Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Celebrating the site of Madinet Madi


Press release. Medinet Madi in the Faiyum depression (to the southwest of Cairo) used to be very isolated. The idea of an eco-lodge being built on its doorstep sounds very odd.

The Minister of State for Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, and the Italian Ambassador to Egypt, Claudio Pacifico, will be celebrating the end of the second phase of the Madinet Madi Development Project in the Fayoum governorate and the opening of its visitor center on Sunday, May 8, 2011.

This project is part of a broader development plan called the Institutional Support to Supreme Council of Antiquities for Environmental Monitoring and Management of the Cultural Heritage Sites (ISSEMM), which began in 2005. It was made possible with a generous grant of €3,500,000 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Italy.

Madinet Madi is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Fayoum region. It was founded during the reigns of Amenemhat III (c. 1859-1813 BC) and Amenemhat IV (c. 1814-1805 BC) of the 12th Dynasty (c. 1981-1802 BC). It contains the ruins of the only Middle Kingdom (c. 2030-1802 BC) temple in Egypt. This temple was dedicated to the cobra-headed goddess, Renenutet, and the crocodile-headed god, Sobek of Scedet, patron god of the region and its capitol, Scedet. During the Ptolemaic period (332-30 BC), the temple was enlarged and the city enhanced.

Since 1978, the University of Pisa has carried out exploration work at Medinet Madi. Ten Coptic churches dating to the 5th-7th centuries AD have been discovered, as have a Ptolemaic temple dedicated to two crocodiles, which incorporated a unique barrel-vaulted structure used for the incubation of crocodile eggs, and a Roman period fortified camp dating to the reign of Diocletian (284-305 AD). In 2004, with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Italy, the University restored blocks bearing four hymns to the goddess, Isis, written in ancient Greek.

This new development project aims to preserve the monuments of the city of Madi and make it a more tourist-friendly visitor destination. So far, the project has successfully cleared the archaeological site there of intrusive sand and restored its monuments. Comprehensive archaeological survey and mapping of the site have also been undertaken, as has the building of a visitor center and eco-lodge as well.

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