Elephantine Island Museum

Elephantine Island has been inhabited for over 5000 years and its modern owners Kenuzi Nubians are a proud people with their own unique cultures and traditions.

The Elephantine Museum is located on Elephantine Island and has artifacts primarily related to that area. The white clapboard house where the museum is located also has the distinction of being the former villa of Sr. William Willcocks, the designer of the first Aswan dam. Some the more notable exhibitions at the museum include a mummified Ram of Khnum, a golden bust of Khnum, statues of Amenhotep III with goddesses and prehistoric schist basins

Elephantine is an island in the centre of the Nile at Aswan. This was the original 'border town' between Egypt and the Nubian lands to the south and in ancient times was an important strategic position both for the defence of the border and as a trading route. The island has been inhabited from the Early Dynastic Period through Roman times until the present day. Its ancient name was 'abu' or 'yebu', which means elephant and was probably derived from the shape of the smooth grey boulders which surround the island, looking like elephants in the water.
Elephantine Island is the largest of the Aswan area islands, and is one of the most ancient sites in Egypt, with artifacts dating to predynastic periods. This is probably due to its location at the first Cataract of the Nile, which provided a natural boundary between Egypt and Nubia. As an island, it was also easily defensible. In fact, the ancient town located in the southern part of the island was also a fortress through much of it's history. At one time, there was a bridge from the mainland to the island
Elephantine is Greek for elephant. In ancient times, the Island, as well as the southern town, was called Abu, or Yabu, which also meant elephant. The town has also been referenced as Kom, after it's principle god of the island, Khnum (Khnemu). It is believed that the island received it's name because it was a major ivory trading center, though in fact, it was a major trading post of many commodities. There are large boulders in the river near the island which resembled bathing elephants, particularly from afar, and this too has been suggested as a reason for the island's name.
 One of it's main attractions is it's Nilometer, which is one of only three on the Nile, which was used to measure the water level of the Nile as late as the nineteenth century.Another major attraction is the ruins of the Temple of Khnum. Elephantine Island was considered to be home of this important Egyptian god, and while this structure dates back to the Queen Hatshepsut of the 18th Dynasty, there are references to a Temple of Khnum on the island as early as the 3rd Dynasty. There are also ruins of a Temple of Satet, who was Khnum's female counterpart, also build by Queen Hatshepsut, a shrine to Hekayib from the 6th Dynasty, a local governor who was deified after his death. His cult flourished during the middle kingdom, and some fine statues from the shrine are now in the museum. There are also mud-brick vaults of the late period which housed the bodies of the royal rams. On the south end of the island is a small one room Ptolemaic temple which was constructed from materials removed from the Kalabsha Temple. Here, there are decorations attributed to the Nubian Pharaoh Arkamani from the 3rd century BC The building seems to have been finished by the Romans with reference to Caesar Augustus.
A First Intermediate Period palace area has been uncovered on Elephantine, which includes a large bakery, situated near the south-western harbour gate. This was constructed using high octagonal wooden columns, eight of these have been preserved and are among the earliest examples of such columns. The bakery, which was occupied over several phases, probably between Dynasties IV to XI, has been found to contain ovens and thousands of bread moulds. Ostraca containing distribution lists and mentioning the cult of Heqa-ib have also been found.
On the northern edge of the monumental area, behind the modern Nubian village, can be seen the remains of a small granite step pyramid, dated to Dynasty III, but its precise purpose is unknown. This is one of seven small mud brick Old Kingdom pyramids which are spread throughout the Nile Valley from Aswan to Abu Rawash. The north of the Satis Temple there are mud brick tombs of the sacred rams from the Late Period (the famous ram's sarcophagus can now be seen in the Nubian Museum) A cult shrine of Heqa-ib who was a deified governor of Elephantine in the Middle Kingdom can be seen to the west of the Satis Temple. His tomb can be seen among the nobles tombs on the West Bank of Aswan .
The Aswan Museum at the entrance to the island is still open and has recently been extended. The exhibits remain in their old-fashioned dusty glass-covered cases, but there are some very interesting items from Elephantine which date right back to Predynastic times. The northern end of the island is dominated by the Oberoi Hotel inside an enclosure and there are three modern Nubian villages .


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