The Remains of Ancient Tell Edfu


Today’s Edfu, the Egyptian city on the west bank of the Nile, was once known as Tell Edfu, the capital of the 2nd Upper Egyptian province. As one of the most well-preserved ancient towns in Egypt that can boast of nearly 3000 years of ancient Egyptian history preserved at a single site, Edfu is known for the Ptolemaic Temple of Horus and its surrounding historic settlements. The continuous occupation of the land over several eras led to the constant build-up of foundation layers of considerable height, creating an artificial mound, or a Tell.

The Ancient Town

Located on the west bank of the River Nile between Esna and Aswan, the remains of the ancient settlement of Edfu contain extensive evidence of Egyptian history and attracts a lot of people with archaeological interest. Although most parts of the settlement now display severe signs of erosion, thankfully enough is preserved to obtain information from the Predynastic Period. The remains also display how the town of Tell Edfu developed from the end of the Old Kingdom until the Byzantine period into a provincial town. Around 3400 BCE, it flourished and doubled in size and played a crucial role in the region during the First Intermediate Period.

The Ptolemaic Temple of Horus

The Ptolemaic temple was built between 237 BCE to 57 BCE, during the reign of Cleopatra VII. Compared to all the temple remains in Egypt, the Temple of Horus at Edfu is the most completely preserved. With an orientation of east to west and facing towards the river, the huge Ptolemaic temple was built from sandstone blocks and constructed over the site of a smaller New Kingdom temple. The Ptolemaic temple dedicated to the falcon god Horus was the center of several sacred festivals. Inscriptions on the temple walls provide valuable information on the language, myth, and religion during the Greco-Roman period in ancient Egypt.

The Pyramid Ruins

Situated about 5 km north of Edfu are the ruins of seven ancient pyramids, dating back about 4,600 years. Built from rough reddish sandstone blocks and clay mortar, that rise vertically, on top of each other, the monument took the form of a three-step pyramid. Though the purpose of the pyramids is a mystery, chances are they represented symbolic monuments dedicated to the followers of the king in the southern provinces. The step pyramid today is only about 16 feet tall but once stood as high as 43 feet and was one of seven so-called “provincial” pyramids built by either the pharaoh Huni or Snefru.

Till date, there are no records of larger remains dating earlier than the 5th Dynasty if compared to the ones at Edfu, where some areas contain complete archaeological series of rule dating from the Old Kingdom until the Greco-Roman period.

Author Bio : The author is a long-time writer and has a keen fascination towards the rise and fall of ancient civilizations. The Temple of Horus and the ancient ruins at Edfu have been his latest interest.


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