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The ruins of Tanis today
|Location||San El-Hagar, Al Sharqia Governorate, Egypt|
Tanis (// TAY-niss; Ancient Greek: Τάνις; Ancient Egyptian: ḏꜥn.t [ˈcʼuʕnat]; Arabic: صان الحجر, romanized: Ṣān al-Ḥagar; Akkadian: URUṣa-aʾ-nu; Coptic: ϫⲁⲛⲓ or ϫⲁⲁⲛⲉ) is a city in the north-eastern Nile Delta of Egypt. It is located on the Tanitic branch of the Nile which has long since silted up.
Tanis is unattested before the 19th Dynasty of Egypt, when it was the capital of the 14th nome of Lower Egypt.[a] The earliest known Tanite buildings are datable to the 21st Dynasty. Although some monuments found at Tanis are datable earlier than the 21st Dynasty, most of these were in fact brought there from nearby cities, mainly from the previous capital of Pi-Ramesses, for reuse.
After the abandonment of Pi-Ramesses, Tanis became the seat of the pharaohs of the 21st Dynasty, and then of the 22nd Dynasty (along with Bubastis). The rulers of these two dynasties supported their legitimacy as rulers of Upper and Lower Egypt with traditional titles and building works, although they pale compared to those at the height of the New Kingdom. A remarkable achievement of these kings was the building and subsequent expansions of the Great temple of Amun-Ra at Tanis (at the time, Amun-Ra replaced Seth as the main deity of the eastern Delta), while minor temples were dedicated to Mut and Khonsu whom, along with Amun-Ra, formed the Theban Triad. Many of these rulers were also buried at Tanis in a new royal necropolis, which replaced the one in the Theban Valley of the Kings.
During the late New Kingdom, the royal residence of Pi-Ramesses was abandoned because its branch of the Nile had silted up, making its harbour unusable. Though Tanis lost its status of royal residence, it remained populated until its abandonment in Roman times.
In 1866, Karl Richard Lepsius discovered at Tanis the Decree of Canopus—an inscription closely related to the Rosetta Stone, which was likewise written in Egyptian (hieroglyphic and demotic) and Greek. This discovery contributed significantly to the decipherment of hieroglyphics.
There are ruins of a number of temples, including the chief temple dedicated to Amun, and a very important royal necropolis of the Third Intermediate Period (which contains the only known intact royal pharaonic burials — the tomb of Tutankhamun having been entered in antiquity). Many of the stones used to build the various temples at Tanis came from the old Ramesside town of Qantir (ancient Pi-Ramesses/Per-Ramesses), which caused many former generations of Egyptologists to believe that Tanis was, in fact, Per-Ramesses. However, the burials of three pharaohs of the 21st and 22nd Dynasties — Psusennes I, Amenemope and Shoshenq II — survived the depredations of tomb robbers throughout antiquity. They were discovered intact in 1939 and 1940 by Pierre Montet and proved to contain a large catalogue of gold, jewelry, lapis lazuli and other precious stones, as well as the funerary masks of these kings.
The chief deities of Tanis were Amun; his consort, Mut; and their child Khonsu, forming the Tanite triad. This triad was, however, identical to that of Thebes, leading many scholars to speak of Tanis as the "northern Thebes".
In 2009, the Egyptian Culture Ministry reported archaeologists had discovered the site of a sacred lake in a temple to the goddess Mut at the San al-Hagar archaeological site in ancient Tanis. The lake, built out of limestone blocks, had been 15 meters long and 12 meters wide. It was discovered 12 meters below ground in good condition. This was the second sacred lake found at Tanis. The first lake at the site had been identified in 1928.
In 2011, analysis of high-resolution satellite imagery, led by archaeologist Sarah Parcak of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, found numerous related mud-brick walls, streets, and large residences, amounting to an entire city plan, in an area that appears blank under normal images. A French archeological team selected a site from the imagery and confirmed mud-brick structures approximately 30 cm below the surface. However, the assertion that the technology showed 17 pyramids was denounced as "completely wrong" by the Minister of State for Antiquities at the time, Zahi Hawass.
Tanis and the Bible
The Biblical story of Moses being found in the marshes of the Nile River (Exodus 2:3-5) is often set at Zoan (Hebrew: צֹועַן Ṣōʕan), which is commonly identified with Tanis. However, no supporting archaeological evidence has been unearthed, and the demise of the city may well have been caused by the relocation of Nile tributaries rather than a non-historical occupation by the Israelites.
In popular culture
Tanis is fictitiously portrayed in the 1981 Indiana Jones film Raiders of the Lost Ark, as a lost city which was buried in antiquity by a massive sandstorm until being rediscovered by a Nazi expedition looking for the Ark of the Covenant.
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Wendjebauendjed's funerary mask
Pharaoh Osorkon II's tomb at Tanis
The gold funerary mask of Psusennes I
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tanis, Egypt.|
- French Archaeological Mission of Tanis (Mission française des fouilles de Tanis)
- Société Française des Fouilles de Tanis
- Archaeology Magazine article on Treasures of Tanis
- Tanis: San el-Hagar
- Tanis in Encyclopaedia of the Orient
- Travel information for Tanis
| Capital of Egypt
1078 – 945 BC
| Capital of Egypt
818 – 720 BC