient cemetery comprised mastabas of the Old Kingdom as well as later tombs. Before the beginning of the New Kingdom, the necropolis was transferred to Hager Edfu, to the west and then in the Late period to the south at Nag’ el-Hassaya. The entire area was called Behedet. The god Horus was herein worshipped as Horus Behedet.

One of these mastabas belonged to Isi, a local administrator, who, it was quoted was the "great chief of the Nome of Edfu" in the Sixth Dynasty. Isi lived during the reign of King Djedkare Isesi of the Fifth and into the reign of Pepi I of the Sixth Dynasties. He was an administrator, judge, chief of the royal archives and a "Great One among the Tens of the South". Isi later became a living god and was so worshipped during the Middle Kingdom. As the Sixth Dynasty and the Old Kingdom drew to a close, local regional governors and administrative nobles took on a larger power in their areas, away from the royal central authority.
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September 2001

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