Tell el-Daba: Archaeological remains of temple rituals in the sacred district A/II and their cultural-historical assignment

A sacred district of the Second Intermediate Period (late 18th to mid-16th century BC) was discovered in Area A/II at the beginning of the Austrian Archaeological Institute excavations at Tell el-Dab’a/Avaris under the direction of Manfred Bietak from 1966. It comprises two Syrian-Palestinian temples, two Egyptian temples and a house for ritual meals (for their architecture see Manfred Bietak’s projects). The temples thus reflect a typical mixed population, with their respective religious practices, at Tell el-Dab’a/Avaris, the capital of the Hyksos. The analysis of the sacrificial pits in the forecourts of the temples (Vera Müller’s dissertation published in 2008) revealed cult activities that continued into the early New Kingdom (second half of the 15th century BC). They demonstrate that even after the conquest of Avaris by the Upper Egyptian Thebes, old Levantine cult practices continued at this place.

The Egyptian temples are always connected to a cemetery, which most probably associates them to the cult of the dead. The Syrian-Palestinian temples in contrast seem to have been mainly reserved for the worship of the gods. Only the walls of the Egyptian Temple I were preserved high enough so that the former temple inventory was encountered in the form of ceramic vessels. This area was covered in an extensive publication (Tell el-Dab’a V) by Manfred Bietak in 1991. The other temples could only be documented in part through their foundation walls, so nothing more can be said about their former inventory. The forecourts of the temples, however, revealed built altars and extensive layers containing pottery and animal bones that allow insights into the ritual practices and cults.

The animal bones were examined by Joachim Boessneck and Angela von den Driesch (Institute of Palaeoanatomy and History of Veterinary Medicine, Munich) and published together with the animal bones found in the same years in other areas (Tell el-Dab’a III, 1976, and Tell el-Dab’a VII A, 1992). The ceramic deposited in the forecourts is currently being analysed by Vera Müller, whilst architectural findings and stratigraphy are being prepared for publication by Manfred Bietak.