Tell Atrib is the modern name for the Delta town site named Athribis by the Greeks. Its ancient name was Hwt-hery-ib and it was once the capital of the 10th Lower Egyptian nome. Ancient texts show that the occupation of the site dates back to the early Old Kingdom, though there are no remains from that period, or any inscriptions earlier than Dynasty XII. In fact there are few surviving remains at all at Athribis, which has been greatly reduced by local farmers removing large quantities of sebakh (fertilizer from ancient mud-bricks) from the area.
Tell Atrib has never been fully investigated. Its monuments were probably scattered over the area and only a few remains have been located. Texts suggest that there were temples dedicated to the god Horus Khenty-khety who was sometimes depicted as a falcon-headed man or a crocodile and was the most prominent deity of the area. Texts also indicate that there was a temple built by Amenhotep III during Dynasty XVIII, although nothing remains in situ. A statue of a lion now in the British Museum (similar to a pair of lions from Soleb inscribed with the cartouche of Amenhotep III) may have come from Tell Atrib, but this was usurped by Rameses II, so its original location is uncertain. Tell Atrib is known to have been the home town of the important architect Amenhotep son of Hapu.
The earliest known temple at the site was built by Ahmose II (Khnemibre or Amasis) of Dynasty XXVI, who is known to have forged many links with other Mediterranean countries, especially Greece. The temple is now too ruined to attempt a reconstruction, but foundation deposits found here name the king. In 1924 a large cache of silver treasure dating to the Late Period was found by farmers. This consisted of about 50kg of silver in the form of ingots and jewellery (now in Cairo Museum).
A large settlement and cemetery area of the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods exists at Tell Atrib and many tombs have been uncovered by local farmers. The tomb of Queen Takhut, wife of Psamtek II, was found in the northern part of the site, along with other tombs of the Late Period.
The site was a flourishing Roman town during the 2nd century AD and canals, villas, and industrial buildings have been uncovered here as well as a Ptolemaic bath-house. Temple areas dedicated to the cult of Dionysus have been excavated recently, and a large number of statues of Aphrodite suggest either a religious context or a sculptor’s workshop. Pottery workshops have revealed vessels decorated in a combination of Egyptian and Greek designs as well as faience objects.
A Polish archaeological expedition has been working at Tell Atrib since the Second World War. During the 1980s and 1990s, they excavated parts of the post-pharaonic town and several temples dating to the Graeco-Roman Period have been located. More recent work by the Polish-Egyptian Mission to Athribis, led by Dr Karol Mysliwiek has been engaged in rescuing the ancient site from the rapidly expanding modern town.
How to get there
About 40km north of Cairo, just to the north-east of the town of Benha, Tell Atrib can be found on the east bank of the Damietta branch of the Nile. The site is known locally as Kom Sidi Yusef.