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Area A/II
Late 12th Dynasty until the End of the Second Intermediate Period

by Irene Forstner-Müller
  Area A/II was occupied for the first time during the late 12th Dynasty (in Stratum H). In this period vestiges of tents could be discerned which were later on (Stratum G) substituted by solider buildings made of mud brick and few tombs (pic. 1).  
pic. 1
  By stratum F (early 13th dynasty) area A/II the settlement areas were converted into cemeteries, which soon spread to surround a large, newly constructed temple (III) of Middle Bronze Age type. This major temple, 30m long, is one of the largest sanctuaries known from the Middle Bronze Age world. It was painted blue, thus probably dedicated to a cosmic god. In front of it a rectangular altar was found which a bunch of acorns was retrieved, maybe an indication of a tree cult (Asherah). To the southeast of the altar tree pits could be identified. The arrangement suggests that these trees provided shade for the altar. Perhaps the acorns fell from one of these trees. In the forecourt offering pits surrounding the altar were excavated which contained numerous and varied fragments of pottery and calcinated cattle bones. In this part of the sacred precinct no pig bones were found.  
  In two pits, in front of the temple, pairs of donkeys were found. At Tell el-Dabca donkeys generally used to be buried in pairs next to males, predominantly as part of weapon burials and can be deemed status symbols (pic. 2).
pic. 2
  By contrast with other animals, they were usually buried complete. The custom is clearly a well-known Near Eastern trait and was probably adopted from Mesopotamia via Palestine and Syria. In Egypt it is confined to the Eastern Delta, at Tell el-Dabca donkey burials are attested from stratum H to E/1.

Within the Mati correspondence the expression "to butcher a donkey" was synonymous for making a treaty. Perhaps the same cultural trait can be assumed in case of the temple offering pit.
Within and near the precinct of the main temple, III, two door jambs of limestone inscribed with the names of King cAa-zeh-Rec Nehesy were found, not in situ. This ruler of the early 14th dynasty left a scatter of monuments in the Eastern Delta (Bubastis, Tell el-Dabca and Tell Hebwa).
Around this main temple, several smaller buildings/temples were built, some with Near Eastern layout, some as Egyptian mortuary chapels.
  On the western flank of this sacred complex there was a second temple (II), a "Breithaustempel" of old Near Eastern tradition. It had a double entrance from a courtyard and a tower, its sanctuary was to the left of the axis. This temple with a bent axis bears a close resemblance to another temple which has been found at the nearby site of Tell Ibrahim Awad (Van Haarlem 2000, Eigner 2000, 2003).
Besides those Near Eastern type temples stood temples with Egyptian layout which can be connected to the mortuary cult.

Cemeteries came into being at the edges of this district. Since their first appearance, the tombs inside these cemeteries have been marked out by a blend of Egyptian and Asiatic components (pic. 3).
pic. 3
  Tombs without tomb architecture, such as pit burials and jar burials, and tombs with mudbrick architecture are discernible within the tomb architecture. As a rule, the dead used to be buried with their heads pointing towards the entrance, the most popular burial position being the supine position with the contracted legs pointing upwards. Rarely was the head positioned on a brick - a likely substitute for a headrest which is also known from Elephantine, albeit only for the late Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period. Single and multiple burials occur throughout the ages.

Offerings used to be laid according to shape and size: weapons always on the body (pic. 4); toggle pins always on the left shoulder, as were bowls and dishes - some near the head of the deceased; light vessels like jars, cups and juglets near the head or the torso. Groups of juglets can also be found at the feet, large vessels at the entrance.
pic. 4
  During the later Hyksos time (identifiable from stratum D/3 onwards) the living quarters of the town reached into the funerary area. Tombs and chapels were built over. Only Temple III remains intact. However, the plot distribution is the same. Obviously, the same land owners were at work.  
Bietak, M.
1968 Vorläufiger Bericht über die erste und zweite Kampagne der österreichischen Ausgrabungen auf Tell el-Dabca im Ostdelta Ägyptens (1966/1967), MDIK 23,
1970 Vorläufiger Bericht über die dritte Kampagne der österreichischen Ausgrabungen auf Tell el-Dabca, MDIK 26, 15-41.
1989 Servant Burials in the Middle Bronze Age Culture of the Eastern Nile Delta, EI 20, 30-43.
1991 Unter Mitarbeit von C. Mlinar und A. Schwab, Tell el-Dabca V, Ein Friedhofsbezirk der Mittleren Bronzezeitkultur mit Totentempel und Siedlungsschichten, UZK VIII. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie IX, Wien
1994a Kleine ägyptische Tempel und Wohnhäuser des späten Mittleren Reiches. Zur Genese eines beliebten Raumkonzeptes von Tempeln des Neuen Reiches, in: C. Berger, G. Clerc und N. Grimal, Hommages à Jean Leclant. IFAO, Kairo, 413-435.
1994b "Götterwohnung und Menschenwohnung", Die Entstehung eines Tempeltyps des Mittleren Reiches aus der zeitgenössischen Wohnarchitektur, HÄB 37, 13-22.
2002 Temple or 'Beth Marzeah' ? in Symbiosis, Symbolism and the Power of the Past: Canaan, Ancient Israel and their Neighbors, From the Late Bronze Age through Roman Palestine. The W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research and the American Schools of Oriental Research Centennial Symposium, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, May 29-31, 2000, eds. W.G. Dever and S. Gitin. Winona Lake, Ind. 2002
Boessneck, J.
1976 Tell el-Dabca III. Die Tierknochenfunde 1966-1969, UZK III. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie V, Wien
Forstner-Müller, I.
1999 Recent Find of a Warrior Tomb with a Servant Burial in Area A/II at Tell el- Dabca in the Eastern Nile Delta. Zeitschrift für klassische Archäologie 12/IX/
2001 Vorbericht der Grabung im Areal A/II von Tell el-Dabca, Ä&L 11, 197-220
2002 Tombs and Burial Customs at Tell el-Dabca in Area A/II at the end of the MBIIA-Period (Stratum F), in M. Bietak (Hg.), The Middle Bronze Age in the Levant. Proceedings of an International Conference on MBIIA Ceramic Material in Vienna. 24th-26th of January 2001, 163-184
2003b Gräber und Grabkult des späten Mittleren Reiches und der Zweiten Zwischenzeit im Ostdelta, in: S. Seidlmayer, S. Lundström (Hg.), Akten des Kongresses über Totenreligion im Niltal und im Vorderen Orient, Berlin, AOF 12
Müller V.
1998 Offering Pits of Tell el-Dabca, in: C. Eyre (Hg.), Proceedings of the Seventh International Congress of Egyptologists, Cambridge, 3-9 September 1995, OLA 82. Leuven-Paris-Sterling, Virginia, 793-803
2001 Bestand und Deutung der Opferdepots bei Tempeln, in  Wohnhausbereichen und Gräbern der Zweiten Zwischenzeit in Tell el-Dabca, in: H. Willems, (Hg.), Social Aspects of Funerary Culture in the Egyptian Old and 
Middle Kingdoms, OLA 103, Leuven-Paris-Sterling, Virginia, 175-204
2002 Offering Practices in the Temple Courts of Tell el-Dabca and the Levant, in: Bietak, M. (Hg.), The Middle Bronze Age in the Levant. 
Proceedings of an International Conference on MB IIA Ceramic Material in Vienna, 24th –26th of January 2001, Contributions to the Chronology of the Eastern Mediterranean 3, Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie 26, Wien, 269-296
Winkler, E. M. und H. Wilfling
1991 Tell el-Dabca VI. Die menschlichen Skelettfunde aus dem Bereich des Tells A,
UZK IX. Österreichische Akademie der Wisenschaften, Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie X, Wien