Oh, gentle readers, I lied about updating at the AIA/APA annual convention. Well, not lied, but was met with the harsh reality of “No Complimentary Internet” and “$15 for WiFi Access” at the convention hotel. Needless to say, that was not happening. However, if you noticed my Twitter feed (or didn’t…it’s totally okay!) I made it a point to keep the world posted on the more comical and/or interesting bits of the paper sessions I attended.
However! The important thing this week is the news of the discovery of a temple of Bastet! I know! So here you will find the article with helpful commentary by me as I anxiously await the arrival of my lunch break.
The ruins of the Ptolemaic-era temple were discovered by Egyptian archaeologists in the heart of the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C.
The city was the seat of the Greek-speaking Ptolemaic Dynasty, which ruled over Egypt for 300 years until the suicide of Queen Cleopatra. (Oh lord THIS isn’t even relevant to this article or temple! There was a whole lot of history that happened in Egypt before Cleopatra VII and there was a whole lot that happened after her too. She is not the focal point of Egyptian history nor should she be in this article. That said, Cleopatra VII is my homegirl.)
Mohammed Abdel-Maqsood, the Egyptian archaeologist who led the excavation team, said the discovery may be the first trace of the long-sought location of Alexandria’s royal quarter.
The large number of statues depicting Bastet found in the ruins, he said, suggested that this may be the first Ptolemaic-era temple dedicated to the cat goddess to be discovered in Alexandria.
This would indicate that the worship of the ancient Egyptian cat-goddess continued during the later, Greek-influenced, Ptolemaic period, he said (Nothing surprising here. People kept up worship of all sorts of deities well into later periods. sometimes they evey got combined with other deities for convenient worship! Just look at Zeus Ammon or Serapis. Even Isis continued being revered well into the Roman period, and eventually made the trip across the Mediterranean to exist in a fun hybrid and was a favorite of Romans.)
Statues of other ancient Egyptian deities were also found in the ruins, he added.
Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s chief archaeologist, said the temple may have been used in later times as a quarry as evidenced by the large number of missing stone blocks. (Common practice. See every example of medieval town in Spain, most of modern Rome and a lot of temples/temple complexes in Egypt. Recycling is cool!)
Modern Alexandria was built squarely on top of the ruins of the classical-era city and many of its great temples, palaces and libraries remain undiscovered. (Yep.)
The temple was found in the Kom el-Dekkah neighborhood near the city’s main train station and home to a Roman-era amphitheater and well preserved mosaics (omg can I tell you about this amphitheatre?! it’s amazing! it’s literally right across from the train station and pretty much deserted. they have a great display on the upper street level with some bigger things that have been pulled out of the harbor The amphitheatre itself is actually pretty nifty since it has 2 parts AND an entire bath complex that’s being excavated behind it! This neighborhood also has a great cafe/food vending place that has fantastic falafel and old school bottled Pepsi. I’ll put a link to a handy flickr album in a bit so you can see all the pictures I took there and get a sense of what the area is like!)
Right. That will have to do for now as it’s a short article and I’m beginning to run short on time.
Next post: The Archaeology of Beards!