The Ramesside complex
Magnetometry also provides a cost-efficient method for clarifying the context of the Ramesside temple. The survey data clearly reveals the presence of a massive enclosure wall (5m thick), delimiting an area of c.230x200m.
Selective excavation trenches confirmed this feature was a mud-brick wall with exterior gypsum plaster lining.
The northern stretch of the wall is pierced by a monumental gateway, consisting of two towers measuring approximately 18x8m. A test trench revealed the inner face of one of the towers, associated with a mass of limestone chippings, some with worked surfaces, which may hint at an original decorated limestone element in this gateway.
In the north-west and north-eastern, fortifying bastions of 10x10m are evident at the external corners. Are these bastions actually the foundations of now lost towers?
The north-eastern corner is the focus of ongoing excavations in (2005-). While the well-constructed bastion and wall proved to be contemporary, an unexpected discovery was of an enigmatic brick mass, measuring at least 6.4 x 7.5m, built against and over the decayed remains of this part of the enclosure.
Inside the enclosure, a complex series of construction phases was revealed, with narrow contiguous rooms opening onto a space (court?) in the Third Intermediate Period. These rooms been built up against the inner face of the enclosure wall, again after it had been exposed to erosion and decay for some time. A mass of storage pottery was encountered in one of these rooms.
The enclosure wall must predate this time. As it follows the same alignment as the temple, and is built of the same type of bricks, it undoubtedly dates to the Ramesside era. It seems likely that this large complex, with a modest temple set within it, alongside other smaller-scale structures, represents one of the line of Ramesside installations designed to guard against the increased threat from the Libyan desert. Such complexes may have fulfilled the role of ideological or symbolic defenses rather than pratical military forts.
Texts from the reigns of Merenptah and Ramses III refer to several installations along the western Delta. Thus far, only one had been identified archaeologically, at the site of Zawyet Umm el-Rakham on Egypt's north-western coast. Excavations at this site, still ongoing, suggest an enclosure wall of similar size, with a narrow gateway and external corner bastions, and a small temple within, thus similar in many ways to the structures at Kom Firin.
The epithets afforded Ramses II upon the doorjamb from the temple underline its position on Egypt's frontier: 'strong ruler, strong of arm, powerful of might' and 'one fighting at the head of his troops'. Kom Firin thus attests to the protection of Egypt’s western Delta frontier through ideological, and possibly practical, means.