a site located 5 kilometers (3 miles) north of Karnak (25°44′N, 32°42′E). Excavations at Medamud were directed from 1925 to 1930 by archaeologists of the French Institut of Oriental Archeology—Fernand Bisson de la Roque, Alexandre Varille and Clément Robichon—who bared various stages of temple construction.

The oldest was a primitive sanctuary that was dated to before the eleventh dynasty. It revealed a strange structure within a polygonal enclosure, which included a courtyard where pylons preceded two deep sanctuaries that evoked tombs. Each was covered by a mound planted with trees. The remains were lost in the 1970s flooding caused by the High Dam at Aswan, and only the architectural plans remain.

A Middle Kingdom temple constructed by Senwosret III, above the primitive sanctuary, is best known for its numerous stones that were reused in later foundations; several portals were thus reconstructed by the French excavators, of which a sed-festival porch of Senwosret III demonstrated the royal character of the site. Other less famous pharaohs (Sobekhotpe, Sobkemsaf) also inscribed their cartouches on lintels and gateways—thereby pursuing, copying, or usurping their predecessors' accomplishments. (For example, statues of Senwosret III, the deifed ancestor, were found still standing in the Roman period temple.) Sections of columns made of limestone and sandstone (rarely used in the Middle Kingdom), as well as the brick wall base, enabled excavators to draft a hypothetical plan of the temple. Foundation deposits indicated a north-south axis, with a westward opening onto an unknown edifice. The south side was lined with storage space, giving the entire construction a fortresslike aspect.

A New Kingdom temple was built to spread westward on a foundation platform that contained a deposit from Thutmose III. A gateway, dating from Amenhotpe II, still stands on the site. No plan has been drawn of this construction.

The first Ptolemies erected a tribune and dromos, to be used as a new western entrance; some of the stone blocks were dated to Ptolemy III. The front of the temple with the altar of Ptolemy II was also remodeled. On the southwest side of the courtyard, an edifice was built of which only the plan drawing and the foundation deposits remained; many of the construction blocks were found under the present pylon gateway. A sed-festival porch of Ptolemy II and another portal of Ptolemy IV, called the “gateway of the mound Djême,” combined local royal traditions with Theban funeral rituals to Osiris and the gods of Djême. Those buildings were destroyed in 206 BCE, during the Theban disturbances.


Medamud. Remains of the temple of Montu, Ra'ttawy, and Harpocrates. The temple dates from the Ptolemaic period. (Courtesy Dieter Arnold)

The youngest temple has a long history. The construction began under Ptolemy V, but the building and decoration extended into the Roman period; the last cartouches were dated to the time of Diocletian (r. 284–305 CE). The plan is quite original, but it is based on the oldest directional orientations, with the principal axis west-east for the main temple; it also includes at the entrance: three kiosks; a hall of justice that opens into a big, columned courtyard, called the court of Antoninus Pius; a portal (still standing); a hypostyle; and a sanctuary surrounded by chapels. The secondary axis, north-south, is that of the rear temple, which has a passage that approaches from the courtyard; it is “the house of the great, venerable bull,” the god Montu. Four statues of this god and his wife were discovered there (they are connected with the holy cities of Medamud, Thebes, Tod, and Armant). The sacred bull of Montu was said to deliver oracles. A famous scene on the exterior side of the south wall shows a Roman ruler consulting the bull. The farthest enclosure opens westward, to the dromos; that monumental gateway, decorated by the Roman emperor Tiberius (r. 14–37 CE), was also a “place for rendering justice.”

Mentions of Montu, the god of Medamud, were made as early as the eleventh dynasty. During the New Kingdom, Montu lost his preeminent role, which then went to Amun; but he recovered full power under the first Ptolemies. Then, in Theban rituals, both Montu and Amun were worshiped as primeval gods. The Coptic Christian churches reoccupied the site at the end of the fourth century CE; small statues of Osiris were, however, found buried under domestic thresholds, from that time.


  • Bisson de la Roque, Fernand, et al. Rapport préliminaire des fouilles de Médamoud (1925–1932). Fouilles de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale du Caire, 3–9. Cairo, 1926–1933.
  • Bisson de la Roque, Fernand, “Les Fouilles de l'Institut franćais à Médamoud de 1925 à 1938.” Revue de l'égyptologie 5 (1946), 25–44.
  • Carlotti, Jean–François, and Chantal Sambin. “Une porte de fête-sed de Ptolémée II remployée dans le temple de Montou à Médamoud.” Bulletin de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale 95 (1995), 383–438.
  • Robichon, Clément, and Alexandre Varille. “Les fouilles: Médamoud.” Chronique d'Égypte 27 (1939), 82–87; 28 (1939), 265–267.
  • Sambin, Chantal. “Les Portes de Médamoud du musée de Lyon.” Bulletin de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale 92 (1992), 147–184.
  • Valbelle, Dominique. “La porte de Tibére dans le complexe religieux de Médamoud.” In Hommages à la mémoire de Serge Sauneron, vol. 1, pp. 73–85. Bibliotheque d'étude, 81. Cairo, 1979.

Chantal Sambin; Translated from French By Daniela Bruneau