Home to one of the world’s most famous
civilizations, Egypt is a country filled to the
brim with historical significance. However,
when people explore ancient Egyptian history,
they usually stop at the pyramids. But other
remnants of the culture have survived, giving
us new insight into how the ancient Egyptians
10 Hatshepsut’s Mortuary
We’ve already discussed Hatshepsut , one of
the more interesting characters in Egyptian
history. She’s the Egyptian queen who
promoted herself to pharaoh because
Thutmose III, her stepson and heir to the
throne, was too young to assume the role. She
also left behind a legacy—her mortuary
Located at Deir el-Bahri, the temple is called
“Djeser-djeseru,” which means “the holy of
holies.” It stands proud to this day, but given
the disagreements with Hatshepsut’s method
of appointing a new pharaoh, both Thutmose
III and Akhenaten went through the temple
after her death and made some adjustments to
the scenery.
On the first level was a beautiful garden filled
with plants from Punt, although the garden is
gone now. Behind it was a series of reliefs
and monuments, most of which were
destroyed by Thutmose III and Akhenaten
after Hatshepsut’s death. While none of the
surviving monuments depict Hatshepsut, one
of them clearly shows Thutmose III dancing
before the god Min.
The second level contains the birth colonnade
and the Punt colonnade, the ancient Egyptian
versions of a Facebook wall. The birth
colonnade depicted Hatshepsut’s divine birth,
which involved Amun-Ra using his breath to
impregnate Queen Ahmose, Hatshepsut’s
mother. The Punt colonnade featured
Hatshepsut’s voyage to Punt and her return
with boats filled with exotic woods, makeup,
and animals.
Unfortunately, Thutmose III damaged the
depictions of Hatshepsut. For his part,
Akhenaten defaced the depictions of Amun-Ra
because Akhenaten wanted to popularize the
Aten, the god of the Sun disk, instead.
With four chapels, Senenmut’s tomb, and the
sanctuary of Amun-Ra still standing,
Hatshepsut’s temple offers insight into the
ancient Egyptians’ way of life and their
9 The Tuna El-Gebel
The ancient Egyptian city of Hermopolis
Magna was the capital of the Hare province.
Known as the “City of the Eight,” the people
there worshiped Thoth, the god of learning.
Although the city is interesting in its own
right, a fascinating discovery was made
On the west bank of Tunah al-Jabal near
Hermopolis Magna, a university expedition in
the 1930s unearthed a vast necropolis
dedicated to Thoth. Called “Tuna el-Gebel,”
this necropolis may extend all the way to
Hermopolis Magna. Regardless, archaeologists
have already uncovered 3 kilometers (2 mi) of
this impressive site.
As expected, dead bodies lie within the
catacombs, which allowed relatives and
friends to visit their deceased loved ones
without being affected by the weather. The
tomb of Petosiris, one of the high priests of
Thoth, is also contained within the necropolis.
Perhaps more surprising is the large number
of animals buried there.
The ancient Egyptians often dedicated
animals to their favorite gods, and Thoth
certainly had an entire bestiary by the time
the Egyptians were done. Explorers
discovered thousands of mummified animals ,
including baboons, ibis and ibis eggs, cats,
larks, kestrels, and even pigs .
Every animal within the necropolis was
deemed sacred. However, the baboons and
ibis were especially exalted, given that Thoth
was usually depicted with the head of an ibis
and baboons were Thoth’s trusted followers
that assisted scribes with their work.
8 The Colossi Of Memnon
The Colossi of Memnon are two giant statues
that the locals refer to as “el-Colossat” or “es-
Salamat.” Both depicting Amenhotep III, they
were built to guard his mortuary temple
behind them. While the colossi are still
standing, the mortuary temple has vanished
due to erosion caused by floods and the theft
of stones by subsequent rulers.
Both statues have tiny representations of
Amenhotep III’s wife and mother carved into
the base as well as two Nile gods winding
papyrus around the hieroglyph for “unite.”
The statues are called the Colossi of Memnon
because early Greek visitors believed the
statues depicted the god Memnon, son of the
goddess Eos.
After an earthquake in 27 BC, the northern
statue suffered some structural damage that
caused it to “sing” around dawn. Puzzled, the
ancient Greek visitors believed that it might
be Memnon, who had died at the hands of
Achilles but had returned as a statue.
According to their theory, Memnon cried out
in anguish each morning when he saw his
mother, Eos, rising in the sky at dawn.
Although we can’t reproduce this
phenomenon in modern times, it’s possible
that the singing was caused by dew trapped
in the porous rock that evaporated from the
heat of the morning Sun. The singing stopped
in AD 199 after the statue was repaired.
7 Malkata Palace
When Amenhotep III ruled Egypt, he built a
palace that was the ancient Egyptian version
of a California mansion. He was only 12 when
he inherited the throne from his father,
Thutmose IV, along with one of the largest,
wealthiest empires in the world. Rather than
wage war, Amenhotep III was a man of
diplomacy and peace , which left him the time
and money to build Malkata Palace.
The site for Malkata Palace spanned about
800,000 square meters (9 million ft ). The
luxurious structure contained a library,
kitchens, administrative office, audience
chambers, halls for festivities, and more, all
of which were decorated lavishly with paint.
Its size wasn’t just for grandeur, however.
Malkata Palace housed Amenhotep III’s
family, servants, guests, and a large harem of
princesses, all of whom had their own retinue
of servants. One foreign princess visited with
300 servants of her own. Malkata Palace also
housed all the visitors for the Heb Sed
festivals—the jubilees of Amenhotep III’s
coronation— which probably explains why he
called this vast complex the “House of Joy .”
The most curious of all the discoveries made
at Malkata Palace was its artificial lake. With
a T-shaped area of about 3.5 square
kilometers (1.5 mi ), the lake allowed
Amenhotep III and his family to sail around
without interruption.
6 Tanis
With its discovery rivaling that of King
Tutankhamun’s tomb, the “ lost city” of Tanis
missed its moment of fame when current
events overshadowed ancient ones. Tanis was
called “Djanet” by the ancient Egyptians and
“Zoan” in the Old Testament. During the 21st
and 22nd Dynasties, Tanis was the capital of
Egypt. But political troubles shifted the
importance and influence of the city
In its prime, however, Tanis was a wealthy
city, largely because it was one of the closest
ports to the Asiatic seaboard. A large temple
dedicated to the god Amun was built there.
The city’s brief moment in the spotlight also
meant that some of the royal tombs were
quite extravagant.
In 1939, archaeologist Pierre Montet brought
several years of excavations at Tanis to a
satisfying end when he discovered a royal
tomb complex. It had three burial chambers
that were undisturbed by vandalism or theft,
making this an incredibly valuable find that
also included burial treasures like golden
masks, silver coffins, and royal jewelry.
Nobody had visited Tanis since the city was
abandoned, so the tombs and other
archaeological treasures were in the same
state as during ancient Egyptian times.
But just as Montet announced his fantastic
find, World War II erupted, shifting people’s
attention away from Egyptian discoveries to
current international turmoil. Although the
discovery faded into history, it doesn’t change
the fact that Tanis held some of the greatest
archaeological finds since Tutankhamun.
5 The Temple Of Seti I
The Temple of Seti I is located in Abydos, one
of ancient Egypt’s holiest sites. A burial site
since the predynastic era, Abydos was
originally dedicated to the god Wepwawet,
who opened the way for the dead to enter the
afterlife. Gradually, the worship of Osiris
grew within Abydos until the entire area
became dedicated to him. Abydos features the
early tombs of the necropolis Umm el Qa’ab,
which were thought to be the beginning of
burial practices that eventually led to the
building of the pyramids.
One of the remaining temples within Abydos
is the Temple of Seti I, which has a strange, L-
shaped layout but is like most Egyptian
temples otherwise. Some of the temple’s
surviving wonders include two hypostyle
halls , large rooms where the builders
supported the roof by placing many columns
throughout the structure.
The outer hypostyle hall was finished by
Ramses II after Seti I’s death. Even though the
temple was supposed to be about Seti I, the
pictures within the outer hypostyle hall
frequently depict Ramses II. At the entrance,
Ramses II is shown measuring the temple
with the goddess Selket before presenting it to
the god Horus. Elsewhere, Ramses II is
depicted offering a box of papyrus to the
deities Horus, Isis, and Osiris before being led
to the temple to be blessed with holy water.
However, these sunk reliefs aren’t crafted
well, suggesting that Ramses II sent all of Seti
I’s best workers to complete his own temple,
the Ramesseum.
The more impressive sights are found in the
inner hypostyle hall, which was largely
completed before Seti I’s death. One relief
shows Osiris and Horus pouring holy water
over Seti I. Other reliefs depict Seti I being
crowned by the gods and Seti I kneeling
before Osiris and Horus. On the side walls,
projecting piers show Seti I wearing a crown
representing the combination of Upper and
Lower Egypt.
Behind these halls are seven sanctuaries,
each dedicated to a favorite god. There’s also
the Sanctuary of Seti I, which depicts him
uniting Upper and Lower Egypt, as well as
inner sanctuaries of Osiris, several chapels,
and a gallery of kings listing all of Seti I’s
4 Babylon Fortress
The Babylon Fortress in Cairo (aka the “Castle
of Babylon” or the “Castle of Egypt”) wasn’t
built by the Egyptians. Instead, it was built by
the command of two Roman emperors. The
first one was Trajan, who opened a canal
between the Red Sea and the Nile and
refurbished an old Persian fortress in the
southern part of town. The second was
Arcadius, who improved upon the existing
fortress. Given both of their efforts, Babylon
Fortress became a port and a supply line to
Alexandria .
The Babylon Fortress was a refuge for the
Coptic Christians, especially after they began
to suffer persecution from the Western
Christians. There are several churches built
into the fortress itself, including the Hanging
Church, one of the most famous Coptic
churches in Egypt.
The Hanging Church is built over the
entrance to a passage in the fortress. Visitors
enter through a decorated gate on Shar’a Mari
Girgis Street and then climb 29 steps to the
church (hence its nickname, the ‘”Staircase
Church”). The church has an 11th-century
pulpit with 13 pillars, representing Jesus and
his 12 disciples. The oldest icon in the church
dates to the eighth century. A lintel depicting
Christ entering Jerusalem may date as far
back as the fifth century.
3 Deir El-Medina
A village near the Valley of the Kings, Deir el-
Medina housed all the workers who helped
build and decorate the tombs for the
pharaohs. According to village records, the
people living in Deir el-Medina actively
desired to build tombs that would one day
serve their king . Many of these records also
discuss personal matters, which gives us a
look into the day-to-day life of Egyptian
The tomb workers went on one of the first
recorded strikes due to an unfair work
environment. Ramses III had a huge
construction program at Thebes, which
heavily drained the grain supply used to pay
the workers at the necropolis. The workers
waited six months for payment. Then, faced
with starvation, they marched on several
temples and staged sit-ins until something
was done.
According to the records of the strike found
at Deir el-Medina: “They sat down at the rear
of the temple of Baenre-meryamun. They
shouted at the mayor of Thebes as he was
passing by, and he sent to them the gardener
Meniufer of the chief overseer of cattle to say
to them: ‘See, I’ll give these 50 sacks of
emmer for provisions until Pharaoh gives you
(a) ration.’ ”
For researchers, interesting records from this
ancient Egyptian village are available online
at the Deir el-Medina database .
2 The Statue Of Meritamun
Unlike the other towns on this list, Akhmim is
still active today, but it stands over the
ancient Egyptian town of Ipu. When
excavating the site, archaeologists discovered
fragments of a statue of Ramses II and a
relatively intact, 11-meter-high (36 ft) statue
of Meritamun, Ramses II’s daughter.
Given that the female statue was lying prone,
the workers righted it first. After that, it was
decided that the statue should be left in the
open, still situated several meters below
ground level .
A story on looklex.com described it this way:
“Akhmim is among the weirdest sites from
Ancient Egypt. You drive along crowded and
dusty roads in the large town of Akhmim,
then suddenly, in a large hole in the ground ,
you see the head of a grand female statue.”
1 Aswan Granite Quarry
The Egyptians loved their granite. The
pyramids were made of it. The temples used
it. It was a prime building material that stood
the test of time. Much of the granite used in
these structures came from the Aswan granite
quarry, which even supplied stone for the
lintels above the king’s chamber . The Aswan
quarry area spanned about 150 square
kilometers (60 mi ) and included the famous
granite quarries as well as lesser-known
sandstone, grinding stone, and building stone
However, the most interesting aspect of the
Aswan granite quarry is what lies unfinished
inside: the largest ancient obelisk known to
man. Had it been lifted out of the quarry to
stand upright, this obelisk would have
weighed 1,200 tons and sported a jaw-
dropping height of 42 meters (137 ft), at least
one-third taller than any other ancient
Egyptian obelisk. Archaeologists believe that
female pharaoh Hatshepsut commissioned its
The reason for abandoning the project isn’t
known. But it could be that the stone had
imperfections that the ancient Egyptians
hadn’t noticed before construction. Another
theory is that the process of quarrying the
stone relieved some of the stress keeping the
stone together, causing a crack to appear on
the obelisk. The project’s failure, however,
has been a success for archaeologists, who
can look over the work in progress to learn
how the ancient Egyptians crafted such
gigantic monuments .

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