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Tell el-Dabca


(8km north of Markaz Faqus, eastern Delta, 30° 47’ N, 31° 50’ E) can be identified now certainty with Avaris, capital of the Hyksos (c. 1640-1530 BC) and with the southern part of Piramesse, the Delta residence of Ramesses II and his successors. In the 18th Dynasty the site can most probably be identified with Peru-nefer, the major naval and military stronghold of the Tuthmosides. Most probably this place was also identical with the biblical town Raamses/Ramesse from the time of the Ramessides. The easternmost branch of the Nile passed once west of the site.

History of the Excavation
Excavations there started 1885 by E. Naville.

1941-42 Labib Habachi worked there for the Egyptian Antiquities Service and suggested an identification with Avaris.

1951-1954 Shehata Adam excavated partly the 12th Dynasty-site of cEzbet Rushdi.

1966-69 and from 1975 onwards the site is under survey and excavation with more than 45 field- and study campaigns by the Austrian Archaeological Institute in Cairo (1966-2009 director Manfred Bietak, since 2009 Irene Forstner-Müller).

History of the site
The history of this site started at the beginning of 12th Dynasty under Amenemhet I (c. 1963-1934 BC) with a planned settlement (str. M-N).



Probably already in the Heracleopolitan period existed an estate of a king Khety with the name Hw.t R3w3.ty Hty. Soon afterwards another settlement spread at the southeastern bank of the Pelusiac Nile Branch at cEzbet Rushdi es-sagira (str. I-L) (>>cEzbet Rushdi).

A memorial temple for Amenemhet I, the founder of the 12th Dynasty was constructed in the year 5 by Senwosret III (c. 1872-1853 BC) (str. K-H). This temple was abandoned already in the second half of the 18th century BC during the time of the 13th Dynasty.

From the late 12th Dynasty onwards a community of Asiatics (carriers of the Syro-palestinian Middle Bronze Age culture IIA) settled there, which led to a considerable enlargement of the town (str. H) (>>stratum H).

The majority of the settlers seemed to serve under the Egyptian Crown to judge from the offerings in the tombs. Probably they were employed as soldiers, sailors, shipbuilders and craftsmen. Their tombs can be found in the midst of the settlement.

During the time of the 13th Dynasty a palatial quarter for officials was constructed (str. G/4). It seems that their function was to supervise trade and expeditions abroad. They were in Egyptian services but were of Asiatic origin. A cemetery with domed chapels as superstructures belonging to those officials was found attached to the building (>>stratum G/4).

Statues of queen Nofru-Sobek and king Hornedjheryotef of the late 12th and early 13th Dynasty, found by Labib Habachi, were probably only transported to this site in later times together with numerous other royal statuary (pic. 1).

The settlement increased steadily. In the second half of the 18th century BC (str. G) a strong influx of syro-palestinian MB-elements is noticable.

pic. 1

With str. F and E/3 a sacred precinct was constructed in the Eastern town (>>area A/II).
It consisted of two temples of Near Eastern type and mortuary chapels of Egyptian typology with adjoining cemeteries. In front of the main temple, remains of oak tree pits were identified. Probably the cult can be associated with the Canaanite godess Ashera in syncretism with the Egyptian goddess Hathor who not only was established in the Near East too but also had an association with mortuary cult.

As dynastic god the Egyptian storm god Seth was introduced. There is every reason to believe that he is at this site only the Egyptian version of the Syrian storm god Hadad/Baal-Zaphon because a seal cylinder with a representation of this Canaanite god was found already in the palace of the early 13th Dynasty (str. G/4). As the seal was locally made, the conclusion can be drawn that the cult of this god was already established in the Eastern Delta (>>stratum G/4).

Of special interest is the development of settlement. From str. F onwards a tendency towards a social differentiation can be observed. Bigger houses are surrounded by smaller houses on the same plots while before in str. G an egalitarian pattern prevailed. With the beginning of the Hyksos Period (str. E/2-1) the town expanded considerably to 250 hectar. This goes hand in hand with a gradual internal intensification in settling. One gets the impression that Egyptianised Asiatics who settled previously at other areas of Egypt concentrated now in the Eastern Delta and contributed to the built up of a "homeland" for the carriers of the Hyksos rule in Egypt.

The evaluation of the ceramical material shows that most of the imports were in the Hyksos Period amphorae from Syria/Palestine, which contained originally wine or olive oil (pic. 2).

pic. 2
  Imports of Cypriot pottery increased considerably after c. 1650 and had a remarkable floruit in some parts of the town towards the end of the Hyksos period (pic. 3).

An increasingly isolationistic tendency can be seen in the internal trade. Towards the end of the Hyksos Period (str. D/2) at the western edge of Avaris, along the eastern bank of the Pelusiac branch, a huge citadel was constructed on hitherto uninhabited land (>>citadel).
pic. 3
  After the conquest of Avaris by Ahmose c. 1530 BC the major part of the town was abandoned. The citadel, however, was destroyed and enormous storage facilities set up, among them numerous silos. On top of those remains traces of a camp with bonfires a, ovens and postholes of tents were encountered. Bodies probably of soldiers were buried without any offerings in pits. Also bodies of several horses were found in this stratum.

On top of the camps and soldier graves a new palatial compound of the 18th Dynasty was constructed mainly of brick material from the Hyksos citadel. It consisted of three palaces, all of them constructed on elevated platforms (pic. 4).
At least two palaces (Palace F and G).had been decorated by Minoan wall paintings (>>palatial compound ).
pic. 4
  The palatial precinct which covered an area of 5.5 hectar (13 Feddan) was surrounded by an enclosure wall with an entrance pylon in the north. Together with the town in the south and the bay at the river in the north it can most probably be identified with Peru-nefer, the major Egyptian naval and military stronghold. The palace which dates precisely from Tuthmosis III and Amenophis II, the time when Peru-nefer was active, the presence of Nubian soldiers as evidenced by Kerma pottery and Kerma arrow tips as well as workshops producing arrows and slingshots proves the presence of military units.

Later the ruins of the Tuthmoside Period were covered by a fortress of Horemheb, a time when Peru-nefer was in need for building up military measures against the new military superpower, the Hittites.

In the time of the 21st and 22nd Dynasties and afterwards TD as southern part of Piramesse served as a quarry to procure building material, especially stone blocks and monumental statues for the new residences at Tanis, Bubastis, Leontopolis (Tell el-Muqdam) and elsewhere. Together with the monuments also cults of Piramesse were to some extent transferred to the new sites.

It is not surprising therefore that in the time of the 30th Dynasty secondary cults of the gods of Ramses II appeared in Tanis and Bubastis independently. This explains why already in antiquity the town of Raamses/Ramesse was located at Tanis (Ps. 78:12, 48) and to the East of Bubastis in the Wadi Tumilat (Septuagint version of Gn. 46:28-29). Without knowing the original position of Avaris, Piramesse, the identity of thos two towns and also their identity with the biblical town of Raamses/Ramesse was kept in memory till the Manethonian tradition according to Josephus (C. Ap., I.26-31, §§ 237-287).

Bietak, M.
1968 Vorläufiger Bericht über die erste und zweite Kampagne der österreichischen Ausgrabungen auf Tell ed-Dabca im Ostdelta Ägyptens (1966/1967), MDIK 23,
1970 Vorläufiger Bericht über die dritte Kampagne der österreichischen Ausgrabungen auf Tell ed-Dab‘a, MDIK 26, 15-41.
1989 Servant Burials in the Middle Bronze Age Culture of the Eastern Nile Delta, EI 20, 30-43.
1991 Unter Mitarbeit von C. Mlinar und A. Schwab, Tell el- Dabca V, Ein Friedhofsbezirk der Mittleren Bronzezeitkultur mit Totentempel und Siedlungsschichten, UZK VIII. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie IX, Wien
1994a Kleine ägyptische Tempel und Wohnhäuser des späten Mittleren Reiches. Zur Genese eines beliebten Raumkonzeptes von Tempeln des Neuen Reiches, in: C. Berger, G. Clerc und N. Grimal, Hommages à Jean Leclant. IFAO, Kairo, 413-435.
1994b "Götterwohnung und Menschenwohnung", Die Entstehung eines Tempeltyps des Mittleren Reiches aus der zeitgenössischen Wohnarchitektur, HÄB 37, 13-22.
2002 Temple or 'Beth Marzeah' ? in Symbiosis, Symbolism and the Power of the Past: Canaan, Ancient Israel and their Neighbors, From the Late Bronze Age through Roman Palestine. The W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research and the American Schools of Oriental Research Centennial Symposium, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, May 29-31, 2000, eds. W.G. Dever and S. Gitin. Winona Lake, Ind. 2002
Boessneck, J.
1976 Tell el- Dabca III. Die Tierknochenfunde 1966-1969, UZK III. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie V, Wien