Tuna El-Gabal

Tuna El-Gebel: An Ode to Time's Relics

Perched on the fringe of the Western Desert, near the present-day village of Tuna el-Gebel, lies a historic jewel. This expansive necropolis, once serving the ancient city of Khnum or Hermopolis, is set 11km from the urban heart, marking the north-western boundary of Akhenaten’s city, Akhetaten, as evidenced by a significant boundary stela.

Stela A - Akhenaten's Testament in Stone

At Tuna el-Gebel, the journey into antiquity commences with Akhenaten’s boundary stela. Nestled on the right as one ventures down the road, this stela, discovered by Claud Sicard in 1714, is etched into the cliff face, featuring rock-cut sculptures of Akhenaten and his family. The monument, dated to the sixth year of Akhenaten’s reign, showcases the royal family in Amarna-style reverence, with Akhenaten and Nefertiti presenting offerings to the Aten. Though time has worn away much of its grandeur, the stela, now shielded by smoked glass doors, remains a poignant relic of a bygone era.

Tuna el-Gebel Necropolis - A City of the Dead

Venturing south, the necropolis unfolds over 3km along the desert edge, hosting an array of tombs and mortuary houses that span from the Late Period to Roman times. The site’s excavation history is rich, with contributions from various international teams, uncovering treasures dating back to the era of Rameses II.

The Tomb of Petosiris - A Fusion of Cultures

The tomb of Petosiris, a high priest of Thoth from around 300 BC, stands as a unique architectural marvel. This temple-tomb, fusing Egyptian and Greek elements, features a pronaos and a cult chapel with the burial chamber beneath. Inside, scenes of ancient industries and agriculture adorn the walls, while the cult chapel’s hieroglyphs and Greek-style figures reflect a rare cultural amalgamation. The tomb’s reliefs, a blend of Egyptian and Greek artistry, are remarkably well-preserved, displaying the elegance of two worlds in unison.

The Tomb of Isadora - A Tale of Love and Tragedy

Behind Petosiris’s tomb lies the resting place of Isadora, dating back to the 2nd century AD. The tomb, minimal in decoration but rich in story, memorializes Isadora, a Hermopolis maiden whose tragic love story transcends time. Her elaborately built tomb, with its sculpted half-shell and mummified remains, speaks of a father’s love and a romance cut short by fate.

Nearby, the Oedipus tomb, now holding only replicas of Greek Theban scenes, and numerous other tombs pepper the landscape, each with its unique narrative and architectural charm. A Roman-era waterwheel and well-shaft nearby hint at the site’s historical continuity.

The Catacombs - A Sanctuary of Thoth

The northern part of Tuna el-Gebel houses its most prominent feature: the catacombs, sacred to Thoth. Here, the ibis and baboon burials unfold in extensive underground chambers, reflecting the veneration of these creatures in ancient Egyptian religion. The catacombs, a tapestry of history and reverence, also include cult structures and a temple attributed to Alexander IV.

Recent excavations, led by the Egyptian Antiquities Organization, have unearthed a church, Roman mudbrick walls, and a plethora of artifacts in Nazlet Tuna, adding layers to the already rich narrative of Tuna el-Gebel.

In Tuna el-Gebel, every tomb, stela, and catacomb whispers tales from a distant past, inviting modern explorers to traverse the sands of time and unravel the enigmas of Egypt’s profound and multi-layered history.

Created On April 20, 2020

Updated On January 24, 2024

AL MINYATravel Guide
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Cluster of traditional adobe houses built into a hillside
Adobe homes carved into the earth, standing testament to traditional building methods

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