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Temples of Abu Island, Elephantine

Temples - Buildings - Builders & Buildings

What: Island home of a Fort; numerous Temples, 2 Nilometers and the Cave Home of God Khnum, one of the Elephantine Triad

Where: Just before the 1st Cataract of the Nile : Border between Egypt and Nubia : considered as a prime defensive position and a natural transfer point for river trade

Known as: Abu or “Elephant” : Gained its current name either from the shape of the island which resembles an elephant’s tusk or from the rounded rocks on its banks

There are a few Temples on the Island

Temple of Goddess Satet/Satis

When: around 3,000 BC

What: Temple dedicated to Goddess Satet/Satis and continued in use and was enlarged for 3,000 years 

Who: The Goddess Satet is a personification of the Nile inundation; one of the Elephantine Triad

Temple of God Khnum

When: around 3rd Dynasty : 2670-2613 BC. Rebuilt designed and erected during the 13th Dynasty : 1803-1649 BC

What: Temple dedicated to God Khnum

Who: The God Khnum ; the God who guards and controls the Nile waters; one of the Elephantine Triad

Temple of Heqaib

When: 6th Dynasty: 2323-2150 BC

What: Temple to local Governor Heqaib

Who: Erected for the Governor, and later Governors dedicated their own Statues and Shrines


Temple of Thutmose III

When: 18th Dynasty: 1479-1425 BC

What: Temple to the Pharaoh so he could be worshipped and remembered here as being in line with the local deities


Temple of Amenhotep III

When: 18th Dynasty: 1390–1353 BC

What: Temple to the Pharaoh so he could be worshipped and remembered here as being in line with the local deities


In simple terms, a Nilometer is a device used by Priests for measuring the River Nile’s water level during the annual flood season. This was measured in Cubits: A Cubit today equates to half a meter

Knowing the levels of the water in the Nile has been of great importance to officials for more than 5,000 years. A lower level of Cubits could lead to drought and then famine and a higher level of Cubits could mean a catastrophic flood

Elephantine Island’s Nilometers were considered the most important as, their location at Egypt’s southern border meant that they were the first to know when the annual Flood was detected

There are two on the Island

1.) A Corridor Nilometer in conjunction with the Temple of Satis 

What: Uses steps which lead down to the Nile along a corridor: the marks to confirm the Nile Flood are marked along the side of the Corridor in Hieroglyphs, Roman numerals and Arabic numbers, proving the longevity of the measuring tool

When: Reconstructed during the Roman rule of Egypt and was still used in the 1800s

2.) A rectangular basin near the Temple of Khnum

When: May be the Oldest Nilometer in Egypt


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