a New Kingdom site, situated in Middle Egypt at the edge of the Faiyum, 3.75 kilometers (about 2.5 miles) due west of the point where the Bahr Yussuf branch of the Nile River starts to turn northwest toward Medinet Faiyum. The site is on desert land, some 30 meters (about 100 feet) above sea level, but it lies within the alluvial area of the Nile's ancient deposits.
From the eighteenth to the twentieth dynasties, the town of Mi-wer, as Abu Ghurob was then named, provided a palace or a residence and harem for the convenience and entertainment of royalty, who wanted to indulge in the sports of fishing and fowling in the marshy and fertile Faiyum Depression. The principal monuments include a temple, constructed in the reign of Thutmose III (r.1504–1452 BCE), an associated palace and harem, and the royal docking place. All were institutions in which the ruler's administrators, officials, and workers, such as craftsmen, servants, and laborers, were employed. Their housing formed part of the town site and, outside the town, various cemetery areas were established for both the wealthy and the poor inhabitants. Mi-wer was occupied until the reign of Ramesses V (1160–1156 BCE) and was probably abandoned soon after.
Abu Ghurob is of archaeological and cultural significance as one of the few settlement sites of the New Kingdom to have been excavated. The finds comprised a wide range of domestic and funerary items. Artifacts relating to the spinning, weaving, and sewing of linen are of particular interest, since papyrus fragments reveal that the manufacture of textiles came under the authority of the harem. The royal wives and concubines supervised such work, but they undertook any fine sewing themselves, since cloth and garments were distributed to the various royal residences. Finds also indicate that fishing and associated crafts such as net-making were important, both for leisure purposes and for providing a valuable food source.
Excavations at Abu Ghurob were conducted for about thirty-two years. The first work there was by William Matthew Flinders Petrie from 1888 to 1890; he concentrated on the temple and its surrounding area, and he investigated part of the cemeteries. In 1900, Émile Chassinat heard about discoveries from a tomb, which he was able to trace and study; this turned out to be a communal grave of women from the harem that dated to the early part of the reign of Akhenaten (1372–1355 BCE). In the 1903–1904 season, Leonard Loat mainly investigated the animal cemeteries. In 1905, Ludwig Borchardt acquired a small wooden head of Queen Tiye (coregent r.1410–1372 BCE) from a dealer and discovered that it had come from Abu Ghurob. He visited the site and saw the remains of a large building, which he concluded was a palace of the late eighteenth dynasty. In 1920, a final three-month excavation was carried out by Guy Brunton and Reginald Engelbach. By that time, much of the site had been destroyed by illicit digging. They devoted their main efforts to the cemeteries but also reexamined the temple area, and their report was published in 1927.
- Borchardt, Ludwig. Der Porträtkopf der Königin Teje: Ausgrabungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft im Tell el-Amarna, vol. 1. Leipzig, 1911.
- Brunton, Guy, and Reginald Engelbach. Gurob. British School of Archaeology in Egypt, 41. London, 1927.
- Chassinat, Émile. “Une Tombe inviolée de la XVIIIe Dynastie découverte aux environs de Médinet el-Gorab dans le Fayoûm.” Bulletin de l'Institut français d' archéologie orientale 1 (1901), 225–234.
- Murray, Margaret A. Saqqara Mastabas: part 1, Gurob by L. Loat. British School of Archaeology in Egypt, 10. London, 1905.
- Petrie, W. M. F. Kahun, Gurob and Hawara. London, 1890.
- Petrie, W. M. F. Illahun, Kahun and Gurob. London, 1891.
- Thomas, Angela P. Gurob: A New Kingdom Town. Egyptology Today, 5. Warminster, 1981.
Angela P. Thomas