Hagr Edfu, Egypt
- Dr Ahmed el-Mokadem (2009–2010,
- Yale Egyptological Institute (2008, 2009)
- Challenge Fund (2010)
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The ancient necropolis of Hagr Edfu was an important cemetery from as early as the late Middle Kingdom through the Roman period, and, later, the location of a Christian settlement. Although modern scholars have long been aware of the site’s significance, it has never before been studied systematically.
Hagr Edfu provides important evidence for original tomb architecture and decoration for the elites of the regional capital, Edfu. The site also vividly attests successive phases of use in which the original function of some tombs changed. By Dynasty 18, hieratic visitors’ inscriptions demonstrate that one large, well-cut tomb had been re-imagined as a temple of Isis.
Centuries later, some of the most prominent rock-cut tombs were reused for habitation, probably by Christian monks. Tenth and eleventh century Medieval Christian manuscripts now in the British Library suggest the site was the location of a Monastery of Saint Merkurios and other Christian institutions. An early nineteenth-century church testifies to the site’s continuous or periodic Christian character.
In 1980, a modern monastery, Deir Anba Bakhum, was established around the church and is now a popular pilgrimage destination, with thousands of visitors each year. Today, Hagr Edfu is under threat from encroaching settlement and water distribution systems.
The British Museum expedition
The British Museum expedition works to record key features representing the site’s long history of use. Since 2001, directed by W. V. Davies, the expedition has documented a cluster of three pharaonic tombs and undertaken the mapping of tomb entrances at Hagr Edfu.
From 2007, the mission has systematically recorded Late Antique architecture, architectural installations, Coptic inscriptions and ostraca. As modern settlement wraps around the site, the water table is rising and some of the tombs along the lowest terraces of the desert escarpment are now flooded. In 2009, the mission began a programme of conservation through documentation to record a range of representative features at the site.
The British Museum expedition aims to establish the chronological horizons of use and reuse at the Hagr Edfu, and to situate the site within its local and regional contexts.
Immediate aims are to: complete real-time kinematic differential GPS topographical map of the site; undertake geophysical survey to establish the course of the Nile over time in the Edfu region; record in full the very important decorated tomb of the early-Dynasty 18 regional official, Sataimau (Tomb 1), and closely associated Tombs 2 and 3; plan a representative sample of undecorated tombs; document Late Antique architecture in and around earlier rock-cut tombs, Coptic inscriptions and ostraca; conduct a surface survey of pottery, and record rock-inscriptions on the hill-top.
British Museum staff
- Marcel Mareé, Assistant Keeper
- Claire Thorne, illustrator
- Susanne Woodhouse, librarian
- Janet Ambers, scientist
- Eric Miller, scientist
- Rebecca Stacey, scientist.
- Lamia El-Hadidy, University of Cairo
- Judith M. Bunbury, University of Cambridge
- Angus Graham, Newcastle University
- Kristian D. Strutt, University of Southampton
- Anke Ilona Blöbaum, Institut für Ägyptologie und Koptologie, Münster
Bunbury, J. M., A. Graham, and K. D. Strutt. 2009. Kom el-Farahy: A New Kingdom island in an evolving Edfu floodplain. BMSAES 14: 1–23. Read the article
Davies, W. V. 2006. British Museum Epigraphic Expedition report on the 2005 season. ASAE 80: 133–51.
Davies, W. V. 2008. British Museum Epigraphic Expedition report on the 2006 season. ASAE 82: 39–48.
Davies, W. V. 2009. La tombe de Sataimaou à Hagar Edfou. Égypte Afrique & Orient 53: 25–40.
Davies, W. V., and E. R. O’Connell, 2009. British Museum expedition to Elkab and Hagr Edfu 2009. BMSAES 14: 51–72. Read the article
Davies, W. V., and E. R. O’Connell. 2011a. The British Museum expedition to Elkab and Hagr Edfu, 2010. BMSAES 16: 101–32. Read the article
Davies, W. V., and E. R. O’Connell. 2011b. British Museum Expedition to Elkab and Hagr Edfu, 2011. BMSAES 17: 1–29. Read the
O’Connell, E. R. 2010. The British Museum Expedition to Hagr Edfu 2010: Conservation through documentation project. Bulletin of the American Research Center in Egypt 197 (Fall): 1, 3–8.
O’Connell, E. R. Forthcoming. Christian Hagr Edfu. In Christianity and Monasticism in Upper Egypt III: Nag Hammadi-Esna, ed. G. Gabra. Cairo: AUC Press.