Gebelein Archaeological Project
Type of site:
Settlement, defensive site, burial site, place of raw material acquisition and processing, cult places, remains of communication routes
Egypt, Gebelein microregion
Upper Paleolithic – Middle Ages (30th millennium BC – 12th century AD)
Most interesting finds:
– Tombs of dignitaries from the Old Kingdom and the First Intermediate Period
– The oldest prayers in the temple area known from Egypt
– Reliefs in the chapel of Hathor
– Rock inscription with the name of Ramesses IV
– Prehistoric petroglyphs
History of research:
Dates of PCMA mission’s work:
Type of research:
Excavations, survey, epigraphic studies, conservation work
– Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw
– Macquarie University
– Tokyo Metropolitan University
– Ministry of State of Antiquities of Egypt
Many of the artifacts found in Gebelein can be now seen in museum collections all over the world. Their interpretation suggests that the microregion played an important role in the history of ancient Egypt.
Description of the site and research:
The name Gebelein (“two rocky hills” in Arabic) derives from the characteristic element of the landscape of this microregion, located about 28 km south-west of Luxor. Its ancient name, Inerti, has exactly the same meaning. There are over a dozen archaeological sites in the area of Gebelein, dating from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages. These include, among others, the remains of two cities, Per-Hathor and Sumenu (in the Greco-Roman period called Pathyris and Crocodilopolis, respectively), four cemeteries, rock-cut sanctuaries, two concentrations of petroglyphs, limestone quarries, and flint mines.
Before the Pharaonic era, the capital of one of the proto-states was established in the Gebelein microregion. A capital of a nome (territorial division) could have functioned here for some time in the 3rd millennium BC. It was certainly the case in the 2nd century BC. In the 6th century AD, the king of the Blemmyes who controlled the area, which was formally under Byzantine rule, had his residence here. The mausolea of the local elite are dated to the reign of the Fatimid dynasty (909–1171).
One of the results of the conducted research was the discovery of numerous petroglyphs dating from prehistoric times to the second half of the 2nd millennium BC. The rock inscription with the name of Ramesses IV and the concentration of graffiti near the Hathor temple are especially worth mentioning. The latter are the oldest Egyptian prayers known from a temple area. They were carved between about 1770 and 1490 BC. A chapel was cut into the rock a dozen meters below these inscriptions. The reliefs dated to the reign of queen Hatshepsut (about 1478–1458 BC) discovered inside underwent conservation. The most recent discovery made by the project’s team is a necropolis of monumental rock-cut tombs from the end of the 3rd millennium BC.
The project also involves the study of the archival documentation of former missions. The topography of Pathyris, i.e., the extent of the area belonging to the Hathor temple and the layout of the streets, was identified in this way. It was also possible to determine where the tombs of the local elite, including priests of Hathor and commanders of a local military unit, were located in the Northern Necropolis.
Gebelein is an important site because of the role it played during the origins of the Pharaonic state, its later administrative function and the fact that the Blemmyan kings had their residence there at the end of antiquity. Original artistic traditions were created here. It is, moreover, full of monuments which have not yet been studied and which may expand our knowledge about the history of ancient Egypt.
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Ejsmond, W., Wieczorek, D.F., and Wieczorek, A. (2018). Gebelein Archaeological Project 2018: Temple and fortress area on the Eastern Mountain. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 27/1, 235–244.
Ejsmond, W. (2018). Natural Pyramids of Ancient Egypt: From emulations of monarchs to royal burials. Ägypten und Levante, 28, 169–180
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Ejsmond, W. (2017). The Nubian mercenaries of Gebelein during the First Intermediate Period in light of recent field research. Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections, 14, 11–13.
Ejsmond, W. (2017). Gebelein Archaeological Project 2013-2016. In M.C. Guidotti, V. Rosati, Proceedings of the XI International Congress of Egyptologists, Florence, Italy 23–30 August 2015 (pp. 182–185). Oxford: Archaeopress.
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Takács, D., Ejsmond, W., Chyla, J.M., and Witkowski, P. (2016). An erased queen in the Hathor temple at Gebelein. Egyptian Archaeology, 48, 42–45.
Witkowski, P., Chyla J.M., and Ejsmond W. (2016). Combination of RTI and Decorrelation – an Approach to the Examination of Badly Preserved Rock Inscriptions and Rock Art at Gebelein (Egypt). In S. Campana, R. Scopigno, G. Carpentiero, M. Cirillo (eds), CAA 2015. Keep the Revolution Going. Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Conference on Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (pp. 939–944). Oxford: Archaeopress.
Takács, D., Ejsmond, W., Chyla, J.M., and Witkowski, P. (2015). Hatshepsut’s Speos at Gebelein – Preliminary conclusions on the unpublished temple. Göttinger Miszellen – Beiträge zur ägyptologischen Diskussion, 247, 117–120.
Wieczorek, D.F. (2015). A rock inscription of Ramesses IV at Gebelein. A previously unknown New Kingdom expedition. Études et Travaux, 28, 217–229.
Ejsmond, W., Chyla J.M., and Baka, C. (2015). Report from Field Reconnaissance at Gebelein, Khozamand el-Rizeiqat. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 24, 265–274.
Ejsmond, W. (2015). Signs in Stones. Archaeological research at Gebelein. Egyptian Archaeology, 47, 7–8.
Ejsmond, W. (2015). Burial of a local ruler at Gebelein? An Interpretation of a Group of Predynastic Artefacts Purchased by J.E. Quibell in 1900. Gottinger Miszellen – Beiträge zur ägyptologischen Diskussion, 244, 39–50.
Ejsmond, W., Chyla, J.M., Witkowski, P., Wieczorek, D.F, Takács, D., Ożarek-Szilke, M., and Ordutowski, M.J. (2015). Comprehensive Field Survey of Gebelein – Preliminary Results of a New Method in Processing Data for Archaeological Sites’ Analysis. Archaeologia Polona, 53, 617–621.
Takács, D., Ejsmond, W., Chyla, J.M., and Witkowski, P. (2015). Hatshepsut’s speos at Gebelein – Preliminary conclusions on the unpublished temple. Göttinger Miszellen – Beiträge zur ägyptologischen Diskussion, 247, 117–120.