JABAL AL-TAYR (KHARGAH)
A few miles to the north of the cemetery of Bagawat on the height of a steep path clambering up the massif of the Jabal al-Tayr, a shelter under the rock opens elliptically, its entrance facing south. The cave narrows to a depth of 13 to 16 feet (4 or 5 m). Its ceiling forms a corbeling above a terrace of small stones, which overhangs the bed of the wadi (valley). This is a choice place for the abode of an anchorite.
In addition to some signatures of Western travelers in the nineteenth century, as well as some rudimentary paintings and several inscribed crosses, the sides and projecting ledges of the shelter are covered with Coptic graffiti, painted or incised, rough or well finished. There are at least twenty texts, ranging from signatures to elaborate invocations, all legible since they are well shaded. Some that open to the exterior have suffered from the weather and the sunshine, which have eaten away the painted letters.
De Bock (1901) visited the site and published some scraps of texts (see the repetition of these in Mallon, 1914, col. 2864). Fakhry (1951) published the majority of them. His readings are open to emendation and improvement. Except for a brief painted graffito in Fayyumic (Roquet, 1976, p. 45), these short texts, allowing for the inevitable mistakes of the writers, are in Sahidic. An inscription of sixteen lines—a litanic prayer of a known type with minor variants—shows careful workmanship. From one line to the next, brown ink alternates with yellow. In addition, the entrance to the western side of the shelter reveals an inscription of twelve very faded lines painted in red.
The only certain line is the first, which begins with m/na epickopoc (Mena episcopos). Another painted inscription, flanked by an inscribed cross, mentions the oasis. Fakhry does not note these two inscriptions. The most significant graffito was pointed out as such by H. E. Winlock. Datable between 734 and 883, the inscription attests the presence of a “lashane [magistrate, official] of Hibis,” a personage who also signed two graffiti at Bagawat.
- Bock, W. de. Matériaux pour servir à l’archéologie de l’Egypte chrétienne. Saint Petersburg, 1901.
- Fakhry, A. “The Rock Inscriptions of Gabal el-Teir at Kharga Oasis.” Annales du Service des antiquités de l’Egypte 51 (1951):401-434.
- Mallon, A. “Copte (épigraphie).” In Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, Vol. 3, pt. 2, cols. 2819-86. Paris, 1914. Roquet, G. “Les graffites coptes de Bagawât (Oasis de Kharga).”
- Bulletin de la Société française d’égyptologie 76 (1976):25-49. Winlock, H. E. The Temple of Hibis in El Khargeh Oasis. New York, 1941.