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Ahnas el Medineh (Heracleopolis Magna) : with chapters on Mendes, the nome of Thoth, and Leontopolis (Volume 11) online

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Nile. There, the lofty date-palms, the mag-
nificent sycamore trees overshadowing the
villages, the splendid gardens where peach and
almond- trees are in full blossom in the month
of March — all these natural beauties attract
the eye of the traveller and bear witness to
the rich fertility of the soil of Egypt. In the
midst of this fine country, about six miles from
Mit Ghamr, rise extensive mounds known as
Tell Mokdam, and covering an area of several
hundred aci'es. In spite of the constant
digging for sebakh, they have not yet been
reduced as much as many others. Patches
which have never been touched tower to a
height of more than sixty feet, and the whole
mound is a labyrinth of hills and valleys
through which it is diificult to find one's way.

Tell Mokdam has been known for many
years. Excavations were made there in Ma-
rietta's time, and the fellaheen digging for
sebakh had come across an old cemetery among
the houses. Two inscribed coffins of late
epoch were found. One of them, a very large
one in black granite, is still on the spot. The
natives also discovered the base of a statue in
black granite, which is now in the Ghizeh
Museum, where it was brought last year by
Count d'Hulst, at the expense of the Fund.

The coffin gives several geographical names,^
but we are uncertain as to the Egyptian nome

' Maiiette, Moii.. pi. Ixiii.

to which they belonged. The place seems to
have been called u\® Aahhennu, and to

have had as divinities Osiris under the form of
a lion, called AriheR, and Amon. The fact of
the lion's being worshipped there gives proba-
bility to the view expressed by several writers
to the effect that we must consider it as being
the site of the Leontopolis of Strabo, the more
so since the Oxford list of bishoprics gives
Saharagt as the Arabic equivalent of the Coptic
names ?\eor(TJort, ts^^luJiiTixJti.^ The present
village of Saharagt el Koubra, on the Damietta
branch of the Nile, about twelve miles from
Benha, is close to Tell Mokdam. It is from
Saharagt that the Tell is best reached, coming
from the south. We do not know with
certainty to which nome this city must be
attributed. It does not seem to have been the
capital of an Egyptian province, though it was
certainly a provincial capital in the time of the
Antonines, since there are nome coins with the
name of Leontopolis.' They bear either a lion
or a man holding a lion in his hand. I agree
with M. J, de Kouge that Leontopolis probably
formed part of the nome of Athribis, now

It is to this city that avc must apply the
information found in Aelianus, as to the worship
of lions in Egypt. He says that " in Egypt
lions are worshipped, and there is a city which
derives its name from that animal . . . the lions
have temples and numerous habitations . . .

2 J. de Rouge, Gi'offr., p. 155.

' Toclion, /.'•., p. 1G9; .1. de Rougi', Monnaii'if,


T.' '^

b -J



every clay meat of oxen is offered to tliem, and
while tliey cat people sing to them in Egyptian."
Tf there were sacred lions at Leontopolis, it is
to be expected that some day, in parts of the
Tell which have not yet been excavated, or at
least somewhere in the neighbonrhood, a
necropolis of those animals will be fonnd.

The attention of Mariette and other Egyp-
tologists was directed to Tell Mokdam chiefly
owing to the discovery made there by the
fellaheen of the base of a statno in black
granite, bearing near the feet the cartouches
of a king who was supposed to be a Ilyksos,
because it was thought that his name began
with the sign of the god Set, the divinity wor-
shipped by the foreign invaders. D(';veria,
Ebers, and others have considered him as being
the Shepherd king called Salatis by the chrono-
graphcrs. This name is not the original one ;
it is not the first engraved upon the statue, it is
that of an usurper. The monument, judging
from the style of the sculpture, must be attri-
buted to the Xllth or the XTIIth Dynasty. It
was left on the spot where it was discovered until
last year, when it was removed to the Museum
at Ghizeh at the same time as two other bases
were sent to Europe. But the cartouches
which were engraved on each side of the feet
have been published by Dcveria ' and by
Mariette.'^ In comparing these two publica-
tions with mine (pi. iv. v,.i B.2), it would seem,
if they are correct, that the monument
had suffered mutilation since it was first
found. All inscription on the left side has

dis.appeared from tlie group ^5^ which pre-
ceded the cartouche ; even the goose ^^ is
gone. We have lost a cartouche which was
quite illegible, and the words ^^37 I c^J J '^ V (](]
trim 7ro7-.s7/v'2).s fjir lord of Arariii. I am rather

* Rei\ Arch., Noiiv. purie, vol. iv., 259.
5 Man. divert, pi. G3. The .sides are inverted in lint!

inclined to think that there may be a mistake in
these publications, and that these words which
were thought to be the end of the left line belong
to the back of ilie statue, where the son of
Ramescs IT., Mercnphthah, engraved a dedica-
tion to Set of Avaris. The monument bears
no traces of recent mutilations. On the
occasions of my two visits to Tell Mokdam, in
1885 when I came to see the place, and in
1892 when I settled there to excavate, the
monument was almost entirely buried in heaps
of potsherds, and I suppose this has been the
case ever since it was discovered. Besides, it
would be extraordinary to find the city of
Avaris, the capital of the Ilyksos, mentioned
in an inscription which is older than the
Shepherd Kings. And after having made
several paper casts of the monument, and
stiidicd it attentively, I found out that the
reading of the name is quite different from
what it was supposed to be. Tlie name reads

thus : "^1 P \\1 Nehasi, the Negro. The mis-
take arose partly from the ' which is behind
the bird ^v\ and which, as the characters are
not veiy distinct, was taken for the tail of Set,
and partly from the two crests on the head
of the bird, which are not unlike the two ears
of the typhonic animal.

The name Nehasi has been found in other
places. In the list of the Turin papyrus it is
borne by a king who belongs to the XlVth
Dynasty, and it was also found at San by Prof.
F. Petrie® as that of a rnijal .sow, tJie firfit-
horn, flui worshipper of Set the lord of Roahtu

\l\[\' It is natural to think that the three
names refer to the same man,^ that the royal
son of San, the negro who raised buildings

'■' Tunis, i., pi. iii.

' It i.s remarkable that in the Turin papyrus, and on the
stone at San, we find the unusual .spelling noticed here,



to Set, was afterwards the kiug of Tell
Mokdara who worshipped the same god ; and
as he was the first-born of the royal faraily, it
is clear that he came to the throne by inherit-
ance as legitimate king, and not by right of
conquest. I have dwelt elsewhere** on the
conclusions which may be deduced from this
fact. If we consider what was the history of
the Xllth Dynasty, and also tliat of the Xllltli,
as far as we know anything of tke reigns of
the Sebekhoteps and Nefcrhoteps, there is no
doubt that most of their campaigns were
directed against the Nubians and the Ethio-
pians. The negroes and the peoples of the
Upper Nile must have been more formidable
enemies than we supposed, otherwise it would
not have been necessary to make war so con-
stantly against them, and to erect those
fortifications which may be seen to the
present day, in places like Semneh. There
would be nothing strange if in those troubled,
times, the history of w^hich is so obscure, Egypt
had been for a time under the rule of Ethiopian
negroes. This view would asxrce with the
tradition recorded by Herodotus," who says
that between Menes and Mocris, who dug the
lake bearing his name, there reigned three
himdred and thirty monarchs, whose names the
priests read to him from a papyrus, and that
among them thei'e were eighteen Ethiopians.
However unreliable we may think the figures of
Herodotus, it is curious that the number of
Ethiopian kings should have been so large ; and
it is quite possible that there may have been
negro kings like Nehasi, of whose existence we
were ignorant, especially as they are not likely
to have raised many monuments, or to have left
extensive and faithful records of their reigns.
It would be extraordinary that a king of the
XlVth Dynasty should call himself a negro, if
he did not belong to the Ethiopian race.

' Transactions of the IXth Cong, of Orientalists. Hecueil
de travaux, vol. xv., p. 97.
9 Lib. ii., cap. 100.

The site of the temple atTellMokdam is clearly
discernible on the eastern side of the tell. It is
now a cornfield. I dug several trenches there,
but they yielded no results beyond a few frag-
ments of limestone, showing that the temple
ruins had shared the fate of those at Baklieh,
and of most of the sites of ancient cities in the
Delta. There could not have been much
granite in the building, as that woidd have
been at least partially pi'cscrved.

On the north side, at the end of the mound,
towards M\t Ghamr, in dio-o-ino: for sebakh,
the fellaheen had discovered, shortly before I
arrived, the base of a statue in i-ed limestone,
which they immediately broke in two. I dug
in the same place, and found remains of
statues of Rameses II. and Osorkon IT. in red
granite, and another base, also in hard red
limestone. The two monuments in limestone
have been brought to England ; one of them is
now in the British Museum. They both consist
of the lower parts of sitting statues of Usei'teseu
ITT., one of the greatest kings of the Xllth
Dynasty. Their workmanship is remarkably
good, the hieroglyphs are beautifully cut, and
the little that remains of the female figures
represented as standing ou each side of the
throne, against the legs of the king, shows
that both statues must have been of groat
beauty. This only increases our regret that
such fine works of art should have suffered
most wanton mutilation. One of the seated
figures is of natural, and the other of heroic size
(pi. xii. c). The smaller one has been usurped
by an oiEcer of Osorkon IT., while the larger
one bears the name of Usertesen III. only.

An examination of these statues indicates
that they were made for the temple which
stood at Tell Mokdam. The king is said to be
a worshipper of Osiris, who, as we know from
the inscription on the sarcophagus, was the
local deity of the place, and there assumed the
form of a lion. Moreover, in front of the feet
of one of the bases stood the name of a srod


wliieli lias been destroyed, but whicli liad for
determinative a lion-headed figure. The name
of Osiris is on the lielt of tlie larger statne,
followed by a geographical name which J could
not make out (pi. iv. a). It is remarkable how
many statues and monuments of the Xllth
Dynasty have been discovered in the course of
excavations in the Delta, especially on the eastern
border. Tanis, Nebesheh, Bubastis, and other
places of minor importance were settlements of
the Amenemhas and the Userteseus. Some of
them may have l)cen bulwarks against the

On the large statue we see the nine liows
on which the feet are resting. On both sides
of it the titles of the queen have been fairly
preserved, but not her name (pi. iv. a.). Almost
the identical titles are found on a stele at the
Louvre,^ and there they evidently apply to a
person raised to royal rank by her marriage
with a member of the royal family. The name
itself is no longer legible, so that the wife of
TJsertesen III. is still unknown to us. On both
sides of the two statues are the Nile gods of
Upper and Lower Egypt holding a rope tied

around the sign Y which means to join ; they
are here emblems of the land of the North and
the land of the South, and are supposed to
promise to the king eternal life and happiness.
The belt buckle of the statue bears the name
of Usertesen, and states that he is the wor-
shipper of Osiris.

The smaller statue is more interesting because
it was usurped in the name of Osorkon II. by
an officer of the name of Hormes (pi. iv. c. 1 — 5).
The usurpation has been made with great care-
lessness. On the sides, the cartouches of Osor-
kon IT. have been cut over those of Usertesen,
without the engraver doing anything to erase
the older ones ; hence the two cartouches are
confused. On the back two columns of text
give us the name and titles of Osorkon II.

' Lieblein, Dief., No. 349.

These titles are here given even more fully
than at Bubastis. The words T f^^-^^
V V 6 '] n'^ ■irhn joina the tiro lialvrs,



///,r fjif son of fsiff, meaning both parts of
Egypt, which are determined by the two
diadems, I also found on a fragment of a
statue in red granite, which may have been
made for Osorkon II.

The titles of the officer who usurped the
statue for his master are interesting. AVe see
that he was Jiohj fatlicr of Avionrasontcr, wdiich
pei'haps shows that there was also a sanctuary
of Amon at Leontopolis. He held another
office, which I do not understand, and which
also referred to " the lord of the gods of
Egypt." It may have been that of chief of the
officers who had to superintend the ornamen-
tation of the temples. Besides, he was head
of the sanctuaries, and had it in his charge to
repair the temples of Egypt. This last title is
very general, it may have referred to a merely
nominal employment. Another of his offices
was connected with the temple of the city ; he
was governor of the house of millions (of years)
of Osorlcon II. Here we have the name of the
temple where the statues were erected. I
should think that it was built by Osorkon, who
brought thither some older statues. Whether
there was a library in the temple or not, Hormes
was head insjyeefor of the liool-vriters of the

In the temple called the millions {of years)
of Osorkon II. there was a hall or sanctuary
specially dedicated to his queen. It was called
the liouse of the royal ivife Karoamam. We
liave repeatedly seen this queen accompanying
Osorkon II. in the inscriptions of Bubastis,
especially among those of the festival. She
certainly was his legitimate wife, and although
at Thebes Osorkon had Theban wives, con-
nected with the priesthood and the worship
of Amon, in the Delta we find mention of no
other than Karoama. It is not impossible



that she was dead when he built the sanc-
tuary at Tell Mokdam, and that he deified
her, even as later on Ptolemy rhiladel])hus
deified his sister-wife Arsinoe. It is to be

noticed that here we find her name written

■ fl fl


Karoamam, whereas in the in-

scriptions at Bubastis, where her name occurs

so often, we never find the final / .

Again, at Tell Mokdam, though on a smaller
scale, wo find further proof of a fact which was
so strikingly brought into evidence by the
excavations at Bubastis. The two Osorkons,
who until a few years ago were thought to
have been obscure kings governing a weak and
impoverished country, and having great diffi-
culty in defending their throne against invaders
from east and west, now stand out as wealthy
raonarchs, fond of erecting temples and great
buildings, and who made magnificent gifts to

the gods of the hind. This eouUl not have
been so unless the kingdom had been at peace
and prosperous. It was not under the Osor-
kons that the great decadence took place which
is so marked under the XXIIlrd and XXlVth
Dynasties. If it began at all under the
Bubastites, it was only under the later ones.

In the sanctuary which he built to Osiris
and to his queen, Osurkon collected other
statues than those of the Xllth Dynasty.
There was the base of a standing statue of
Rameses II., in red granite, with his cartouches
and titles repeated several times, even on his
belt. Everywhere among them we find this

epithet, <=!;=> y 9, hvluocdllhc FhthaJb. It would

' o III § c>A

have been strange if, amid the ruins of a sanc-
tuary containing statues, there had not been
found at least one monument bearing the
name of Rameses II.



TiiK accompanying illustrations arc copies of
some beautiful photographs (taken by tlie
Rev. William MacGrcgor) of various sculptures
found in Egypt amongst the Mounds at Ahnas
by M. Naville, Avho was conducting excavations
there for the Egypt Exploratiou Fund.

Ahnas is about seventy-three miles south of
Cairo, and occupies, no doubt, the site of
Heracleopolis Magna.

A description of it was given by the late
Miss Amelia B. Edwards in the special report
of the Fund, 1890-1891, and it is further
described by M. Naville in a letter which he
has been kind enough to send to me, of Avhich
1 subjoin extracts, so far as it relates to
the sculptures. He says : " The site of
Ahnas consists of several mounds, between
which are depressions, in which generally stood
the stone buildings. In one of these were two
lai'ge bases of columns in red granite, which
evidently appeared to be of late Roman or
Byzantine times. In digging at the foot of
these bases, I found a large architrave and pieces
of tlie columns which stood on these bases, but,
as there were only two, it must have been a
gateway leading into the church. I was quite
certain that the building was a church when
I saw thu heap of stones found lower down at
a deptli of eight or nine feet. I say a /jcajj
of stones, for, from the state of the ruins, it
would have been impossible to reconstruct the
plan of the building, except that the apse

seemed to have been raised on a platform of
burnt bricks, to whicli access was given by a
flight of steps. The stones consisted of a
great number of lintels, friezes and cornices in
white limestone, with sculptured ornaments, the
motives of which are flowers, leaves, and heads
of animals, chiefly sheep and hogs. . . . Be-
sides these were bases of columns in grey
marble, shafts of tlie same material, and
capitals, noticeable from the fact that the
central flower in the abacus is replaced l)y a
Coptic cross. . . .

" There are the remains of two other churches,
which consist merely of shafts of columns of
red granite. On some of tbese the Coptic cross
has been engraved, and these columns look
exactly like those at Medinet Haboo and in
other well-known Coptic churches. They are
all of the same kind of work. As for the
standing columns and Corinthian capitals, called
Kaneseh, the church, I believe they were origin-
ally parts of a Roman temple. The style of
the capitals seems to me to have less of the
Byzantine character which is so strongly marked
on the others, especially in the flat capitals
which are at the top of the square pillars to
the church."

I am informed that these sculptm'cs, thus
described by M. Naville, are now the chief
objects in one of the Coptic rooms at Ghizeh.

I was thei'e last in 1890, but I cannot recall
them to mind. I have, however, now before



me the elaborate work in folio by Mens. Gayet,
publislied in 1889,' describing sucli sculptures
as were then in the Museum, and classed by
M. Maspero as Coptic. A glance at them will
show not only that they are deplorably deficient
in merit as compared with those from Ahnas,
but are from an entirely different school. But
in classing them all together as Coptic, the
Museum authorities would probably include all
Christian sculptures in Egypt, from whatever
school they might have come.

A few of M. Gayet's engravings show, indeed,
some fair Byzantine work, and in some few of
the others, viz., in the scroll-work, thei-e is
some approach to elegance of form ; but the
greater part, where any attempt at composition
has been made, are the rudest imitation of
Roman work.

The attempts at sculpturing the figures of
birds, beasts, &c., and the human form, are often
quite ludicrous, and so are many of the imita-
tions of Corinthian capitals and other details.

But now, thanks to our energetic explorer,
M. Naville, and to the excellent photographs of
Mr. MacGregor, we find that the sculptures of
the Egyptian Christians may take rank with
some of the best of the Byzantine period.

I can, in fact, scarcely call to mind any
Byzantine carving which is superior to that
at Ahnas. The curves in the scroll-work are
very graceful, and the foliage, although rather
tame in design, is as clearly and boldly cut
as in the beautiful works at Constantinople,
Ravenna, or Torcello ; whilst the representa-
tions of animal life, as shown in the birds
(pi. xiv.), and the boar and kid (pi. xv.), are
very well carved, and are introduced in the
most artistic manner.

The large Corinthian capital (pi. xvii.),
although in the debased Roman style, is fairly
well copied from the antique. This being so,

it is somewhat vexatious to find that there are
scarcely any portions of the Ahnas sculptures
(except the capitals to the columns and
and pilasters) to which one can assign any
definite position in the building. They were, I
understand, put together as shown in the illus-
trations, so as to be most easily photographed.

M. Naville has no doubt that they formed
portions of the ornamental work to a church ;
l)ut the plan of the building, so far as one can
judge of it, appears to be very different from
that of the usual Coptic church.

The rough sketch which I here give has
been worked out with the kind assistance of
Mr. MacGregor, the parts shaded being those
which exist.

' Memoires de la Mission ArchMoijique Franqaise au
Caire. Tome tioisicmc. 3° Fascicule. Paris, 1889.

The apse was not placed in the usual easterly
position, but was slightly east of due north,
the entrance columns being slightly west of due
.south. The apse had also its circular form
showing externally, contrary to the ordinary

Further, it will be noted that only one apse,
or position of the altar, is described by
M. Naville, whereas three eastern altars are
required by the Coptic I'itual, and I am assured
by Mr. MacGregor that there is no trace of
the two side altars having existed.

On the whole, I think that it is fair to
conclude that this interesting building was not
originally designed for the Coptic service, and
that Mr. MacGregor's suggestion is a very
probable one, viz., that it was a small chapel
like that, to the White Monastery, of which a



small plan is given by Mr. A. J. Butler,^
reduced from that given by Donon, and wliicli
faces north and south, with an apse to the
north, resemhhng in both these features the
little church of Ahnas.

This White Monastery is said to have been
founded by St. Helena ; and from the glowing
descriptions which Mr. Butlor quotes from
Mr. Curzon and M. Denon, we may, T think,
fairly conclude that much of the substantial
fabric of the monastery chapel now remains as
ste left it.

The feature in the photographs which will
attract most attention is the headless figure
with lion, shown in pi. i., and, as I felt the;
importance of this, \ consulted with Mr. A. S.
Murray on the subject, and he has been kind
enough to send to me his conclusions, viz.,
" That this sculptured group must have repre-
sented Orpheus, whose appearance is not un-
common, apparently, in the early Christian art
of Italy. The photograph shows a draped
figure seated to the front, and holding at his
left side a lyre, whicli his right hand has been
stretched across to play. On the right is a
lion springing towards the lyre in a Mycenian
attitude. Very probably there -was another

• Ancient Coptic Churches in Egijpt, vol. i. p. 352.

animal similarly posed on the left. It would,
probably, be nearly correct to go back to the
fifth century as the date of the chapel at

The carved work over the lion, and the very
peculiar way in which the lower ]iart of the
drapery of Orpheus ends, serve to identify the
figure with the style of the other portions of
carving, and wo may, I think, class them all
as being of a date at least as early as the fifth
century, the date which Mr. Murray gives for
the Orpheus.

The carving has the peculiarly sharp cutting
of the Byzantine sculptors, and much of it has
the well-known character of that style, so that
T should not hesitate to class the whole as
Byzantine ; but much of the scroll-work is
bolder and more graceful in outline than I am
accustomed to meet with in examples in other
countries, and certainly conveys to my mind
the impression that possibly Byzantium owes

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