This article covers the south-western area of Minia
Mallawi, Ashmounin, Hermopolis and Tuna el-Gebel: are all scattered in the area of Mallawi which is 45 KM south of Minia on the same western bank so you just go south from minia till mallawi and then start the tour going west and inside the area.
Access: By road or rail, about 45 KM south of Minia. The busy district capital
of Mallawi lies on the western bank of the Ibrahimiya canal in the extensive
land between the Bahr Yusuf and the Nile. In spite of rapid industrial
development the town has preserved much of its old rural character. There is a
colorful weekly market to which the people of the surrounding area flock to
sell their produce.
Sights : Mallawi has an interesting museum containing archeological material
from Hermopolis Magna, Tuna El-Gabal and Meir areas, including many
mummies, sarcophagi and statuettes of ibises which were worshipped there
together with baboons as animals sacred to the god Thoth, and also glass,
pottery, faience, domestic equipment and numerous papyri.
Surroundings of Mallawi, about 10 KM north, at the village of El-
Ashmunein, are the extensive ruins and mounds of rubble which mark the site
of the once famous city of Khemnnu (Coptic Shmun; " the City of the Eight
Deities"), which from a very early period was the principal center of the cult
of Thoth, the god of writing, healing, and wisdom. In Egyptian belief this was
the site of the primal hill on which Thoth created the eight primal gods of this
world, who in turn engendered the egg out of which grew the sun. Khemnnu
was the capital of the 15th Nome of Upper Egypt, the Hare Nome, whose
princes were buried during the Middle Kingdom at Deir El-Bersha, on the
eastern bank of the Nile. Later, for reasons that are not understood, the town
declined, but under the Ptolemies it took on a fresh lease of life as a cult
center and place of pilgrimage dedicated to the worship of Hermes
Trismegistus " Thrice great Hermes ", and under the name of Hermopolis (to
the Romans Hermopolis Magna).
As this city dates back to very ancient times, naturally it boasts of monuments
from all periods, the most numerous of which are from the Greco-Roman
period. Several granite columns are still standing which are part of the
colonnade of the Greek Agora, or market-place with an early Christian
basilica. At the north of the site there are ruins of a temple built by Philipus
Arrhidaeus, Alexander the Great's half brother (323-217 BC) in honor of the
god Thoth, and to the north-west are extensive remains of a Nineteenth
Dynasty Temple, founded by Ramesses II but usurped by his son Merenptah
(1215 BC). There are also scanty remains of another temple of the Middle
Kingdom. During the Greco-Roman Period, the cemetery of this city was at a
place now called Tuna El-Gebel, which lies to the west.
3- TUNA EL-GEBEL (Arabic: تونا الجبل)
Lying 7 KM west of El-Ashmunein, beyond the Bahr Yussef, under
the western desert plateau, is the necropolis of Tuna El-Gebel, the burial place
of Hermopolis, also called Hermopolis West. Here are a number of tombs,
dating from the Ptolemaic Period, the most notable of which is the splendid
monument of Petosiris, the high priest of god Thoth, which resembles a small
temple. These tombs display a mixture of artistic styles, some being decorated
entirely in the classical Greek manner, while others such as that of Petosiris,
being in a mixture of Greek and traditional Egyptian styles. Thus some scenes,
mostly of purely religious subjects, are treated in the conventional Egyptian
manner, while those relating to daily life are classical Greek manner.
An observant visitor to the tomb of Petosiris, who is familiar with the
decoration of the ancient Egyptian tombs, will recognize many old friends
clad in Greek garments. Here also are the burial grounds (catacombs) of the
ibis, the bird sacred to the god Thoth. Thousands of the embalmed bodies of
these birds were found here, some of them elaborately bandaged. Also found,
were many statuettes of the ibis, in bronze, wood, and alabaster, baboon
burials and Aramaic papyri dating from the time of Darius. At Tuna El-Gebel
also are two rock-cut stelae dating from the reign of Akhenaton (1375-1358
BC), marking the boundary of the territory controlled by that King for his
new capital, Akhetaton. There is also a Roman waterwheel with a 37 m deep
The Tomb of Petosiris
The most important monument in the necropolis is the funerary Tomb
of Petosiris, a leading citizen of Hermopolis and high priest in the temple of
Thoth, who built this family mausoleum about 300 BC. This splendid tomb
was first discovered in 1919, and on account of its imposing appearance, it
was at first thought to be a temple. Actually this is a family tomb and was the
burial place, not only of Petosiris himself, but of his father, grandfather, and
other members of the family. All the men of this family held offices in
connection with the cult of god Thoth at Hermopolis, and also of other gods
worshipped in that place.
The tomb, surrounded by mounds of rubble, is approached by a paved road 4 m wide and 13 m long, on the left side ofwhich is an alter, 2.40 m high, with four horn-like projections at the corners. The façade of the tomb has four columns with elaborate foliage capitals and a doorway in the middle. Between the columns are high stone screens, which, like the pilasters at the sides, are adorned with reliefs depicting Petosiris making offerings and praying to the gods of his Nome. The reliefs on the back of the screens (the north wall of the vestibule) are on secular themes, depicted in a hybrid Greco-Egyptian style. To the right of the entrance: metal-workers are making a variety of articles; a man working on the centerpiece for a table; metal being weighed; the finished articles being backed for dispatch. To the left of the entrance; two lower rows, carpenter's work; two men are working with a lathe (the earliest known representation); making of a four-poster bed.
East wall, in three rows (from the bottom row upwards): plowing, the flax harvest, corn harvest, the corn being threshed with sticks. South wall; to the left of the door, Petosiris's sons with their parents; at the foot of the wall, men carrying offerings; to the right of the door; Petosiris's daughters with their parents; at the foot of the wall, mourning women and an offering scene, in purely Greek style. On the side pilasters, above, the dead man is playing a board game. West wall; in the two upper rows cattle-herds in the fields, in the bottom row vintage scenes, a wine-press, delivery of the jars of wine.
The roof of the chapel is supported by four rectangular pillars. Between the
southern pair of pillars is a rectangular pit leading down to the subterranean burial
chambers. The four pillars are covered with long inscriptions and reliefs showing the
dead man at prayer – north wall right-hand, eastern side: the goddess Nut dispensing
water from a tree to Petosiris's parents; below, Petosiris in prayer before his father;
base of the wall cattle driven through a marsh. East wall: Petosiris's funeral procession, with men, women and gods (the four sons of Osiris), some with votive gifts, accompanying the coffin to the tomb; on the right the mummy in front of the
tomb, with a priest pouring the water of consecration over it. On the lower part of the
walls offering-bearers. The scenes on the western wall relate,Zedhuef-ankh, brother of Petosiris.
The upper register is divided into five separate scenes, and in the first (from left to right) is shown the deceased adoring nine apes, who are the followers of Osiris. In the second scene, Zedhuef-ankh adores the spirits of the twelve hours "who accompany the Great God ". In the third register, he adores twelve cobras," who illuminate the darkness of the underworld". The fourth scene is damaged, but shows Zedhuef-ankh presenting offerings. The fifth scene shows the deceased led before Osiris, a god with head of an ape (a form of Thoth), and the goddess Maat take him by the hands and conduct him to Osiris, who is seated upon a throne. The bottom register shows a procession of men and women bearing offerings.
The eastern wall is also divided into three registers. In the upper and middle ones of which we see the ceremonies performed at the tomb on the day of burial. At the right of the scene is the tomb, and its form, crowned by a small pyramid, resembles the Theban tombs of the Eighteenth – Twentieth Dynasties rather than the actual tomb of Petosiris. In front of it stands the mummy of Seshu, father of Petosiris. The priest, clad in a leopard skin, who is sprinkling the mummy with water, is Teos, the grandson of Seshu. Behind him are men performing the ceremony known as "Opening the Mouth". At the foot of the stairs leading to the tomb, an ox is slaughtered for sacrifice. Next comes the funeral procession, headed by a group of priests. Three priests are pulling the funerary carriage, before which another priest burns, incense. The coffin containing the mummy is in the decorated chest, which rests, in traditional Egyptian style, in a boat, with statues of the goddesses Isis and Nephtys placed before and aft. But whereas in the earlier scenes of the New Kingdom (and before) the boat rested upon a sledge, here it is placed upon a low wheeled carriage. At the extreme left-hand end of the scene, stands Petosiris, watching the procession as it passes by. The bottom register shows men and women carrying offerings and leading sacrificial animals and birds.
The southern wall is divided into three parts by stucco projections, in the upper one Seshu, Petosiris's father, stands in adoration before nine spirits, who are called "the followers of Ra". The first three are in human form, the second trio has the heads of Jackal, and the remaining three have the heads of crocodiles. In the middle register, Zedhuef-ankh, the eldest son of Seshu, pays homage to his deceased father. The scene in the bottom register shows a herdsman driving cattle through the marshes. In the center of the southern wall is a double scene in which Seshu adores Osiris and Isis, while Zedhuef-ankh adores Osiris and Nephtys. In the second register, a scarab is adored by the goddesses Buto and Nekhbet, followed by a figure of the
The shaft in the middle of the chapel leads down to the tomb chamber, in
which Petosiris, his wife, Renpetnefert, and one of his sons were buried. His
coffin is now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
The Funerary House of Isidora
To the south of Petosiris's tomb is a necropolis of the Greco-Roman
period, with a number of two story tombs in Greco-Egyptian style. The finest
is the tomb of Isidora, who was drowned about 120 BC. Like most of the
funerary houses, that of Isidora consists of two chambers, built upon a raised
platform. It is approached from the street by a flight of steps leading to a
terrace, or balcony, upon which stands an alter. The whole structure is built of
bricks, coated with stucco, and painted. A door opposite to the mainentrance gives access to the inner chamber. To the right and left ofthis doorway are written two poems in Greek, both of which lament theuntimely death of Isidora. Two niches occur in the
left-hand wall of the second chamber, and against its end wall is an elaborate
funeral bed, where the mummy of the dead girl lay before being taken to the
burial chamber. The bed is a platform of bricks, flanked by two columns, and
surmounted by a molded plaster shell.