Middle Egypt

Although Hermopolis Magna has one of the largest surviving expanses of settlement remains in the Nile Valley between Memphis and Thebes, and the city of Amarna (the next city to be discussed in this Gazetteer) is perhaps our best example from any period, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the stretch of the Nile between Asyut and Memphis contained other substantial towns and cities. Some of these are best represented by their latest, Graeco-Roman, phase, such as Hermopolis, and Oxyrhynchus, a site famous for its important finds of papyri. A particularly interesting example here is Antinoöpolis (modern Sheikh Abada) on the east bank of the Nile, close to Hermopolis, where a major refounding of the city after the reign of Hadrian mostly conceals earlier phases of occupation, apart from a temple built by Ramesses II.

Missing Towns of Upper and Middle Egypt

A significant number of ancient towns and cities in the Nile Valley are known to us only through the survival of the cemeteries that once served them. This is especially the case for the important rock-cut tombs of Middle and Southern Egypt where the steep face of cliffs close to the Nile provided an ideal location for elite tombs, high and dry above the floodplain that both nurtures and eventually obliterates traces of the settlements in which once lived the occupants of those tombs. While some examples of both cemetery and town do survive (e.g. the Qubbet el-Hawa cemetery and the town on Elephantine Island) these tend to be exceptional. Especially for the period from the late Old Kingdom to the end of the Middle Kingdom, the rock-cut cemeteries of nome leaders provide the best indication of the existence, and possible nearby location, of what was usually the most important town of the district, the nome capital.

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