The temple inscriptions from Philae


The temples of Philae (© H. Kockelmann)

The aim of the project ‘Edition der Tempelinschriften von Philae’ (Edition of the temple inscriptions from Philae) is to publish all hieroglyphic inscriptions of all buildings on the island of Philae, including a translation and commentary.

Heinrich Schäfer, Hermann Junker and the photographer Friedrich Koch documented all temple reliefs of Philae on large-format glass negatives during the winters of 1908/09 and 1909/10 on behalf of the Prussian Academy of Sciences. These ‘Berlin photos’ remain the basis of the edition, even if today’s digital photography is gaining more and more importance for detailed questions of iconography and inscriptions.

In the interwar period, drawings for the first volume of the publication of Philae were done by Dr. Otto Daum, but the drawings as well as the manuscript by Hermann Junker were expropriated in Cairo due to the war. In 1955, both were restituted to the Austrian Academy of Sciences by the Egyptian Council of Antiquities; the volume on “Der grosse Pylon des Tempels der Isis in Philae” (First Pylon = Philae I) could thus appear as “Denkschriften-Sonderband” in 1958.

Epigraphic work by H. Kockelmann on the second pylon (© E. Winter)

For the preparation of the second volume of this edition, Hermann Junker collaborated to an increasing extent with Erich Winter from 1956, so that after the death of H. Junker in 1962 E. Winter was able to continue the work. In 1965, the publication ‘Das Geburtshaus des Tempels der Isis in Philae’ (Birthhouse of Philae = Philae II) appeared under both authors’ names, also in the format of “Denkschriften-Sonderband” of the Academy.

While work on ‘Das Geburtshaus …’ (= Philae II) was in progress it became obvious that constant re-visiting of the temple reliefs with their inscriptions in situ was nearly mandatory for processing the texts. In the next decades, therefore, Erich Winter made every effort to complete the records of the hieroglyphic texts of all the temples on Philae during shorter stays on Philae, and to enhance or revise the existing transcribed inscriptions and drawings with the original in front of him.

The UNESCO rescue mission to save the Nubian temples reached the island of Philae in 1974. The Austrian Academy of Sciences, supported by a UNESCO research grant, sent Erich Winter to Philae for many months in order to document all relief-decorated columns accurately using latex coating before dismantling of the buildings was to begin.

Since latex copies dry up over the years and become brittle, drawings of all latex copies had to be produced within the next few years (on behalf of and at the expense of the Academy). Only after this task had been completed, could the work of the Philae project again focus on the actual publication of the third volume of the Philae Edition, ‘Die Zweite Ostkolonnade des Tempels der Isis in Philae’ (second eastern colonnade = Philae III). Holger Kockelmann was integrated into the preparation of the edition from 2005, and the manuscript of ‘Philae III’ could be completed with him as co-author. In 2016, Philae III was published at Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, Vienna. Questions on readings were clarified on the spot in annual campaigns, since 2009 with the scholarly cooperation of Shafia Bedier (Ain Shams University, Cairo).

‘Philae III’ showed that techniques of editing have advanced significantly in the last decades with computers, digital photography and electronic drawing boards, which brought significant new requirements but also offered new strategies. A much more exhaustive commentary is also required now in comparison to what was customary two generations ago.

All of this, including the use of a high telescopic tripod, which allows detailed images to be taken from the ground in up to 15 m height under computer control, is also reflected in the work already undertaken for the fourth and fifth volume of the Philae publications, which will be dedicated to the second pylon of the temple of Isis and the Hypostyle Hall.

The graphic designs for a further six volumes are already almost complete. These will include all hieroglyphic inscriptions and representations of all temple buildings on Philae, and will be published together with translations and commentaries.

Philae Phot. 1007 with original relief
Publication of the relief from Phot. 1007 in ‘Philae II’ (after Junker – Winter 1965)

Publications

Publications

  • H. Junker, Der große Pylon des Tempels der Isis in Philae, Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie – Sonderband, Wien 1958.
  • H. Junker, E. Winter, Das Geburtshaus des Tempels der Isis in Philae, Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie – Sonderband , Wien 1965.
  • H. Kockelmann, E. Winter, PHILAE III. Die zweite Ostkolonnade des Tempels der Isis in Philae (CO II und CO II K), Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie – Sonderband, Wien 2016.