II: Area of Vulture Rock and the Amenhotep III Temple

In the wadi to the north of the small temple of Amenhotep III, and both on and near the hill on which it stands, we have begun to survey archaeological remains, recording the area topographically in advance of future clearance in the area.

A. Sayce, writing in 1899, records the discovery of fragments of offering tables, stone dishes, and considerable numbers of ceramic vessels, on and near the hill immediately to the east of “Vulture Rock.”1 According to Quibell at the time of his 1896 report, published in 1897: “The early pottery near the temple was then turned over; it appeared to be a mere rubbish heap, with no sign of tomb or of brick building.”2 Later test trenches by Dirk Huyge and Stan Hendrickx in 1986 supported Quibell’s belief that pottery scatters in the area represented debris from activities in the area.​

Quibell published a single limestone offering table from the wadi, described as being “from dry stream bed on desert near Amenhotep’s temple;” the table belonged to one Shemai, and was dedicated by his son Meniou.3 Quibell also refers to “many more small fragments of inscription on pieces of sandstone” found near the offering table “in the stream bed opposite the present [Amenhotep III] temple.” We have located the sadly damaged remains of several additional offering tables, and fragments of small dedicatory objects with traces of hieroglyphic text from the area of the Wadi Hilal to the west of the Amenhotep III temple.

Sayce also refers to a small limestone obelisk that originally stood east of the Amenhotep III temple, ultimately lost in the Nile when Grébaut had it transported to Cairo, apparently in 1891.4 At the site now is a fragment of what appears to be the shoulder of a large, limestone sculpture of a baboon, an additional fragment of which (preserving part of the hair) appears to be in the Elkab magazine (personal communication Dr. D. Huyge). If these objects belonged together, they suggest an ensemble similar to the baboons and obelisk from the solar chapel of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel, now in the Nubia Museum. We have begun to document the rectangular area of small limestone chips behind the temple that Somers Clarke suggested to be the site associated with the obelisk, and we hope in future seasons of archaeological investigations to be able to make informed suggestions regarding the original location and perhaps even appearance of the monument.

A fragment of a small terracotta plaque or stela from just northeast of the Amenhotep III temple, with a naked female figure depicted en face and standing between two columns, supports the probable cult origin of the archaeological material of Graeco-Roman date behind the Amenhotep III temple.5 From a circular hut in front of the Amenhotep III temple, near a cleared track of probable pharaonic date leading to the temple, is a sandstone block, apparently a fragment of a larger stela, containing a dedication of probably Ptolemaic date: “1Phil… 2he made … 3-os, a Cretan.” Graffiti of Cretan soldiers in the Ptolemaic army appear to be particularly common in the Eastern Desert, and the men show an especial devotion to Min-Pan.6

  1. 1. A. H. Sayce, “A New Egyptian King: the Predecessor of Kheops,” PSBA 21 (1899): 108; Elkab VI p. 15 n. 43.
  2. 2. J.E. Quibell, Elkab, Egyptian Research Account 1897 (London, 1898), p. 16.
  3. 3. ibid., p. 16 and pl. 4; Spiegelberg, idem, p. 18; H. Vandekerckhove and R. Müller-Wollermann, Die Felsinschriften des Wadi Hilâl, Elkab 6 (Turnhout, 2001), p. 17 (the inscription to which Sayce refers is N 129); according to Elkab VI, p. 17 n. 59, the find spot of the offering table should correspond to Elkab IV location 71, but that location refers to the higher area of pottery on the eastern spur of the hill, and the designation of an origin in the “stream bed” makes location 72 the more probable findspot.
  4. 4. A. Sayce, “A New Egyptian King: the Predecessor of Kheops,” PSBA 21 (1899): 108-109.
  5. 5. Compare E. Rotté, “Egyptian Plaque Terracottas of Standing Nude Women from the Late Period: Egyptian Heritage or Foreign Influences,” Newsletter of the Coroplastic Studies Interest Group 7 (2012): 13-16 (note that a comparison to earlier depictions of the Syro-Palestinian goddess Qadesh is also to be made); L. Török, Hellenistic and Roman Terracottas from Egypt (Rome, 1995), pp. 137-139; compare for example British Museum 1886,0401.1543; also (for the short hairstyle as well) BMFA 1990.605: http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/model-shrine-with-nude-goddess-164642. Although some foreign influence is not impossible, the figures have earlier Egyptian prototypes — cf. E. Waraska, Female Figurines from the Mut Precinct: Context and Ritual Function, OBO 240 (Fribourg and Göttingen, 2009) — and resemble the images of divine figures within naoi in later Egyptian priestly images.
  6. 6. See A. Chaniotis, War in the Hellenistic World: a Social and Cultural History (Malden, Oxford, and Victoria, 2005), p. 151.