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

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

Hotepuedjet Pulse para ampliar
Templo de Heryshef Pulse para ampliar
Planta del templo de Herishef
  • Timeframe: Since 1984. Begun in 1966
  • Lead institution: Museo Arqueológico Nacional. Departamento de Antigüedades Egipcias y del Oriente Próximo
  • Lead researcher: Dra. M. Carmen Pérez Die. Emeritus Conservator of the National Archaeological Museum
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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.

Work on the Temple of Heryshef at Herakleopolis Magna continued in 2016–2019, thanks to the financial support of Fundación Palarq and Construcciones Lozoya.

In 2017, 2018 and 2019, one of the primary goals was to locate areas of the temple which Petrie had not excavated and were therefore still intact, as this would allow us to document unaltered fills and obtain a complete stratigraphic sequence. The team excavated the southwest corner of the temple, where the stone bases of the pylons were found, as the upper part had disappeared. Two architraves of Senusret II, reused by Ramesses II, were found in the looters’ pit. The work done over the last four years made it possible to reconstruct the temple floor plan: open courtyard; pylon preceded by two reused colossi of Ramesses II (although only one has been found); peristyle courtyard with two Ramesses-Ptah-Sekhmet triads; front porch with several columns and an inscription of Ramesses II referring to the Sed festival; hypostyle hall; sanctuary; and adjacent rooms. Thutmose III built the temple on a Middle Kingdom level, and Ramesses II enlarged it.

In 2019, a proposal was submitted to the Egyptian authorities for preserving and rescuing the tomb of Hotepwadjet from the First Intermediate Period (circa 2000 BC), the most important that the Spanish mission has found to date. It called for dismantling and moving this tomb to a museum designated by the competent authorities. The Permanent Committee approved the plan and granted permission to prepare the tomb for transport. During the 2019 campaign, the team removed all stone slabs found in situ, packed them up, and sent them to the Spanish mission’s storage facility at Ehnasya el-Medina. We will restore the walls, move the tomb and reinstall it at the museum in subsequent campaigns.

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.

Excavation work at the Temple of Heryshef Pulse para ampliar Excavation work at the Temple of Heryshef
Necropolis of the Third Intermediate Period Pulse para ampliar Necropolis of the Third Intermediate Period
Canopic jars of Ankhsmatauy. Third Intermediate Period Pulse para ampliar Canopic jars of Ankhsmatauy. Third Intermediate Period
False door of Ip. First Intermediate Period Pulse para ampliar False door of Ip. First Intermediate Period
Offering table. First Intermediate Period Pulse para ampliar Offering table. First Intermediate Period
Pared sur de la tumba de Hotep Uadyet Pulse para ampliar Tumba de Hotep Uadyet
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