A Celebration of Women Writers

"Chapter 2: The Buried Cities of Ancient Egypt." by Amelia Ann Blanford Edwards (1831-1892)
Publication: Pharaohs Fellahs and Explorers. by Amelia Edwards. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1891. (First edition.) pp. 37-69.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 37]




IF as a rule the busy American, no less than the busy Englishman, knows less about Egypt both ancient and modern than about many less interesting lands, we may assume that his apparent indifference is mainly due to the remoteness of the place and the subject. From the port of New York to the harbor of Alexandria, as the crow flies, may be roughly estimated at between five and six thousand miles; while for those who are not crows the transit, even at high pressure, would scarcely be accomplished under three weeks.

But if modern Egypt is so far away that it takes three weeks to get there, ancient Egypt is infinitely more distant. The traveller who would visit the court of Memphis in the days of the earliest Egyptian monarchy must undertake a journey of some six or seven thousand years. He must not only go up the Nile; he must ascend the great River of Time and trace the stream of History to its source.

Do we realize how far distant is his goal, or how many familiar landmarks he must leave behind ? We are accustomed to think of the days of Plato and Pericles, of Horace and the Cæsars, as "ancient times." But Egypt was old and outworn when Athens and Rome were founded; the great [Page 38]  Assyrian Empire was a creation of yesterday as compared with that of the Pharaohs; the middle point of Egyptian history was long past when Moses received his education at the court of Rameses II.; and the Pyramids were already hoary with antiquity when Abraham journeyed into the land of Egypt.

Where, then, it may be asked, are we to place the starting-point of Egyptian history ? That is a very difficult question to answer. The dawn is long past when we catch our first glimpse of that far-distant epoch when Mena, Prince of Thinis, became chief of the chieftains of the primitive clans, and founded the first monarchy. That earliest landmark–dimly seen down the vista of ages–carries us back to about five thousand years before the Christian era; and even Mena, who is undoubtedly an historical personage, has a background of tradition behind him. That background of tradition represents prehistoric Egypt; and of prehistoric Egypt we at all events know that it was subdivided into a number of principalities which subsequently became the "Nomes," or Provinces, of United Egypt.

The rulers of these earliest petty states were remembered by the Egyptians of after ages as the Horshesu, or "Followers of Horus." They occupied, in fact, much the same place in Egyptian history and tradition which the demi-gods occupied in the history and tradition of Hellas; but with this great difference–the demi-gods were purely mythical heroes, whereas the Horshesu were human rulers, living in a land where political boundaries were already sharply defined. It is possible–we may even go so far as to say it is probable–that a gigantic work of art belonging to that inconceivably remote age survives to this day in the great Sphinx of Ghizeh. (10) Hence it may be seen that even in prehistoric Egypt we are as far as ever from the beginnings of civilization; and beyond this, all is impenetrable night.

The existence of Egypt as a nation begins with Mena, the first king of the First Dynasty, and ends with Cleopatra. These two names are the preface and finis of Egyptian history. [Page 39]  Between them lies a space of 4790 years, comprising thirty-three royal dynasties and many hundreds of kings. Those kings were not all native to the soil. Egypt, during the long centuries of her slow decadence, was often ruled by princes of alien blood. But it was not till Cleopatra's galley turned and fled at the fatal sea-fight in which Mark Antony was defeated that the empire of the Pharaohs ceased to be a nation, and became a Roman province. So fell the most ancient of monarchies, the parent of all our arts and all our sciences, bequeathing to later ages a history so long that, compared with the history of other nations, it is almost like a geological period.

It was during these 4790 years of national existence that all those temples were erected, all those pyramids, obelisks, and colossal statues, of which the shattered remains are to this day the marvel and admiration of travellers.

Now, Egypt is unapproachably rich in building material. From Cairo to the first cataract–a stretch of five hundred and eighty-two miles–the Nile flows between a double range of cliffs which sometimes dip sheer down to the water's edge, and sometimes recede to a considerable distance from the bed of the river. For the first five hundred and fifteen miles–that is, from Cairo to Edfû–these cliffs are of fine white limestone; then, for a distance of sixty-five miles, the limestone is superseded by a rich yellow sandstone; and this again is succeeded, some sixty-seven miles higher up, by the red granite and black basalt of Assûan.

With such resources within easy reach, and with the great river for a means of transport, it is no wonder that the Egyptians became a nation of builders. In no country ancient or modern were there so many cities, so many temples, so many tombs. The cities have become rubbish-mounds. The tombs have been plundered for ages, and are being plundered every day. The temples have been ravaged by the Persian, the Assyrian, and the Mohammedan invader, defaced by the Christian iconoclast, and smashed up for the limekiln by the modern Arab. Hundreds, probably thou- [Page 40]  sands, have been utterly destroyed; and yet we stand amazed before the splendor and number of the wrecks which remain.

In Upper Egypt, those wrecks are noble ruins open to the cloudless sky, and touched with the gold of dawn and the crimson of sunset; but in Lower Egypt, and especially in the Delta where there is no desert, but only one vast plain of rich alluvial soil, those ruins are buried under the rubbish of ages, thus forming those gigantic mounds which are so striking a feature of the scenery between Alexandria and Cairo. Nothing in Egypt so excites the curiosity of the newly landed traveller as these gigantic graves, some of which are identified with cities famous in the history of the ancient world, while others are problems only to be solved at the edge of the spade. He sees mounds everywhere; not only in the Delta, but in Middle Egypt, in Upper Egypt, and even in Nubia. And wherever he sees a mound, there, but too surely, he sees the native husbandmen digging it away piecemeal for brick-dust manure.

It was in order to rescue at least a part of the historical treasures entombed in these neglected mounds, and especially in the mounds of the Delta and the district of the old Land of Goshen, that the society known as the Egypt Exploration Fund was founded in 1883, under the presidency of the late Sir Erasmus Wilson. An influential committee was formed in London, a subscription list was opened in England and America, and the work of scientific exploration was immediately begun.

From that time to this, the Egypt Exploration Fund has sent out explorers every season, having sometimes two, and even three, simultaneously at work in different parts of the Delta. Each year has been fruitful in discoveries. Ancient geographical boundaries have been traced; the sites of famous cities have been identified; sculptures, inscriptions, arms, papyri, jewellery, painted pottery, beautiful objects in glass, porcelain, bronze, gold, silver, and even textile fabrics, have been found; a flood of unexpected light has been cast upon the Biblical history of the Hebrews; the early stages [Page 41]  of the route of the Exodus have been defined; an important chapter in the history of Greek art and Greek epigraphy has been recovered from oblivion; and an archæological survey of the Delta has been made, nearly all the larger mounds having been measured and mapped. This survey is now about to be carried out on a much extended scale, covering the whole of Egypt, and including copies of inscriptions, photographs of monuments, triangulations, careful descriptions of the condition of the ruins, etc., etc. For this important work two specially trained archæologists will be despatched every season by the Fund.

It was, as I have said, in 1883 that the Egypt Exploration Fund began its labors in the Delta, the first explorer sent out by the society being the eminent Egyptologist, M. Naville, of Geneva. M. Naville selected as the scene of his first excavation a celebrated mound in the Wady Tûmilât, between Zagazig and Ismaïlia; a mound which Lepsius had conjecturally identified with "Raamses," one of the twin "treasure-cities" built by the forced labor of the Hebrew colonists in the time of the Great Oppression. Of these it is said in the first chapter of Exodus that "they built for Pharaoh treasure-cities, Pithom and Raamses"; by "treasure-cities" meaning fortified magazines, such as the Egyptians were wont to erect for the safe custody of grain and military stores.

A, A: Excavated store-chambers.

Now, the South-eastern Delta was for some five hundred years as much the father-land of the descendants of Jacob as modern Egypt is now the father-land of the descendants of Amr's Arab hordes. The pleasant pastures of Goshen were theirs by right of gift and settlement. There they increased and multiplied, and there for centuries they dwelt, a favored and a [Page 42]  prosperous race. All this time, while they were happy, they had no history. It was only when much fighting and building had drained Egypt of men and treasure that the Hebrews began to be oppressed; and it is with their oppression that their history as a nation may be said to commence. No part of the Bible is more dramatically interesting, or more circumstantially related, than those chapters which tell of their sufferings, their flight and their escape. Egyptologists, Hebraists, geographers, and travellers have exhausted speculation as to the road by which they went out, the places at which they halted, and the point at which they forded the great water. That they must have started by way of Wady Tûmilât is admitted by the majority of Exodus theorists. Then, as now, that famous valley was by far the shortest and most direct route from the old Land of Goshen to the desert. Then, as now, it was watered by a navigable canal, which in all probability the Hebrew settlers themselves helped to keep in repair, or possibly to excavate, and which may yet be traced for a considerable distance. Forty years ago Lepsius identified Tell Abû Suleiman at the westward mouth of the valley, and Tell-el-Maskhûtah near the eastward end, with the twin treasure-cities built for Pharaoh by the persecuted Israelites; and so unhesitatingly were his identifications accepted that these two places have ever since been entered in maps and guide-books as "Pithom" and "Raamses." Even the little railway station erected by the French engineers on the line of the Fresh-water Canal in 1860 was called " Ramses," and is so called to this day. It is unnecessary to recapitulate the argument upon which Lepsius based his identification; but it was, at all events, universally accepted. M. Naville went, therefore, to prove the correctness of this argument: and it was very much to his own surprise, and to the surprise of all concerned in his expedition, that he discovered it to be erroneous.

What M. Naville actually found under the mounds of Maskhûtah was a peribolos wall, the site of a temple, a dromos, a camp, some ruins of a city, and a series of most [Page 43] 


curious subterraneous structures, entirely unlike any architectural remains ever discovered in Egypt or elsewhere. The peribolos wall, twenty-four feet in thickness, enclosed a quadrangular space of about fifty-five thousand square yards. The temple, which occupied one corner, though small, was originally surrounded by an outer wall of brickwork, the inner walls being of fine Tûrah limestone. Both temple and city proved to have been founded by Rameses II., the names and titles of that Pharaoh being the earliest recorded in the inscriptions discovered. Statues, bas-relief sculptures, and hieroglyphic texts of various kings, priests, and officials of subsequent periods were also found upon the spot. Among these must be especially noted part of a dedicatory tablet of Sheshonk I., the Biblical Shishak, and a broken colossus of Osorkon II., both of the Twenty-second Dynasty; two statues of functionaries, engraved with [Page 44]  important inscriptions; some remains of an admirably sculptured and fully gilt wall-screen and pillar of Nectanebo I. (Thirtieth Dynasty,); and a magnificent granite stela of Ptolemy Philadelphus, which is not only the largest Ptolemaic tablet known, but is also historically the most interesting. All the foregoing kings appear to have embellished the temple. Besides readable inscriptions of various periods, an immense quantity of minute fragments, some yet showing a hieroglyph or two, were found built into walls or reduced to gravel chips. This barbarism was the work of the Romans, who, being the last occupants of the site, appear to have smashed up any available material in order to level the ground for their camp. Thus the history of the place begins with Rameses II., the Pharaoh of the Great Oppression, about 1400 B.C., and ends with a Roman milestone of Galerius Maximian and Severus, about A.D. 306 or 307.

The temple was dedicated to Tum, (11) the god of the setting sun; Tum being the patron deity of the town and the surrounding district. Now, as this place was not only a store-fort but a sanctuary, so also it had a secular name and a sacred name; like our own venerable English abbey-town of Verulam, which is also called St. Albans. Its secular name proved to be "Thukut" or "Sukut," (12) and its sacred name "Pa-Tum." These particulars we learn from inscriptions found upon the spot.

Engraved, for instance, on a black granite statue of a deceased prince and high-priest named Aak, we find a prayer in which he implores "all the priests who go into the sacred abode of Tum, the great god of Sukut," to pronounce a certain funerary formula for his benefit; while a fragment of another statue is inscribed with the names and titles of one Pames Isis, who was an "official of Tum of Sukut and governor of the storehouse." In these two inscriptions (to say nothing of several others) three important facts are recorded: namely, that the place was a "storehouse," that its sacred name was Pa-Tum; and that its secular name, also the name of the surrounding district, was Sukut. [Page 45] 


Now, "Pa-Tum" means the House, or Abode, of Tum; "Pa" being the Egyptian word for house, or abode. Thus, the temple gave its name to the city, just as "Pa-Bast "–the Abode of Bast–gave its name to the city which the Greeks called Bubastis. But as the Greeks, according to the Greek method of transcription, rendered "Pa" by "Bu," and "Bast" by "Bastis," so the Hebrews, according to the Hebrew method of transcription, rendered "Pa" by "Pi," and "Bast" by "Beseth." thus it is as "Pi-Beseth" that we read of Bubastis in the Bible. And so, in like manner, the Hebrews changed "Pa" into "Pi," and "Tum" into "Thom," when dealing with "Pa-Tum," of which they made "Pi-Thom." Accordingly, it is of this very store-fort, "Pa-Tum," that we read in the passage which I have already quoted from the first chapter of Exodus "And they built for Pharaoh treasure-cities, Pi-Thom and Raamses." [Page 46] 

So, although Lepsius was mistaken in identifying Tell-el-Maskhûtah with "Raamses," he was not so very far wrong after all. The place was not "Raamses," but it was "Pithom."

But this town had also a secular name–Sukut. Now "Pa-Tum of Sukut" had been known to Egyptologists for many years in certain geographical lists of temples and local festivals sculptured on the walls of various temples in Upper Egypt; and Dr. Brugsch, our greatest authority on ancient Egyptian topography, had long ago identified it with "Pithom of Succoth." But till M. Naville excavated Tell-el-Maskhûtah, Pithom of Succoth was but a name and a theory. Now Pithom is a fact, and Sukut is a fact; and when it is remembered that the departing Hebrews "journeyed from Raamses to Succoth" on their way to Etham and Pihahiroth, it at once becomes evident that we have not only found one of the "treasure-cities" built by their hands, but that we have identified the district in which that great mixed multitude first halted to rest by the way. Identifying this district, we also identify the route of the Exodus. We know, in fact, that they went out by way of Wady Tûmilât in the direction of the modern town of Ismaïlia, a few miles north of the old Bitter Lakes which, according to the majority of geologists, now occupy what was originally the head of the Gulf of Suez. They crossed, in all probability, near Shalûf; but for clearer insight into this matter we must wait for further explorations and "more light."

But our "treasure-city" had yet another name–a name by which it was known in later times, under the Ptolemies and under the Romans; and this more recent name was Heroöpolis. A rude graffito, scratched apparently by a Roman soldier, on one of the uprights of a limestone door-way, when the place had been converted into a Roman camp, gives us this name under the form of "Ero Castra"; and it is as "Heroöpolis" that we read of Pithom in the Septuagint translation, where it is said, in the forty-sixth chapter of Genesis, that Joseph "made ready his chariot, and went up to [Page 47] 

This magnificent colossal statue is one of a pair which yet lie prostrate in the ruins of the great Temple of Tanis. It represents a king of whom history has preserved no record, and who would be unknown but for these twin memorials. The statues, if raised from the ground, would sit twelve feet high without counting the plinths. The modelling and anatomy are admirable, and the polished surfaces are as lustrous to this day as when first executed.

Heroöpolis to meet Jacob his father." this, however, was a verbal anachronism on the part of the Septuagint; for there was neither a Pithom nor a Heroöpolis in the time of Joseph, but only a "Land of Goshen," as correctly given in the Hebrew original. The anachronism is, however, valuable, since it shows that Pithom was already known as Heroöpolis in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus. (13) As for the historical tablet of Ptolemy Philadelphus, it is of great importance. [Page 48]  It records how this king "rebuilt the Abode of Tum," and how one of his generals "captured elephants for his Majesty" on the east coast of Africa, and brought them hither in transport ships by way of the canal. That canal was the ancient Pharaonic canal, the bed of which is yet distinctly traceable, following the same direction as the present Sweet-water Canal in the Wady Tûmilât. This tablet also mentions a place called "Pikerehet," beyond Pithom and nearer to the Red Sea, which seems to be identical with Pihahiroth, where the Israelites encamped between Migdol and the sea.

The mounds of Maskhûtah, as shown in our illustration, may be described as a series of undulating sand hillocks. In the distance is seen the little railway station, now disused; and here and there a dark pit excavated in the middle distance marks one of the store-chambers, or cellars, opened by M. Naville. Not only these cellars, but also the great wall of circuit twenty-four feet in thickness, were probably the work of the oppressed Hebrews.

These subterraneous store-chambers, magazines, granaries, or whatever it may please us to call them, are solidly built square chambers of various sizes, divided by massive partition walls about ten feet in thickness, without doors or any kind of communication, evidently destined to be filled and emptied from the top by means of trap-doors and ladders. Except the corner occupied by the temple, the whole area of the great walled enclosure is honey-combed with these cellars.

They are, as I have said, well and solidly built. The bricks are large, and are made of Nile mud pressed in a wooden mould and dried in the sun. Also they are bedded in with mortar, which is not common, the ordinary method being to bed them with mud, which dries immediately, and holds almost as tenaciously as mortar. And this reminds us that Pharaoh's overseers "made the children of Israel to serve with rigor, and made their lives bitter with hard bondage in mortar and in brick." We remember all the details of that pitiful story–how the straw became exhausted; how the [Page 49]  poor souls were driven forth to gather in stubble for mixing with their clay; and yet how they were required to give in as large a tale of bricks at the end of each day's work as if the straw had been duly provided.

The above is reduced from Mr. Petrie's large plan in "Tanis," Part I., showing the position of the ruins within the enclosure wall, the obelisks being figured as they lie. The private houses of Roman date are marked in thicker lines than the ruins of the temple; and the dotted lines show the course of Mr. Petrie's trenches which were thirty-five in number, from seven to twenty-four feet in depth, and from fifty to four hundred feet in length. The main entrance-pylon, where a few blocks yet stand in situ, is at the west end of the great enclosure wall, the north gate being a later opening cut in Roman times. The length of the temple was one thousand feet, by seven hundred feet in breadth; and the great enclosure wall added by Pisebkhanu, an obscure king of the Twenty-first Dynasty, is no less than eighty feet thick on the south side. The avenue (necessarily omitted in our illustration) was three hundred and seventy-five feet in length.

Now, it is a very curious and interesting fact that the Pithom bricks are of three qualities. In the lower courses of these massive cellar walls they are mixed with chopped straw; higher up, when the straw may be supposed to have [Page 50]  run short, the clay is found to be mixed with reeds–the same kind of reeds which grow to this day in the bed of the old Pharaonic canal, and which are translated as "stubble" in the Bible. Finally, when the last reeds were used up, the bricks of the uppermost courses consist of mere Nile mud, with no binding substance whatever.

So here we have the whole pathetic Bible narrative surviving in solid evidence to the present time. We go down to the bottom of one of these cellars. We see the good bricks for which the straw was provided. Some few feet higher we see those for which the wretched Hebrews had to seek reeds, or stubble. We hear them cry aloud, "Can we make bricks without straw ?"

Lastly, we see the bricks which they had to make, and did make, without straw, while their hands were bleeding and their hearts were breaking. Shakespeare, in one of his most familiar passages, tells us of "sermons in stones;" but here we have a sermon in bricks, and not only a sermon, but a practical historical commentary of the highest importance and interest.

The discovery of Pithom in 1883 was followed in 1884 by Mr. Petrie's excavations at Tanis; again by his discovery of Naukratis in 1885, and of the palace-fort of Daphnæ in 1886. Then followed, in 1887, M. Naville's discovery of the Jewish cemetery in which were interred the followers of the high-priest Onias, who fled from Syria, according to Josephus, during the reign of Ptolemy Philometer; (14) and, at the latter end of the same season, came the discovery of the great temple of Bubastis.

It was, then, in 1884 that Mr. Petrie worked for the Egypt Exploration Fund on the site of that famous city called in Egyptian Ta-an, or Tsàn; transcribed as "Tanis" by the Greeks, and rendered in the Hebrew as "Zoan." It yet preserves an echo of these ancient names as the Arab village of "Sàn." This site, historically and Biblically the most interesting in Egypt, is the least known to visitors. It enjoys an evil reputation for rain, east winds, and fever; it is very diffi- [Page 51] 

The shrine shown in this illustration is one of a pair placed on opposite sides of the great avenue of statues, sphinxes, and obelisks which led to the Temple. These shrines are of quartzite sandstone, each being cut in a single block. The surface is most delicately sculptured with groups of figures and hieroglyphic texts; while inside, enthroned at the upper end, is a triad of deities. The companion shrine to the above has been smashed to pieces.

cult of access; and it is entirely without resources for the accommodation of travellers. Not many tourists care to encounter a dreary railway trip followed by eight or ten hours in a small row-boat, with no inn and no prospect of anything but salt fish to eat at the end of the journey. The daring few take tents and provisions with them; and those few are mostly sportsmen, attracted less by the antiquities of Sân-el-Hagar than by the aquatic birds which frequent the adjacent lake. Mr. Petrie went to this desolate spot provided not only with a sufficient store of canned soups, meats, and vegetables, jam, biscuits, and the like, but also with scientific instru- [Page 52]  ments, carpenters' tools, and a large quantity of iron roofing for the mud-brick dwelling which he had to build for himself and his overseer. The great temple of Tanis-Zoan was one of the largest and most splendid in Egypt. It dated apparently from the Pyramid Period, the earliest royal name found in the ruins being that of Pepi Merira of the Sixth Dynasty. It was, however, rebuilt by Amenemhat I. and his successors of the Twelfth and Thirteenth dynasties, many of whom have left evidences of their work in the shape of colossal statues, obelisks, and the like. Next came Rameses II., who seems to have pulled the whole temple to pieces, in order to reconstruct it according to the style of the Nineteenth Dynasty; covering its architraves with huge hieroglyphic inscriptions, and adorning it with a forest of obelisks and an army of colossal portrait statues of himself. It now strews the ground, an utter wreck, covering a space of one thousand feet from end to end.

Mr. Petrie turned, cleaned, and planned every stone in this immense ruin, and copied every hieroglyphic inscription sculptured upon the surfaces of those fallen blocks, obelisks, cornices, and statues. In the course of this laborious task he brought to light an extraordinary number of reworked stones of all periods, each stone a fragment torn from a page of history. Obelisks, statues, and historical tablets prove to have been cut up into lengths, dressed down, and built in with as little ceremony as though they were blocks fresh from the quarry. Some of these destroyed obelisks are palimpsests in stone. They date from the important times of the Eleventh and Twelfth dynasties, and were originally covered from top to bottom on all four sides with inscriptions elaborately engraved in small hieroglyphs about one inch in length. These inscriptions prove to have been effaced by Rameses II., who re-engraved the surfaces with his own titles and cartouches cut on a large scale. Finally, some three centuries later, a Sheshonk, or an Osorkon, with a sacrilegious recklessness worthy of a Turkish pasha, hewed them in pieces to build a wall and a gate-way. The historical stelæ, apparently a uniform [Page 53]  series of large size, were found in halves, none of which match, but their legends seem to have been already corroded and illegible when they were thus utilized. The other halves must either have been destroyed or are yet imbedded in the structure.

Here also Mr. Petrie discovered the remains of the largest colossus ever sculptured by the hand of man. This huge figure represented Rameses II. in that position known as "the hieratic attitude;" that is to say, with the arms straightened to the sides, and the left foot advanced in the act of walking. It had been cut up by Osorkon II., of the Twenty-second Dynasty, to build a pylon gate-way; and it was from the fallen blocks of this gate-way that Mr. Petrie recognized what it had originally been. Among these fragments were found an ear, part of a foot, pieces of an arm, part of the pilaster which supported the statue up the back, and part of the breast, on which are carved the royal ovals. Ex pede Herculem. These fragments (mere chips of a few tons each), although they represent but a very small portion of the whole, enabled Mr. Petrie to measure, describe, and weigh the shattered giant with absolute certainty. He proved to have been the most stupendous colossus known. Those statues which approach nearest to him in size are the colossi of Abû-Simbel, the torso of the Ramesseum, and the colossi of the Plain. These, however, are all seated figures, and, with the exception of the torso, are executed in comparatively soft materials. But the Rameses of Tanis was not only sculptured in the obdurate red granite of Assûan, and designed upon a larger scale than any of these, but he stood erect and crowned, ninety-two feet high from top to toe, or one hundred and twenty-five feet high, including his pedestal. This is nearly fifty feet higher than the obelisk in Central Park, New York, or than its fellow, the British obelisk on the Thames embankment. The minimum weight of the whole mass is calculated by Mr. Petrie at twelve hundred tons, this being three hundred and thirteen tons more than the estimated height of the colossus of the Ramesseum, when entire. We ask ourselves with amazement how so huge a [Page 54]  monolith was extracted unbroken from the quarry; how it was floated from Assûan to Tanis; how it was raised into its place when it reached its destination. "The effect," wrote Mr. Flinders Petrie, "when there were no high mounds here, must have been astounding. The temple was probably not more than fifty feet high, and the tallest Tanis obelisks were less than fifty feet high. The statue must, therefore, have towered some sixty-five feet above all its surroundings, and have been visible for many miles across the plain." (15) These measurements are calculated from the foot, one large block having the toes of the right foot nearly complete.


We have here an outline of the toes drawn to scale. They have been cut across the ends of the nails, and shaved up the sides by the saw of the mason. The great toe measured fourteen inches and seven-eighths, the second toe twelve inches and five-eighths, the third toe ten inches and four-eighths, the fourth toe eleven inches and two-eighths, and the little toe eight inches and four-eighths. The whole foot, when perfect, was fifty-seven inches and two-eighths in length. Although it is impossible now to prove that this gigantic statue was cut from a single block, there cannot be any reasonable doubt of the fact. Every known colossal statue in Egypt is monolithic, and it is inconceivable that the great Tanis colossus should have been an exception to this universal rule. [Page 55] 

Desert Hare. Piece of Porcelain Sceptre. Isis and Infant Horus. Shu;
Kohi Pot. Alabaster Capital. Ram; Knum. Ta-ur.–(Pottery.)
Apis Amulet–(Pottery.) Bowl.–(Greenstone-war.)
Infant Horus.–(Bronze.) Calyx Capital.–(Bronze.) Ceramic Jar. Calyx Capital.–(Bronze.) Tahuti (Thoth).–(Greenstone-ware.)
[Page 56]  [Page 57] 

Many very precious things were found by Mr. Petrie in the course of his work at Tanis. In the cellars of some large private mansions which perished in the great conflagration by which the city was destroyed in the time of the Emperor Diocletian, were discovered a mass of very interesting domestic relics, such as small household deities in bronze, alabaster, and glazed ware; mortars, moulds, works of art in sculpture and terra-cotta, and a great abundance of pottery, both coarse and fine. The house of one Bakakhiu contained a remarkable portrait statuette of himself; and in that of his next-door neighbor was found a zodiac painted in gold and colors upon a sheet of thin glass, this being the only known example of ancient glass-painting. From this house came the most important discovery of all; namely, seven ancient waste-paper baskets full of letters, deeds, memoranda, and other MSS. Some were on papyrus, and some on parchment; some were written in Greek, and some in the old Egyptian language, these last being penned in the hieroglyphic, hieratic, and demotic scripts. These priceless documents were alone worth the whole cost of the expedition. One proves to be a mathematical treatise; another is an almanac; and another is a syllabary. The first is in the hands of Professor Revillout, of the Louvre, who has offered to translate it. The second has been translated by Mr. Petrie, and the third by Mr. Frank Llewellyn Griffith. The two latter have been quite recently published as an extra volume by the Committee of the Egypt Exploration Fund; and the society hopes in time to publish fac-similes and translations of the entire collection.

Some very interesting work was done by M. Naville in the course of the same season in the Eastern Delta, where, at a place called Saft el-Henneh, he excavated the ruins of a black basalt temple of Rameses II., and discovered the remains of a beautiful monolithic shrine erected by Nectanebo II., the last of the native Pharaohs. What the inscription of Heliodorus was to Mr. Petrie at Naukratis, these fragments of the granite shrine were to M. Naville at Saft el- [Page 58]  Henneh. For centuries they had lain neglected in an open field, where for half the year they were covered by the waters of the inundation; yet all this time they held a secret as precious in its way as that of Naukratis–the secret of the ancient city buried in the neighboring mound. That city was none other than Goshen, the capital town of that Land of Goshen which was the special home of Israel in Egypt. I may add that, although M. Naville hesitates to positively identify the site of the ancient city of "Kes," or Goshen, with that of "Raamses," there is very strong reason for believing that Rameses II. rebuilt the place, and gave it his own name, and that in "Kes," "Goshen" (now Saft el-Henneh), we have the site of that other "treasure-city" built by the Hebrews at the time of the Great Oppression. (16)

The traveller who should turn his back upon Saft el-Hen-neh and journey northward as far as the shores of Lake Menzaleh, would there find himself upon the scene of Mr. Petrie's work in 1886 and at the foot of Tell Defenneh. Now, Tell Defenneh is a large mound, or group of mounds, situate close to Lake Menzaleh, at the extreme north-eastern corner of the Delta; and the name of this group of mounds, "Defenneh," is a corrupt Arab version of "Daphnæ," the "Daphnæ of Pelusium" of the Greek historians. The identity of Defenneh and Daphnæ has never been questioned by scholars, and the identity of both with the Biblical Tahpanhes has also been admitted by the majority of Bible commentators.

The history of Daphnæ begins with Psammetichus I., Prince of Saïs and Memphis, who fought his way to the throne by the aid of Carian and Ionian mercenary troops, and founded the Twenty-sixth Egyptian Dynasty. This event dates from about 665 B.C. Here Psammetichus constructed two large camps for the permanent accommodation of his foreign soldiers, one on each bank of the Pelusiac branch of the Nile, and here they founded a large military colony. In course of time, a Greek town sprang up in the neighboring plain. This was the earliest legalized [Page 59] 

Portrait-statuette of Bakakhui in Roman costume; large statuette of Thoth; group of four smaller gods; basalt mortar, cups, stone mould, grotesque jar, three Apis tablets, bas-relief sculpture of winged sphinx with mural crown, emblematic of the city of Tantis, statuete of an unnamed king in Pharaonic costume, etc., etc.
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settlement of Greeks in Egypt–a settlement ninety years earlier than that of Naukratis.

The foreigners continued to occupy Daphnæ for nearly a century, till King Amasis, the fourth successor of Psammetichus, removed them to Memphis. Now, the immediate predecessor of Amasis was Uabra, called by the Greek "Apries," and in the Bible "Hophra." It was during the reign of Apries, about 585 B.C., that Jerusalem was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar, who took King Zedekiah captive, put out his eyes, and bore him away, with the bulk of the Jewish citizens, to Babylon. But Zedekiah's daughters were left behind in Jerusalem, then occupied by a Chaldean garrison under a Chaldean governor. It was a time of plot and strife and disorder; and finally Johanan, the son of Kareah, acting as the guardian and adviser of the forlorn princesses,

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conveyed them for safety to Egypt. Their flight may be described as a later Exodus–an Exodus from Syria to Egypt, instead of from Egypt to Syria; for with them went "all the remnant of Judah, and all the captains of the forces;" a mixed multitude, in fact, consisting mainly of old men, women, and children, and such of the citizens as the sword and chains of the conqueror had spared. Convinced of the impolicy of rousing the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah vehemently opposed the project of Johanan, and prophesied against it, saying:

"And now therefore hear the word of the Lord, ye remnant of Judah; thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there;

"Then shall it come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt; and the famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall die.

"So shall it be with all the men that set their faces to go into Egypt to sojourn there; they shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: and none of them shall remain or escape from the evil that I will bring upon them." *

Johanan refused, however, to listen to Jeremiah, who, sorely against his will, threw in his lot with that of his brethren, and went across the frontier. Meanwhile Apries, with royal hospitality, placed his palace of Daphnæ at the disposal of the fugitive princesses, and granted a large tract of land to their followers. But Jeremiah continued to prophesy the pursuit of the Babylonian host, and lifted up his warning voice upon the very threshold of the palace of Pharaoh. The whole scene is thus related in the forty-third chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, the seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh verses:

"So they came into the land of Egypt; for they obeyed [Page 63]  not the voice of the Lord. Thus came they, even unto Tahpanhes.

"Then came the word of the Lord unto Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying,

"Take great stones in thine hand, and hide them in mortar, in the brickwork which is at the entry of Pharaoh's house in Tahpanhes, in the sight of the men of Judah;

"And say unto them, thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadrezzar the King of Babylon, my servant, and will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid; and he shall spread his royal pavilion over them.

"And he shall come, and shall smite the land of Egypt; such as are for death shall be given to death, and such as are for captivity to captivity, and such as are for the sword to the sword."

I quote from the Revised Version; and it must be particularly noted that there is an alternative reading given in the margin, where the "brick-work" which is at the entry of Pharaoh's House is rendered as the "pavement" or "square."

Upon what happened after this, the Bible is silent; and beyond the scant record of this brief chronicle, we only know that Tahpanhes and Daphnæ were one and the same, and that Tell Defenneh marks this interesting meeting-point of Egyptian, Greek, Assyrian, and Hebrew history. Mr. Petrie went therefore to Tell Defenneh to prove or disprove an accepted identification. There, in the midst of an arid waste, half marsh, half desert–far from roads, villages, or cultivated soil–in view of an horizon bounded by the heron-haunted lagoons of Lake Menzaleh and the mud-swamps of the plain of Pelusium–he found three groups of mounds. These groups lay from half a mile to a mile apart, the intermediate flat being covered with stone chips, potsherds, and the remains of brick foundations. These chips, potsherds, and foundations marked the site of an important city, in which the lines of the streets and the boundaries of two or three large enclosures were yet visible. Two of the mounds were apparently mere [Page 64]  rubbish-heaps of the ordinary type; the third being entirely composed of the burned and blackened ruins of a huge pile of brick buildings, visible, like a lesser Birs Nimroud, for a great distance across the plain. Arriving at his destination towards evening, foot-sore and weary, Mr. Petrie beheld this singular object standing high against a lurid sky, and reddened by a fiery sunset. His Arabs hastened to tell him its local name; and he may be envied the delightful surprise with which he learned that it was known far and near as "El Kasr el Bint el Yahudi''–the "Castle of the Jew's Daughter."

Setting to work with some forty or fifty laborers, he soon discovered that he had to do with the calcined ruins of a structure which was both a fort and a palace. It consisted of one enormous square tower containing sixteen rooms on each floor; while, built up against its outer walls, were a variety of later structures, such as might have been added for guard-rooms, offices, and the accommodation of a court. There was every evidence that the place had been taken by assault, plundered, and burned, the upper stories of the tower having fallen in and buried the basements. Layer by layer, Mr. Petrie cleared away these masses of burned rubbish–each layer a chapter in the history of the place. The royal apartments had once been lined with fine limestone slabs exquisitely sculptured and painted; but these had been literally mashed to pieces before the place was fired, and lay in splintered heaps among the débris of charred beams and blackened bricks. That this stronghold was actually built, as Herodotus states, by Psammetichus I. was proved by the discovery of that king's foundation deposits under the four corners of the building. These deposits consisted of libation vessels, corn-rubbers, specimens of ores, model bricks, the bones of a sacrificial ox and of a small bird, and a series of little tablets in gold, silver, lapis lazuli, porcelain, carnelian, and jasper, engraved with the names and titles of the royal founder. Under this mountain of rubbish, the basement chambers, [Page 65] 


strange to say, were found absolutely uninjured. The kitchen was intact–a big room with recesses in the walls which served for dressers, in which fourteen large jars and two large flat dishes were yet standing in their places. Here also were found weights for weighing the meat, spits, knives, plates, cups, and saucers in abundance. Another room contained hundreds of amphora lids and plaster jar-sealings, some stamped with the royal ovals of Psammetichus; some with those of Neko, his son; and some with those of Apries. This was the room in which the wine-jars were opened; in other words, the butler's pantry. In an adjoining chamber were found a vast number of empty wine-jars, some perfect, some broken; while in others of the ground-floor rooms were piled large numbers of early Greek vases ranging in date from 550 B.C. to 600 B.C., some finely painted with scenes of [Page 66]  gigantomachia, chimeras, harpies, sphinxes, processions of damsels, dancers, chariots, and the like–all broken, it is true, but many in a mendable condition.

Most curious of all, however, was a little room containing a bench, recesses, and a sink formed of one huge jar with the bottom knocked out. This was the scullery! The bench was to stand the things on while being washed; the recesses were to receive them when washed; and the jar sink, which opened into a drain formed of a succession of bottomless jars going down to the clean sand below the foundation, was found to be filled with potsherds placed on edge–these potsherds being coated with organic matter and clogged with fish-bones. All this is doubtless very prosaic; but to have discovered Pharoah's kitchen, scullery, and butler's pantry is really more curious and far more novel, than would have been the discovery of his throne-room.

A great variety of objects from the royal apartments were found in the fallen rubbish above the level of the servants' offices–such as bronze and silver rings, amulets, beads, seals, small brass vessels, draughtsmen, a grand sword-handle with a curved guard, and a quantity of burned and rusted scale-armour. The great camp, in the midst of which the palace-fort was built, also yielded a harvest of military relics. This camp (the camp founded by Psammetichus for the Carian and Ionian troops to whose valour he owed his crown) measured 2000 feet in length by 1000 feet in breadth; and though Mr. Petrie excavated but a corner of it, he found hundreds of objects belonging to these ancient Greek soldiers–arrow-heads in bronze and iron, horses' bits, fragments of chain-work, iron bars, blacksmith's tools, and the like. He also excavated part of the Greek town in the plain, where large quantities of beautiful carnelian, onyx, garnet, and other beads were found; scraps of gold-work, indicating a large trade in articles of personal adornment; and an immense number of very small weights, such as could only be used by jewellers and dealers in precious stones.

A massive gold handle, apparently the handle of a tray, [Page 67]  was also found buried in a corner of the camp, where doubtless it had been hidden by some plunderer when the place was sacked and burned. This undoubtedly formed part of Hophra's service of gold plate (that service of gold plate which he would, of course, have placed at the disposal of his royal Jewish guests), and it is, with one exception, the only piece of gold plate ever found in Egypt.

To return, however, to Jeremiah and his famous prophecy–to that day when he took "great stones in his hand, and placed them with mortar in the brick-work which was at the entry of the Pharoah's House in Tahpahnes." In illustration of this passage, I may here quote a few lines from Mr. Petrie's private report addressed to the Honorary Secretary and Executive Committee of the Egypt Exploration Fund, during the month of April, 1886:

"This 'brickwork, or pavement' at the entry of Pharoah's House has always been a puzzle to translators; but as soon as we began to uncover the plan of the palace, the exactness of the description was manifest; for here, outside the buildings adjoining the central tower, I found by repeated trenchings an area of continuous brickwork resting on sand, and measuring about 100 feet by 60 feet, facing the entrance to the buildings of the east corner.

"The roadway ran up a recess between the buildings, and this platform, which has no traces of superstructures, was evidently an open-air place for loading and unloading goods, or sitting out in the air, or transacting business or conversing–just such a place, in fact, as is made by the Egyptians to this day in front of their houses, where they drink coffee, and smoke in the cool of the afternoon, and receive their visitors.

"Such seems to have been the object of this large platform, which was evidently a place to meet persons who would not be admitted into the palace or fort; to assemble guards; to hold large levees; to receive tribute and stores; to unlade goods; and to transact the multifarious business which, in so hot a climate, is done in the open air. This [Page 68]  platform is therefore, unmistakably, the brickwork, or pavement, which is at the 'entry of Pharaoh's House in Tahpanhes.' The rains have washed away this area and denuded the surface, so that, although it is two or three feet thick near the palace, it is reduced in greater part to a few inches, and is altogether gone at the north-west corner."

Now, the Arabic name for a platform of this kind is "Balât;" and that we have in this "Balât" the brickwork referred to in the Bible is scarcely to be doubted by the most determined sceptic. And it is to be noted that in the alternative reading above mentioned, "the brickwork which is at the entry of Pharaoh's house" is rendered as "the pavement or square."

Here, therefore, the ceremony described by Jeremiah must have been performed, and it was upon this spot that Nebuchadnezzar was to spread his royal pavilion. It will be asked, perhaps, if Mr. Petrie actually found the stones which Jeremiah laid with mortar in the thickness of that pavement. He looked for them, of course, turning up the brickwork in every part; and he did find some large stones lying loosely on the surface. But these had probably rolled down from the wreck of the palace. At all events, it was impossible to identify them.

Meanwhile, we turn in vain to the pages of sacred and secular history for some record of the fate of those hapless princesses–the last, the very last–of the ancient and noble royal line of Judah, who were recognized as royal. What fate befell them and their followers ? Did the Assyrian pursue them with fire and sword? And was the conqueror's pavilion actually spread upon the spot marked out by the prophet ? The Bible tells us no more; but certain Egyptian inscriptions state that Nebuchadnezzar again invaded Egypt, and was defeated by Apries–Pharaoh Hophra; while on the other hand, certain Babylonian inscriptions give the victory to Nebuchadnezzar. Which are we to believe? For my own part, I unhesitatingly accept the impartial evidence of that burned and blackened pile, "the Castle of the Jew's [Page 69]  Daughters:" and I do not doubt that the invincible Assyrian wrought his uttermost vengeance upon the "remnant of Judah."

Nor must we forget the additional testimony of three clay cylinders of Nebuchadnezzar, inscribed in cuneiform characters, and now in the National Egyptian Museum. Some seven or eight years ago these cylinders were sold to Professor Maspero by an Arab who found them, as we have every reason to believe, upon this very spot; and such cylinders were precisely the memorials which Nebuchadnezzar would have left buried beneath the spot where he spread his pavilion, and planted his royal standard, in the hour of victory.


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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


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* Jeremiah, chap. xlii., verses 15 and 16.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom