Kom Firin

The south-east templeUpper part of a doorjamb from the south-east temple

A temple is known to have existed at Kom Firin since Flinders Petrie published a brief description in 1888, referring to a double temple enclosure, limestone-paved avenues and sphinxes. Unfortunately, Petrie did not draw any plans or make photographic records of the site.

The visible remnants of the temple itself amount to a series of uninscribed limestone column bases and column drums, strewn across a low-lying area of the site (below). The present topography of this area is partly the result of Shafiq Farid's excavations between 1949 and 1951. This yielded a series of fine reliefs, door-jambs and lintels, featuring the titulary of Ramses II, but also depicting officials and priests from his reign. This material is now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

A finely carved doorjamb bearing the titulary of Ramses II (right)was discovered some years later, and the upper half of this was re-excavated in the 2View of the south-eastern temple area005 season, revealing the royal titulary. The lower part continues with a series of epithets invoking the king's valour and military prowess.

A programme of magnetometry survey was undertaken between 2003 and 2005, in collaboraMagnetometry survey of the temple areation with the Archaeological Geophysics Laboratory at the University of Akron, Ohio (USA).

Magnetometry survey records subtle variations in the earth's magnetic field, which can then be presented as a map using computer modelling software. Features such as mud-brick walls, fired material and metal have different magnetic properties, thus it is often possible to recognise sub-surface structures. Magnetometry offers a time- and cost-effiecient method of investigating aspects of an ancient site.

The 2003 survey of the temple area revealed the orientation of the temple, and the position of further column base emplacements. Several internal walls are also discernible in the processed data.

Reconstruction of the temple planSelective excavations between 2003 and 2005 provided ground-truthing for the magnetometry survey data, and clarified the basic layout of the temple.

A 3.8m thick brick wall defined the edge of the temple proper, though this has only been identified on the eastern side. Within, a temple of modest size was formed of a hall with two rows of three columns, probably fronted by a courtyard. After the columned hall lay a transverse space, which gave access to the sanctuary complex. On the basis of contemporary temples at Aksha and Amara West, in Nubia, it is possible that a staircase to the roof flanked a tripartite chapel at the rear of the temple.

Unfortunately, only the lowest foundation courses are Limestone column base fragmentpreserved along the temple axis, so we can only suggest where doorways may have been located. However, the discovery of two large fragments of door lintels and/or thresholds in 2005 indicated some of the gateways were 2.04m wide.

Detail of a temple foundation wallExcavation of one of the column emplacements revealed a later pit had been cut into the sand upon which the temple is founded, and fragments of inscribed column bases had been dumped into it, bearing the names of Ramses II.

The discovery of the column bases, and the decorated blocks found between 1949 and 1951, indicate that the temple was partly built of limestone. Fragments of worked quartzite and pink granite encountered in excavations hiLimestone block from threshold or lintel of temple gatewaynt at the variety of material originally employed in the temple.

However, the patterns of articulated brick wall collapse encountered in several parts of the temple reveal that some of the brick walls stood to at least 2.09m in height. Thus we should envisage a temple built largely of mud-brick, but with architectural elements such as columns and doorways in limestone. It is possible, of course, that some of the brick walls had originally been lined with limestone blocks. 

Images (from top):

  • Reconstruction of the temple plan. No doorways were preserved
  • Limestone column base fragment, bearing the royal name 'Horus, Strong Bull'. Height: 11cm
  • Detail of a temple foundation wall, illustrating the different composition of clays in the mud-bricks used for construction
  • Limestone block from threshold or lintel of temple gateway, with scratch marks from doorway, and door pivot emplacement, visible