Hajir Idfu


An important but little-known site lying about 2.5 miles (4 km) west of Idfu. Its importance for Egyptology has already been shown (Gabra, 1977). Moreover, it is not without interest for Coptology. The provenance of many Coptic manuscripts in the British Library, whose colophons bear dates from 981 to 1005, is known to be Idfu (Orlandi, 1976). The texts of the colophons show that the documents are dedicated to different Christian institutions in the district of Idfu (Lantschoot, 1929). These include the monastery of Holy Mercurius, the topos (sacred place) of Mercurius, the church of Mercurius, the topos of Apa Aaron, and the topos of the archangel Michael.

The term “the mountain of Edfu” occurs often in the colophons, denoting the place where these Christian institutions were located. The story of the discovery of the manuscripts recounted by a “bedouin” to Rustafjaell (Rustafjaell, 1910, pp. 3ff., esp. p. 5, pl. 1) is thus confirmed by the information given in the colophons of many texts. “The mountain of Edfu” could be no place but Hajir Idfu.

Currently, the remains of only one monastery are visible in Hajir Idfu, a cloister assigned to Pachomius perhaps in later times. In 1907, Rustafjaell visited the remains of this monastery and was impressed by its older ruins, which indicate that a monastery must have existed there very early and have been of considerable importance. In 1941 a number of Greek and Coptic ostraca were found near the ruins. In 1980-1981, the inspector of the antiquities of Idfu conducted an initial excavation at Hajir Idfu. More than 110 Coptic and a few Greek ostraca were found outside the ruins of the northern wall of the monastery. In addition, the lower parts of some buildings made of mud bricks were uncovered and studied.

Hajir Idfu is a very promising archaeological site, and further systematic scientific fieldwork is necessary. Such an effort will buttress what is known about monasticism as well as the history both of the episcopate of Idfu and of the Christian movement there.

[See also: Dayr Al-Malak Mikha’il (Idfu).]


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