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Aswan is the ancient city of Swenet, which in antiquity was the frontier town of Ancient Egypt to the south. Swenet is supposed to have derived its name from an Egyptian goddess with the same name. This goddess later was identified as Eileithyia by the Greeks and Lucina by the Romans during their occupation of Ancient Egypt because of the similar association of their goddesses with childbirth, and of which the import is “the opener”. The ancient name of the city also is said to be derived from the Egyptian symbol for trade. Because the Ancient Egyptians oriented toward the origin of the life-giving waters of the Nile in the south, Swenet was the first town in the country, and Egypt always was conceived to “open” or begin at Swenet. The city stood upon a peninsula on the right (east) bank of the Nile, immediately below (north of) the first cataract of the flowing waters, which extend to it from Philae. Navigation to the delta was possible from this location without encountering a barrier. The stone quarries of ancient Egypt located here were celebrated for their stone, and especially for the granitic rock called Syenite. They furnished the colossal statues, obelisks, and monolithal shrines that are found throughout Egypt, including the pyramids; and the traces of the quarrymen who wrought in these 3000 years ago are still visible in the native rock. They lie on either bank of the Nile, and a road, four miles in length, was cut beside them from Syene to Philae. Swenet was equally important as a military station as that of a place of traffic. Under every dynasty it was a garrison town; and here tolls and customs were levied on all boats passing southward and northward. Around AD 330, the legion stationed here received a bishop from Alexandria; this later became the Coptic Diocese of Syene. The city is mentioned by numerous ancient writers, including Herodotus (ii. 30), Strabo(ii. p. 133, xvii. p. 797, seq.), Stephanus of Byzantium (s. v.), Ptolemy (vii. 5. § 15, viii. 15. § 15), Pliny the Elder (ii. 73. s. 75, v. 10. s. 11, vi. 29. s. 34), De architectura (book viii. ch ii. § 6), and it appears on the Antonine Itinerary (p. 164). It also is mentioned in the Book of Isaiah from the Scriptures (ref. Ezekiel 29:10).
View of Aswan from the Tombs of the Nobles on the other side of the Nile
The latitude of the city that would become Aswan, located at – 24° 5′ 23″– was an object of great interest to the ancient geographers. They believed that it was seated immediately under the tropic, and that on the day of the summer solstice, a vertical staff cast no shadow. They noted that the sun’s disc was reflected in a well at noon. This statement is only approximately correct; at the summer solstice, the shadow was only 1/400th of the staff, and so could scarcely be discerned, and the northern limb of the sun’s disc would be nearly vertical. Eratosthenes used measurements at Aswan (Elephantine) to contest the Flat Earth theory and tried to determine the circumference of Earth, using Syene as the originating point and Alexandria as the terminal point of a measured arc (based on shadow length at the solstice). The Nile is nearly 3000 yards wide above Aswan. From this frontier town to the northern extremity of Egypt, the river flows for more than 750 miles without bar or cataract. The voyage from Aswan to Alexandria usually took 21 to 28 days in favourable weather.
|Weather data for Aswan|
|Record high °C (°F)||38 (100)||39 (102)||43 (109)||46 (115)||48 (118)||51 (124)||51 (124)||49 (120)||47 (117)||44 (111)||42 (108)||37 (99)||51 (124)|
|Average high °C (°F)||23 (73)||26 (79)||31 (88)||36 (97)||39 (102)||42 (108)||41 (106)||41 (106)||39 (102)||37 (99)||31 (88)||25 (77)||34 (93)|
|Average low °C (°F)||10 (50)||11 (52)||14 (57)||19 (66)||23 (73)||26 (79)||26 (79)||26 (79)||24 (75)||22 (72)||17 (63)||12 (54)||19 (66)|
|Record low °C (°F)||3 (37)||2 (36)||6 (43)||9 (48)||11 (52)||20 (68)||21 (70)||19 (66)||17 (63)||14 (57)||6 (43)||4 (39)||2 (36)|
|Precipitation mm (inches)||0 (0||0 (0)||0 (0)||0 (0)||0 (0)||0 (0)||0 (0)||0 (0)||0 (0)||0 (0)||0 (0)||0 (0)||0 (0)|
In 1995, South Valley University was inaugurated and it has three branches; Aswan, Qena and Hurgada. It was the first university in Upper Egypt to be built in the southern part of Egypt and it was organized in departmental basis. The university grew steadily and now it is firmly established as a major institution of higher education in Upper Egypt. Aswan branch of Assiut University began in 1973 with the Faculty of Education and in 1975 the Faculty of Science was opened. Aswan branch has five faculties namely; Science, Education, Engineering, Arts, Social Works and Institute of Energy. The Faculty of Science in Aswan has six departments. Each department has one educational programme: Chemistry, Geology, Physics and Zoology. Except Botany Department, which has three educational programmes: Botany, Environmental Sciences and Microbiology; and Mathematics Department, which has two educational programmes: Mathematics and Computer Science. The Faculty of Science awards the following degrees: Bachelor of Science in nine educational programmes, Higher Diploma, Master of Science and Philosophy Doctor of Science. Over 100 academic staff members are employed in the faculty.
The Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, announced that a tunnel in the tomb of King Seti I (1314-1304 BC) has been discovered by Dr. Zahi Hawass and his team in the Valley of the Kings. They’ve been searching for this tunnel for over twenty years in the West Bank necropolis. Dr. Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and the head of the mission, finally succeeded in completely excavating the 174m long tunnel after several seasons of work that began in November 2007. The tunnel was cut into the bedrock near the end of the beautifully decorated tomb of Seti I. In addition to excavating the tunnel, the team braced the walls and ceiling with metal supports. They also built a wooden walkway over the original stone staircase of the tunnel to preserve it and installed a mining car system to remove rubble from the team’s excavations. During their work, the mission uncovered many shabtis and pottery fragments that dated to the Eighteenth Dynasty (1569-1315 BC). Several limestone ostraca fragments, as well as a small boat model made of faience were also found. During their excavation of the staircase, the team found that three of the steps were decorated with red graffiti.
The only other excavation of the tunnel took place in 1960 under the direction of Sheikh Ali Abdel Rassoul. His team was able to reach a depth of 136m but they had to stop their excavation because it was too hard to breath. Upon reaching the end of the 136m section, which had been partially excavated by Abdel-Rasoul's workmen, Dr. Hawass’s team were shocked to uncover a descending passage which measures 25.60m in length and 2.6m wide. The mission eventually uncovered a fifty-four step, descending staircase.
After the first descending passage, a second staircase measuring 6 meters long was cut into the rock. At the beginning of this passage the team found a false door decorated with hieratic text that reads: “Move the door jamb up and make the passage wider." These written instructions must have been left from the architect to the workmen who were carving out the tunnel. Dr. Hawass said that when he went inside the tunnel of King Seti I for the first time he noticed that the walls were well finished and that there were remains of preliminary sketches of decoration that would be placed on the walls. Unfortunately none of this was every completed. Dr. Hawass added that he was very surprised to find a second staircase inside the tunnel. It appears that the last step was never finished and the tunnel ends abruptly after the second staircase.
Dr. Hawass believes that the workmen and artists first finished the original tomb of Seti I during his twelve-year reign and then began to construct the tunnel. It appears that Seti I was trying to construct a secret tomb inside a tomb. It is likely that when Seti I died his son, Ramesses II (1304-1237BC), had to stop the work and bury has father. Dr. Hawass believes that Ramesses II continued where his father had left off and constructed his own tunnel within his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The Egyptian mission is currently working in the tomb of Ramesses II to preserve the wall paintings and to look for a similar tunnel to the one in the tomb of Seti I.
The statue was found beneath the southern false door of the tomb. The statue was found beneath the southern false door of the tomb, and even before the room had been opened, I could see the statue's crystal eyes gazing back at me. The statue shows Kai sitting on a high-backed chair. He wears a shoulder length wig, decorated with horizontal rows of curls. Each eye is framed in cooper, while his eyebrows are in raised relief. The lips are thin and finely drawn. The musculature of the body is very well defined and Kai's right arm is bent across his chest. His left arm is resting on his lap on top of his short, white shendyt-kilt. The base of the statue is decorated with five lines of hieroglyphic text which list Kai's title including the "Steward of the Great Estate." On either side of Kai are his two children. They are very small figures and barely reach to his knee caps. His daughter is sitting next to his left leg in a long white sheath dress. Kai's son is standing naked next to his right leg. Depictions of naked figures with their finger to their lips, was an ancient Egyptian artistic convention for depicting male children.