Kom Abu Billo
Kom Abu Billo lies on the very western edge of the Delta region near the town of Tarrana. This is the site of a settlement mound and cemetery called Terenuthis in Graeco-Roman times.
The classical name of the town is probably derived from the name of the cobra-goddess Termuthis, known to the ancient Egyptians as Renenutet who was probably worshipped in the area. Renenutet was both a goddess of fertility and nurturing and a fire-breathing protectress of the pharaoh in the afterlife. The site was investigated by F Llewellyn Griffith during 1887-1888 but he was unable to establish a complete plan of the temple there from the surviving remains. These remains included blocks from a temple dedicated to Hathor, carved with exquisite low reliefs and dating to the reigns of Ptolemy I Soter and Ptolemy II Philadelphus. Griffith interpreted the aspect of Hathor worshipped here as ‘Mistress of Mefkhet’ (Turquoise). The site was more recently excavated in the early 1970s during the construction of the nearby Nasser canal.
Remains of a necropolis have been found close to the temple site which contains burials from the Old Kingdom (Dynasty VI) through to the 4th century AD. Several pottery ‘Philistine’ or ‘slipper’ coffins were found here, complete with strangely decorated lids, dating to the New Kingdom, but there is little evidence of a settlement of this period except for a few blocks bearing the names and titles of the ubiquitous Rameses II found in the surrounding area. The town was probably quite prominent as a trading post on a route from the Delta to the Wadi Natrun, particularly for wine and salt and the coffins may have belonged to foreigners.
The Graeco-Roman cemetery situated at Kom Abu Billo has produced many tombs and interesting artefacts covering the period from the end of Pharaonic Egypt into the Coptic Era. Examples of a type of round-topped stelae found here are known as ‘Terenuthis stelae’. One example of these stelae, that of Atilon and his family, dating to the 3rd century AD is in the Louvre Museum and depicts Atilon reclining on a couch, protected by the Anubis jackal and the Horus falcon but in an un-Egyptian style. Burials of cattle nearby may have been associated with the cult of the goddess Hathor.
How to get there
Kom Abu Billo lies about 70km north-west of Cairo, a few kilometres to the north of the town of Khatatba, where the road turns west from the Rosetta branch of the Nile towards the Wadi Natrun. The mound is between el-Khatatba and el-Birigat on the western side of the canal.