In the heart of Egypt

The site of Tuna el-Gebel is located in Middle Egypt about 270 km south of Cairo and 10 km west of the ancient metropolis Hermopolis Magna, as long as the crow flies. The main structures include a large sacred area of the god Thoth from the Late Period at the latest. It flourished under the Ptolemies and was still functioning throughout the Roman period. Apart from temple structures above ground it consists of a wide system of underground galleries where animals of different kinds were buried. According to D. Kessler, there were at least two sanctuaries: a temple of Osiris the Baboon in the north and a temple of Serapis in the south. The latter was excavated by A. Badawy, who also explored a large saqiya in the second court of the sanctuary. According to his interpretation the sacred area was used as a holy zoo for breeding animals, especially ibises, the sacred bird of Thoth. Another temple, still unexplored, lies on the edge of the western mountain on a cliff overlooking the site of Tuna el-Gebel.

Next to these sacred places a large cemetery is situated in the southern area. It consists of temple-like tombs built of local stone and house-like tombs built of mud-brick. Tomb pits and pillars contain further burials. A balustrade was constructed at its western side to separate the cemetery from the holy temple precinct with the saqiya.

A recent geomagnetic survey by the Institute of Geophysics of Kiel University has provided new information about the area. While in the northern sector two broad streets with several narrow by-roads lead from the Nile valley to the sanctuary of Thoth and its underground galleries, the southern sector, the so-called necropolis of Petosiris, is situated south of a processional way leading to the saqiya-temple. The survey came to the conclusion that only about 10% of the area has been excavated and that the unexplored area of the necropolis measures about 400 to 500 metres square. It is therefore the largest Graeco-Roman necropolis in Egypt known so far.