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Het Nesut-Herakleopolis Magna

Capital Cities

What: Capital City of Lower Egypt

Known as: Child of the Pharaoh 

Where: Near Faiyum, 15 km West of Beni Suef

When: First Intermediate Period 2181–2125 BC

Why: Due to a split from a united Egypt back to Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt and the Pharaohs in charge of Lower Egypt were born here

Who: Excavated by Edouard Naville and then by Flinders Petrie


The ancient early dynastic Sacred Lake at Het Nesut was visited by Pharaoh Den around 2965BC, during the 1st Dynasty

After the collapse of the Old Kingdom, Egypt sank into its First Intermediate Period and Egypt was split into Upper and Lower Egypt; this is when Het Nesut achieved its pinnacle and became the Capital City of Lower Egypt versus the mighty city of Thebes, the Capital City of Upper Egypt

The 9th and 10th Dynastic Periods are often referred to as the Herakleopolitan Period

Het Nesut lost its prominence after its defeat by Pharaoh Mentuhotep II who heralded in the Middle Kingdom Period

The City never again rose to be Capital but in the Third Intermediate Period, it gained religious and political importance that allowed for new construction as well as renovations to take place

Temple of Heryshaf

Constructed at the end of the First Intermediate Period to honour the God Heryshaf, a creator and fertility deity who was born in the primordial waters. A Ram headed God, known as, “He who is on His Lake”, who was identified with God Ra and God Osiris

Pharaoh Ramses II’s son, Prince Khaemwaset, better known as High Priest of Memphis or the first Egyptologist, significantly extended the Temple which remained well used throughout the remaining Dynasties

Pharaoh Merenptah, son and successor of Pharaoh Ramses II also made additions to the Temple, linking his name and using propaganda to add his father’s successes to that of his own to enhance his reign

The Ptolemies favoured Heryshaf and ensured the Temple continued in its prominence for its namesake deity





Photograph of the ruined remains of the Temple in late 1890s

Drawing of reconstructed Pillars from Temple by Flinders Petrie


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