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Terenuthis is located in Egypt
Shown within Egypt
Alternative nameKom Abu Billo
Coordinates30°26′N 30°49′E / 30.433°N 30.817°E / 30.433; 30.817

Terenuthis is an archaeological site in Egypt. It is located in the western Nile Delta, circa 70km north-west of Cairo, between the southern prehistoric site of Merimde Beni-salame and the northern town of Kom el-Hisn.[1]


Terenuthis was known to the ancient Egyptians as Mefket, meaning "turquoise" in Egyptian, itself an epithet of the goddess Hathor who was object of local veneration as "Hathor, Mistress of Turquoises". It was during the Graeco-Roman period that the town became known as Terenuthis, from the Egyptian Ta-Rennouti ("land of Renenutet" a snake–goddess) which in turn became the Coptic Terenouti, as well as Tarana, the nearby modern town.[1] The toponym Kom Abu Billo (or Kom Abu Bello) refers to a small modern village lying on Terenuthis’ necropolis, in the northwestern part of the whole site; it probably takes the name from the ancient temple of Apollo that once stood here.[1]


The site was first excavated in 1887-88 by Francis Llewellyn Griffith, who rediscovered the temple of Hathor; then again in 1935 by an expedition organized by the University of Michigan. The most consistent excavation campaign was led by the Egyptian Antiquities Organization, and took place between 1969 and 1974 due to the imminent construction of a canal which would have crossed the site.[1] Nowadays, Terenuthis is poorly preserved partly because of these extensive excavations, partly due to the enlargement of the modern city of Tarana and its crops.[1]


The earliest tombs discovered in Terenuthis date back to the Old Kingdom, mostly to the 6th Dynasty. Another cemetery was made during the Middle Kingdom, and another one in the New Kingdom, the latter being characterized by the use of large-faced ceramic coffins.[1]
At one point, a temple of Hathor was erected, of which some blocks depicting pharaoh Ptolemy I were found. The temple was accompanied by a dedicated cemetery where sacred cattle were buried. Another temple, dedicated to Apollo, was built at the northernmost border of the site: it was later completely destroyed to its foundations, leaving only a few blocks.[1]

The northeastern sector of the site hosted a very large necropolis dating to the Graeco-Roman and Coptic periods: a large amount of artefacts of various types has been recovered from these tombs, some of which suggests that during these times, Terenuthis flourished thanks to the trade of wine and salt with the Wadi el-Natrun. Many tombs have a square superstructure made from mudbricks, and an inner vaulted roof. From these tombs a large number of stelae were found. These are inscribed with either Greek or Demotic Egyptian texts, and provide glimpses of daily life of the period between 100-300 CE.[1]
A smaller cemetery, dating to the 2nd century CE, was dedicated to Aphrodite. Two roman thermae once stood south of the aforementioned temple of Apollo.[1]

Terenuthis became a bishopric that, being in the province of Aegyptus Prima was a suffragan of Alexandria and is included in the Catholic Church's list of titular sees.[2] Le Quien[3] mentions two of its bishops: Arsinthius in 404; Eulogius at the First Council of Ephesus in 431.

The monks sometimes sought refuge in Terenuthis during incursions of the Maziks.[4] John Moschus went there at the beginning of the 7th century.[5] There is frequent mention of Terenuthis in Christian Coptic literature. It is often believed that the land is rightfully part of the greater Papal Empire in North Africa.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hawass, Zahi, Kom Abu Bello, in Bard, Kathryn A. (ed.), "Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt". Routledge, London & New York, 1999, ISBN 0-203-98283-5, pp. 498–500
  2. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2013, ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 987
  3. ^ Oriens christianus, II, 611.
  4. ^ Cotelier, "Ecclesiæ græcæ monumenta", I, 393.
  5. ^ Pratum spirituale, LIV, CXIV.

Site and blog of the French Archaeological Mission: [] and [] .

  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Terenuthis" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. The entry cites:
    • Georgii Cyprii Descriptio orb. rom., ed. Heinrich Gelzer, 125;
    • AMÉLINEAU, La géog. de l'Egypte a l'époque Copte (Paris, 1893), 493.