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The Temple of Khnum, Aswan
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The Temple of Khnum, Aswan
The Temple of Khnum in Aswan is an amazing sight, and was dedicated to the ancient god that fed his power to the Nile River. The temple offers an incredible way to experience Egypt's past! You may run across tours that showcase a visit to Aswan’s Elephantine Island, where you can see the Temple of Khnum.

Elephantine Island & The Temple of Khnum
Elephantine Island is the largest of the Aswan area islands, and is one of the most ancient sites in Egypt, with artifacts dating to predynastic periods. This is probably due to its location at the first Cataract of the Nile, which provided a natural boundary between Egypt and Nubia. As an island, it was also easily defensible. In fact, the ancient town located in the southern part of the island was also a fortress through much of it's history. At one time, there was a bridge from the mainland to the island.

Elephantine is Greek for elephant. In ancient times, the Island, as well as the southern town, was called Abu, or Yabu, which also meant elephant. The town has also been referenced as Kom, after it's principle god of the island, Khnum (Khnemu). It is believed that the island received it's name because it was a major ivory trading center, though in fact, it was a major trading post of many commodities. There are large boulders in the river near the island which resembled bathing elephants, particularly from afar, and this too has been suggested as a reason for the island's name.

The island is very beautiful, and while many of the artifacts there are in ruin, there is still considerable to see. One of it's main attractions is it's Nilometer, which is one of only three on the Nile, which was used to measure the water level of the Nile as late as the nineteenth century. There has been an ongoing excavation at the town for many years by the German Archaeological Institute, and some of the finds along with many other island artifacts, including a mummified ram of Khnum, are located in the Elephantine Museum. Another major attraction is the ruins .

This Elephantine Island Temple of the deity Khnum, who was believed to have created mankind from a potter's wheel, is mostly in ruins. It is believed to have been built by Queen Hatshepsut of the 18th Dynasty. A number of obelisks and monuments have been reconstructed on the parapet, and there are column bases from a restoration which occurred in the early 19th Dynasty (Ramesses II). In addition there is a gateway with carvings of Alexander IV of Macedon worshipping Khnum, and a number of Roman paving stones may be found. One may also see a large granite naos begun by Nectanebo II. There are a few remains of pillars which where painted by the Romans, and several altars with Greek inscriptions.

Pre-dynastic Elephantine Island where you will find the temple of Khnum God of Silt. Silt is the alluvial sediment washed downstream during flooding. Mud seemed to be important enough to ancient homo for a temple to be built! Could mud be the body protection strategy of homo before the advent of fire. Other semi-water adapted mamals such as pigs and elephants use mud as a protectant from sun, insects, lice and leeches. Mud would be the first of many gifts bestowed upon homo.

Who was Khnum?
What should you know about Khnum, the ideology, as well as the ancient holy temple? First understand who Khnum was. According to Egyptian mythology, Khnum was one of the first Egyptian Gods, and purported to be the source of power behind the Nile River. The annual flooding of the Nile River was believed to have been connected with Khnum’s creative powers, as he could bring “life” to his surroundings. He made children out of clay and from a potter's wheel and then put them in their mothers' wombs. In fact, Khnum was so powerful he was described as having “molded” the other deities. In Egyptian art, Khnum is usually depicted as having the head of a Ram, and of course, sitting at his potter's wheel. In fact, some point to Khnum’s artistic depictions as having influenced the bible visions of Ezekiel and Revelation.

What to See
What still stands of the Temple of Khnum in Aswan? Unfortunately, this once great temple is mostly in ruins today. Many believe this once glorious temple was started by Queen Hatshepsut of the 18th Dynasty, continued by the Ptolemies, and then completed by the Romans.

Nowadays, the temple is located in the middle of the modern town at a level about nine meters below its surroundings. At the most recent excavation, the hypostyle hall was found and it was relatively well preserved. There are presumably other remains of the temple, but they are buried underneath surrounding buildings of Elephantine Island.

Other monuments that have been discovered include carvings of Alexander IV of Macedon worshiping Khnum, as well as painted pillars and several altars carved with Greek inscriptions. In front of the temple you can see the remains of a Christian church as well as a Sekhmet statue.

The Walls Inside the Temple
On the walls inside the temple you may notice some striking artistic scenes illustrating the king feeding the arms of his enemies to the lions. This was a form of honor to the Pharaoh and to his God, as often times the state religion would change with each new Pharaoh’s reign.

If you see the Temple of Khnum offered in a budget tour then don’t pass up the chance to visit this piece of religious history to learn more about Khnum, one of Egypt’s earliest deities.

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