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Temple of Herishef at Heracleopolis
The remains of the ancient city of Heracleopolis (Ehnasya) were first excavated by Edouard Naville for the Egypt Exploration Fund in 1890-1891.  He found a rectangular hall with six fallen granite columns at it's front.  It was thought that this was all that remained of the temple of Herishef.  The six columns were given to the BM, Boston, Adelaide, Manchester, Bolton and Philadelphia. More recently the temple has been excavated by the Spanish Archaeologist José López.
In 1903-4 Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie re-excavated part of the ancient town of Heracleopolis, discovering that there had been more than one temple on the site.  The earliest temple was built by 12th Dynasty kings Senusret II (Khakheperra, 1877-1870 bc) and Amenemhat III (Nimaatra, 1831-1786 BC). The temple was re-built and enlarged in the 18th Dynasty (1550-1295 bc) and another large re-building was undertaken by 19th Dynasty Ramesses II (Usermaatra Setepenra, 1279-1213 BC).  Ramesses re-used pink granite columns from the 12th Dynasty temple, they were re-carved with scenes and his name and erected as part of the portico of his temple.  Naville found 6 columns but Petrie estimated that 8 columns would have been required. The temple was dedicated to the ram-headed god Herishef, whose main temple and cult-centre was at Heracleopolis.
 
The two fragments of a column that Bolton received weigh about 1˝ tons each and are displayed in two pieces.  Originally the column were each 17 feet tall.  On the column are deeply cut cartouches of Ramesses II.  Also the column has a further cartouche marked out by the craftsman which would have represented the names and titles of Merenptah (Baenra, 1213-1203 BC) - who was Ramesses II's 13th son and eventual successor.
part of one of the columns from the temple of Heriusfef
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nsw-bity = the king of upper and lower Egypt
nb-nAfr = lord of the two lands
wsr-mAat-ra stp-n-ra = powerful of truth is Ra, chosen of Ra
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sAra = the Son of Ra
nb xaw = Lord of the Crowns
ra-ms-sw mry Imn = Rameses, beloved of Amun
dianx = Given Life (eternally)
representation of a statue of Herishef, original is in Boston MuseumHerishaf (aka Heryshaf) is a Ram-god with his cult centre at Ihnasya el-Medina on the west bank of the Nile near Beni Suef. His cult is mentioned references as early as the 1st dynasty in the Old Kingdom on the Palermo Stone. In reliefs and statues Herishaf is shown as having an anthropomorphic (man-like) body in a pharaonic stance and wearing the royal kilt, while his head is that of a long-horned ram. His association with Osiris leads to his wearing the 'Atef' crown and his connection with Re results in the adoption of the sun disk surmounting his horns.
Herishaf means 'he who is upon his lake', referring probably to the sacred lake in his temple, which in Egyptian religious concepts is an architectural attempt to recreate the primeval waters. So Herishaf is envisaged as emerging from the primal matter at the beginning of time. Inscriptional evidence is scant, so it is not possible to totally accept the attractive theory that 'he who is upon his lake' is the lotus plant arising out of the waters to open up and reveal the young sun-god. The Greek author Plutarch localized Herishaf's name as Arsaphes and gives its meaning as 'manliness'. This is probably not to be taken as a general observation on the procreative inclinations of the ram, but more likely as deriving from an original (and typical) Egyptian play on words: between shaf meaning 'his lake' and a word of similar consonantal sound, translating as 'respect' or 'manly dignity'. In Greek terms Herishaf became 'Herakles'. Accordingly the name of the site most sacred to the god, called lines in Ancient Egypt (modern Ihnasya el-Medina), is given in Greek texts as 'Herakleopolis Magna' or 'town of Herakles'. Hnes was the capital city of northern Egypt during the years separating the Pyramid Age from the Middle Kingdom (known as the First Intermediate Period). It is at this time that the relatively locally-based god became enhanced with a universality accompanying his identification as the 'Ba' (soul) of Osiris and the 'Ba' of Re.
 
The earliest structures in the temple at Hnes date from the Middle Kingdom (12th Dynasty). There is a reference from this period to the temple in a written saga known as the 'Eloquent Peasant' - in his fourth attempt to obtain redress for the unwarranted seizure of his donkeys and the goods they were carrying, the peasant comes across the official to whom he has been putting his complaints coming out of the temple of Herishaf. During the New Kingdom the temple at Hnes was greatly enlarged - especially under Ramesses II who was responsible for monolithic granite columns with palm-leaf capitals decorating the Hypostyle Hall. It is from that area that the exquisite gold miniature statuette of Herishaf in the 'Atef' crown, now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, was discovered. This figurine gives the name of Peftuaubast, the ruler residing at Hnes, at the time (about 734 BC) of the invasion of Egypt by the Sudanese King Piye. Peftuaubast sided with Piye in his campaign of conquest, acknowledging him as his overlord and sending him tribute.
 
modern Beni Suef is 15 Km east of Herakleopolis Manga, or "town of Herakles", is close to El Faiyum and is south of Cairo The fullest description of the god is found on a stela originally set up at Hnes but discovered in the temple of Isis at Pompeii and now in the Naples Museum. It is inscribed with the career of Somtutefnakht under the last native Egyptian pharaoh, through the second Persian Domination of Egypt beginning under Artaxerxes III Ochus (343-338 BC) in 341 BC to the conquest of Alexander the Great in 332 BC. Somtutefnakht, in his view guided by Herishaf, collaborated with the Persians. The god also ensured that he remained unharmed during the turbulent period of the Greek invasion when, according to the inscription, there was colossal slaughter. Herishaf then appears to Somtutefnakht in a dream advising him to return to his home town of Hnes and serve in the temple. Alone and through great peril on land and sea journeys, he reaches Hnes without even the loss of hair.
Herishaf is described by the epithets:
    'king of the Two Lands'     'ruler of the riverbanks'

These titles ascribe the sovereignty of Egypt to Herishaf. Solar symbolism is used in the stela to invoke Herishaf as a manifestation of Re - his eyes are the sun disk and the moon. Herishaf is Atum who is here associated with the sacred 'naret' tree, which could be a maybe a sycamore, of Hnes. As a primeval force Herishaf is proclaimed as creator of all life from the north wind which he breathes forth from his nostrils.


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