Sunday, March 22, 2009

Edfu (revanche)

A remarkably intact mud-brick settlement has been partially excavated near the ancient Egyptian temple

The Tell Edfu site includes a public town center that was used for collecting taxes, conducting business, recording accounting, and writing documents. The discovery paints a picture of a relatively advanced system of society during ancient times, with commerce playing an intricate part of daily Egyptian life. Until now, information on common life in Egypt had come mostly from scrolls of papyrus and other documents. Part of the cause is that archaeologists have long focused on monuments and gold artifacts associated with royalty.
These towns were all made of mud-brick, so that's obviously not as glamorous as stone architecture. The settlement was discovered several years ago next to the Edfu Temple, one of the best-preserved large temples from ancient Egypt. The town center contains an open hall with eight silos, partially used to collect grain taxes from farmers. Ranging from 5.5 to 6.5 meters in diameter, the silos are the largest ever found in an Egyptian town center. Above the silos are rectangular storage containers containing gray ash to protect them from pests. The silos hail from the 17th dynasty, which lasted from about 1570 to 1540 B.C.
The whole complex was attached to a 16-column hall, part of an old governor's palace that eventually was transformed into a center of commerce and administration. Part of the reason so little is known about ancient Egypt's basic settlements is because there are so few. Many were destroyed during thousands of years of construction or from farmers who used the ancient Nile mud for fertilizer at the turn of the 20th century.
The find also helps illuminate the complex political relationships during the 17th dynasty. At the time pharaohs were based in the city of Thebes north of Edfu, where they were beset by aggressive neighbors such as the Hyksos in the north and Nubian Kushites in the south. Local authorities wielded considerable power, due to the pharaohs' eagerness to recruit allies.
For instance, Queen Sebekemsaf, wife of pharaoh Antef Nubkheperre, was actually the daughter of the governor of Edfu. We know that from bracelets that have been found with her name as well as her husband. The pharaoh's remains have been found in the Valley of the Kings near Thebes, but records indicate that Sebekemsaf was buried in Edfu.

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