Wednesday, June 01, 2022



The landscape of Shatt el-Rigal in the northern part of Gebel el-Silsila, where many hundreds of Middle Kingdom rock inscriptions have been discovered.

Gebel el-Silsila was an important quarrying site from earliest times, offering a plentiful supply of good quality sandstone for pharaoh’s building projects, as well as being a vital strategic trading point on the boundary between Egypt and Nubia.


A Continuation of Rock Art

As we highlighted in our previous article (AE113), since earliest times, people coming to Gebel el-Silsila have left their marks on the rock faces. Moving from prehistory to early history, it is evident that early dynastic rock art is less common than during previous periods. With the development of the hieroglyphic and hieratic scripts, there is instead a clear change from pictographic images to textual rock inscriptions, which normally consist of names and titles. When rock art is found, the early dynastic repertoire reproduces many of the previous motifs, including hunting scenes (men, dogs, and captured animals), designs from the natural fauna, boats, and so on. New for Gebel el-Silsila in this period is the appearance of footprints or sandals, and anthropomorphic figures are portrayed not only as hunters, but are also shown in praising positions, and soon thereafter as deities.


By the beginning of the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055 BC), figural rock art had developed into complex scenes, exemplified in a panel in the southern-most part of the West Bank. The scene depicts a human figure with raised arms, a dog, and several horned animals – a traditional hunting scene – but with the addition of several birds identified by John Wyatt as ostriches, and a crowning circle, most likely representing the sun. Thus, sun worship has arrived at Gebel el-Silsila.

When Gebel el-Silsila Became Kheny

The ancient Egyptian name of Gebel el-Silsila was Kheny or Khenu 

which is generally translated as the “Rowing Place”, but could equally signify the “Mouth of the River”. Its earliest attestation is a reference from a Fourth Dynasty mastaba at Dahshur belonging to prince Iynefer, son of Sneferu. Shortly thereafter the earliest hieroglyphic inscription at Gebel el- Silsila itself appears: a cartouche of Pepy I, located along the main cenotaph pathway on the West Bank (Rock Inscription Site GeSW.RIS.8). Surrounding this royal name is a vast number of Middle Kingdom signatures as well as a couple of Predynastic giraffes, and graffiti from later visitors to the site. No other Old Kingdom texts have been confirmed thus far. It is plausible that the site had already become a state-controlled quarry by this time, considering Pepy’s other quarry expeditions to Nubia. However, the strategic location of Gebel el-Silsila, with a clear line of sight in all directions, may also have inspired the army to set up a camp there and use the site as a for- ward base for military campaigns into Nubia.

The name Kheny occurs again in a Middle Kingdom papyrus, acquired in Thebes at the end of the nineteenth century by Charles Edwin Wilbour. This text later came into the possession of the Brooklyn Museum, and was labelled as Papyrus Brooklyn 35.1446. Written in black ink hieratic, line 21 gives the name of a fugitive of the state called “Hemenusra, son of Khnumhotep” and describes him as a “man of Rokhen(y) of the department of the plough-lands of …”. The topographic name is generally accepted as denoting “Kheny”, marking the border with Nubia, at Egypt’s south- ern-most point.


Another text, Papyrus Berlin 10495, provides us with the topographic name of Kheny in a list of seventeen Middle Kingdom fortresses. Here the site is again considered the boundary between Egypt and Nubia, but now marking the northern-most fortress in Nubia. The two references to Gebel el-Silsila as a boundary between Egypt and Nubia are supported on site as well, epigraphically, geologically and archaeologically. As we will see below, Rock Inscription Sites 11-12 are situated at the edge of the mountainscape on the plateau, and overlook the entire plain to the south, which today is agricultural land stretching all the way down to the Roman Ras Ras Temple (just south of Gebel el-Silsila, north of Kom Ombo). 

Thus, the Rock Inscription Sites mark a natural boundary in the south, which is perhaps why they were marked with several cartouches of Senusret I, the Twelfth Dynasty king who first extended Egypt’s southern border. The natural boundary is also marked in the geological formation of the gorge which, when the Nile’s waters receded after the inundation, became like a cataract which people and animals could safely cross. Epigraphically, the team has located a Middle Kingdom inscription giving the name of an “overseer of the fortress”, which supports the information given in Papyrus Berlin 10495. Additionally, the team has recently identified a structure that may have functioned as a fortress, which will be excavated next season.

Middle Kingdom Activity

There are several focal points for the ongoing epigraphic and archaeological documentation of Middle Kingdom sig- natures and activity in the region. The area under investigation begins at the famous Wadi Shatt el-Rigal in the north and meanders along the Nile and the plateau to the far south of Gebel el- Silsila (West Bank) where the mountain meets the agricultural belt. Sections of a wide paved road survive throughout this area, and several inscriptions have been documented on the horizontal rock surface, next to the piles of stone created during the preparation work for the building of the road (clearing of the road surface).

Since Petrie’s studies at the site, several scholars have documented Middle Kingdom presence in the north, naturally focusing on the cliff-faces adjacent with the monumental scene of Mentuhotep II. However, despite the efforts of Caminos and his students in the 1980s, barely any of the texts strewn across the landscape of Gebel el-Silsila have been published. To rectify this, our team began a larger archaeological study in 2013, which led to the discovery of hundreds of signatures and shorter texts that occasionally provide us with information regarding the geographic origin and profession of individuals and their activity in the region. From this, we have been able to create a directory of several individuals active on site during the Eleventh and Twelfth Dynasties. Two areas of Middle Kingdom activity will be summarised here: ‘Pottery Hill’ (= Rock Inscription Site 9) and ‘Senusret’s Rocks’ (= Rock Inscription Sites 11-12).


Pottery Hill – GeSW.RIS.9

Several inscriptions are situated in an area known to the team as Pottery Hill, which is a small mound containing a cluster of twenty-eight stone huts that were used by the quarry workers for storage. It is located on the plateau above a quarry harbour on the west bank. The nickname Pottery Hill derives from the fact that the mound is littered with pottery: thousands and thousands of sherds that bear witness to a once very active site. The team’s archaeo-ceramicist Dr. Sarah K. Doherty carried out an analysis of this pottery and discovered the majority was used for the storage of food and liquids. As with all archaeological sites, material visible on the surface belongs to the last phase of activity; at Pottery Hill the pottery primarily dates to the Roman Period. However, immediately below and to the north of the texts – and they run from north to south, reading from the right. The team recently published a selection of these texts, providing us with the names and professions of several visitors:


“Seal-bearer (or treasurer) of the God, Ihawka”

“Expedition leader, Sobek-hotep” “Overseer of the southern quarry,


“Overseer of the southern quarry, Khonsu-hotep”

“Overseer of the southern quarry, Ankhemara”

“… of the southern quarry, director of the crew, Ptah-Seshem”

“Quarry inspector Meru”.


Several of the names already occur during the Old Kingdom, but other names, such as Meru, are certainly names only found from the Middle Kingdom, for which a Middle Kingdom date has been proposed. The team believes these texts belong to a group of high-ranking officials involved in the quarry expeditions. In addition to the texts, there are depictions of two boats, one of which is similar to a vessel occasionally used as a determinative for the place-name of Kheny. The presence of two boats may emphasise the nature of the expedition or specify the professions of the men listed. For example, the title is a frequent nautical title, used by the crew leader, which presumably from Gebel el-Silsila by ship. Moreover, the word translated here as ‘quarry’ may incorporate a reference to the nautical element of quarry work, that is a hill, the paved road and its series of inscriptions indicate there was already activity at Pottery Hill during the Middle Kingdom.


The texts are arranged neatly together on a smooth, horizontal rock surface, in an area cleared from pebbles and sand, adjacent to a large stone pile. They are positioned so as to be read from the road and Pottery Hill – that is for a person standing to the east of the quarried harbour or a quay associated with the quarries. Such a harbour is located immediately below Pottery Hill. There is also a standing figure of the local hippopotamus-goddess Tausret (although severely eroded) as well as a footprint/sandal print with a Middle Kingdom signature. The text inside the footprint is poorly preserved and very faded, but the style of the owl-sign is identical to those of adjacent Middle Kingdom texts, confirming its Middle Kingdom date. While feet and sandal graffiti occur frequently during later dynastic periods, the Gebel el- Silsila graffito is unique in confirming the existence of footprint carvings as early as the Middle Kingdom.


Senusret’s Rock – GeSW.RIS.11-12

The Rock Inscription Site known to the team as Senusret’s Rock is located in the far south of Gebel el-Silsila, at the edge of the plateau overlooking the agricultural plain. The boulder- like outcrop that makes up the RIS displays a total of forty-two pictorial and textual engravings, ranging from Predynastic petroglyphs to Roman game boards. A vast number, though, are Middle Kingdom texts providing us, again, with the names and (sometimes) professions of the people once active on site. Among the more important texts are three repetitions of the birth and throne names of Senusret I, two of which are oriented towards the east, and the third southwards. The best example is a horizontal cartouche situated on a vertical, south-facing cliff-face of locale GeSW.RIS.12. 

Although somewhat eroded, it can be read as:

“Year 45 (of the reign) of King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Kheper-ka-Ra, Son of Ra, Senusret”


Current Thoughts on Gebel el-Silsila during the Middle Kingdom

Over the millennia, the Nile forced its way into the sandstone massif to create a deep and narrow gorge, providing the ancient Egyptians of the Middle Kingdom with a strategic location from which to oversee, and protect Egypt from, its southern neighbours. The formation of this nature-given barrier likely gave rise to the site’s ancient name, Kheny, the ‘Mouth of the River’. Presumably, the site was also a lucrative quarrying location. The combination of natural barricades in all directions, and a supply of valuable golden sandstone made Gebel el-Silsila the ideal site for a fortified military encampment to protect the quarries and facilitate trade.


As mentioned above, the team has now found epigraphic evidence of a fortress in an unpublished Middle Kingdom inscription by the ‘overseer of the fort’. This title confirms the inventory of Middle Kingdom fortresses listed in Papyrus Berlin 10495. However, with no excavation or documentary evidence for such a fortress – Sir A.H. Gardiner himself declared “no fortress is known at Silsilis” – there has been no attempt to understand the site’s position within the larger landscape until now.


Line of Sight

There is one method that is applied to all investigations of landscape archaeology at Gebel el-Silsila (and elsewhere): the ancient use of ‘line of sight’ as a means of connecting various structures. At Gebel el-Silsila the team used this method early on to record the relative locations of a string of coexistent Roman stations, outlook posts, and structures. The results show their arrangement was deliberate and designed in such a way as to ensure mutual protection and safety, regular communication and to aid travellers journeying to and from neighbouring towns.

During the Roman Period, it was clear that structures on the East Bank of Gebel el-Silsila had direct line of sight to the location of Ras Ras on the West Bank a few kilometres to the south.


From there, this chain of visibility zig- zagged back and forth across the Nile to Kom Ombo and further south. A similar pattern is discernible to the north, where Gebel el-Silsila connects by sight line to the fortified town of el-Serag (ancient Thumis), which in turn connects with Edfu, and further to Gebelein, towards Thebes. Crucially, these alignments allowed a visible interaction between the various locales, probably by beacons or other noticeable signs, enabling warnings or support to be sent when needed. A similar system would have been in place allowing communication between the Middle Kingdom fortresses.


Another important factor to remember is that large parts of the river would have been impassable during the inundation, as the current would have been too strong. This is especially true for Gebel el-Silsila, having a bottleneck- shaped gorge where the floodwaters would have gushed. Certainly, the flooded landscape would allow enemies a chance to attack the area unless it was protected from higher ground. Geological and landscape studies at Gebel el-Silsila have revealed that many of the wadis (valleys) were flooded, and at times the waters partially encircled the two mountains (Gebel el-Silsila itself on the East Bank, and partially Ramada Gibli on the West). During this time, the wadis could be used to circumnavigate the main river, so that the movement of troops, traders, and all that was needed to sustain a functioning infrastructure (and to process stone) could continue unabated. Wadi Shatt el-Rigal is one such example, with hundreds of Middle Kingdom texts and graffiti (including the famous Mentuhotep II scene), proof that the wadi was a busy corridor.


Our team has only scratched the surface of Middle Kingdom activity in the region, but with hundreds of texts documented (some recently published, and more prepared, including the name of the Major of Kheny!), the documentation of Middle Kingdom quarrying techniques, road systems, and other infrastructure, and the planned excavations of what could be a fortress, we hope to be able to paint a more detailed picture of Middle Kingdom life at Gebel el-Silsila.



We would like to thank our wonderful Silsila family, and the Permanent Committee of Foreign Missions for giving the team permission to work at Gebel el-Silsila, and equally the General Director of Aswan and Nubia, Mr A. Moniem Said. The documentation of MK epigraphy and archaeology has been made possible by the financial support of Gerda Henkel Stiftung, Magnus Bergvalls Stiftelse, and Crafoordska Stiftelsen.

Again, we would like to thank Ancient Egypt Magazine for allowing us to share the paper here!

All photo and material published herein are the property and copyrighted the Gebel el-Silsila Project. For permit of reuse for publications, please contact the directors. 






Thursday, May 05, 2022

Article series in Ancient Egypt Magazine

Gebel el-Silsila through the Ages

Over the past couple of years, we have been writing shorter archaeological (popular scientific) papers for Ancient Egypt Magazine, discussing the history of the Gebel el-Silsila area, our fieldwork, and some more detailed views on certain aspects or features of the site. Thanks to the editors, we have been given the permission to share with you those articles here! So, lets start with the earliest history of the site.

Naturally, you can order the physical copies from AE, and subscribe to receive a fantastic collection of interesting papers related to ancient Egypt. 


Ps. The previous homepage for Friends of Silsila is no longer in use, but we are working on constructing a new, interactive webpage where you will be able to take part of our publications, vlogs, blogs, 3D-models, etc. More of this to come!

Gebel el-Silsila throughout the ages: Part 1 – Early visitors

Perfect view of the surrounding landscape. Predynastic rock art site with giraffes on the west bank.
Photo: M. Nilsson


For over two hundred years, Egyptologists, archaeologists, explorers, knowledgeable enthusiasts, as well as intrepid tourists and laypeople alike have regarded Gebel el-Silsila as a minor archaeological site of little significance within the greater ancient scarred landscape of Egypt. For many, Gebel el-Silsila’s enduring and captivating sculptured stone landscape has been viewed merely from the deck or window of a passing ship or dahabeya, while navigating the narrow passage and cruising the sacred River Nile that separates the sites into two parts. This denigration and outdated perception of the site is something the current archaeological team hope to change. This paper is the first of a series aimed to present Gebel el-Silsila: the site, the team, the various chronological periods, discoveries and new results. Here, the aim is to introduce the site and its early visitors.



Located some 60 km south of the grand Edfu Temple, and 65 km north of the stunning golden landscape of modern day Aswan, Gebel el-Silsila – “Kheny/Khenu” to the ancients – played an important role within the overall development of Dynastic Egypt. First and foremost the site provided with a bountiful supply of prime Nubian sandstone, with a culmination of quarry activity during the great pharaohs of the New Kingdom. However, the site was also a vital strategic trading location, marking the boundary between Egypt and her southern neighbour Nubia, one of Egypt’s chief enemies (also known as the ‘nine bows of Egypt’) of which hundreds of Middle Kingdom inscriptions bear witness of. As we will see, though, Gebel el-Silsila had an important role to play already during the Predynastic period, and this part has yet to be fully understood or told.

From Napoleon to Caminos

The modern historical attestations of Gebel el-Silsila find their beginning with the Napoleonic scientific expeditions, when several scholars visited the site, documented its rock-cut temple and Nile stelae with words and art, after which they left their own engravings and signatures upon the sandstone surfaces and ancient monuments for later visitors to gaze upon. Since then, visiting scholars, including some of the great fathers of Egyptology, such as Lepsius, Petrie, Legrain, and even Carter, merely gave the site but a casual glance. Occasionally and often hastily, such visitors documented a handful of the site’s visible monuments, many of which were inaccurate or regrettably missing vital components to make justice to the original message. Of course, it is understandable that other sites were given presidency over Gebel el-Silsila during these early days of Egyptology, when scholars could choose between majestic temples, such as Karnak and Luxor, royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings as well as Saqqara, and elite burials throughout the country. Simply put, the quarryscape of Gebel el-Silsila was no match for the highly prized temples and tombs that embodied the very essence of Egyptology, which had captivated all who were engrossed in this relatively new science.

Starting in 1955, the Argentinian Egyptologist Caminos spent nine field seasons at Gebel el-Silsila, and documented together with his students the site’s dynastic epigraphy under the auspices of the EES (Egyptian Exploration Society). Unfortunately, only one monograph saw the completion as a publication, in which Caminos and James describe the original epigraphy and iconography of the 32 magnificent New Kingdom cenotaphs that line the West Bank. Years later, Caminos’ epigraphic work of the so called ‘Speos of Horemheb’ (rock-cut temple, re-dated to the reign of Hatshepsut by the current team) was published in a doctoral thesis by Thiem.

The speos. Photo: M. Nilsson

Nevertheless, despite the great efforts of scholars like Caminos, James, Osing and later Thiem, the true spectacular landscape and long forgotten archaeology of ancient Kheny remained undocumented and hidden, buried beneath the ever-shifting sands. It was not until 2012 when the Gebel el Silsila Epigraphic Survey Project (later ‘Gebel el Silsila Project’) – a Swedish-led archaeological mission from Lund University – was granted its concession and begun its monumental task of surveying the massive site (11.5 mile2/30 km2), encompassing also the areas of Nag el-Hammam and Shatt el-Rigal in the north. The goal was to document, catalogue and eventually excavate and restore/preserve the immensely diverse historical context of the ancient landscape of Gebel el-Silsila, which was virtually untouched since the time of Emperors Trajan and Antoninus Pius (2nd century A.D.) when quarrying and moving the last blocks of the Temple of Sobek to a nearby destination.


The early days of Gebel el-Silsila

The new project focused on a visual survey of the scarred quarryscape, numbering and identifying 104 quarries (52 on each side) that had cut into the sandstone scenery at least since the Middle Kingdom. The main goal of the first expedition was to document the Graeco-Roman epigraphy, including the enigmatic quarry marks, pictorial graffiti, demotic, Greek and Latin texts that were engraved into almost all exposed surfaces within the quarries of this time. Simultaneously, the team surveyed the surrounding landscape and archaeological remains, which soon resulted in the discovery of unique and extensive prehistoric rock art sites.

The newly discovered rock art sites at Gebel el-Silsila artistically show a much different and diverse historical timeline of the site than previously thought. For over eight millennia, visitors to Gebel el-Silsila have left their marks on the rock faces and by doing so they give witness to a chronological table of events that have changed and shaped the site’s landscape to what it is today. Each locale provide us with a sequential glimpse into the development of the site from one of a bountiful hunting ground to a pure industry and monumental engineering project, to those of a yet more personal insights and relationships with their contemporary world and divine pantheon.

The rock art at Gebel el-Silsila can be divided into the following periods: Epipalaeolithic (c. 8500 B.P.), Neolithic and Predynastic (c. 6000-3000 B.C.), Dynastic (c. 3000-305 B.C.), Graeco-Roman (305 B.C.-200 A.D.), to which can be added Coptic, Medieval and eventually modern graffiti.

Hammered or pecked into the natural exposed bedrock, primarily found on horizontal surfaces and heavily worn by time, the team found the tell-tale signs of one of the earliest artistic repertoires, known as Epipalaeolithic petroglyphs. These designs, some almost 8500 years old, foremost include geometric motifs, some known from the nearby area of el-Hosh to represent fish-traps, and several abstract patterns, that for us are unique, indiscernible illustrations. By documenting the rock art, the team could track the footsteps of the Epipaleolithic hunter and gatherers, and it was clear that their engravings concentrated in areas providing good hunting or fishing conditions.

With the discovery of Epipalaeolithic depictions at Gebel el-Silsila, the team could change the previous misconception that the site was almost empty of rock art, to the recognition of almost 100 individual rock art locales. Soon, the rock art corpus included thousands of petroglyphs and a stylistic range of depictions equal to acknowledged rock art areas such as el-Kab, el-Hosh, Wadi Kubbaniya, Wadi Abu Suebeira, and Gharb Aswan. 

Epipalaeolithic motifs at Gebel el-Silsila East bank. Photos: M. Nilsson

The discovery of several microlithic tools and workshops in a direct physical context to the rock art supported the age of the sites to several thousands of years. In addition, the team has documented a series of basic rock shelters and far-reaching game traps. With the rock art, stone tools and associated shelters and game traps, the team was able to establish the west and east banks respectively as areas of prehistoric anthropological significance, and Gebel el-Silsila could now be included within the context of the migratory hunter-gatherer tribes of the Kom Ombo plain. These physical remains give witness to the diversity of the site, and tells a story of how the early nomadic tribes utilised the undulating landscape of Gebel el-Silsila by following the rising waters of the Nile around the two sandstone massifs. By doing so, they were able to exploit the generous hunting grounds for the benefit of themselves and their fellow tribesman. Finally, there was evidence of prehistoric activity at Gebel el-Silsila that could relate in time with the lithic industry to which the site gave its name in the 1960’s, known as the ‘Silsilian industry’ (later Ballanan-Silsilian).


Predynastic hunting scenes

While the Epipalaeolithic rock art remains limited to a few sites in Upper Egypt, engravings of animals from the Ethiopian fauna and its famed bushy-tailed giraffes are better spread and make up the largest group at Gebel el-Silsila. As elsewhere, the repertoire includes giraffes, crocodiles, boats and hunting scenes with human figures, dogs and hunted animals, etc.


Panel 2 at Rock Art Site 3 showing a panel with giraffes and other animals. Photo by M. Nilsson

Petroglyphs are often found on vertical cliff surfaces in elevated areas overlooking the landscape, and in spaces that would have escaped the rising waters of the Nile inundation. Their locations also follow natural markers, where the landscape offers more than suitable hunting areas; for example, where the upper escarpment dramatically drops down towards what would have been the Nile edge, creating narrow wadis (valleys), perfect for corralling and entrapment. It has been remarked that the placement of such panels, and their contents, may have had a ritualistic relationship with the actual hunt itself, that depictions carry with it a certain embodiment of the intended game, and by which, the hunter is asking for some kind of divine assistance. If accepting such an interpretation, the communicated message of the Predynastic rock art producers is parallel with that of later periods, when the hunter wishes to control nature and ask the divine world for supporting interference.

The same panel, here with the petroglyphs filled in. Facsimiles by M. Nilsson

Rock Art Sites 3 and 4 marked with panels. Photo and editing M. Nilsson

Thoughts on function and meaning

By documenting and analysing the numerous rock art sites of the Gebel el-Silsila area, the team was also able to produce a geographical and geological map of the sandstone massifs, allowing an interpretation of how the formations had played an important role in the development of the area as a provider of safe sheltering and successful food supply.  The nomadic life of the prehistoric visitors to Gebel el-Silsila aligned with the tide and flood of the Nile, and was naturally regulated by the migration of the local wildlife. During the summer, the river flooded the wadis of Gebel el-Silsila and created a landscape almost like islands, which pebbled beaches in the north and south give witness to still today. The two island-like sides provided humans and animals with a safe and secure environment in which they could thrive. However, with the changing of tides, there would have been increased risks with dangerous and life-threatening wildlife, such as beast-like crocodiles and hippopotami, as well as venomous snakes and scorpions, for which Gebel el-Silsila is still infamous today.


Giraffe panel on the west bank. Photo M. Nilsson

The two sides were separated by the narrow gorge at Gebel el-Silsila may well provide us with an underlying reason as to why so many boat motifs were carved into the cliffs of the region. During the tide, the area presented a cataract landscape, allowing visitors to cross the Nile far easier. It was, and still is, the narrowest point of the Nile, giving history and explanation to the dynastic name of the site, Kheny/Khenu, roughly translated as the ‘Rowing Place’. This may equally explain why Gebel el-Silsila was chosen as the sacred place to perform the annual Nile festival; a topic that will be discussed later. Returning to the prehistoric period, it appears it is by no chance that there is a high concentration of Naqqada boat motifs with various styles in the areas of Gebel el-Silsila and its northern sister-site Shatt el-Rigal.

Predynastic Rock Art Panels surrounding the famous royal scene of Mentuhotep at Wadi Shatt el-Rigal. Photo M. Nilsson 

What is clear, Gebel el-Silsila has now proved important as to the understanding of the larger Kom Ombo area with regards prehistoric rock art and the migratory patterns of hunter-gatherer tribes who roamed and hunted amongst the protruding sandstone bluffs, leaving behind their traps and ritualistic guides for us to view today. The impact later visitors had on Gebel el-Silsila, and how they lives were entangled in the sandstone landscape will be explored in later papers.


Predynastic elephant petroglyph in Wadi Shatt el-Rigal. Photo M. Nilsson
Predynastic boat motifs at Wadi Shatt el-Rigal. Photo M. Nilsson

Ps. All images are copyrighted. For any secondary use or copying of the images, please notify the authors and always recognise the Gebel el-Silsila Project. Thank you!


 The published AE version

Correction: the flood did not circumnavigate the west bank completely, 
although filled its wadis and its northern and southern termini. 



Saturday, March 12, 2022

In Memoriam Carter


Eight years ago, Ahmed brought to us in our home in Luxor the most adorable little white fluff ball, a pup who was given the mighty name of Carter. 


He immediately became a beloved family member, but also a most welcome protector and companion while exploring the great landscape of Gebel el-Silsila. With wolf genes carried down from his grandfather, Carter always loved the field and saw himself as the King of the Mountain – which all other dogs and animals there agreed with. 

As the Mission grew and we welcomed new members to the archaeological team, Carter took them in one by one, adding to the pack of whom to protect and receive a treat from… He walked with us every inch of the site – west bank, east bank, through Nag el-Hammam and during our great 17 km circumnavigation from the mouth of Shatt el-Rigal back to the tarmac road of the west bank. 

 He became a star actor when filming for National Geographic and others, following our moves and returned to his position in case of a re-take.  He was there to protect our two children, Freja and Jonathan, being patient with them, helping them in learning how to walk, protecting them and loving them. 

He hated the days when we packed up to leave Silsila, fully understanding that his Luxor life did not offer the same freedom, and many were the times when he tried to run off, and delayed our exit from site. Nevertheless, life in Luxor was safe in the care of Abdalla and later Ahmed, while we were out of Egypt. He helped Abdalla look after and lovingly care for our cats Snowy, Petrie, Tiger and Kheny, who now are waiting for him on the other side of the rainbow. Their waiting, however, has come to an end, because our gorgeous darling, our beloved companion and canine soulmate fell victim to the horrible practice of poisoning dogs on the west bank of Luxor. In this centenary of Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, our Carter left us all heartbroken just months before he was going to fly with us to a new home in Sweden.

Thank you our beloved family member, thank you our trusted companion for all the love and happiness you have given us all over the years. Now run free and stand mighty on the top of that hill that you always held so dear. You will always be a member of the Silsila team, and your presence will always remain as we run down our favourite sand dune each afternoon as the sun sets. 

Rest in peace our beloved Carter, give our love to all of our other furry friends who greeted you on the other side. X