BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

Egyptian Excavation Reveals Byzantine Monastery

Byzantine monastery was built over pharaonic-era graves

Byzantine monastery

The Byzantine monastery near Assiut Egypt. Courtesy Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Excavations in the governorate of Assiut in central Egypt have revealed the remains of a Byzantine monastery built over much earlier tombs from the first millennium BCE. According to the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the finds are important because of the wide range of historical periods they represent and the different cultural and religious activities they evidence.

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The Finds in Assiut

The most notably discovery was a structure used by Christian monks during the Byzantine period (c. 324–634 CE). The building featured a central courtyard with several attached rooms and a storage area. On one of the walls of the Byzantine monastery, archaeologists uncovered an eight-line inscription written in Egyptian Coptic that recorded a supplication and prayer to the early church saints. Above the inscription were the remains of clay shelves that likely once held manuscripts kept by the monks.

The monastery was uncovered during excavations at the necropolis of Meir, near the modern city of Assiut. From the Old Kingdom (c. 2543–2120 BCE) through the Middle Kingdom (c. 1980–1760 BCE), the site functioned as the burial place for the important city of Cusae. Meir is notable for the tombs of the region’s nomarchs—local rulers who at various times in Egyptian history wielded large amounts of power.

funerary mask

A woman’s funerary mask from a tomb near Assiut Egypt. Courtesy Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

While the upper strata of the excavations included the Byzantine monastery, the lower levels revealed the remains of several tombs dated to the Late Period (c. 664–332 BCE), including wooden coffins and various grave goods. Among the tombs was one that belonged to a woman. Unfortunately, due to the tomb’s poor state of preservation, much of the coffin had decayed, leaving behind a painted mask and several decorated pieces of the coffin. The tomb’s grave goods included clay pots, faience beads, and two copper mirrors.

 


Read more in Bible History Daily:

Lavish New Kingdom Tomb Uncovered at Saqqara

Hundreds of Egyptian Sarcophagi Uncovered in the Saqqara Tombs

 

All-Access members, read more in the BAS Library:

Pharaoh’s Man, ‘Abdiel: The Vizier with a Semitic Name

Exodus Evidence: An Egyptologist Looks at Biblical History

Moses’ Egyptian Name

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