a site known in ancient Egypt as Ipw or ḫntmnw, and an important cult center for the fertility god Min (26°40′N, 31°45′E). The information from this site, like many others, is extremely limited since it lies under a mound occupied by the densely populated modern village. An accidental discovery there during the excavation to lay a new building foundation led the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities to uncover a temple built by Ramesses II. Large statues of the king and his daughter Meritamun were found, and the layout of part of the temple was discerned. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, many monasteries were built throughout Egypt. One of the most important was the White Monastery at Akhmim, also called the Monastery of Saint Shenoute, the construction of which in the fourth century CE used many decorated stones removed from ancient Egyptian temples.

Attention has been given in recent years to the cemeteries around Akhmim. Although the prehistory of the province is little known, two cemeteries that were dated to the Old Kingdom have been systematically excavated and the data published by the Australian Centre for Egyptology. Hawawish on the eastern bank of the Nile River was the metropolitan cemetery; it contained 884 rock-cut tombs, of which sixty retained most or part of their decoration. Many stelae, coffins, statues, and other materials have also come from the cemetery and are today in various museums, providing information on at least ten successive generations, or some four hundred years in the latter part of the Old Kingdom. The tomb owners included viziers, governors, and priests. The tombs of Memi and Hem-Min (from the end of the fifth dynasty) show a clever architectural design that concealed the true burial chambers of their owners; the latter tomb is one of the largest single-roomed chapels, at 20.2×9.2 meters (61×28 feet) and 3.9 meters (12 feet) in height.

The governors of Akhmim had interests in art, and one decorated his own father's tomb. Later governors employed a gifted artist, Seni, who decorated the tombs of Tjeti-iker and Kheni and left an inscription claiming that he worked alone. Scenes at Akhmim depicted various daily activities and entertainments, where bullfighting seemed favored. The tombs of Hagarsa on the western bank of the Nile are of smaller size than those on the eastern, but they provide valuable information on the closing years of the Old Kingdom. One tomb belongs to Wahi, the overseer of the army, and another to Hefefi and his family, where six individuals were buried together in one room, presumably as a result of some fighting in the region.

Nothing is known about Akhmim in the Middle Kingdom, with the exception of a stela erected by governor Intef, but the province produced many important personages during the latter part of the eighteenth dynasty. The parents of Queen Tiye (wife of Amenhotpe III)—Yuya and Tuya—were known to have come from Akhmim, as did Sennedjem (the overseer of tutors for King Tutankhamun), who left a large rock-cut tomb at Awlad-Azzaz, recorded by the Australian Centre for Egyptology. King Ay (r.1346–1343 BCE) is also believed to have originated in Akhmim and, as a proud native of the town, he restored its temples and erected a new rock-cut temple for Min at the mountain of el-Salamuni, following the end of the Amarna period and ancient Egypt's return to polytheism. Ay's temple was recorded by the German Institute of Archaeology, and the mountain was found to have a number of tombs that were dated to the Greco-Roman period.

Akhmim

Akhmim. Statue of Meritamun, daughter of Ramesses II, at the Temple of Isis at Akhmim. (Courtesy Donald B. Redford)

Akhmim

Akhmim. The While Monastery. (Courtesy Donald B. Redford)

Bibliography

  • Kanawati, Naguib. The Rock Tombs of El-Hawawish: The Cemetery of Akhmim. 10 vols. Sydney, 1980–1992. A complete record of all decorated and some undecorated tombs in this cemetery, which were dated to the Old Kingdom and the First Intermediate Period.
  • Kanawati, Naguib. The Tombs of El-Hagarsa, 3 vols. Australian Centre for Egyptology Reports, 4–6. Sydney, 1993–1995. A record of a second cemetery on the southern boundary of the province with Abydos. The tombs contain interesting information on the hostilities that caused the fall of the Old Kingdom.
  • Kuhlmann, Klaus P. “Der Felstempel des Eje bei Ackmim.” Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Abteilung Kairo 35 (1979), 165–188. A description of an unusual rock temple, constructed by King Ay and dedicated to his city of origin.
  • Kuhlmann, Klaus P. Materialien zur Archäologie und Geschichte des Raumes von Achmim. Mainz, 1983. An excellent survey of the history and monuments of Akhmim, based on archaeological evidence as well as that reported by past historians and travelers.
  • Ockinga, Boyo. A Tomb from the Reign of Tutankhamun at Awlad Azzaz-Akhmim. Warminster, 1997. Although deliberately damaged, this large tomb belongs to a period when the royal family had special links with Akhmim.

Naguib Kanawati