Archaeology of Serabit el-Khadim

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Ancient Mine

The presence of Middle Kingdom expeditions in Serabit el-Khadim is commemorated by  numerous rock inscriptions at the mines and by the monuments dedicated to the goddess  Hathor in the temple.
Although the name of Amenemhat I, the first Pharaoh of the Twelfth Dynasty, is the earliest  found in Serabit el-Khadim, it seems that activities at Serabit el-Khadim, both the extraction  of  minerals and the building of the temple, started with his son Senusert I (1981–1875 B.C.)

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Location of Serabit el-Khadim

The site of Serabit el-Khadim is located in the southwest of the Sinai Peninsula, about 10km north of Wadi Maghara and 43km east of Abu Zenima. It covers an area of more than 20km2, at an elevation of 735 meters above sea level.

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The Temple of Hathor

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View for the Wadi Maghara valley

The Temple of Serabit el-Khadim is one of the most impressive temples of ancient Egypt, as it represents the largest  and most important Egyptian temple in the Sinai Peninsula. It is the oldest example of a partially rock-cut Egyptian  temple. The sanctuary at Serabit is the largest sanctuary left by a group of miners in all Egypt.  This temple, actually  located on the mountains of Serabit el-Khadim, was built at a height of approximately 850m above sea level, which is  roughly 1436m lower than Mount Sinai and approximately 643m higher than the apex of the Great Pyramid.

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Deities Worshipped at Serabit el-Khadim

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Figure of Hathor from the temple of Serabit

Hathor

Hathor is an important ancient Egyptian female bovine deity, whose cult has existed since  prehistory. She had several roles, including that of goddess of goodness, music, and happiness. She was also considered to be a deity of the afterlife, and the goddess of foreign lands and  their goods. She was also associated with the desert and its products. It is still unclear,  however, why the Egyptians chose Hathor to be worshipped in Serabit el-Khadim.

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Rod el-'Air

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Graffito of a boat

An interesting neighboring site to the temple is the passage of Rod el-'Air, Arabic for “Valley of  the Caravans or Camels.” This is one of the best places for understanding the larger site of  Serabit el-Khadim. About 5km east of Wadi Nasb, the site was discovered in 1930. It is clear  from the graffiti and inscriptions of Rod el-'Air that this site was one of the routes commonly  used by mining expeditions to reach Serabit el-Khadim.

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Al-Teleiha Cave

Near the temple plateau there is the cave of Al-Teleiha where there is evidence of proto-Sinaitic inscriptions; these are a corpus of inscriptions in a script of a Semitic language, discovered about 100 years ago at a number of sites in South Sinai.

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Mining Activities in Serabit el-Khadim

Turquoise, which has been mined at Serabit el-Khadim, is a type of phosphate aluminum with the general formula CuAl6 (PO4)4(OH) 8.4H2O. It appears as a blue-green mineral in the fissures of sandstone in the form of veins and nodules. Egyptians had used it for jewelry since the Neolithic Period and it is clear that one of its main sources was the region of South Sinai.

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