According to Manetho, an ancient Egyptian historian and priest of the 3rd century BC, Memphis once carried the name Ineb-hedj, meaning ‘White Walls’. Some historians maintain that the city was named by the founder of Memphis, pharaoh Menes, who built a fortress of white walls. Others suggest the city was named after the pharaoh’s palace, which would have been built of white-washed brick, while another theory is that the white walls refer to the enormous walls around the Temple of Ptah, the largest and most important temple in ancient Memphis. Now, in a remarkable new discovery, a team of Russian archaeologists have unearthed parts of the legendary white walls, offering hope that the finding may pave the way to a greater understanding of this ancient and important city.
Memphis is a city and capital of ancient Egypt, which is located south of the Nile River delta and approximately 15 miles (24 km) sounds of Cairo. According to Manetho’s accounts, the city was founded more than 5,200 years ago by the pharaoh Menses, who was said to have united the two prehistoric kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt. During its golden age, Memphis thrived as a regional center for commerce, trade, and religion.
Monuments from the ancient city of Memphis. (Credit: Gabriel Indurskis / Flickr)
According to local belief, Memphis was under the protection of the god Ptah, patron of artisans and a creator god, who was believed to have created humans through the power of his heart and speech. The great temple of Ptah was one of the city’s most prominent structures, and some historians maintain that the ancient name of the city owes its origin to the white walls of the temple.
Artist’s depiction of the white walls of the Great Temple of Ptah at Memphis. (Public domain)
Today, the ruins of Memphis offer only fragmented evidence of its past, and much about its history still remains unknown, including the true origin of its ancient name. But all this may be about to change as the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities has just announced the discovery of segments of the legendary white walls.
The Cairo Post reports that the discovery was made by a team of Russian researchers, led by archaeologist Galina Belova, near the town of Mit Rahina, 20 kilometers south of Cairo and near Saqqara, which was the necropolis of Memphis.
The famed stepped Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, the Memphis necropolis (public domain)
“Several white limestone fragments of the ancient capital’s wall were discovered during excavation work carried out by an archaeology team of the Russian Institute of Egyptology at Kom Tuman, south of Giza Pyramids,” Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damaty said in a statement Saturday. “We hope this finding will enhance our knowledge of one the most important cities of Ancient Egypt. Memphis played a significant political, religious and economic role in the history of the country. One of its names was Inbu-Hedj, or the White Walls.”
Ms Belova reported that along with parts of the white wall, they also found well-preserved remains of stoves and bronzes, and that they are currently searching for other parts of the wall.
We will be working to unearth the rest of the wall, as well as any archaeological elements which could help us to know more about this early period of Egyptian history,
Belova told the Cairo Post.
The research team has not yet released photographs of their findings.
Featured image: Mennefer (Memphis), was called the city of the “White Walls” for the enormous walls around the Temple of Ptah compound.
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