The Center for Tebtunis Papyri logoContexts--Graeco-Roman Egypt header

 

This is an archived exhibit of The Bancroft Library, University California, Berkeley.

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Tebtunis 1899–1900

 

aerial view of templeDuring its first season the Hearst Egyptian Expedition also financed an excavation by English papyrologists Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt. The site at which Grenfell and Hunt chose to work was modern Umm el–Breigat, in the southwest corner of the Fayum oasis. The locale appeared promising: It had not yet been disturbed by local farmers, and it was dry enough to have preserved papyrus and other antiquities.

From December 1899 through April 1900, Grenfell and Hunt excavated in Umm el-Breigat and its vicinity. During the first month they dug in the remains of the town itself, which proved to be the ancient Tebtunis. They unearthed a number of houses and parts of the main temple of the village. This was later demonstrated to be the temple of the crocodile god Soknebtunis ("Sobek, Lord of Tebtunis"). In the second and subsequent months they moved to the cemeteries in the desert immediately bordering the ancient town to the south. Here they found many mummies, of both humans and crocodiles. It turned out that in a portion of these mummies, papyrus had been recycled to make human mummy masks and pectorals and to wrap and stuff the crocodiles.

 

Two Hellenistic statuettes from Tebtunis Two Hellenistic statuettes from Tebtunis
Marble, not dated.

The bases of both statuettes bear the Greek inscription: "Heracles, the knight, erected [this statue] as a benefaction."

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California; photographed by Joan Knudsen.
Inv. 6–20313 and 6–20314

 

Votive plaque of the goddess Isis Votive plaque of the goddess Isis
Plaster, gesso, pigment. Roman era (1st – 3rd centuries CE).

This fragmentary plaque in Hellenistic style originally depicted Isis nursing her infant son Harpocrates. It was discovered in the Roman town.

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California; photographed by Joan Knudsen.
Inv. 6-20448

 

Painted limestone relief fragment Egyptian iconography at Tebtunis
Painted limestone relief fragment

This architectural fragment from the temple at Tebtunis depicts three Egyptian gods. The temple was dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile–headed god. The central deity is Isis (compare her representation in Egyptian style here to the votive plaque above). Amun stands facing the right.

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California; photographed by Joan Knudsen.
Inv. 6–20301

 

Mummy portrait with instructions to the artist Mummy portrait with instructions to the artist
Wood, 140–160 CE.

Found in one of the human cemeteries at Tebtunis, this block of wood contains a sketch for a portrait of a woman with instructions in Greek, probably for the colorist. Had this portrait been finished, the Greek instructions would have been covered over by gesso and paint. The hairstyle, with its central part and high chignon, is certainly Antonine (2nd century CE).

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California; photographed by Joan Knudsen.
Inv. 6–21378a

 

Mummy portrait Mummy portrait
Wood, gesso and paint, 2nd century CE.

This fragment of a mummy portrait illustrates the naturalistic style employed in producing mummy portraits on wood.

Courtesy of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California; photographed by Joan Knudsen.
Inv. 6–21375

 

Small crocodile mummy Small crocodile mummy
Roman era (1st – 3rd centuries CE).

This is one of several crocodile mummies from Tebtunis still held by the Hearst Museum on the Berkeley campus. Most of the adult–size crocodile mummies unearthed during the 1899–1900 excavation were destroyed in the search for papyri. Whether this particular mummy contains papyri or not is unknown.

Courtesy of the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California; photographed by Joan Knudsen.
Inv. 6–21633