Gebel es-Silsilah (ẖnw; ẖnj)



Nome: 1st Upper Egyptian nome

Geographical coordinates: 24º39´N / 32º55´E

Gebel es-Silsilah was the largest area of quarries of the Nubian sandstone. The quarries were located on both sides of the Nile. The river formed a narrowing cutting the rock massif and was only 350-400m wide here. On the east side the terrain rises northwards with the steep descent to the Nile in its northern part, on the west bank, called El-Ramadi Gibli, the edge of the river is steep and descends towards the west. On the east bank walls of quarries reach up to 40m of height, on the west bank they are much lower being up to 15m in its northern part. Quarries on the west bank are closed from the south with the wadi separating them from the neighbouring quarries in Nag el-Hammam.


Gebel es-Silsilah: shrines 


Although explored from the early Middle Kingdom, quarries of Gebel es-Silsilah were used on a large scale during the New Kingdom and later. Stone obtained here, especially on the east bank, was homogenous and of good quality with no lines of disturbance, it was possible then to extract even large blocks.[1] Blocks were cut piece by piece in regular layers so as not to waste the material.

Thanks to inscriptions and, above all, traces of work techniques and size of chisels it is theoretically possible to date individual parts of quarries.[2] This was done generally by R. and D.D. Klemm with division to the main historical periods. Although many quarries within Gebel es-Silsilah were described as the early New Kingdom, only some areas were dated more precisely. On the west bank two quarries from the times of Thutmose III could be distinguished. They are comparatively large and are situated behind the shrines of the Thutmoside officials. On the south of these two quarries the large loading ramp can be noticed. R.A. Caminos supposed that when the shrines were constructed, quarrying was limited to the east bank, while the west bank was used for cult purpose.[3] According to R. and D.D. Klemm functioning of quarries was directly under royal control.[4]

R. and D.D. Klemm supposed that huts of workers extracting stone on the west bank were located on the plateau north-west of the quarries, some remains of stone structures with few sherds of pottery were found there. The access to the huts was possible from the direction of the wadi separating El-Ramadi Gibli from Nag el-Hammam.[5]

R.A. Caminos believed that the main settlement, attested in the area from the Predynastic period, was located on the east bank to the north of the main sandstone mass.[6] It was where "a great deal pottery" was observed by F.Ll. Griffith[7] at the small Ramesside temple which was erected there.[8]

The place was deserted, only the narrow strip of land with rocky outcrops was fairly good for agriculture.[9] It appears that people working in the quarries had to be supplied with grain.

The importance of the site could result from several factors. The quarries were very rich, stone obtained here was of good quality, easily accessible and could be extracted in large blocks. There were no difficulties in transportation, as the quarries were situated directly by the river.

During the reign of Hatshepsut only one expedition sent to Gebel es-Silsilah is attested in sources. The ostracon found by Baraize in the temple of Maat in Deir el-Medina is dated to the 11th year of Thutmose III, although the name of the king is not given in the document. First note gives the date "first month of akhet, day 2" and number 60, probably as a number of blocks, as in the next line, under the date of the day 6 of the third month of the akhet season it is noted: "receiving blocks from ḥȜtj-ʿ Ah-mes: 40, jmj-r ḫtmt: 28 and for day 3 of the same month: "taking the men to Khenu". M. Barwik sees under Ah-mes the owner of shrine 6 at Gebel es-Silsilah and under jmj-r ḫtmt – another official whose shrine is located in Gebel es-Silsilah (no. 14) – Nehesy.[10] The conclusion for operations on the area of Gebel es-Silsila must be that work was organised under the supervision of at least two high officials or maybe only sponsored by them: their people were working in quarries, extracting blocks and sending them to Thebes. Men were sent to Gebel es-Silsilah probably to transport stone from there since three days later the material reached Thebes. They must have been in a hurry considering that  the distance between these two sites is about 150km and they covered the route there and back in three days. The numbers quoted on the ostracon give an idea of the range of works during this early period – approximately 30 blocks were sent every month during one operation.


  1. ^ 270: Stones and Quarries in Ancient Egypt - - 2008 - Klemm, Rosemarie, Klemm, Dietrich D..
  2. ^ 270: Stones and Quarries in Ancient Egypt - - 2008 - Klemm, Rosemarie, Klemm, Dietrich D. for traces dated to the early New Kingdom.
  3. ^ 41: Gebel es-Silsilah. I. The Shrines - - 1963 - Caminos, Ricardo A., James, T.G.H..
  4. ^ 270: Stones and Quarries in Ancient Egypt - - 2008 - Klemm, Rosemarie, Klemm, Dietrich D..
  5. ^ 270: Stones and Quarries in Ancient Egypt - - 2008 - Klemm, Rosemarie, Klemm, Dietrich D..
  6. ^ 41: Gebel es-Silsilah. I. The Shrines - - 1963 - Caminos, Ricardo A., James, T.G.H..
  7. ^ 470: Notes on a Tour in Upper Egypt - - 1889 - Griffith, Francis Llewellyn.
  8. ^ 420: Gebel el-Silsila, 2012 - - - Kucharek, Andrea.
  9. ^ 41: Gebel es-Silsilah. I. The Shrines - - 1963 - Caminos, Ricardo A., James, T.G.H..
  10. ^ 392: Ahmose – a mayor of Thebes of the early Tuthmoside period - - 2008 - Barwik, Mirosław.

Jadwiga Iwaszczuk


Explorer/Institution working previously: Ricardo A. Caminos, T.G.H. James, Egypt Exploration SocietyKarl Richard LepsiusWilliam Matthew Flinders Petrie, Francis Llewellyn GriffithRosemarie Klemm, Dietrich D. Klemm

Ancient people connected to the site: Sen-en-mut , Hapu-seneb , Sen-nefer-i , Useru , Aberui , Ah-mes , N[...]-neferet , Nebes[...] , Nehesy , [Ah]-hetep , Amen-hetep , Nefer-neb-ef-Aa-kheper-ka-Ra(?) , Ah-mes , Djehuti-mes-em-akhet , Henut-tawy , User-pehty , Henu-neferet , Hapu , Min-nakht , Ah-mes Aa-mi-tju , User-Amen , Ta-aa-mi-tju , Amen-em-hat , [Amen]-mes , Bak , Ki , Pu-nefer , Hu-mi-shau , Ah-mes , Her-wadj , Nes-nefer-hetep , Aa-pehti , A[men]-em-usekhet , Horus , Nakht-[Amen] , Nefer-uben , [Nefer]-hetep , [Amen-em-hat] , Tju-ri , Ah-mes , Ah-hetep , Senti-hetep , [T]uiu , Baket , Baket , It , [Tj]uiu , name unpreserved , name unpreserved , [Meri]-Amen , Ah-mes , [Amen]-em-usekhet , Ah-mes , [Amen]-em-heb , Baket , Henut , Seni-seneb ,



  • Caminos Ricardo A., James T.G.H., Gebel es-Silsilah. I. The Shrines, Archaeological Survey of Egypt 31, London 1963
  • Delvaux Luc, Hatshepsout et le Gebel es-Silsileh: les carrières d'une reine dangereuse, in: Eyre C.J., Proceedings of the Seventh International Congress of Egyptologists, Cambridge 3-9 September 1995, Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 82, Leuven 1998, 317-324
  • Bommas Martin, Der Tempel des Chnum der 18. Dyn. auf Elephantine, PhD thesis, Universität Heidelberg, Heidelberg 2000, 41-44
  • Kucharek Andrea, Senenmut in Gebel es-Silsilah, in: Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Abteilung Kairo 66, 2010, 143-148
  • Bommas Martin, Schrein unter. Gebel es-Silsilah im Neuen Reich, in: Bommas Martin, Guksch Heike, Hofmann Eva (eds.), Grab und Totenkult im Alten Ägypten, München 2003, 88-103
  • Caminos Ricardo A., Gebel es-Silsile, in: Helck Wolfgang, Otto Eberhard (eds.), Lexikon der Ägyptologie. Band II, Erntefest – Hordjedef, Wiesbaden 1977, 441-447
  • Kucharek Andrea, Gebel el-Silsila, 2012, in: Wendrich Willeke (ed.), UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology,, Los Angeles 2008-
  • Hikade Thomas, Das Expeditionswesen im ägyptischen Neuen Reich: ein Beitrag zu Rohstoffversorgung und Außenhandel, Studien zur Archäologie und Geschichte Altägyptens 21, Heidelberg 2001, 47-49, 225-230
  • Dorman Peter F., The Monuments of Senenmut: Problems in Historical Methodology, London, New York 1988, 116