Kom el-Hisn

Kom el-Hisn is on the edge of the Delta cultivation to the west of the city Tanta and about 12km to the south of Kom Gi’eif (Naukaratis). Here a large mound covers an ancient town, probably called Imu (Yamu), which from the New Kingdom onwards was capital of the 3rd Lower Egyptian Nome, known as the ‘Libyan or Western Nome’. The town of Imu is mentioned in numerous ancient texts, and replaced an earlier and very important provincial capital in the region called Hwt-Ihyt, whose location has not yet been discovered, but is known to date back to Dynasty I.

The site was visited by Petrie in 1884 and surveyed by F Llewellyn Griffith in 1885. The monuments were later described by Georges Daressy and excavated during the 1940s by Egyptian archaeologists, A Hamada, M el-Amir and S Farid. When Griffith visited Kom el-Hisn much of the mound was still intact, with visible mudbrick enclosure walls, 115m by 64m, and the foundation of a pylon, but the site has since been reduced by farmers extracting sebakhin for fertilizer and has partly come under cultivation. A Canadian team surveyed the site in 1980.

The town of Imu was occupied at least from the Old Kingdom and mentioned in texts since Dynasty V, though little is left from this period. The main part of the mound is now dominated by the ruined remains of a temple established by Senwosret I of Dynasty XII and dedicated to the dual goddess Sekhmet-Hathor. Both Sekhmet and Hathor held the titles of ‘Mistress of Imu’ and they are frequently combined and venerated as one deity in this area. The temple seems to have been in use over a long period. Built in the Middle Kingdom, it was renovated by Rameses II in Dynasty XIX and extended by Shoshenq III during Dynasty XXII.

Griffith found four statues at Kom el-Hisn, two of which still remain at the site, near the resthouse. They depict Rameses II Usermaatre Setepenre seated with a goddess, presumably Hathor, and both are inscribed on the back with the titles referring to Sekhmet or Hathor as ‘Mistress of Imu’. Another statue was moved to Cairo Museum in the early 20th century, while a fifth, badly weathered statue of Rameses II is also situated near the resthouse. A statue of Amenemhet III Nimaatre of Dynasty XII was also found at the site.

Much of the temple enclosure described by Griffith has now vanished, leaving only an outline and a few remaining blocks. The nearby cemetery however, to the south-west of the temple enclosure near the modern village, contains hundreds of graves dating mostly from the First Intermediate Period to the New Kingdom. The most impressive surviving tomb belonged to Khesuwer, a Middle Kingdom priest of the temple of Sekhmet-Hathor. The walls were inscribed with his titles which include ‘Overseer of Prophets’ and ‘Chief of the Harem’, which probably refers to the supervision of priestesses. Khensuwer’s painted, stone-built tomb is one of the few large non-royal tombs surviving in the Delta and was constructed from limestone blocks probably originally surrounded by mudbrick walls. Many other burials have been dated by seals and scarabs to the New Kingdom. To the north of the site is an area containing many bones of cattle, possibly a cattle cemetery associated with the temple. As the early town of Hwt-ihyt was known as the ‘Estate of the Cattle’, this may suggest the location of the earlier site, but this area has never been properly investigated.

~ by Su on March 3, 2009.