Sunday, 8 May 2011

Visit to Tanis 20.4.11

During work at the Delta site of Tell el-Dab'a during April 2011, I took a short morning trip to the site of Tanis (modern San el-Hagar) in the north-eastern Nile Delta with my colleagues Dr. David Aston and Dr. Alan Clapham. On reaching the site, around 40 minutes drive from Tell el-Dab'a, I was taken aback by the sheer size of the vast archaeological mounds, which could legitimately be described as resembling the lunar landscape!

Tanis was chosen as the site for the northern capital of Egypt during the 21st Dynasty, and preserved the subterranean royal tombs of the 21st and 22nd Dynasties which contained fine burial equipment now housed in Cairo's Egyptian Museum. The site was initially excavated by Auguste Mariette and later by Flinders Petrie and Pierre Montet, and is currently being excavated by a French team. 

Many of the blocks and statues used to create this new capital city were taken from the Delta capital of Ramesses II at Pi-Ramesses (Modern Qantir) in the northeast Delta and reused by the rulers of the 21st and 22nd Dynasty, who Shaw (see below) wittily described as being "children unleashed in a box of spare Lego bricks". Temples dedicated to Amun, Horus, Mut, Khonsu and Astarte have been identified at the site, together with an outer mudbrick enclosure wall dating to the reign of Psusennes I and a sacred lake.

Reused architectural elements from Pi-Ramesses

Reused colossal statue of Ramesses II

Reused columns, now fallen

It was fantastic to visit Tanis, not least to attempt a (futile) search for the Ark of the Covenant! I do highly recommend a visit if ever you are in the area, we were alone except for a small group of French tourists and the absence of loud noise was especially memorable, at least until the noon Muezzin calls!

Dr. Garry Shaw has recently published an entertaining account of his recent visit to Pi-Ramesses and Tanis in Al-Rawi (photos by Henning Franzmeier) which is also worth a read.

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Yan Tan Tethera: A rhyme derived from a Brythonic Celtic language used by shepherds to keep sheep in many parts of England and Southern Scotland.

Until the Industrial Revolution, the use of traditional number systems was common among shepherds, especially in the Dales of the Lake District.

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