Tamit

TAMIT

The name given in modern times to the ruins of a medieval Nubian village situated on the west bank of the a few miles north of the Abu Simbel temples. The ancient name of the place is nowhere recorded, for it was not large or important enough to figure in any written accounts. Our knowledge of Tamit therefore comes entirely from archaeology.

The main ruins at Tamit were those of about twenty mud brick houses that were tightly clustered along the top of a hill or ridge beside the Nile. A short distance inland was a single large building enclosed within a walled compound. This was presumed by U. MONNERET DE VILLARD to have been the residence of a local dignitary, but it was never excavated and nothing is known specifically about its history or function.

The most interesting feature of medieval Tamit was the presence of no fewer than eight churches. There were clusters of three churches close together at the eastern and at the western extremities of the settlement. A single church was located more or less in the middle of the village, and another was close to the cemeteries west of the town. Most of the buildings were of the classic Christian Nubian type (see NUBIAN CHURCH ARCHITECTURE), but the most westerly church had an extraordinary cruciform plan that was very rare in Nubia.

On its walls were fragments of about fifty paintings, of which some of the best preserved were depictions of angels. As a result, it was designated by the excavators as the Church of the Angels. Fairly well preserved wall paintings were also found in the nearby Church of Saint Raphael, and traces of decoration survived in a number of the other Tamit churches as well. Many of the paintings were accompanied by legends in Old Nubian.

The number of churches found at Tamit exceeds that at any other Nubian settlement, large or small. The surviving archaeological remains provide no real explanation for such a concentration. Apart from the unusual walled compound and “palace,” the nonecclesiastical remains at Tamit are those of a typical Nubian hamlet of the late medieval period, similar to dozens of others up and down the Nile. revealed that the settlement had been occupied only between about 1100 and 1400. The churches were probably built at various times during that period, but in the last century of occupation, they may all have been in use simultaneously.

The remains at Tamit were first observed and recorded by Monneret de Villard in 1932-1933 and were partly excavated by an expedition from the University of Rome in 1964. They have since been inundated by the filling of Lake Nasser.

  • Missione Archeologica in Egitto dell’Università di Roma. Tamit (1964). Università di Roma, Istituto di Studi del Vicino Oriente, Serie Archeologica, 14. Rome, 1967.
  • Monneret de Villard, U. La medioevale. Vol. 1, pp. 146-66. Cairo, 1935.

WILLIAM Y. ADAMS