• Era Old Kingdom to New Kingdom
  • Project Director Prof. Nadine Moeller & Dr. Gregory Marouard
  • Location Edfu
  • Affiliation Yale University
  • Project Sponsor Yale University, William K. and Marilyn M. Simpson Endowment for Egyptology, Department of NELC
  • Project Dates 2000-Present

The ancient town of Edfu is situated on the west bank of the Nile, halfway between Luxor and Aswan. Two names, Behedet and Djeba, are attested for Edfu for the Pharaonic Period. There is evidence for the former from the early Old Kingdom onwards.

In ancient times, Edfu was the capital of the 2nd Upper Egyptian nome and played an important role within the region. Several routes connect Edfu via the Eastern Desert to the Red Sea coast. Further desert roads lead from Edfu through the Western Desert to the oasis of Kharga, which made it a strategically important starting and/or end point for trade and mining expeditions. 

The ancient town of Edfu is situated on a naturally elevated sandstone outcrop on the west bank of the Nile, which provided the necessary protection from the annual floodwaters. Today the Nile lies 1 km to the east.

Domestic quarter from the early New Kingdom. Photo: Gregory Marouard

The remains of the ancient town are located just a few meters west of the well-known Horus temple complex from the Ptolemaic period. They form a conspicuous mound, a tell, consisting of superimposed settlement layers, which encompass more than 3000 years of history in its current state and still rises to a height of 10 - 15 m above the level of the later temple. At the turn of the 20th century, large areas of it were destroyed by the intense work of sebbakh diggers, resulting in major losses of the southern and northern parts the ancient town.

Edfu displays all the characteristic elements of an early urban center, and currently this is one of the last well-preserved ancient Egyptian towns that has still much potential for archaeological fieldwork. The earliest traces of human activity at the site date back to the Early Dynastic Period and the occupation increased significantly in the second part of the 5th Dynasty (ca. 2400 BCE) and was almost continuous until the beginning of the medieval period.

Ongoing excavation of the official complex from the 5th Dynasty at Zone 2. Photo: Gregory Marouard

The Tell Edfu Project started in 2001 as a mission of the University of Cambridge (Christ's College) under the direction of Nadine Moeller, who was granted the concession of the site by the then Supreme Council of Antiquities (now Ministry of Antiquities and Heritage) in Egypt. After this initial survey work, excavations were initiated in 2005 under the umbrella of University College, University of Oxford. Between 2007 and 2020, the Tell Edfu Project was under the auspices of the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago. Since 2020, this excavation project is affiliated with Yale University and sponsored by the William K. and Marilyn M. Simpson Endowment for Egyptology.

The main research goals of the TEP have been focusing on the origins of the ancient city in addition to exploring the various settlement phases that are accessible on the preserved surface of the ancient tell.  Over the past two decades, the project has investigated different quarters of this provincial capital such as an official late Old Kingdom complex from the time of king Djedkare Isesi (end of the 5th Dynasty), a large Governor's Residence from the Middle Kingdom (late 12th Dynasty) in addition to an extensive silo courtyard from the Second Intermediate Period. Since 2017, a new excavation area has been started on an early New Kingdom domestic quarter leading to the discovery of an extensive villa that belongs to an elite Edfu family from the transitional period between the late 17th and the early 18th Dynasty.

Ceramicist Natasha Ayers sorting New Kingdom pottery. Photo: Gregory Marouard

The team has also worked for several seasons on the study of the small provincial pyramid at el-Ghonameya (5 km South of Edfu), which dates to the early Old Kingdom.

Furthermore, the team has focused over the years on site management including the conservation and consolidation of mudbrick structures, the renewal of signage or the construction of a small open-air museum in order to store securely many inscribed and decorated blocks recovered since the early 20th Century in various parts of the site.

Project team members (current):

  • Prof. Nadine Moeller, archaeologist, Project Director, Yale University
  • Dr. Gregory Marouard, archaeologist, Project Co-Director, Yale University
  • Dr. Katarina Arias-Kytnarova, Egyptian ceramic specialist, Charles University Prague.
  • Dr. Natasha Ayers, Egyptian ceramic specialist, Austrian Academy of Sciences Vienna.
  • Dr. Kathryn Bandy, Egyptologist, independent scholar.
  • Dr. Aaron De Souza, Nubian ceramic specialist, Austrian Academy of Sciences Vienna
  • Raghda “Didi” El-Behaedi, archaeologist, PhD candidate University of Chicago.
  • Hiroko Kariya, conservator.
  • Georgia LaMacchia, archaeologist, PhD program Yale University.
  • Dr. Claire Malleson, archaeobotanist, AREA, American University in Beirut.
  • Luiza Osorio G. Da Silva, archaeologist, PhD candidate University of Chicago.
  • Sasha Rohret, archaeozoologist, PhD candidate University of Chicago.
  • Emilie Sarrazin, archaeologist and Trench Supervisor, PhD candidate University of Chicago.
  • Mike Tritsch, archaeologist, PhD program Yale University.

Past sponsors:

  • The Oriental Institute (OI), University of Chicago
  • The Fund for Innovation and Archaeological Research in Egypt (FIRE), OI
  • The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH Collaborative Research Grant)
  • The Women's Board, The University of Chicago
  • The British Academy
  • The Seven Pillars of Wisdom Trust, London
  • The Michaela Schiff-Giorgini Foundation
  • The Sussex Egyptology Society
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