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The mountain settlement at Tuna el-Gebel

  • Sub-project Director: Dr. Daniela Rosenow
  • Project Director: Dr. des. Mélanie Flossmann-Schütze
  • Head of the Joint Mission Cairo-Munich at Tuna el-Gebel: Prof. Dr. Salah el-Kholi
  • Sponsor: The Egypt Exploration Society Fieldwork & Research Award 2016-17

The new project "The mountain settlement at Tuna el-Gebel" under the direction of Daniela Rosenow represents a distinct research within the auspices of the ongoing Joint Mission of the Universities of Cairo and Munich at Tuna el-Gebel, headed by Salah el-Kholi and Mélanie Flossmann-Schütze. (Tuna el-Gebel-Website)

Tuna el-Gebel was amongst others the ancient necropolis of Hermopolis Magna, the capital of the 15th Upper Egyptian nome and main cult centre of the god Thoth. Apart from a vast human and animal necropolis area, the site features three settlements zones. Two of them are currently investigated by Mélanie Flossmann-Schütze (see below) while the new project "The mountain settlement at Tuna el-Gebel" seeks to contextualise the (third) mountain settlement of Tuna featuring an enigmatic stone building, surrounding mudbrick structures (houses and granaries), a nearby quarry and staircase leading downhill to the animal necropolis. These were first recorded by Richard Lepsius (1843) and Paul Timme (1911/12); thereafter Sami Gabra, Cairo University, (1942-44) cleaned the site, excavated partly some mudbrick structures and interpreted the stone building as a temple associated with the cult of the sun - as it is placed exactly on top of the so-called unfinished boundary stele of Amarna - and the associated mudbrick buildings as belonging to the first Copts that settled in Tuna el-Gebel. Further below, limestone quarries have been discovered and investigated by Rosemarie Klemm and Dietrich Klemm (2008) who dated them into the Greco-Roman period.

A first survey conducted in 2005 by Dieter Kessler for the Joint Mission Cairo-Munich resulted in a preliminary plan of the main building and a first sketch map of the surrounding brick houses. The limestone building (18.3 x 7.5 m) has a rectangular ground plan and includes four columns. Directly to the west a kind of platform is attached to the edifice. The discovery of a small limestone basin seems to hint at a cultic function of the structure although its nature cannot be established with any certainty at present. Dieter Kessler believed the mountain settlement to be a military camp ("halbmilitaerische Anlage mit sakralem Charakter") dating to Late Roman times. Small finds collected during the 2005 survey included Ptolemaic and Roman coins, a fragmentary Bes statuette, a papyrus fragment with Greek inscription and a Greek ostracon. Ceramics surveyed in 2013 proved to predominantly date to the Roman period (1st - 5th century AD). By surveying the site and undertaking targeted excavations the project will clarify the nature of this settlement hoping to contribute to the reconstruction of the wider cultic landscape of Tuna el-Gebel.

This project conducted by Daniela Rosenow will complement the wider research activities entitled "Living experience of a religious community in Greco-Roman Egypt exemplified by Tuna el-Gebel" based at the "Distant Worlds" Graduate School of LMU Munich and directed by Mélanie Flossmann-Schütze. The latter investigates two of the settlements of Tuna el-Gebel (Kom el-Loli and Kom el-Ahmar) that are spatially and ritually connected to the animal necropolis, with excavations currently conducted by the Tuna el-Gebel Project at the settlement of Kom el-Loli.

Bibliography:

  • Paul Timme, Tell el-Amarna vor der deutschen Ausgrabung im Jahre 1911, Leipzig 1917, 56–60
  • Richard Lepsius, Denkmäler, Textband II, 115
  • Sami Gabra, Touna el-Gebel – Hermopolis Ouest. Campagne de 1943-1944, CdE 1945, 97–98
  • Dieter Kessler, Tuna el-Gebel field campaign spring 2005 - a short report (unpublished)
  • Dieter Kessler, Tuna el-Gebel 2004–2005, Sokar 11, 2005, 64
  • Rosemarie and Dietrich Klemm, Stones and Quarries in Ancient Egypt, London 2008, 94–96
  • Dieter Kessler, Die Oberbauten des Ibiotapheion von Tuna el-Gebel. Die Nachgrabungen der Joint Mission der Universitäten Kairo und München 1989 – 1996, Tuna el-Gebel 3, Haar bei München 2011, 9–10, Taf. 5, 6, 10
  • Mélanie Flossmann-Schütze, Ferne und neue Welten. Aktuelle Forschungen der "joint-mission Cairo-Munich" in Tuna el-Gebel, Sokar 31, 2015, 71