Limestone fragment of votive stela from the Temple of Het-Hert at
Gebelein, 18th Dynasty
The town of Gebelein, whose archaeological site is known as Naga
el-Gherira, is located in Upper Egypt 29 km south of Thebes on the west bank of the Nile.
Its name in Arabic means "the two mountains," and this derives from its
Kemetic name of Inerty, "The Two Rocks." The site consists of a
northern hill with a cemetery and a southern hill with an ancient temple of Het-Hert
located close to the Nile. The temple was formed from a man-made cave, with a
T-shaped plan containing a hall and a sanctuary. A mud-brick wall fortified the
temple during the Late Period. There is most probably a connection between the
worship of Het-Hert at Gebelein and that of her chief temple at Dendera, because she is
referred to on many objects from Gebelein as "Mistress of Dendera." Her worship
was so important to the town that sprang up at the foot of her temple, that the town took
her Name, callling itself Pr-Hwt-Hr [Per Hewt-Her, or
"House of Het-Hert"], which became "Pathyris" to the Greeks.
During its long history, the Temple of Het-Hert was a place of beauty, characterized by
the excellent quality of its reliefs and furnishings.
Excavations of the area have been conducted primarily by the Egyptian
Museum at Turin, Italy, and the earliest finds have been some linen cloths painted with
boats, men and women in a funeral dance, and scenes of hippopotamus hunting and fishing.
These cloths, found in a predynastic grave in the northern hill cemetery, attest to
the very ancient settlement in this area. They are dated to the first phase of the
Nagada civilization beginning from the first half of the 4th millenium B.C.E.
Another very interesting find is a royal stela from the end of the 2nd
Dynasty which was built into the wall of the Temple of Het-Hert, confirming the existence
of a sanctuary in Gebelein dedicated to her at this early date. Though very damaged
now, the stela was the work of a master craftsman, with delicate carvings in bas-relief of
a king, court officials, and a royal boat. The "followers of Heru" (Smsw Hrw) are mentioned in the hieroglyphs in the text of
Information about life in Gebelein comes from the painted scenes of
ritual and daily life found in the tomb of Iti, a nomarch and King's Treasurer who
governed during the 11th Dynasty of the First Intermediate Period. The burial
chamber of his tomb included alabaster and terracotta vessels, and a bronze mirror, all
belonging to his wife, Neferu.
During the early Middle Kingdom, King Nebhepetre Mentuhotep built or
extended the sanctuary of the Het-Hert temple, and reliefs from this shrine are now in the
Cairo Museum. Before the reunification of Egypt, which took place at some point
during his reign, he used the title sA Hwt-Hr nbt iwnt [Sa
Hwt-Her, Nebet Iunet -- Son of Het-Hert, Mistress of Dendera] written inside his
cartouche. Fragments of the naos consecrated during the reign of the 17th Dynasty
King Sobekemsaf II have also been found. Later evidence of Her worship in Gebelein
comes from a foundation deposit containing models of tools, brick molds, and cartouches,
showing that the temple was remodeled or enlarged during the reign of Djehutymose III at
the beginning of the 18th Dynasty. Stelae, most of which are dedicated to Het-Hert,
have been discovered from both Djehutymose III's and Seti I's reign.
Stela fragment from Temple of Het-Hert at Gebelein, beginning of 18th
Dynasty, showing Het-Hert and Yinepu
This fragment forms the upper left part of a stela dedicated to both
Het-Hert and Yinepu (Anubis). In front of Yinepu are the words mery inpu
[beloved of Yinepu] in hieroglyphs. The worship of Het-Hert and Yinepu is widely
attested in this area and the names of both deities appear together on four other stela
fragments. Their titles are nebet inerty, "Mistress of the Two
Rocks," and neb ta hedj, "Lord of the White Land." It is possible
that the cult of Yinepu was located in an area nearby the Temple of Het-Hert, similar to
that of Sobek of Sumenu. A third Name of Netjer associated with Het-Hert at Gebelein
An interesting feature of the temple was a dromos, an avenue or passage
that connected the shrine to the adjoining city. In Greek times, these were often
lined with rows of columns or statues. The sanctuary and the city survived, most
probably without interruption, until the Graeco-Roman period. Papyri and demotic and
Greek ostraka show that Gebelein was still important during this Pathyris-Aphroditopolis
Images are line drawings of artifacts from Roveri's
"Gebelein," in Beyond the Pyramids: Egyptian Regional Art from the
Museo Egizio, Turin, c. 1990. Bard, Kathryn A., "Gebelein," Encyclopedia
of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, London, Routledge, c. 1999.
Scamuzzi, Ernesto, Egyptian Art in the Egyptian Museum of Turin, New York, Harry
N. Abrams, Inc., c. 1965.
Roveri, Anna Maria Donadonni, "Gebelein," in Beyond the Pyramids: Egyptian
Regional Art from the Museo Egizio, Turin (Gay Robins, ed.), Atlanta, Georgia, Emory
University Museum of Art and Archaeology, c. 1990.
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