Excavations at Mendes Or Tell El Rubee
Naglaa Habib El Zahlawi
Located in the actual Dakahlia Governorate Tell El Robee surface is approximately 230 feddans and was the capital of the 16th Nome of Lower Egypt and the 29th Dynasty's capital; the Dynasty who fought back the Persian invasion. The area was known as Enebet in hieroglyph language, then Djedet, where the famous deity Amen Re was adorned in the shape of the Ram Khnoum represented in the human form with a ram head.
Mendes was referred to in the sarcophagi Book as the Ba dwellers where Re and Osiris met and their Ba unified to conceive their son. Mendes was also mentioned in the geographic list carved over the white compartment in El Karnak temple. The area is rich in monuments and remains of the Ancient Civilization namely Ahmosis temple and mastaba referred to the Old Kingdom and proved to have been used during predynastic eras. It also includes The Rams' cemetery with huge granite sarcophagi. These remains attracted scholars and archaeologists to excavate and dig looking for more evidence helping restructuring the History of Egypt as recommended during the 8th International Congress of Egyptologists. Monuments dating back to Ramses II reign and his son Merenptah are also to be seen in the area that are of a great importance.
This richness attracted the Pennsylvania State University expedition who had practiced 10 campaigns over the mentioned site, the latest being from May 31st to July 14, 2000. During these previous campaigns and from 1996 to 1998, the broad swath of an Old Kingdom Temple was uncovered south of the discovered temple referred to the New Kingdom/Late Period. "This has helped to reveal the nature of the Late period temple through the fragments of quartzite decorations" as stated by Prof. Redford. The evidences and traces on the walling system are eloquent, the layout being a standard one.
Decorations on the walls represent standard offering scenes with Egyptian ornaments e.g. kheker borders, star borders and cartouches. Inspection revealed two fragments of pyramid-topped shrines and columns in black granite. Beneath this Temple appeared the floor level of an earlier period temple referred to the Middle Kingdom as clearly noticeable on the shrine of the ram-deity and the wavy incised decoration. Bovine bones and sheep burials were found along the temple axis and are thought to be votive sacrifices. A large pottery drain was uncovered gently bending to the east.
(JPEG)Stratification under the Middle Kingdom floor level denotes debris and fills dating to the First Intermediate Period.
It seems that the site has been abandoned for long due hypothetically to some "hiatus in its occupation" according to the field director who confirms that the nature of the hiatus is apparent, as a massive mud-brick podium is spanning the exact width of the later temple. Signs of depressions are to be seen over the podium bricks probably caused by piers, walls and pillars dated to the New Kingdom/Late Period. A mound of rubbles was found against the north side of the podium faced by a skin of bricks.
Fire destruction occurred causing great damage as denoted by stir of ashes over the place and burned mud-bricks. Bodies of perished individuals, occurred during the fire were found in-groups. They were attempting to escape heading towards exists, the remains of twenty persons were recovered as apparently no one buried these individuals or cared to bury the corpses randomly spread on the ground. An attempt to restore the structure of the building was taken as walls were erected over the destruction level.
Dating this destruction is roughly done as the pottery found within the destruction level is referred to the 6th Dynasty -10th Dynasty, end of the Old Kingdom/ early First Intermediate Period. This date is also stratigraphically confirmed. The court surface level is, at the same height above the sea level as monuments referred to that period namely Ishtef-Teti mastaba found few meters to the north. Excavation units sited outside the temple wall helped greatly in the results as the four phases practiced to the west revealed a well-built house with hearths and three grinding basins roughly dated to the temple destruction period. The dismantled structure was poorly rebuilt and served later for poor burials. Another area witnessed domestic gatherings extending over 200m east and west of the temple. The rise in the ground level turned the temple to a lozenge shape forming a mound. The edges of the mound represent the width of the Old Kingdom podium. There is a probability that the builders of the Middle Kingdom temple erected the western wall of the new temple that served as such for almost 2000 years after several rebuilds.
The Ram hypogeum structure consists of two unequal partitions. One sector, built in mud-brick vaults, is specified for Ram sarcophagi while the smaller section might be a hall with sand foundation. A main entrance was located lately but the possibility of a direct approach to the place through the river stands.
Further excavations and studies will reveal more details as the active members of the expedition are very enthusiast about the results.
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