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Friday, February 22, 2019

Two Days in the Delta - Exploring Tanis

 After the two hours of slow meanderings over many a speed-bump and through numerous small towns, we arrived at a gate with hieroglyphic inscriptions on the supporting pillars and an Arabic inscription, "Welcome to San el-Hagar," at the top.

Welcome, indeed, to one of the former capitals of Egypt!  We proceeded to the entrance of the archeological site where we paid the 25 Egyptian Pound entrance fee (about a dollar and a half) - the lowest fee we have seen anywhere for several years.

I photographed the map posted above the ticket window to record it for later translation.

This is one of the most important archeological sites in Egypt because of four untouched tombs that were discovered here in 1939-40.  While the treasures from those tombs are no longer here (we'll catch up to them in Cairo after a bit) the site is littered with columns, obelisks and pieces of statues.

Early French archeologists from Napoleon's era unearthed some treasures from the area, but it was Pierre Montet who spent over twenty years systematically exploring, excavating and cataloging the ancient city.  Montet spent nearly ten years in exploration before he turned up the first of four unmolested burial sites in March of 1939.  He uncovered the last major grave-site in February of 1940.

Of course, in between those dates, Germany declared war and invaded France; Italy attacked Egypt and the world's attention shifted away from archeology.  (See our blog posts from last year at El-Alamein and vicinity.) It's important to note that this site and its treasures are equal in importance and value to Carter's discovery of King Tut's tomb. If the war had not taken media preference, we would likely all know about this site and its Pharaohs as their treasures travel to various museums throughout the world, just as Tut's treasures do today.

There is an excellent French language video about Montet, his career and discoveries (but with horrible English subtitles) on YouTube worth watching.  Perhaps someone with good French language skills will translate it for us and leave the text in the comments to this post or, give us a proper audio translation to post here.

As we entered the gate, we glanced at the now closed "old museum" and some of the items from it, standing against a building and wondered if this trip was going to be a big disappointment.
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Then we walked down a hill toward the huge open field and were overwhelmed.



Here Linda shows us how deep some of the Hieroglyphs are.  This was done to make it harder to erase a previous king's name and substitute your own, something that was often done when new pharaohs came into power.  In fact, the Tanis kings usurped the statues of quite a few earlier kings.   They made sure this wasn't going to happen to them later.
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The ability to wander through these stone treasures without a crowd of other tourists makes the trip up to Tanis worth a day of anyone's time.
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Accompanying us on the tour, besides some security personnel was Ezzat, the local site guide.

Ezzy was very knowledgeable and patient as he showed us around.  He pointed out that he is world famous as he is mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide to Egypt.  (It's true.)  He also mentioned that he had the key to the tomb of Osorkon but that we would need the permission of "the minister" to enter.  As is usual in this country, that red tape was easily cut and we toured the tomb.
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Ezzy unlocked the gate and we cautiously entered the tomb.
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As always, the tomb was empty, but the painting and hieroglyphs on the walls were notable and with some original color.
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Like many tourist sites in this country, this one continues to be explored.  The French are still working here and have a project planned to reconstruct one of the statues that has been found in pieces.
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If you would like more information about Tanis' history, try this Tour Egypt page and follow the links.

For more information about Pierre Montet the pickings are slim in English - but this author's page at Good Reads has a good synopsis. New World Encyclopedia also has an article.  If the name of Tanis sounds vaguely familiar, it is because the career and explorations of Montet served (very loosely) as the inspiration for the movie, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.


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