Christian Ubertini


Place / year: Elephantine, Egypt / 2001-2002
Organisation: Swiss institute for archeological reasearches in Egypt
Function: Architect researcher


Localisation of the reused blocks

View of the 6th century's wall with the reused blocks of the egytian temple

View of the 6th century's wall with the reused blocks of the Egyptian temple

Details of some key blocks

Restitution of the sanctuary's axis wall

Restitution of the sanctuary's entrance door

Restitution of the Pronaos front facade

Restitution of the temple's layout with the key blocks

Restitution of the temple's section with the key blocks

Restitution hypothesis of the temple

Known examples of temples belonging to the same typology as the temple of Osiris-Nesmeti (in red)

Resitution's "playground"

Restitution of a wall decoration

Restitution of a column's head

Restoration works on blocks

The archaeological excavations of the ancient town of Elephantine near Aswan, conducted by the German Institute and the Swiss Institute in Cairo, have brought to light numerous scattered blocks and fragments of the Ptolemaic and Roman periods (330 BC - 100 AD). These blocks are the only remaining evidences of so far unknown structures that were entirely dismantled during the Late Antiquity and of which no traces about their location or form exist today. Following the epigraphical study by the Egyptologist Ewa Laskowska-Kusztal, an architectural study was carried out in order to propose restitution hypothesis of the original structures.

The existence of the Osiris-Nesmeti Temple came to light when an important part of its blocks were discovered reused in a wall dated of the 6th century a. C. The excellent state of preservation of the stones consented to carry out a fine analysis on the stone elaboration techniques and the precious survey of the construction and tool marks. The numerous information extracted from this block-reading phase allowed to relocate the large majority of the blocks (the decorated as well as the undecorated ones) in the temple’s restituted masonry. Out of the 500 blocks recovered from the 6th century's wall, only 15 could not be identified and relocated with accuracy.

The restitution shows a temple shaped by a 6 x 9 m naos, enclosing a sanctuary and an offering room, preceded by a 5 x 9 m pronaos. The decoration of the temple started under the roman Emperor Nero with the decoration of the sanctuary’s door frame while the inner walls of the sanctuary are carved in the name of Vespasian. The restitution of the pronaos, shows that its decoration was initiated under Domitian and completed under Trajan. Two asymmetrical opennings in the sacntuary and a lateral door in the offering room could also be restituted with accuracy. The elevation of the temple was restituted up to the roof level for a height of 4m in the sanctuary and of ca. 5.60m in the pronaos. Several foundation blocks and staircase elements indicate that the temple was erected on a basement and accessible by a staircase.

Christian Ubertini 2002
Schweizerisches Institut für Ägyptische Bauforschung und Altertumskunde in Kairo