by Erin Peters
When I last posted about Egypt at the Carnegie, I was on an archaeological excavation at Antinoupolis, the emperor Hadrian’s famous ancient city founded as the cult center for his drowned and deified companion, Antinous. I am reporting on some exciting news from one of the open excavation areas of the season –Area B, which is under the supervision of MSA archaeologist Hamada Kellawy. Of all going on at the site, I was most excited about this area because it is one of the reasons I was asked to join The Antinoupolis Foundation (TAF) mission (see their blog post). The area features what the mission believes is a temple, possibly dedicated to Antinoupolis’s primary deity, the new god Osir-Antinous. For details about the previous excavations in this area, see TAF’s Summer Newsletter (pages 3-5).
Area B is located adjacent to the dig house, and it is easily visible going to and fro every day.
The temple complex is fascinating. There are remains of papyrus column capitals like those found in many Ptolemaic and Roman period temples in Egypt (such as Philae).
The column shafts and bases have decorative details used in pharaonic temple building, like leaf decoration you see at a number of temples in Egypt like the famous temple at Luxor.
In addition to these elements we think of as “Egyptian,” some of the complex was paved with thin layers of limestone, which is typical of Roman architecture. These features are just the first that demonstrate that there is a similar kind of combination of styles like the temples built or added to under Augustus. Like most Roman emperors, Hadrian is known to have emulated Augustus, and this could be evident in construction and decoration of sacred space one hundred years after Augustus in the 2nd century CE.
Two of the most exciting parts of the complex were excavated this season—a water feature that may be a well (the semi-circle in the photo indicates the half that was already excavated as of February) and a small temple-like structure located next to it (and visible above it in the photo). Water features were common in temple complexes, either to measure water levels from the annual inundation of the Nile River or to hold water to serve ritual purposes.
Just after I returned to Pittsburgh to continue teaching my University of Pittsburgh Museum Studies class, the mission found some really exciting things! See TAF’s blog post about uncovering the “well” and an underground passage that leads towards the small temple structure! Even more, a well-preserved block featuring a cavetto cornice (an essential decorative element in Egyptian temple architecture) with the cartouches of Hadrian and his wife, Sabina, was discovered as described in this blog post! This is an extremely exciting discovery, as it is exceptionally rare for a Roman empress to appear in temple relief carving or have cartouches carved into monuments. I cannot wait to return next year to continue archaeological work at Antinoupolis to see what we uncover about this temple.
In the meantime, we are continuing exciting work with Egypt here at the Carnegie. One of our advisors for our NEH Digital Projects for the Public Discovery grant (which is funding us to carry out research for a reinterpretation of our Dynasty 12 royal Egyptian funerary boat) will be here to share his scientific research on these boats. Please attend Dr. Pearce Paul Creasman’s free public lecture on Monday April 24 from noon–1 p.m. in the Earth Theater, “Radar for the Lost Barque: Applying Scientific Techniques to Search for and Understand Ancient Egyptian Boats.”
Erin Peters is an assistant curator of science and research at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. She recently traveled to Egypt for an archaeological research study. This is a series of blog posts she wrote while in the field.