2020 . Jul . 05

Tuna El-Gebel: The City of the dead

Once upon a time during the Ptolemaic and Roman Period in Ancient Egypt, there was a city called Hermoplis Magna or, as it was called Khnum, lays in the North-western boundary of Akhenaten's city Akhetaten. About 11 Km away from the city laid the largest cemetery of Greco-Roman Egypt, between 300 BC and 300 AD. There lays the famous tombs of Petosiris and Isadora as well as catacombs of falcons, baboons, and ibises, they call it Tuna-el-Gebel, the city of the dead.

tuna el gebel tomb

Location of Tuna El Gebel

The necropolis is now in the City of Mallawi that belongs to Minya province, about 270 Km south of Cairo, the Capital. It lays at the edge of the western desert; it is marked by a boundary stela that belongs to Akhenaten. You can easily get there driving either by bus or car; it is not far from Cairo.

What is it?

Tuna El Gebel is a major city in antiquity; it is located between lower and upper Egypt; it was constructed around the time of the conquest of Alexander the Great to Egypt. It contains temples and tombs for animals and humans; the burial style goes back to the late New Kingdom and the beginning of the new intermediate Period.

The Excavation

The first discovery made in the city was in 1903-4, then after that, in 1913, they found tombs from the Roman Period, and in 1919 the famous tomb of Petosiris was found. From 1931 to 1952, excavations were lead by a professor from Cairo University. It led to the discoveries of underground galleries, animal burials, and focusing on the Temple of Thoth. Several excavations were made after that from the1970s till 2017, mainly by German teams, they were able to map the site and made a detailed plan of the architectural development.

tuna el gebel excavations

Importance of Sarcophagus

During Tuna El Gebel Excavations, they discovered the Temple of the Egyptian God Thoth, which is a bird-like deity, the Wisdom god, and responsible for intellectual pursuits, like writing and accounting. There were tombs of high Egyptian priests of the god Thoth, around 20 coffins were discovered, five of them were limestone sarcophagi, and five were wooden.

But did you ever wonder why they used Sarcophagus? The Egyptian Pharaohs of the 3rd dynasty were the first who used stone Sarcophagus, as they believed in the afterlife. They were designed for the pharaohs of Egypt and wealthy residents; they included the name of the person buried inside and decorated with texts from the book of death to help him to travel safely in the world of death. They believed that it was the eternal dwelling of those within it.

What are the Amulets for?

There were many amulets discovered during the excavation in Tuna El Gebel about 700 and many in ancient Egypt in general, what are these amulets if you are wondering? In Ancient Egypt, they believed in the afterlife; they used small objects with magical powers called Amulets. They were very common and inexpensive at that time; they believed that it protects the owner from misfortune and disease. Their powers were derived from their shape, color, material, and the inscriptions on it, and also the spoken words made over it…sounds like magic spells, right?

Tuna El Gebel's discoveries show an example of the ancient Egyptian priesthood and the greatness of the Pharaohs, how their mindsets were ahead of their time that some of the things they made we still can't figure how they did it till this day. So when you come to a tour in Egypt near Minya, make sure to visit the city of the dead.


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