Wadi Tumilat (Old Egyptian Tjeku/Tscheku/Tju/Tschu) refers to the 50-kilometre-long (31 mi) dry river valley (wadi) to the east of the Nile delta. In prehistoric times, it was a distributary of the Nile. It starts from the area of modern Ismaïlia and continues from there to the west.
In ancient times, this was a major communication artery for caravan trade between Egypt and points to the east. The Canal of the Pharaohs was built there. A little water still flows along the wadi.
The Arabic name 'Wadi Tumilat' is believed to reflect the existence in the area, in ancient times, of an important temple of god Atum (Old Egyptian pr-itm, 'House of Atum', changed over time into 'Tumilat', as well as into 'Pithom').
|Wadi Tumilat in hieroglyphs|
Wadi Tumilat has the ruins of several ancient settlements. Late in the New Kingdom period, there was a well fortiﬁed site at Tell el-Retabah. But then, in the Saite Dynasty period, the major settlement and fort were moved east to Tell el-Maskhuta, only 12 km to the east.
Necho II (610–595 BC) initiated—but may have never completed—the ambitious project of cutting a navigable canal from the Pelusiac branch of the Nile to the Red Sea. Necho's Canal was the earliest precursor of the Suez Canal, and it went through Wadi Tumilat. It was in connection with a new activity that Necho founded a new city of Per-Temu Tjeku which translates as 'The House of Atum of Tjeku' at Tell el-Maskhuta.
Around 1820, Mohammad Ali, the Ottoman Governor of Egypt, brought 500 Syrians to the Wadi and equipped them with animals and labor to construct 1,000 sakias for the cultivation of mulberry trees for silk production. The irrigation system was repaired by cleaning and deepening of existing canals. Labor was provided by forcing peasants to work.
Tell Shaqafiya in the Wadi is also associated with the Canal and its operation.
The site of Tell el Gebel is mostly of the Roman period.
Wadi Tumilat Project
Modern excavations at Tell el-Maskhuta were carried out by the University of Toronto 'Wadi Tumilat Project' under the direction of John Holladay. They worked over five seasons between 1978 and 1985.
As many as 35 sites of archaeological significance have been identified in the Wadi. The three large tells in the Wadi are Tell el-Maskhuta, Tell er-Retabah, and Tell Shaqafiya.
There are several biblical references to the area of Wadi Tumilat. For example, the ancient Pithom is believed to be here.
The western end of the Wadi Tumilat is identified as part of the Land of Goshen.
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