On the east bank of the Nile, midway between the towns of Akhmim and Asyut, is the necropolis and town-site of ancient Tjebu, a town, once capital of the 12th Upper Egyptian Nome and known in Graeco-Roman times as Antaeopolis.
A large limestone temple still existed at Antaeopolis in the 18th century and was noted in the ‘Description de l’Egypte’ before being swept away by a series of Nile floods in the early part of the 19th century. Remaining blocks from the temple were subsequently removed for the construction of the Asyut palace of Ibrahim Pasha. The temple, dedicated to the god Anty, was built from limestone blocks by Ptolemy IV Philopator and Arsinoe and enlarged by Ptolemy VI Philometor. A large brick enclosure wall surrounded the temple, which measured 45m by 60m. Surviving structures include a granite naos from the sanctuary, which was fronted by a pronaos containing eighteen palm columns. The temple façade contained a lintel with a Greek dedication by Ptolemy VI and Cleopatra.
Near to Qaw el-Kebir, on the eastern edge of the desert are the ruins of a smaller mudbrick temple dating to the New Kingdom which was built over an older First Intermediate Period structure. The temple contains an altar court and two sanctuary chambers at the rear.
1 Statue fragment from the Tomb of Wahka II, Provincial Governor of Qaw. (Museo Egizio, Turin)
2 Limestone head of a monumental statue of Ibu, an important member of the family of provincial governors. From Qaw el-Kebir. (Museo Egizio, Turin)
The necropolis at Qaw el-Kebir (often called Qaw, or Qau) contains tombs ranging in date from the Prehistoric (Naqada Period) right through to Roman times scattered throughout several cemetery areas. Petrie directed excavations here during 1923 to 1924 and in 1925 J L Starkey found a papyrus containing the earliest known Coptic version of St John’s Gospel wrapped in a cloth and buried in a jar at the site.
The large southern cemetery at Qaw is thought to have been the necropolis of the provincial capital of Tjebu, although the Dynasty XII rulers are buried in rock-cut tombs slightly set apart from the main cemeteries on terraces in the cliffs to the north. The most important and most architecturally interesting of these are the tombs of the provincial governors, Wahka I (hereditary prince and mayor), Ibu, Sobekhotep and Wahka II (Mayor during the reign of Amenemhet III). The tomb structures followed the basic plan of a pyramid temple and consisted of a chapel with associated valley temple, causeway and mortuary temple. The mortuary temple contains a limestone pylon with a columned court behind. Several porticoed terraces, connected by steep stairs, open onto a series of underground chambers, containing the sarcophagi of the nomarchs and their families. The antechambers of the tomb-chapels were originally decorated with limestone reliefs, now gone, but some of the statue chambers are still painted. Steep ramps rise from the base of the cliffs to the tombs along which the sarcophagi would have been dragged.
On the east bank a little to the south of Qaw el-Kebir, in an area between the towns of el-Nawawra and el-Gelawiya, the Gebel el-Haridi rises steeply up from the River Nile.
This dramatic location, mentioned in the guidebooks of a century ago but never properly investigated, has been the subject of an Egypt Exploration Society expedition during the 1990s. Their aim was to complete a survey of the area, which contains provincial tombs of the Old and New Kingdoms, rock inscriptions and large quarries dating from the Ptolemaic and Roman period. As well as the pharaonic remains, the area is very important historically because it was a centre of early Egyptian Christianity and at Gebel el-Haridi there are many re-used tombs and caves in the cliffs which were inhabited by Coptic monks. Early travellers in Egypt noted Ptolemaic inscriptions near Abul Nasr, where there is a huge mudbrick platform which may have been the foundations of a Roman fort or Coptic monastery.