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Gurob, the history of a town

Gurob (or Medinet Ghurab) is the Arabic name ('town of the raven') used by Egyptologists for a site on the western edge of the desert south of Lahun. The site has been heavily destroyed by the removal of mud-brick for fertiliser in the last hundred years. Its principal features were two large enclosures of the New Kingdom, and a series of cemeteries of various dates.

In the area of Gurob there are a few Naqada period tombs excavated by Loat (about 3500 - 3000 BC). Evidently there was already a settlement by the Early Dynastic Period (about 3000 BC), as Brunton/Engelbach (Brunton/Engelbach 1927: 5-6) excavated some tombs of that date. There are also several burials dating to the Old Kingdom (about 2686-2181 BC ) and the First Intermediate Period (2181-2025 BC ). All these burials seems to belong to small-scale rural settlements, and belong to relatively poor farm workers. There are almost no inscribed objects or objects that might be classified as 'art' according to the conventions of Egyptian formal art. It is not known whether all these burials belong to one village or several.

There are almost no finds from the Middle Kingdom (2025-1700 BC) at Gurob: just a few tombs date to the late Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period (1700-1550 BC).

From the beginning of the New Kingdom (about 1500 BC ) the number of tombs rises sharply. The cemetery of this period might already belong to a larger settlement. In the 18th Dynasty - maybe under king Thutmose III or even earlier - a palace was built. The palace seems to have been especially important under Amenhotep III: a famous wooden head of queen Tiy was found here, and this with other high status objects of the same period could be taken to indicate that the queen resided here (seasonally?). The palace and town remained of regal importance after the Amarna period. At least one foreign wife of Ramesses II is mentioned among the fragments of administrative papyri found by Petrie at the site - queen Maathorneferura, daughter of the Hittite king.

The further history of the site is not known. The palace and town must have been abandoned by the end of the Ramesside period. There are burials datable to the Ptolemaic Period, but the site seems no longer to be of the same significance as before.



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