Thursday, June 29, 2017

3D Inner sanctuary of the speos

For those of you who enjoy the 3D models, you will be delighted to find yet another two examples uploaded, showing the northern and southern walls of the inner sanctuary of the speos at Gebel el-Silsila.

view of the inner sanctuary and the main gods of the speos. Photo by Maria Nilsson

The long south wall of the sanctuary is decorated in sunken relief, showing almost 40 seated deities uttering wishes of well being for King Horemheb. They have been often described as an Egyptian pantheon. Turned, however, towards the end wall of the temple, they are here depicted as guests to witness a mythological mystery taking place. Smaller vignettes showing priests adoring gods were later added in an empty lower portion of the wall during the Ramesside period. The destructions visible at the left are traces of eradication or hacking done during the end of the Amarna period. They were concealed under a coating of hard 'plaster' when the wall was restored for new inscriptions.

South wall of the inner sanctuary, photo by Maria Nilsson

The northern wall offers an interesting parallel to the southern wall, It shows another 'pantheon', in fact a group of invited divinities, but standing in two registers and sculptured in true relief. The relief includes 23 figures mixing gods and goddesses. If the destructions are rather related to unfortunate modern looting attempts, some traces of ancient erasures related to the Amarna period can still be seen. The Ramesside presence is this time limited to one line of text added to the right in the lower empty space. However, a viewer with keen eyes for painted and very faded graffiti will find several traces of such too.
North wall of the inner sanctuary, photo by Maria Nilsson

Gebel el Silsila Project - Epigraphic Survey
3D Photography, modelling and anotations by Philippe Martinez, lead epigrapher for the project, CNRS, Sorbonne Universités:

Digital images created with plexus software by Kevin Cain (,

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

3D Ramesside Royal Stelae West Bank

More amazing 3D models from Gebel el-Silsila, now showing the three royal stelae on the west bank.

The main model shows an overview of the three stelea, which are situated along the cenotaph road on the west bank of the Nile. They have been preserved between two quarried surfaces. They were erected, from south to north - or left to right - by Ramses III, Sheshonq I and Ramses IV respectively. They clearly have been the subject of a local cult and below them are to be seen the traces of the Nile flood that reached their foot annually at the beginning of the summer.

There are also individual models of the three stelae:


Gebel el Silsila Project - Epigraphic Survey
Photography, modelling and anotations by Philippe Martinez, lead epigrapher of the project, CNRS, Sorbonne Universités:

Digital models created with plexus software by Kevin Cain (,

New models from the Speos

The Silsila Team is happy to announce yet some more 3D models from within the Speos or Rock-cut temple of the west bank.

The two models show the Northern and Southern side of the Eastern wall of the sancturary, divided by the doorway.

The Northern side shows divinities related to the control of the Nile Flood and connected to Aswan and the first cataract, as well as the local site of Kheny (Silsila). It is interestingly carved in relief for the upper part and in sunken relief for the lower.

The Southern side shows divinities related to the control of the Nile Flood, this time the Osirian family connected to Abydos in Middle Egypt, but also with Nubia and the South where the Nile flood came from.

Dr Martinez in the speos

Photography, modeling and anotations by Philippe Martinez, CNRS, Sorbonne Universités, Lead Epigrapher for the Silsila Project:

Digital models created with plexus software by Kevin Cain (,

Thursday, June 22, 2017

New 3D models, Shrine 4 Gebel el-Silsila West

The Project is happy to announce that yet another two 3D-models have been uploaded to our Sketchfab page, this time focusing on Cenotaph/Shrine 4 on the West Bank. The first model shows the shrine as it is preserved today, while the second shows a digital reconstruction and interpretation of how it may have looked prior to the earthquake. 

Fractured statue group in shrine 4, photograph John Ward

3D image current preservation (here)
3D image digital reconstruction (here)
3D photography and model by Stefan Lindgren, HumLab, Lund University

still image of the digital reconstruction by Stefan Lindgren

The monument in focus is a niche located on the southern side of ‘shrine 4’ (James and Caminos 1963, 16-18) that has been broken in three parts due to a fracture in the bedrock plausibly caused by a natural catastrophe/earthquake. The room initially measured 1.27 m deep x 1.50 m high. Three statues are seated on a bench, facing forward towards the north-facing opening/door. The three statues depict two men and a woman. While there are no preserved inscriptions or decoration, it can be presumed that the main male figure depicts a man called Djehutmose, who was a scribe of the treasury during the 18th or early 19th Dynasty (based on an adjacent, plausibly associated hieroglyphic text) (James and Caminos 1963, 16). 

Shrine 4, Gebel el-Silsila West, photograph by John Ward
This shrine, together with 31 more, are currently re-documented and prepared for a new and updated publication, which will include not only the original epigraphy, but also later graffiti, architectural components, and state of preservation by the current archaeological project on site. By means of newer, digital equipment and software, painted details faded to the naked eye, become visible and bring more information in terms of each shrine’s original decoration (see some examples attached herein).

original photo from the ceiling in shrine 4, photograph by Maria Nilsson

D-Streched image emphasizing certain colours

Original photo of one of the statues in shrine 4, photograph by Maria Nilsson

Image in DStrech revealing original colour

Original photo of painted and etched graffiti in Shrine 4, photograph by Maria Nilsson

Details in DStrech

Link to DStrech software here 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Silsila 3D images on Sketchfab!

Dear all,
the Gebel el Silsila Team is delighted to share with you some exciting new 3D-images viewable on

The two published models mark the beginning of a new step in the project, aiming to share with the greater audience and our wonderful, supportive followers some of the unique reproductions of various (published) monuments on site.

We hope you will enjoy as much as we do!

Model 1: Scene of Goddess Taweret suckles the king, Gebel el Silsila West Bank

The relief is situated in the rock-cut temple dating to the 18th Dynasty, and more precisely to the time of Tutankhamun/Horemheb (around 1330 BC). It shows the king as a young boy, suckling the local goddess Taweret (often shown as a hippopotamus, but here as an elegant woman), witnessed by his godly protectors Amun, King of the Gods,  Khnum, god of birth, and Sobek, the local crocodile god and companion of Taweret. Through the divine milk, the king becomes superhuman and thus has the power necessary to interact with the gods and the sacred. This ritual seems to have been part of the crowning ceremonies.

overview of the southern scene, photo: Maria Nilsson

Model 2: Horemheb presenting offerings to Amun-Ra and Mut

This relief is located in the short passage between the main hall and the sanctuary, on the northern wall of the passage, in the rock-cut temple of the West Bank. It shows King Horemheb making an offering to the Theban gods, Amun-Ra and Mut. The figures and texts are sculptured in sunken relief, usually applied for outside decoration, but then everywhere after the Amarna period.

king offering to Amun-Ra and Mut, photo: Maria Nilsson

3D Photography, Modeling and anotations: Philippe Martinez, CNRS, Sorbonne Universités,

Digital models created with plexus, software by Kevin Cain (,

Friday, January 20, 2017

12 new tombs discovered!

The Swedish led archaeological mission at Gebel el Silsila in Upper Egypt continues to change the perception of history in the ancient quarried landscape of Silsila.

In 2015 the Swedish led Gebel el Silsila project reported on the discovery of a series of tombs located in the north of Gebel el Silsila east bank, in the area immediately to the north of the famous stele of Amenhotep IV and stretching westwards to the Nile. While the tombs had been described by a few previous visitors to the site, no comprehensive survey, neither any proper archaeological work had been conducted until 2015. 

overview of ST31 at sunrise

The tombs are under an immediate threat caused by the rising water table combined with the natural salt in the ground steadily eroding the natural cliffs in the northern part of Gebel el Silsila (similar/identical to those at Kom Ombo Temple area), and the site is in risk of losing important information about what has proven to be an extensive cemetery.

collapsed ceiling of ST32

courtyard to ST32

scull(s) and cross bones ST13

During the initial survey, 43 tombs were identified, and five tombs were chosen to be cleared of sand and the damaging layer of salt in order to study their subsequent conservation. Returning to site eight months later, the previous work proved successful as both external and interior walls and to some extent also the ceiling, have become stabilized and secured by exposing them to the sun, drying previous wetness.

ST25 and ST45 with niche



In the initial clearing process the team was successful in identifying various architectural markers, including 1-2 rock-cut chambers, external courtyards, and dressed portcullis – slot-cuts into the door jambs by the entry to the tombs, into which a (stone-) slab would have been placed to seal the door after burial. During the ongoing winter season, the team has discovered another 12 rock cut tombs, three crypts cut into the rock, two niches possibly used for offering, one tomb containing multiple animal burials, and three individual infant/child burials, along with other associated material. 

baby burial

inside ST30

The majority of the tombs excavated so far – with the main exception of two infant burials – have been plundered already during antiquity, and then been left neglected and without further disturbance, and since covered by up to 3m of Nile silt, blown in sand, and fallen quarry spoil and debris. These readily identifiable stratifications have given a wealth of information with regards not only the manner in which the spoil and silt have been deposited, but also provided a rudimentary chronological overview for the area.  

crypt ST48

sandstone lid

The individual tombs excavated so far this season reveal multiple burials within the same chamber or crypt, possibly complete families, and individuals of varying ages and sex. In addition, the newly discovered infant/child burials present another aspect to the cemetery, clearly indicating family life at Silsila. Three different styles of infant burials have been documented so far, including a crypt (64 x 32 x 32 cm) cut into the rock, a shallow grave covered with stone, and one infant wrapped in textile and placed within a wooden coffin. Two of the three children were placed secreted within the overhangs of the natural sandstone bluffs. They were placed on their side oriented in either a north-south direction, face towards the east, alternatively east-west direction, and facing north. Burial gifts include amulets (including the figure of Bes), necklaces, ceramic vessels, worked flint and coloured pebbles.

one of many scarabs

crocodile no 2

Moamen and Rebecca with the croc

Among the animal burials, ST29 presented a single chamber room with a crypt containing a dozen of ovicaprids (sheep/goats) and a couple of Nile perch (Lates niloticus). Two ovicaprids were placed in a north-south orientation (facing east) at the entrance of the tomb, and skeletal remains of several more were found scattered among outside debris as a result of looting. Also, an almost complete adult crocodile was discovered resting on the floor in the courtyard immediately outside ST27. The crocodile was oriented in a north-south direction, with the head pointing to the north. Further studies are required. 

3D image of crocodile no 1 (headless)

Maria and John clearing a cat burial (ST54)

The archaeological material produced from the newly discovered tombs and burials chronologically correlate with those excavated previously, so far limited to the reigns of Thutmosis III and Amenhotep II. In addition to the tombs themselves, the excavation has revealed finely dressed sandstone sarcophagi, sculptured and occasionally painted pottery coffins, painted 'plaster' and wood, textile and organic wrapping, ceramic vessels and plates, as well as an array of jewellery, amulets and scarabs. 

inhumation at ST56
some help to get out of this tomb?

The vast amount of human remains so far recovered from the necropolis indicates the individuals were generally healthy.  At this time, very little evidence of malnutrition and infection has been discovered.  Fractures of the long bones and increased muscle attachments amongst the skeletal remains indicate behaviors related to occupational hazards and an extremely labor intensive environment. Furthermore, many of the injuries appear to be in an advanced stage of healing, suggesting effective medical care.  

part of the Silsila team outside ST32

Maria outside ST25

Tricia and Nils figuring out ST45

The new finds add exciting new components to the necropolis, changing yet again the perceived function and apparent appearance to the site of Gebel el Silsila, and with further fieldwork the team look forward to increasing their understanding of the overall function and role of the area during the New Kingdom. 
John and Khaled

Reis Shihad


Huib and Rebecca

The team members would like to express their gratitude to the MoA and the local inspectorates of Kom Ombo and Aswan, led by Mr Abdel Menum and Mr Nasr Salama respectively, as well as to our sponsors without whom the Silsila Project would not be made possible!



Abdala - the one and only, whom we could not survive without!


the gorgeous sunrise at Silsila!

Donations to the Gebel el Silsila Project goes directly towards employing more workers, which allows the team to discover more monuments and tombs in the Necropolis, and study more ground breaking information about the ancient past at Gebel el Silsila!