Early Ptolemaic relief from Kom Abu Billo showing Het-Hert, now in the
Bolton Museum and Art Gallery in Baines and Malek: Atlas of Ancient Egypt
Kom Abu Billo is located on the western edge of the Delta, approximately
70 km northwest of Cairo, along the route where the Wadi el Natrun [an ancient source of
natron] approaches the Rosetta branch of the Nile. In pharaonic times it was known as
Mefkat, which is the Kemetic word for both turquoise and an epithet of Het-Hert
as Nebet Mefkat, or "Mistress of Turquoise." During the
Greco-Roman period the site was called "Terenuthis," deriving from the Kemetic ta
rennouti ("Land of the Netjert Renenutet.") In Coptic it was known as
"Terenouti," and its modern name of Tarrana derives from this. Kom Abu
Billo refers specifically to the part of the site where the Greco-Roman cemetery is found,
and this name probably derives from the Greek god Apollo, who had a temple at the northern
edge of the site.
Ptolemy I Offering to Het-Hert, relief from Kom Abu Billo
The Temple of Het-Hert was discovered in 1897 by F.L. Griffith, but most
of the excavation work was done from 1969 to 1974, when the construction of the Nasser
Canal necessitated a salvage project of the site. It has not been possible to
determine the complete plan of the temple, but some blocks with beautifully executed low
raised relief have been found. These were produced during the reign of Ptolemy I
Soter (305-282 C.E.) and completed by Ptolemy II Philadephus (285-246 C.E.). A
cattle cemetery associated with the worship of Het-Hert has been found in the vicinity.
Faience statues and statuettes inscribed with hieroglyphs have also been found of
Yinepu (Anubis), Aset (Isis), Taweret and Bes at this site.
The large cemetery of Kom Abu Bilo contains tombs dating from the 6th
Dynasty of the Old Kingdom to the 4th century C.E. of the Coptic Period. The
mud-brick tombs have superstructures which are rectangular or square and with barrel
vaulted roofs or truncated pyramid shapes. New Kingdom ceramic coffins with large,
often grosteque, faces modeled on the lids have been found there, in addition to a special
type of stela made during the first four centuries of the Common Era. These
un-Egyptian style stela, called "Terenuthis stelae," depict the deceased
standing with upraised arms between two columns with Greek pediments or reclining on a
couch, and have a text in demotic or Greek below. Offerings consisting of lettuce,
grapes, and wine were placed on offering tables in the tombs, and lamps were lit and music
was played. Hunting and fishing were common occupations of the people who lived
here, but there were also many vintners, potters, jewelers, and other craftsmen.
Many ceramic lamps have been found with designs of olive branches, Nile
fish, and the frog goddess Heket. In addition, gold and silver rings, bracelets,
gold earrings, necklaces, hair clips, ivory combs, and amulets have also been discovered.
Pottery painted in different colors and dating from the end of the pharaonic period
through the Coptic period, plus amphorae, have also been excavated from the area.
Bard (ed.): Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt
Baines and Malek: Atlas of Ancient Egypt
Russmann, Edna R., Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from the British
Museum, p. 250