1.1 Site Location:
Elephantine is located in the western side of the Nile River in Aswan, and was considered one of the greatest islands in the Nile River. Today, you can reach the great island of Elephantine by small boats taking from the eastern side of the Nile. It took you about five minutes to reach the Island.
I.2. The Name of “Elephantine”:
The name of "Elephantine" came from an ancient Egyptian sign "aabw" which meaning "elephant" and "ivory" because it was an ivory-trading center or in the other words, "a re-shipment port for African ivory and other exotic goods"
I.3. Historical Background:
Elephantine was the capital of the first Upper Egyptian Nome. It has magnificent historic layers along an ancient Egyptian civilization. During the Old Kingdom, especially the fifth and sixth dynasty, and Middle Kingdom Elephantine has a great position among the Upper Egyptian Nomes. It was a residential place for "Supervisor of Upper Egypt" who has a duty of local authorization and the Nubian relationship with Egyptian state. Also, it was" a trading center for commerce from beyond the First Cataract"
During the New Kingdom it become a flourished cult center, the majority of Egyptian kings have built many temples for the gods and goddesses of Elephantine or added some modifications to the existed structures like Queen Hatshepsut and King Thutmosis III . Also, Elephantine is considered one of few towns which have preserved the remains of mud brick houses of the local people, these houses dated back to the 3 intermediate period. During the late period, Jewish mercenaries have accommodated in Elephantine as a tool of Persian occupation to guard Egypt from the southern threats.
I.4. Triad of Elephantine:
I.4.1. God Khnum:
God Khnum is one of the famous gods in Upper Egypt who is associated with Nile fertile soil which has probably contributed in his representation, which represented him as a potter shaping all living things on his wheel.
His function was to demonstrate the Nile inundation every year coming from the god Hapy's caverns. Consequently, he has taken Elephantine in Aswan as his cult center. He is occupied high position during the early dynastic period, while the majority of discovered Khnum objects or scenes are dated back to the New Kingdom and Graeco-Roman period.
In Elephantine, the excavation expeditions have discovered a piece in sarcophagi which presented god Khnum in mummified form and flourishes with gilded ram head. According to Egyptian mythology, goddesses Satis and Anukis have assisted god Khnum in the supervision of the cataract area.
I.4.2. Goddess Satet or Satis:
Actually, the function of goddess Satet was to guard the southern boundaries and Lower Nubia. She has taken Elephantine as her cult center. She is represented in a lady form wearing the conical white crown of Upper Egypt and besides the horns or plumes. Sometimes, she is holding the life sign "Ankh" or"Waas" scepter.
Moreover, she has mentioned in the Pyramid Texts by the sixth dynasty as purifying the king by means of four ointment jars from Elephantine. Regarding ancient Egyptian religion, she is correlated with the Nile inundation. She was a Khnum's consort as ‘Mistress of Elephantine’ and mother of Anukis.
Actually, goddess Statis had some of goddess Hathor characteristics that to become an 'eye ofRa' when god Khnum identified with Re. Moreover, her name has transformed from "Satet" to "Satis" when she identified with the Nile inundation star Sirius.
I.4.3. Goddess Anuket or Anukis:
Anukis is presented as a lady holding a papyrus scepter and a life sign "ankh", wearing a tall headdress made of stem feathers or reeds while sometimes, she has depicted nursing the king. Her worship in Upper Egypt is dated back to Old Kingdom. She is known by the daughter of Ra during the Old Kingdom.
During Middle, New Kingdom, and according to the Egyptian mythology, she has become adivine child of god Khnum and goddess Satis. Goddess Anukis has many titles such as “Goddess of the Cataracts [rapids] of the Southern Nile” - which has inscribed in the Elephantine Island (Abu Island) - ,“Mistress of the Gods”,“ Lady of Heaven” and “Mistress of Nubia"
I.5. Excavation Expeditions:
The Aramaic papyri is the first evidence which recorded the existence the Jewish mercenaries in Elephantine during a Persian period in Egypt, their "marriages and divorces, house purchases, wills and transfers, litigation and petitions to the authorities" and their temple in Elephantine from about 525 B.C till at least 399 B.C., which had damaged 410 B.C as a result of struggles with the Khnum temple priesthood. "The Jewish parish soon applied to the authorities at Jerusalem and Samaria, and it gained permission to reestablish its temple"
At the beginning of the 19th century, the archaeological expeditions have started to concern about Elephantine in order to find out the Aramaic papyri.
1906 – 1910
French excavation mission had been uncovered the temples of god Khnum and goddess Satet under the supervision of Charles Clermont, Ganneau, J. Cledat, and J.E. Gautier.
1906 – 1908
The German Archaeological Institute (DAI - Cairo Branch) had been started their excavation under the supervision of "O. Rubensohn" in a search of Aramaic papyri.
Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) had been discovered the sanctuary of the local official Heqaib under the supervision of the Egyptian excavator Labib Habachi.
The German Archaeological Institute (DAI - Cairo Branch) had coordinated with the SwissInstitute of Architectural and Archaeological Research on Ancient Egypt (SIAARAE) in Cairothat excavating the Greaco-Roman temple of god Khnum.
During the previous stated phases, excavation missions had abled to draw the small templeswhich had constructed in the reign of King Thutmose III and King Amenhotep III while thesetemples had been damaged since 1820.
2003 – 2004 "33rd Season
"DAI - Cairo branch and SIAARAE have restored the findings which have discovered within the past seasons. They have continued the restoration progress in the Old Kingdom enclosure wall and epigraphically documented the New Kingdom temple of god Khnum.
2004 – 2005 "34th Season
"DAI - Cairo branch and SIAARAE have continued their excavation in the central part of the town of the 3rd millennium B.C., Old Kingdom layers near to the southern harbor and also, Khnum temple. They have started to make an epigraphical documentation for the Greaco- Roman temples of goddess Satet and god Khnum.
2005 – 2006 "35th & 36th Season
"Regarding the 35th season, DAI - Cairo branch and SIAARAE have conserved the central part of the town of the 3rdmillennium B.C. and besides, a little bit, the building complex of the late Old Kingdom, Khnum temple and its later occupation, Middle Kingdom layers opposite the festival courtyard, and the occupation levels of the late second millennium south of the sanctuary of Heqaib.
According to the 36th season report, they have started a geophysical survey of the 1st Cataractarea. They have continued the conservation progress in the central part of the town of the 3rd millennium and also, the Middle Kingdom settlement to the western side of Heqaib sanctuary. Moreover, they have started a new excavation between Satet temple and Heqaib sanctuary and in Khnum temple and also, New Kingdom layers in the southern side of Heqaib sanctuary. Also, they have started the cleaning process in north-western part of the town enclosure wall.
2007 – 2009 "37th & 38t Season"
DAI - Cairo branch and SIAARAE have studied the architectural fragments of Middle Kingdom Satet temple and Greaco-Roman Khnum temple. They have continued the restoration activities in the central part of the town of the 3rd millennium B.C. and Satet temple which had been constructed by King Montuhotep II. They have made excavations between Satet temple and Heqaib sanctuary, in Khnum temple and in the south-western part of the town enclosure wall ofthe second millennium B.C. They have studied New Kingdom layers in the southern side of Heqaib sanctuary
2009 – 2011 "39th& 40th Season"
DAI - Cairo branch have focused on the Aswan Museum project of Supreme Council of Antiquities from the perspective of its architectural design and the excavation before its construction. They have continued their excavations in the south-western part of the town enclosure wall of the second millennium B.C. and other different areas where they haveexcavated before during the previous seasons.
2011 – 2012 "41st Season"
Both of these archaeological institutions have made several excavations in the Middle Kingdom house in the north-western section, studied the historical sequence of settlement facing the museum, and besides, two Coptic period-houses in the southern side of Khnum temple. Moreover, they have done numerous documentation studies. They have begun the reconstruction process in a Greaco-Roman temple and also, the excavation magazines.
2013 – 2014 "42nd& 43rdSeason"
Regarding the 42nd season, the excavation activities have occurred in the region among andwhere facing Elephantine museum and its annex structure. Also, DAI - Cairo branch and SIAARAE have continued the reconstruction process in New Kingdom temple and the equipment of the late Khnum temple.
According to 43rd season report, DAI-Cairo branch has cooperated with Institut Françaisd'archéologie Orientale (IFAO) and Clara Jeuthe starting a new project that they have discovere da flint instruments. Moreover, German Archaeological Institute has acted a great achievement that making a 3D digital model of an ancient town Elephantine according to its historical context and sequence along an ancient Egyptian history.
I.6. Archeological elements of Elephantine Island:
Elephantine has numerous antiquities such as the ruins of a granite stepped pyramid, which datedback to the third dynasty, administrative buildings, and a cemetery of the Old and Middle Kingdoms. Moreover, the courtyard and a quay had been discovered where the rituals of the Feast of the Nile inundation took place during the reign of King Montuhotep II.
It is located at the eastern side of the Island. The inscribed rocks of the Nilometer at Elephantine are considered an archaeological evidence for irrigation . Within the late period especially the Kushite 26th dynasty, a Nilometer was inserted with the sacred lake of the temple of god Khnumto estimate the height of Nile inundation.
I.6.2. Greco-Roman Cemetery:
It is located between the temples of god Khnum and goddess Satet. The cemetery dated back to the Greaco-Roman period buried the sacred ram heads to embody the living figure of god Khnum. The cemetery of the holy rams of Khnum had been discovered by the French archaeological expedition in 1908.
I.6.3. A small stepped pyramid:
It is located in the western side of the Island. It represented an imagine presence of the royal character "the King" and perhaps, had a relationship with the worship of the ruler's statue. It dated back to the third dynasty. It had been discovered by the French excavation mission.
I.6.4. Temple of Goddess Satet:
At the southern side of Elephantine Island, there is a base of the Neqada II period settlements "Neolithic" the fourth millennium B.C. that developed till reached a grotto. This grotto has become the temple or sanctuary of goddess Satet. which had by the time been reconstructed completely. Actually, the Satet temple was reconstructed on its original site by King Pepi Iduring the beginning of the sixth dynasty. The temple has inscriptions which have documented the visits of later sixth dynasty kings who represented giving numerous votive offerings for the goddess Satet, which have formulated on the baby shape.
The temple had rebuilt numerous times, while reused the falling stone in-situ throughout the Middle Kingdom specifically during the reign of King Mentuhotep II who has constructed new interior sanctuary and inserted a structure for ceremonies of the Nile inundation celebrations. There are more achievements of the New Kingdom period in the temple of goddess Satet. From which, the excavation missions had found out a sandstone temple of Queen Hatshepsut, with King Thutmose III, and the limestone temple of King Senwosert I, which rebuilt near to the grotto by King Ptolemy VI and King Ptolemy VIII. In fact, the original chapel of goddess Satet was constructed as a small niche between the greatrocks - which have excavated beneath the excavation of 18th dynasty temple - while the olderremained structures, in Satet temple, have some relieves dated back to Middle Kingdom.
I.6.5. Temple of God Khnum:
By the beginning of the Middle Kingdom especially the 11th dynasty, the ram god Khnum hadbecome a guest in the Satet temple. The Khnum temple has constructed on the site where ruinsof his temple upon the mound of ancient settlements. In New Kingdom, it has reconstructed during the reign of King Thutmose III on the large scale. Also, during the late period specifically the 30 th dynasty, King Nektanebo II has some remains there such as the pavement, the column bases, and the gates on the uppermost level of the temple site. While during the Greaco-Roman period, the temple had enlarged again about 123 meters. In length by the Ptolemaic kings and Roman emperors who have filled with statues, stelae, offering tables, and obelisks. Moreover, the monumental entrance has decorated during the reign of Ptolemaic King Alexander IV.
I.6.6. Elephantine Museum
The museum had been originally established in 1902 as a residence building and official officefor Sir. William Will cocks, British civil engineer, who had contributed for designing, constructing, and administrating the first Aswan Dam. Nowadays, it consists of the old excavated objects from an ancient town Elephantine such as the mummified ram heads of god.
Khnum from the Greaco- Roman cemetery and some statues from Heqaib sanctuary. Thesecollections or objects have collected under the supervision of Egyptian Antiquities administration.
I.6.7. Sanctuary of Hekaib or Pepi Nakht
Heqaib or Pepy Nakht is a responsible for realizing more royal missions to the south as a royalresidence administrator‘Overseer of Foreign Lands’ . He has led many missions for King Pepi IIto Nubia and the land of the Aamu .The Middle Kingdom kings and elite had been supported his worship as a mediator among godand humans within his rock-cut tomb at Qubbet el-Hawa (Hill of the Wind). Heqaib statue hadbecome an important figure in the ceremonial rituals during Sokar festival in the Elephantinetown.
The Egyptian excavator Labib Habachi has found out the local prefect “Heqaib's” Ka chapel during his excavations in 1908 at the west of the Satet temple. The sanctuary of Heqaib built by the local governor “Sarenput I” throughout the reign of king Senwosret I, with later additions during the 13th dynasty period.
The Hekaib sanctuary has three chapels which had established by king Antef II, or probably byking Antef I and their father king Mentuhotep I. Ruler "Serenput I" has reconstructed thesanctuary during the reign of King Sesostris I. Besides, there are other extensions during the eraof the 12 th and 13th dynasties.
It is situated in the eastern side of an ancient town. The DAI excavation expedition has discovered the first dynasty fortress and the second dynasty fortified enclosure wall of Elephantine, moreover, a part of the third dynasty enclosure wall which dated back to the reign of King Huny. During the Old and Middle Kingdoms, there are some parts of an ancient townfortified wall had been maintained and also, perhaps reconstructed to the magnificent height.
There are other scattered elements in the site such as:
1. Small but spontaneous pottery was found in Elephantine.
2. The oldest city gate existed in Elephantine.
3. Wonderful pyramid from the 3rd dynasty is known as a step pyramid without barrier chamber in Elephantine.
4. Group of family houses exited but in remains and they built new walls in the top of the original ones.
5. There is a factory of ancient stone vessel making.
6. Cemetery looked like old mastaba tomb shape.
7. Bottle salted from the 4th millennium.
I.7. Significance of the island (site attribute):
I.7.1. Economic revival, and Commercial center:
From the economical perspective, especially during the pre-dynastic period, it was a commercial center at the external area of the Upper Egyptian Kingdom; Moreover, the trading rout between Egypt andits’ neighboring countries of Nubia.
I.7.2. First fortification against southern attacks:
From the military perspective, it was a point of sending the military expeditions to Nubia at the Old Kingdom time; while at the New Kingdom, the third intermediate period and probably the late period that protecting the southern frontiers. From the political perspective, it had administrated over the northern part of Lower Nubia.
I.7.3. Religious significance:
From the Religious perspective, Elephantine had been chosen the worship center of Nubian triadof the local patron deity or a ram-headed creator god Khnum, his wife goddess Satet or Satis andhis daughter Anuket or Anukis.
The existence of remains of the settlements is considered one of the few towns which preservedruins of the mud brick houses of the local people, and these houses dated back to the 3rdintermediate period.
I.7.5. Historical significance:
Layers of history from the Pre-dynastic period, Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, New Kingdom,3 rd Intermediate period, late period, and the Greco-Roman period.
Q- Is Aswan worth visiting? A-“Aswan itself: the town is worth a visit” ... With its great market, connection to Nubian people and culture, its easy cross Nile ferry trip and a great place to stay, Aswan is a much more enjoyable place than any other place in the world.
Q-What is Aswan known for? A-Aswan is the ancient city of Swenett, later known as Syene, which in antiquity was the frontier town of Ancient Egypt facing the south. ... The stone quarries of ancient Egypt located here were celebrated for their stone, and especially for the granitic rock called Syenite.
Q-How many days do you need in Aswan?A-Three to 4 days- Ancient and cultural attractions, beautiful Nile scenery, and an easy charm. With three days in the city, you can enjoy its highlights, discover local culture, and take day trips or cruises along the Nile Valley or to Lake Nasser's temples.
Q-Is it worth going to Abu Simbel?A- As for Abu Simbel, the immensity of it's beauty and the unbelievable history behind is absolutely worth the visit. You cannot come to Egypt without visiting the marvelous Abu Simbel temple, one of the top Egypt tourist attractions.
Q-How long is a Nile Cruise from Luxor to Aswan?A-A-The Nile Cruise from Aswan To Luxor takes 4 days and vice versa from Luxor to Aswan 5 days.
Q-How much is a Nile cruise? A-Nile cruises offered online or by JOURNEY TO EGYPT start from around $150 per day and that's just for 5 star standard cruise ships. Generally these prices include 3 meals a day, plus 10 expert-led shore excursions with a Certified Professional Guides.
Q-What should I buy in Aswan? A-There are also several shops with interesting things like jewellery and perfumes for your shopping pleasure. Aswan Market - Nubian trinkets, antiques, costumes, Egyptian spices and perfumes are a must-buy in Aswan and the best place to purchase from.