Chapel of King Nectanebo I Uncovered in Ancient Heliopolis, Egypt

Bible and archaeology news


This carved basalt block belongs to a chapel built by King Nectanebo I. Remains of the chapel were recently excavated at ancient Heliopolis. Photo: Courtesy Ministry of Antiquities.

Archaeologists excavating at the site of ancient Heliopolis underneath modern-day Cairo, Egypt, have discovered evidence of a chapel belonging to King Nectanebo I of the 30th Dynasty. Remains of the chapel include carved basalt blocks and a portion of a statue depicting King Merneptah of the 19th Dynasty presenting an offering to a god.

Working as part of an Egyptian-German project, the archaeologists also uncovered pottery and other materials from the Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods. Excavation of the chapel will be completed in the next field season, Dr. Detrich Rau, head of the German team, said in an Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities announcement.

In the free eBook Ancient Israel in Egypt and the Exodus, top scholars discuss the historical Israelites in Egypt and archaeological evidence for and against the historicity of the Exodus.


Granite head of King Nectanebo I, now on display at the Louvre.

King Nectanebo I, who ruled from 380 to 362 B.C.E., was the founder of the last native Egyptian dynasty. Nectanebo I ascended to the throne by overthrowing King Nepherites II of the 29th Dynasty during a period of unrest. In 373, Nectanebo successfully prevented the Persian Achaemenids from reconquering Egypt, which had gained its independence in 402. The Achaemenids nevertheless briefly recaptured Egypt in 343 before falling to Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.E.

A master builder, Nectanebo I built, restored and enlarged temples in such cities as Philae, Hermopolis, Memphis, Karnak, Edfu—and Heliopolis.

Ancient Heliopolis (meaning “city of the sun” in Greek; its Egyptian name was Iunu) was the chief cult center of the sun god Ra and the closely associated local sun god Atum. Today, little has survived of the temple complex save for the still-standing obelisk of Sesostris I, the oldest existing obelisk. We can, however, get a picture of the temple complex’s former grandiosity through the bits of excavated remains that have come to light as well as literary sources describing the ancient religious center (Herodotus II.59.3; Strabo XVII.1.27–29; etc.). Heliopolis is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (Isaiah 19:18; Jeremiah 43:13), where it is sometimes referred to as On (Genesis 41:45,50, 46:20; Ezekiel 30:17).


Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Did Pharaoh Sheshonq Attack Jerusalem?

King Senebkay of ‘Lost’ Abydos Dynasty Died in Battle

The Expulsion of the Hyksos

Severed Hands: Trophies of War in New Kingdom Egypt


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  • Kurt says

    In Egyptian records the city’s name was written as Junu, while Assyro-Babylonian records mention it as Ana or Unu. The Egyptian name is thought to mean “City of the Pillar,” perhaps referring to the obelisks (tall, tapering columns topped by a pyramid-shaped point) for which the city was famous; or the name may relate to the sacred stone (called the benben) connected with the worship of the sun-god Ra (Re). The Greeks called the city Heliopolis, meaning “City of the Sun,” because it was the chief center of Egyptian sun worship.

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