Spanish Archaeological Mission in Egypt: Excavations at Herakleopolis Magna (Ihnasya el-Medina)




Temple of Heryshef. Portico

The National Archaeological Museum sponsors excavations at Herakleopolis Magna (modern-day Ihnasya el-Medina), capital of the 20th nome of Upper Egypt. This city was located in Middle Egypt, 130 km south of Cairo, and was one of the most iconic sites during both the dynastic Pharaonic and Coptic periods, but especially during the “Herakleopolitan period”, which coincided with the 9th and 10th Dynasties (circa 2100 BC). During the Third Intermediate Period (22nd-25th Dynasties, 850-650 BC), Herakleopolis became a strategic power centre that controlled both northern and southern Egypt. The city’s principal god, Heryshef (whom the Greeks identified with Heracles), was a supreme creator deity.

The aim of this project is to study and disseminate the history of Herakleopolis Magna, focusing on specific aspects such as landscape archaeology, archaeoastronomy, urban planning, art, religion, funerary beliefs, society, etc.

Tomb of Hotepuadjet. First Intermediate Period

The team has excavated several areas of the site, primarily the necropolis from the First Intermediate Period/early Middle Kingdom, where they have found tombs decorated with paintings and funerary scenes. One of the most striking is the tomb of Hotep-Uadjet, Hotepuadjet a high-ranking civil servant dignatary who lived in the Herakleopolitan period.

Another cemetery excavated by Spanish archaeologists, dated to the Third Intermediate Period, has yielded tombs of local governors who also held senior ranks in the army and local priesthood. The necropolis was reused during the 25th and 26th Dynasties.

Excavations at the Temple of Heryshef have been resumed, continuing the work begun by Naville and Petrie in the early 20th century. Architectural, symbolic and astronomical studies of this structure will allow us to see and interpret the monument in a whole new light. The project is being funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport.

During the 2015 campaign, which took place between the middle of March and the middle of April, works were carried out in the Temple of Heryshef, being concentrated on its restoration, and on the start of installation of an open-air museum in the temple’s courtyard. These works receive a subsidy from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, and are sponsored by the company EMPTY.

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