Gebelein is an Ancient Egyptian city located in the area of Naga el-Gherira. The name Gebelein is Arabic for “two mountains,” and is named for the two prominent hills in the archaeological site. The city has been known by various other names throughout history. The Ancient Egyptians knew this city as Inr-ti, and later it became known as Pathyris or “Domain of Hathor.” Thereafter, the city came to be known as Aphroditopolis during the Greek period. The site is located on the western bank of the Nile River, south of the ancient city of Thebes. Although the hills are somewhat lacking in visual remains, they provide an impressive view of the Nile. The area was dedicated to Hathor, goddess of love, motherhood, beauty and music, but was also dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile god.
The Northern Hill
Gebelein is known for its cemetery that is located on the Northern Hill. The cemetery was used from the Pre-dynastic Period up through the Middle Kingdom. Some of the bodies discovered in the area date from 3400 BC, and were the first Pre-dynastic Period bodies discovered in Egypt.
The Southern Hill
The Southern Hill is known for the remains of the temple of Hathor located in that vicinity. The temple was constructed during the Early Dynastic Period, but much of the remaining decoration dates back to the 11th to the 15th Dynasties. It still existed during the Roman times, but was eventually torn down for its use of limestone. Among the remains there are multiple cartouches, and a stela dating from the 2nd or 3rd Dynasty.
Gebelein has been the site of various archaeology expositions that have produced some great artifacts. Many of the findings are now housed in museums across the world. Papyri have been found from a Greek mercenary garrison from around 100 BC, and Coptic texts have been found from the 5th and 6th centuries. Within the necropolis, archaeologists have also found pottery and several intact tombs. A 10th Dynasty tomb was discovered, was reconstructed, and now lives at the Turin Museum in Italy. Stelae of Nubian mercenaries that date back to the 1st and 2nd Intermediate Periods are now spread among various collections, including the Turin Museum. Two important pre-historic statuettes found in the area are now housed at the Guimet Museum in Lyon, France.
Although Gebelein was included in Description de l’Egypte, which was published from 1809 to 1829, it was not excavated until 1884. Eventually, this included five excavations over the next 25 years. The findings of the first excavation are housed in Cairo, Berlin and Lyon. Excavations continued under the direction of
Ernesto Schiaparelli of the Egyptian Museum of Turin. These excavations would continue through 1937 under his successor Giulio Farina. The Egyptian Museum of Turin renewed excavation in 1990 to prevent local farmers from extending their fields into the site. A helpful tactic in that it has served to protect this area further.