Appendix III. Textual references to Kom el-Hisn.
Kom el-Hisn has long been thought to be the capital of the third (Libyan or western) nome of Lower Egypt. The western nome is known as 'Ament' or 'Imenti' from the Egyptian word Imnt, written phonetically as:
showing the association of the nome with Horus (Montet 1957:57). This association with Horus extends to the capital, Yamu ('Amu' or 'Amou' in earlier sources), which is often referred to as pr nbt imAw or "the Residence of the Mistress of Yamu":
The moniker Yamu (imA or imAw) is represented by a tree glyph either alone or in groups of two or three:
Or with a slightly different spelling as in Zibelius (1978):
According to Buhl (1947), imA is the masculine form of the word for the date palm and Griffith refers to Kom el-Hisn as the "(city of) palm trees" (1888:82). Hathor was associated in the Old Kingdom as a tree goddess, notably at Memphis where she was referred to as "The Mistress of the Southern Sycamore", nbt nht rct (Buhl 1947:86). The name 'Hathor', ¡wt-¡r, literally translates to "House of Horus" and is written as the Horus symbol within the symbol for house or residence:
Thus, there is an early and close association between the western nome, Imnt, and Hathor. However, the precise location of Yamu and whether it is, in fact, Kom el-Hisn is not known with certainty. Griffith (1888) refers to, but does not specifically cite, numerous textual references to Yamu or imAw. Griffith also notes that these references are often in connection with the worship of Hathor or Sekhmet (1888:78). Hathor is also frequently combined with Sekhmet (or Sekhet) as a dual goddess Sekhmet-Hathor (Porter and Moss 1934:51) or Sekhat-Hor (Moens and Wetterstrom 1981). Sekhmet (¤xt) is usually written:
The close association between Sekhmet and Hathor seems to have its source in a destruction myth found on five royal New Kingdom tombs -- Tutankhamun, Seti I, and Ramesses II, III, and VI -- and is part of a larger work known as "The Book of the Cow of Heaven" (Lichteim 1976:197; Watterston 1999:42). According to this story, Re plotted the destruction of mankind and sent as his agent Hathor in the form of a lioness (Sekhmet). Hathor as Sekhmet, however, performed her task so well that Re was alarmed and decided to save mankind. Re had his priests prepare barley beer mixed with red ochre to give it the color of blood and on the morning that Hathor was to finish her destruction, Re poured the beer over the land. Hathor, thinking the red beer was blood, drank it until she forgot about destroying mankind. Thus, Hathor is also the goddess of drunkenness and is also known as the "Eye of Re" as a result of her work for Re.
Fieldwork conducted at Kom el-Hisn has not altogether clarified the status of Kom el-Hisn as Yamu. Griffith reported that, prior to his 1885 work at Kom el-Hisn, a "copy of the decree of Canopus in favor of Ptolemy Euergetes and Berenice" had been found a few years before he visited the site (Griffith 1888:77; the papyrus referenced is Cat. Bulak, 1884, no. 5401, p. 354). Petrie (1886) had also visited the area in 1884 and noted an offering tablet to Sekhmet (Figure III.1). The relevant text in the top register below the seated figure reads (r-l) Htp di nsw nbt imA-sxt or "the king gives an offering (to) the mistress of Yamu, Sekhmet".
Petrie also noted similar inscriptions to the "Mistress of Yamu" at Kom el-Hisn though does not mention the specific monuments on which these occur. Based on these observations Petrie was unable to determine whether Kom Firin or Kom el-Hisn is the Yamu being referenced.
More extensive work was carried out by Griffith in December of 1885 and published as an appendix in Part II of the Naukratis monographs (Griffith 1888). At that time, Griffith noted that the enclosure walls were still visible together with the foundation of one pylon at the southern end of the enclosure (Figure III.2) and four inscribed statues (labeled I-IV in the 1888 volume). The enclosure, as measured by Griffith, was 127 yards E-W by 70 yards N-S, was four yards thick, and rested on 'rubbish' and built of mud bricks of nine by eighteen inches. Griffith's estimate of the span of the entrance defined by the pylons is approximately ten yards.
As described to Griffith by the sebakhin, the positions of the statues in Figure III.2 are displaced but close to their original locations. Two of these statues are still extant at Kom el-Hisn as determined by Coulson and Leonard (1981:81-83). Griffith's statues I and II correspond to Coulson and Leonard's statues A and C, respectively. All are Ramesside monuments. The inscriptions on statues I and II are presented in Figures III.3a-c.
Statue I is of sandstone and shows Ramesses II seated with a goddess, presumably Hathor. The inscriptions for the back and left of this monument are shown in Figures III.3a and III.3b, respectively. The far left column in Figure III.3a refers to "Sekhmet, beloved mistress of Yamu" (di anx ¤xt nbt imA mry). The left column in Figure III.3b refers to Sekhmet-Hathor as "Beloved mistress of Yamu" (¤xt- ¡t-¡r nbt imA mr).
Statue II is the lower portion of a quartzite statue of the same pair standing and the inscription on the back of this monument is shown in Figure III.3c. Again, the "Beloved Mistress of Yamu" is found on the two left registers, this time referring to both Sekhmet (far left) and Hathor.
Thus, two of the statues described by Griffith (I and II) remain at Kom el-Hisn today, now placed near the rest house. Edgar (1909-1915) states that the best preserved of Griffith's four statues, number IV, was removed to the Cairo museum; the whereabouts of statue number III are unknown.
Another statue also currently situated near the rest house and not described by Griffith was reported by Daressy (1903). This is probably statue 'B' described by Coulson and Leonard, a "badly weathered statue of Ramesses II advancing, left leg forward, on a high base" (Coulson and Leonard 1981:82). The dimensions, material (sandstone), and inscriptions on the back of the statue match those described by Daressy (1903:282-283). The inscriptions provided by Daressy (no drawings or plates of the statue itself were provided by Daressy) are similar to those in the other monuments but do not mention either Sekhmet-Hathor or Yamu. However, Coulson and Leonard (1981:82) note some discrepancies between the inscriptions published by Daressy and those observed on Statue B so it is possible that the statue Daressy described is not Statue B of Coulson and Leonard or that there is some error in Daressy's copy.
The other major monument at Kom el-Hisn is the tomb of Khesu-wer. The tomb lies in the southwest portion of the site near the modern village and is constructed of limestone blocks with (in Edgar's time) traces of mud brick walls surrounding the structure. The inscriptions on the walls of the tomb were drawn but never published in translated form. The inscriptions around the door are provided in Figure III.4. The dead man's name, ¢su-wr (Khesu-wer) was variously written as:
¢su-wr was described as being 'Overseer of the women' who were, presumably, servants of the Hathor cult:
¢su-wrhimself is also described as a priest of Hathor (nTr Hm; not shown in Figure III.4)
and had charge of the temple (mr Hwt):
Edgar argued that the temple where he held this office was Kom el-Hisn because of the Ramesside monuments found there by Griffith and Daressy which all mention Yamu as being associated with Sekhmet-Hathor. Edgar dated the tomb to the reign of Amenemmes (Amenemhat) III based on the character of the religious texts (Edgar 1909-1915:61) and by the form of a basalt head found in the tomb (Plate XXXII in the original) which Edgar argued is typical of those found during the Middle Kingdom reigns of Amenemmes III or Sesostris III (both 12th Dynasty). Still, as both Edgar and Coulson and Leonard (1981:83) note, the head was obviously intrusive and the dating is best determined through a more detailed analysis of the inscriptions (see also Helck and Otto 1980).
The next detailed work at Kom el-Hisn was carried out by Hamada, el-Amir, and Farid in the late 1940's (Hamada and el-Amir 1947; Hamada and Farid 1947, 1948, 1950). Their primary interest was the abundant graves, most of which were at the north end of the main midden area. Most of the graves are dated by seals or scarabs to the
New Kingdom. For example, the following are illustrated in Hamada and Farid (1950): an oval seal with the name of Thutmosis III (Plate VII, #16); a scarab with the name of Thutmosis III within a cartouche (Plate VII, #17); and a scarab with the name of Amenophis III within a cartouche (Plate VII, #19; all 19th Dynasty; objects are described on page 371 of that volume). Hamada and Farid exposed a small area in the main midden to the northeast of the excavations on which the current research are based. These graves were contained within the existing architecture, much like the burials excavated in this general area in 1986 and 1988. Unfortunately, Hamada and Farid were unable to provide secure dates for these graves.
The last work at Kom el-Hisn before the current project was a brief visit to the site by Coulson and Leonard in connection with their work at Naukratis. In their published work (Coulson and Leonard 1981) they described in more detail the three remaining Ramesside statues at the site (now all situated near the rest house) and correlated them with those described by Griffith and Daressy. By that time almost all of the large wall surrounding the site described by Griffith had disappeared, along with the pylons. In their brief visit, Coulson and Leonard were able to clarify some of the glyphs described by Griffith and collect a small sample of sherds.
There is thus much evidence that Kom el-Hisn is indeed the imA referred to in the inscriptions that remain at the site today. At least three statues -- Griffith's statues I and II and that described by Daressy -- contain inscriptions referring to imA. Indeed, most who have worked at the site have determined Kom el-Hisn to be imA. However, Griffith seems to have had second thoughts. The main part of the appendix Griffith wrote for the Naukratis Volume II was written in November of 1887. In a later addendum written in May of 1888 he posits that Kom el-Hisn was, instead, a residence of Ramesses named "Tell abu Samadeh pres de Damanhour" and that "the nome capital [i.e. imA] is to be looked for elsewhere" (Griffith 1888:82-83). Petrie regarded Kom Firin as a larger site but was uncertain which (if either) was the nome capital (Petrie 1886:94-95).
Certainly the presence of a large inscribed tomb on the site that refers to the occupant as a priest of Hathor "mistress of Yamu", ¢su-wr, militates strongly in favor of Kom el-Hisn as the site of the temple in which he served. In addition, Edgar also mentioned an area "[at] the north end of the site, near the Delta Light Railway, [where] the ground is full of large bones of some kind of cattle" (Edgar 1909-1915:63). Edgar interpreted this as a cemetery for the sacred cattle involved in the temple. While this "cemetery" has not been verified by any later workers, it would explain the absence of many cattle bones within the habitation areas of the site.