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cEzbet Rushdi,
temple and settlement of the Middle Kingdom (R/I, str. a – f)

by Ernst Czerny
 
 
  cEzbet Rushdi is a small village about 1 km north-east of Tell el-Dabca. In the 1950ies, the Egyptian Archaeologist Shehata Adam discovered a temple in the fields east of the village [1].

In 1996, the Austrian Archaeological Institute decided to re-excavate that temple. Within 2 seasons, 24 squares were investigated. The temple structures, consisting of thick mud-brick walls, were clearly recognisable and a new accurate map of the temple could be produced [2].

The temple comprises a central sanctuary with two adjoining lateral chapels and a forecourt, surrounded by a huge enclosure wall. A corridor between this wall and the central structure most probably points to a staircase leading to the roof. Possibly in a second construction phase, the forecourt was filled up with two lateral structures, probably storerooms. The central part of the court seems to have been equipped with surrounding colonnades rather than changed into a hypostyl, since instead of a middle column a central water basin was found. The whole structure was surrounded by an outer enclosure wall which, on the front, shows a much greater thickness, indicating perhaps a Pylon-like appearance. Even later, a secondary sanctuary was introduced in the north-western corner of the outer forecourt, with a bent cult-axis (pic. 1, pic. 2).
 
 
 
 
pic. 1   pic. 2
 
 
  It was a major surprise to discover that the temple walls cut into some older structures which stretch beneath it, apparently a kind of domestic structure or settlement. Considering the finds, mostly pottery, it became clear that both the temple and the settlement belong to the 12th dynasty. This excluded a dating of the temple at the beginning of that dynasty, as had previously been done. However, there is strong evidence that the temple was dedicated to the "Ka" cult of the deceased king Amenemhet I (see, e.g., the fragment of a limestone-slab with Amenemhat I’s Horus-name, pic. 3). Clear evidence for the precise dating of the temple’s foundation has yet to be found.  
 
 
pic. 3
 
 
  The most recent pottery found inside the temple and its adjoining buildings clearly show the typical style of late 12th dynasty. However, compared to the pottery of str. F/I-d/2 at Tell el-Dabca, it contained surprisingly few canaanite imports.

All layers above the temple have been destroyed by recent agriculture, but several pits, cutting from today’s surface into the temple walls and floors thus destroying them, contain pottery of the middle to late 13th dynasty. Therefore, it seems that the cult in the temple came to an end towards the end of the 12th dynasty, but that only during the late 13th dynasty were the ruined structures no longer cared for. In one of these secondary pits filled with pottery of the middle-13th dynasty, a sealing was found mentioning the name and title of a mayor of Avaris called "Jmnjj-snb" (pic. 4).
 
 
 
pic. 4
 
 
  This is one of the earliest records of "Hwt-wcart" (Avaris), and the only one hitherto found in an excavation at the archaeological site of Tell el-Dabca [3].

The settlement beneath the temple, which had been destroyed by it, seems not to be much older than the temple itself. Apparently, it continues to exist outside of the temple enclosure. This settlement, which has been excavated only to a very small extent, consists of a sequence of layers, the deepest of which stretching directly above the gezirah. With the course of time the buildings show considerable enlargements and modifications. The sequence of layers, from the oldest walls to the level from which the foundation trenches of the temple walls cut into the ground, has a thickness of approximately 70 to 90 cm. Most houses consist of 3 central rooms surrounded by secondary structures such as silos, storerooms or stables (pic. 5). Generally, two houses join one another, thus forming east-west oriented blocks arranged in rows.
 
 
 
pic. 5
 
 
  The finds from the settlement mainly consist of pottery, flint implements and animal bones. Pottery was found in very large quantities, both sherds and complete vessels. However, the variety of shapes is rather restricted and the production seems to have been of great uniformity.

The most common type, literally present in each of the contexts, are hemispherical cups made of fine Nile clay fabric (pic. 6/1; pic.7), ), typical of the Middle Kingdom. Just as common are large so called beer bottles with a simple rim of coarse Nile clay fabric, in most cases hopelessly fragmented (pic. 6/11, 6/12).
Red-washed, carinated, footed, cups have also been found regularly, although they are considerably less common than the hemispherical cups (pic. 6/2; pic. 8). Apart from these, fine ceramics show a few special types which are only rarely found: bowls with an incurved rim (pic. 7), small carinated cups (pic. 6/4), red washed hemispherical bowls of different sizes with an incised decoration of horizontal grooves below the rim (pic. 6/5, pic. 6/6) and red-washed jugs with a handle and a flat base.

Sherds of coarse Nile clay fabric belonged almost exclusively to container vessels. Beside these, there are large dishes (Fig. 6/7) and large carinated bowls, which are always red-washed and often decorated with incised horizontal or wavy grooves (Fig. 6/8).
Rare special types are large beakers, large ring stands, and a few types of pottery with special functions such as large backing trays, bread moulds, large hemispherical bowls with an incised groove decoration below the rim, and spinning bowls.

"Marl C" fabric was almost exclusively used for the production of large containers, conventionally called "zirs". These are always hand-made with a wheel-made rim of a very standard shape (pic. 6/10). In a few isolated cases, some small container vessels found. Just as rare are large Vases with stepped rims.
Upper Egyptian "Marl A" clay is also present. Some sherds with an incised criss-cross decoration correspond to a well known upper Egyptian type. Beside these, several examples of beautifully burnished sherds, including some rims, have been found as well as a complete vessel of the same fabric. For this kind of vase, a few parallels from Upper Egypt also exist.
Together with this Egyptian pottery, a few sherds of imported foreign vessels have been discovered. Within the stratified layers of the settlement, fragments of Minoan amphorae [4] were found, belonging to at least two different vessels, but coming from the same building complex. Also, in slightly larger quantities, some fragments of Canaanite MB IIA pottery, so called "Levantine painted ware" were present [5].
 
 
   
pic. 6   pic. 7   pic. 8
 
 
  It is difficult to establish the beginning of the settlement with certainty. It is fairly certain that its foundation could not have happened before the second half of the reign of Senwosret I, or possibly under the early Amenemhat II. The destruction of the settlement and its replacement by the temple and its adjoining structures may be dated to the early years of Senwosret III.
 
  [1] Shehata Adam, ASAE 56 (1959), 207-226
[2] Manfred Bietak et.al., Ä&L 8 (1998), 15, Fig. 4.
[3] Ernst Czerny, Ä&L 11 (2001), 13-26)
[4] Ernst Czerny, &L 8 (1998), 46, Fig. 21
[5] Tine Bagh, &L 8 (1998), 47-49
 
 
Bibliography:
Adam S.
Report on the Excavations of the Department of Antiquities at cEzbet Rushdi, ASAE 56 (1959), 207-226.
Bietak M., Dorner J., Czerny E., Bagh T.
Der Tempel und die Siedlung des Mittleren Reiches bei cEzbet Ruschdi, Grabungsvorbericht 1996, Ä&L 8 (1998), 9-49.
Czerny E.
Ein früher Beleg für hwt-wcrt auf einem Siegelabdruck aus Tell el-Dabca, Ä&L 11 (2001), 13-26.
Egyptian Pottery from Tell el-Dabca as a context for early MB IIA Painted Ware, in: M. Bietak (ed.), The Middle Bronze Age in the Levant, CChEM 3, Wien 2002.