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el-Kab is an ancient Egyptian archaeological site on the eastern bank of the Nile at the mouth of the Wadi Hillal about 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Luxor (ancient Thebes). During antiquity this area formed part of the Upper Egypt, called Nekheb in the Egyptian language.


The oldest remains discovered in the area date back to the Epipaleolithic period (circa 6400-5980 BCE). The well-stratified remains belong to Epipaleolithic campsites, type-site of Elkabian microlithic industry. These provide information about the cultural sequence of ancient Egypt between the Upper Paleolithic (circa 10,000 BCE) and the earliest Neolithic (circa 5500 BCE).

The ancient Egyptian city of Nekheb emerged as one of the initial urban hubs during the Early Dynastic period. During a brief period in the New Kingdom (1550–1069 BCE), it surpassed the city of Nekhen (also known as Hierakonpolis), situated on the opposite bank, and assumed the role of the capital for the third nome of Upper Egypt.

It is believed that at a time when Egypt (upper and lower) was not yet unified under one rule, the ritual of crowning of the king of the South would have been celebrated in the original temple of Elkab.

Notable Structures

circa 6500 BCE - 1000 CE

Petroglyphs and Rock Carvings
The rocky-hills in the vicinity bear carvings known as petroglyphs, which span a timeline from the Predynastic era to the middle Islamic period. Additionally, there are hieroglyphics etched into the rocks, with varying dates, though predominantly originating from the sixth dynasty. Some of these inscriptions/phrases are actually short texts that mention the inhabitants of the town. This is very interesting, because it tells us that Egyptians took note of who lived in what villages, or at least who lived in Elkab. Of course, these inscriptions are only dated from the Sixth Dynasty, but it still tells us a little bit about what they valued.

circa 1550-1150 BCE

el-Kab Necropolis
The el-Kab Tombs contains significant and notable tombs that provide insights into the early history of the Eighteenth Dynasty and the reunification of Egypt. Among the rock tombs dedicated to the provincial governors of Nekheb in the New Kingdom, notable individuals include Sobeknakht II, a crucial official who played a pivotal role in saving the Theban Sixteenth or Seventeenth Dynasty from potential destruction by invading forces from the Kingdom of Kush. Other distinguished figures buried in these tombs are Ahmose, son of Ebana, an admiral known for his contributions to the wars of liberation against the Hyksos rulers around 1550 BCE, and Setau, a priest from the reign of Ramesses II (1184–1153 BCE). The artistic style of the wall paintings in the early Eighteenth Dynasty tombs foreshadows that seen in the first tombs of nobles from the New Kingdom in Thebes.

circa 747–332 BCE

Temple/Town Enclosure or the Great Wall of Nekheb
The central district of the ancient city of Nekheb was enclosed inside a large mud-brick enclosure wall. This walled enclosure encompassed an area of some 25,000 square metres (270,000 square feet), and contained the residential houses, temple complex, public and government buildings. The massive mudbrick walls, still largely preserved to their height in south eastern corner, dating to the Late Period (747–332 BCE) are thought to have been built by Nectanebo II as a defensive measure.

Near the centre of the ancient city of Nekheb (the walled precinct) are the remains of sandstone temples dedicated to the ancient Egyptian deities Nekhbet and Thoth that date primarily to the Eighteenth to Thirtieth Dynasties (1550–343 BCE), but the original foundation of the temple of Nekhbet almost certainly dates back to the late fourth millennium BCE.

During the Greco-Roman era, the ancient town of Nekheb experienced prosperity and was called Eileithyias polis (Greek: Ειλείθυιας πόλις). Although this settlement enjoyed a relatively longer period of flourishing, historical records suggest that in 380 CE, it faced destruction, possibly due to military or political upheavals. The tangible remnants today consist solely of the lower sections of house walls, yet fortunately, many artifacts originally housed within these structures were preserved. Among the findings were coins dating from the first to the fourth century CE, along with Demotic Greek and ostraca.


Inner Temple Precinct
The inner temple precinct, at the heart of the walled city, had two temples built with sandstone. The first, larger (eastern) of the two, was dedicated to Nekhbet and the smaller (western) one was dedicated to Sobek and to Thoth.

circa 1360 BCE

Temple of Thutmosis IV and Amenhotep III
The temple of Thutmosis IV and Amenhotep III, also called the repository chapel of Amenhotep III, is a small temple (one of the best preserved from from the ancient Egypt) dedicated to the goddess Nekhbet of elKab as the Lady of the Mouth of the Wadi. She is depicted here in a form of the goddess Hathor as the wandering solar eye goddess, and the columns within the temple take the form of the sistrum (a rattle used in the temple or ritualistic music) topped by the head of the goddess Hathor.

Texts on the interior walls to each side of the doorway record that Amenhotep III embellished the monument for his father Thutmosis IV, apparently the initial builder of the structure. An inscription on the southern wall states that Amenhotep III here made "a beautiful monument, a high temple, anew, built of stone", sugesting that an earlier, less permanent structure may have once stood at the site of nearby.

The interior walls and thefront exterior of the temple are covered with numerous ancient inscriptions. On the front are "graffiti" of Khaemwaset, recording jubilee festivals of his father Ramesses II.

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