Abstract: Ancient Mendes: Reflections of Early Egypt in the Heart of the Delta


The ancient town of Mendes is the largest surviving archaeological site in the Egyptian Delta. This one time capital of Egypt boasts an occupational history of some 5000 years from the beginnings of agriculture to the Middle Ages. For most of the history of the discipline of Egyptology, however, Mendes and other sites in the Delta have been overlooked in favor of the riches of the great cemeteries of Sakkara and Thebes in Upper Egypt. Consequently, the Delta has become an archaeological terra incognita. This has begun to change in the last 25 years and the Delta has become an exciting new frontier in Egyptian Archaeology, with the Penn State Excavations at Mendes among those leading the charge.

This presentation focuses on the discoveries relating to the first 1000 years of the Egyptian state (ca. 3000–2000 BCE). During that time, Mendes flourished as the state prospered, enjoying lavish donations from Pharaoh in the form of a monumental temple and lands to support it. As the Pyramid Age progressed, the priesthood of this temple grew wealthy and a vast cemetery grew up around the site. As the first millennium of the monarchy drew to a close, however, Pharaoh’s power waned, and Egypt descended into a period of anarchy known as the First Intermediate Period. At Mendes, poverty became rampant and food became scarce. The citizens perished at an alarming rate. Ultimately, Mendes suffered at the hands of an unknown enemy and was destroyed, its citizens murdered.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

Redford, Donald B. 2010. City of the Ram-Man: The Story of Ancient Mendes (Princeton University Press, 2010).

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