Tuna el-Gebel – The City of the Dead

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Discover the largest cemetery of Graeco-Roman Egypt

Temples, houses and tombs, animal worship and human necropolis – Tuna el-Gebel is a fascinating site about 270 km south of Cairo, as long as the crow flies. Since more than 100 years archaeologists attempt to discover the secrets in the sand of the desert. Most of the buildings belong to the Ptolemaic and Roman period between 300 BC and 300 AD.

To the south of the site a large cemetery is located. The first tombs were erected in this area around 300 BC. Being built of local shell-limestone and having a temple-like structure, the excavator Sami Gabra named them »temple tombs«. The early Roman period, if not before, saw the building of the first mud brick tombs at the site called »house tombs« according to the material and the design. As a result of the new building technique, the urbanization of the cemetery increased, and more and more people were buried in this area. Finally, the necropolis converted to a city-like structure from north to south, within its core the famous tomb of Petosiris.

Succesful Excavation Season and News

We are very grateful for funds from the German Foreign Office through it´s Cultural Preservation Programme. This enabled us to conserve one of the tomb houses, whose roof was restored by Sami Gabra in the1930ies, but actually was almost collapsing. Mohamed Fattouh Sayed and Hisham Elsheikh, conservator-restorers from the Egyptian Museum Cairo, worked together with the German conservator-restorer Heike Pfund to secure the wall paintings before the architectural intervention. The reconstruction of the new roof was planned and realized by the architect Katharina Westphalen and Egyptian carpenters.

On October 1st, 2019, we started our third season of excavation at Tuna el-Gebel. Cleaning the western area of GB 72, a large building of adobe bricks, we discovered not only a stone building, but also a so far untouched room! Inside the stone tomb we found a large quantity of pottery, like amphorae, cooking pots, flasks, oil lamps... According to our ceramologist Clementina Caputo they all belong to the Late Antiquity and formed a storage for a community.