Elephantine: The Nubian highway’s trade hub

The patches of land that have importance along the Nile, are those were trade flourished. Elephantine is one such important piece of land.


Elephantine is the Nile Island located opposite the modern city of Aswan the northern end of the first cataract. On a granite outcrop at its south-eastern end, the island contains the ruins of the ancient town of Elephantine, which was once the capital of the first nome of Upper Egypt and home of the triad Satet, “Mistress of Elephantine”, Khnum, “Lord of the Cataract Region”, and Anuket of Sehel. The town dates back to the Middle Naqada Period 3500 BC and was inhabited until the early Arab Period.

Excavations run continuous at Elephantine, which is marked by its unique, rugged landscape.
Image Courtesy: Mariam Dawoud

The name “Elephantine” was adopted from the Egyptians by the Greeks, and means ‘elephant land’.   The reason for this name could be the elephant-shaped rocks surrounding the island or the trade of elephant ivory in former times at that location, as well as the existence of elephant herds on the island in ancient times. Nowadays Elephantine is locally called Geziret Aswan (Island of Aswan).


The first excavations at the archaeological site of Elephantine took place in 1906 by Rubensohn. These were continued by Clermont-Ganneau, Strazzulli, Ed. Ghazouli and Labib Habachy. Afterwards the site has been systematically excavated and studied since 1969 by the German Archaeological Institute in cooperation with the Swiss Institute for Architectural and Archaeological Research on Ancient Egypt. The excavations still continue.



The significance of Elephantine goes back to the Late Naqada Period (3200 BC), when the first cult of goddess Statet was established. At that time her sanctuary was primitive, consisting of mounds and rocks shaped as columns. The development of this sanctuary into a temple throughout time is of major importance as it is a unique example that cannot be found anywhere else in Egypt. Elephantine was considered as a garrison town and a fortress against any attacks from the southern borders. Military campaigns would start at Elephantine, the starting point of the so-called “Nubian Highway”, to reach the second cataract.

Despite showing the typical desert-like climate, Elephantine is a trade hub, and is said to be an important point on the ‘Nubian Highway’.
Image Courtesy: Mariam Dawoud

Elephantine also acted as an important commercial centre in Egypt. It was the trading centre for granite, which was used for royal sculpting, as well as minerals and semi-precious stones. Another significant role of Elephantine was measuring the height of the annual inundation. This helped set parameters for taxation using the two nilometers (a structure by the Nile to measure it). The site of Elephantine provides a wide range of historical and archaeological information due to its complex layers of history.


Why Elephantine?

  • Elephantine is barely known to people who visit Aswan

  • The site is very interesting and it’s a complex layers of history


Physical and Online Campaign:


The awareness campaign will consist of 3 different activities according to the timeline planned. Each activity includes interactions that should lead to building and maintain awareness. The campaign’s tone of voice was both modern and up-to-date to appeal to the target audience yet keeps the image of the heritage and old treasures it holds. My target audience was family, friends, workplace, Rotaract community, and the network of my target audience to educate them about the site.

There must be a proportional relationship for time constraints to be overcome! Image Courtesy: Mariam Dawoud


We started by discussing our knowledge of the site, and a buzzer question round was held for the audience, much like a quiz. This was done in order to lighten up the mood and enable people to have an interactive experience with the site. A short interaction consisting of further questions and queries of the audience was held too. Members of the Rotaract club were also spoken to, and several expressed an interest in knowing more about the site.


Together, experiencing Elephantine!
Image Courtesy: Mariam Dawoud

Thus, we were able to instil a sense of awareness into members of the social circle that I interact with on a fairly regular basis. The experience enabled them to understand more deeply the heritage that surrounds them in their local context.


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