Highlights of the trip on March 1-12, 2001

Upper Egypt Expedition, March 1-12, 2001
by Michael Fuller and Neathery Fuller (Anthropology Dept. at SLCC)
St. Louis Community College Center

Film strips composed of numerous images taken by Professors Michael Fuller, Neathery Fuller, and Ying Zuo.

Giza Pyramids and Sphinx images

The Persian Period temple of Hibis in the oasis of Kharga

Middle Kingdom tombs at Beni Hasan

Palace and decorated tombs at Amarna dating from 18th DYN

Images of Akenaton and Nefertiti from the Luxor and Cairo Museums

Temple of Seti I from the 19th DYN at Abydos

Mortuary temple to Queen Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahari; 18th DYN

Coptic Museum in Cairo

Gospel of Thomas

Gospel of Thomas

Adam and Eve

Adam, Eve & Apple


Embroidery detail

Illuminated manuscript showing Moses

Illuminated manuscript

Illuminated manuscript

Bagawat, a Christian cemetery in the Kharga Oasis, dates from the 2nd to 6th c. AD. It is reported that 120 chapels were built at Bagawat. One tradition links to the chapels to the followers of Nestorius, but it seems more likely that the oasis was an isolated enclave of Christians that included both Orthodox and many forms of the heteordox.

Nestorius was born in Germanicia in the ruphrates district of the patriarchate of Antioch. He was condemned at the Third Ecumenical Council in Ephesus in 431.

One tradition (Moffett 1992 A History of Christianity in Asiapage 174) reports that Nestorius refused to attend. A second tradition, reported in the Coptic Encyclopedia, maintains that Nestorius did attend and behaved badly. Cyril of Alexandria had placed the Gospels on the central chair of the assembly and that Nestorius had cast the Gospels on the floor and seated himself in their place.

Did he do this? Is it a later slander?

The Council of Ephesus in 431 denounced Nestorius. He was first exiled to a monastery near Antioch, but that did not silence his teachings. One tradition reported by Moffett was that he was a gifted orator with a "beautiful voice and fluent phrases." He was then banished to Petra (in Jordan) and finally to the Kharga Oasis (in Egypt). Each move took him to deeper isolation.

What was the basis of his theological conflict? One tradition is that he felt the Orthodox overstressed Christ's divine nature over his humanity. He belonged to a tradition that stressed care for the poor and hungry as a natural outgrowth of Christ's compassion for the less fortunate.

He had built upon the teachings of Theodore of Mopsuestia (350-428), from noth of Antioch, who saw sin as a weakness instead of a disease or tainted will.

He maintained a vision of Christ that saw a prosopic union of the divine and human. This was a union where Jesus was only "a man indissolubly united to God through the permanent indwelling of the Logos" [quote in Moffett, page 172].

Another way Nestorius explained this: "a union so close that the only analogy we can find is the union in man of soul and body....As the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ."

Nestorius was accused of the heresy that portrayed Christ's death on the cross as only the suffering of his human half. Likewise, Nestorius saw Mary as the Mother of Jesus and not the the Mother of the "Son of God."

Coptic Christians were opposed to Nestorius' theology and one tradition describes an angry meeting between Shenute (a famous Coptic Patriach) and Nestorius. Nestorius asked Shenute to distribute his goods to the poor and Shenute asked Nestorius to acknowledge May as the Mother of God. Neither man complied with the other's wish. In fact, Shenute is reported to have called an angel down to beat Nestorius to death. These men had previously quarrelled in AD 431 at the Council of Ephesus.

The oasis of Kharga was a dangerous place because it was exposed to raids by the tribesmen from Nubia and Lybian. Whether the chapels truly reflect Nestorian art and theology is a good question. Some predate Nestorius and others were built/decorated after his time.

When and where did he die? He was moved to Panopolis (Akhmim) around AD 444, then was deported to Elephantine Island, then returned to Panopolis. He was moved to a nearby fortress (probably Psinblje "sherd heap"). Another order was given for deportation, but it is unclear if it was carried out. He was alive as late as 451 when he would have been 70 years old and probably did not live much past that age. Panopolis (Akhim) is due east of the Deir Sohag in the Nile Valley and just upstream of Assiut. This needs to be explored for the grave of Nestorius.

Little directly survives of Nestorius' writings... here a passage from the Bazaar of Heracleides which was not rediscovered until 1889:

Earth things have little interest for me.
I have died to the world and live for Him....
Farewell desert my friend...
and [farewell] exile, my mother,
who after my death shall keep my body until the resurrection...
As for Nestorius - let him be anathema!
And would God that all men by anathematizing me might attain to reconciliation with God...

HELP NEEDED: I want to relocate the grave of Nestorius. Here is another passage about his death and burial from a historical document:

"Nestorius the herectic, who had been partriarch of Constantinople was buried in the city of Ikhmim, after he had been in banishment there for seven years, in the year 543 [an era since he was banished in 435 and died in 450 or 451].

Now when rain falls, it does not descend upon his tomb, because he was the cause of the Council of Chalcedon." (Abu Salih writing in ca. 1208, The Churches and Monasteries of Egypt, page 239-240, 2001 reprint of English translation from 1895)

It was here (Ikhmim) that Nestorius died.
(Josiah Condor, Egypt, Nubia and Abyssinia published by J. Duncan in 1827, in footnote on page 54 - digitized version on

Nestorius was brought to Echmin (Shmin = Panopolis), where he died seven years later and was buried in a place called Saklan.
Aloys Grillmeier, theresia Hanthaler, and O. C. Dean. Christ in Christian Tradition: from the Council of Chalcedon (451 to Gregory the Great (590 - 604) published in 1996 by Westminster John Knox Press, footnote 25 on page 177)

The other word in Turkic "sak" (e.g. saklan. (to hide [to be safe]), .... example the Egyptian words seem to show the morphology of Turkic words such as ... -

Desert road leading to the Kharga Oasis

Palms in the Kharga Oasis

Tombs and Chapels from a distance

Architecture of Chapels at Bagawat

Chapel plan

The Chapel of Peace, situated in the southwest corner of the necropolis, has a rich decorated interior with painting styles reminiscent of the catacombs in Rome. Identified in Greek are the names: Adam, Eve, Abraham, Issac, Eirene, Daniel, Dikaiosyne, Euche, Jacob, Noah, the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, and Paul instructing Saint Thekla.





Annunciation of Mary


Eirene = Peace personified

Euche = Prayer personified

Christ as the Vine

Closeup of Vine



Neathery and Amira Fuller at Bagawat

The Chapel of the Exodus is considered one of the oldest decorated Christian buildings at Bagawat. It takes its name from the paintings of Moses leading the Israelites from Egypt, Moses in the Sinai, the Egyptian King and his army, Noah's Ark, Adam and Eve, Daniel in the lion's den, Sadrach, Mishach, and Abednego in the furnace; the sacrifices of Abraham, Jonah in the whale, Jonah out of the whale, Rebeca at the well, Job in a chair, Job suffering, Susanna and Jeremian at the temple, Sara in prayer, a shepherd, the martyrdom of Saint Thekla, seven virgins, and the Garden of Eden.

Plan of the Chapel of the Exodus

Moses before the burning bush in Sinai

Ankh style cross

A ba (pre-Christian Egyptian belief in a spiritual element) rests upon the roof of a tomb while the Ankh sign resides within

The Christ cross as Ankh

Corinthian Style column painted on the chapel wall

Sadrach, Mishach and Abednego in the furnace

The Garden of Paradise/Eden

Noah's ark

Tests of Saint Thekla?

Website about St. Thekla

Seven virgins

Website concerning the tradition of the seven virgins

More examples of Chapels at Bagawat

The al-Gadid Antiquities Museum contains many important examples of Early Christian art:

Ankh Cross

Cross painted in a bowl

Ceramic Pilgrim flask showing St. Aboumina between kneeling camels

Floral design

Coptic Gravestone

Coptic Gravestone

Virgin Mary & Jesus, 18th century

St. Demetrius & Maximus

Maximus was a Priest in Alexandria, Egypt. Administered the see of Alexandria from 251 to 264 while its patriarch, Saint Dionysius, was in exile. Bishop of Alexandria following Dionysius' death. Maximus died in AD 282.

Angel embroidery

Pottery specimen

Stone rosette

Wood fluer de lis from Fatamid period, 11th century

Another ancient Christian tradition involves the martyr's grave in the center of of Deir Sitt Demyanah (Monastery of Saint Demyanah) situated in the northern Delta of the Nile. Demyanah was the daughter of a regional governor during the time of Diocletian (AD 284 to 305). She chose a life of celebacy and took refuge with 40 other virgins in a palace built by her father. She was put to death and buried in a mass grave with 10 virgins at the feet, head, right, and left (forming a cross with Demianna in the center). A great festival is held each year at the monastery from May 5 to 20. January 21st is also important in the calendar of celebrations at the monastery. Pilgrims come to the monastery in hopes of being healed, increased fertility, and comfort for the grief of a child's death. GPS coordinates for the monastery are North 31 degrees 17.683' and East 31 degrees 23.400'. The archaeologists and students from St. Louis Community College were given a wonderful feast by the sister of Deir Sitt Demyanah during our visit during Lent of 2001. Many nuns reside at the monastery. They allowed photography inside the monastery but not of the sisters.

Grave of Demyanah and the 40 martyrs

Faint inscriptions on the grave

Cruciform pattern of lights

Raban DeoCescors?

Modern mosaic of Demyanah

Coptic woodwork

Coptic woodwork

Coptic woodwork

New Chapel to Saint Demyanah

Embroidered Angel in New Chapel

Madonna embroidery in New Chapel

Two Rabans at Demyanah

A Raban at Demyanah

Domes and crosses at Demyanah

Dome and Cross at Demyanah

Demyanah roofs

Demyanah Shadows

Fields belonging to the monastery

Gardens of the monastery

Gardens of the monastery

Lunch for SLCC in refectory

Another very important Coptic Monastery in Upper Egypt is Deir al-Moharrak (also transliterated as Dayr al-Muharraqah). Considered to be a second Bethlehem on the part of Coptic Christians. They maintain that the Holy Family stayed here for 6 months because the local people were very kind to them. Later, the altar of the monastery's church was built exactly where the baby Jesus had slept. This is also the tradition that this is the location where the Angel of God appeared to Joseph (Matthew 2:20) and said "Arise, return to Israel."

Abouna Phlexinios served as our guide to the monastery. He noted that "anyone who comes with a pure heart receives comfort in this place because it is where the Holy Family was comforted. It is interesting that the Coptic Tradition reports that the Holy Family was accompanied by a woman named Salome who had served as Mary's mid-wife.

Another tradition maintains that Jewus returned here and consercrated the altar of the monastery. In 2001, the Church of St. Mary was being restored, but we did spend considerable time in a later chapel dedicated to St. George. The monastery includes a tower structure with a chapel of St. Michael in the upper portion.

The Sunday before Palm Sunday is a very population day for baptisms at the monastery. The current population of the monastery is 110 monks and 100 to 200 dependents involved in the reconstructions and farming activities sponsored by the monastery.

Mass being said in Church of St. George

Coptic Mass

Coptic Mass


Kimkim "Cymbals"




Forked Arm Cross



Lock in the tower

Mummy of Abouna Michael Boharri (d. 1923)

Painted hiakal curtain

Abouna Phlexinios

Rosette design

Rosette design

Rosette design

Tower drawbridge

SLCC students and faculty listen to an Egyptian guide at Giza, 2001

Amira at Giza

Neathery at Giza

Inside the Great Pyramid, looking out...

Details on each day:

1 March
Depart from St. Louis at 5:30 PM for Mineapolis/Amsterdam/Cairo. Be at airport 2 hours in advance!!!

2 March
Arrive Cairo at midnight, meeting and assistance followed by transfer to Sheraton Hotel (5 Star)

3 March
Travel by bus from Cairo to Mansura in the Delta. This is a famous site for anyone from St. Louis Community College because it is the place where St. Louis was captured and imprisoned during the Crusades!!! We will visit Father Rapheael Farid Wassef at the church of St. Mary in Dikerness. We will visit Abanoob's Church where the Holy Family stopped during their stay in Egypt. Might have a chance to see one other site such as Damietta or Zagazig (ancient Bubastis) Stay in Sheraton Hotel (5 Star)

4 March
Full Day tour of Pyramids, Sphinx, Memphis, Sakkara. Explore the Great Pyramid, chat with the ageless sphinx, etc. Stay in Sheraton Hotel (5 Star)

5 March
Go from Cairo to Minya by bus. Passing through the region where Oxyrhynchus is located Overnight in Minya. Stay in Etap Hotel (4 star = best available)

6 March
Visit Minya, proceed to Assiut, visit Amarna - the palace city and tombs of King Akenaton. Visit the White Monastery, Red Monastery, Deir ed-Ahdra, etc. Stay in Assiut Hotel (3 star = best available)

7 March
Go to Luxor by bus, visit more monasteries , Abydos and Denderah. Visit the temples sacred to Osiris and Isis. Overnight in Luxor. Stay in Etap Hotel (4 star)

8 March
Visit the East bank, Luxor and Karnak Temples. Luxor Museum, Overnight Luxor. Stay in Etap Hotel (4 star)

9 March
LONG day tour from Luxor to Kharga Oasis by bus. Visit the Alwadi Algadeed Museum, Christian tombs at the Necropolis of El-Baqawat, Early Christian Church, and Temple of Hibis. Overnight in Luxor. Stay in Etap Hotel (4 star)

10 March
West Bank; late afternoon flight to Cairo followed by transfer to hotel. Overnight in Cairo. Stay in Sheraton Hotel (5 Star)

11 March
Full day tour. Egyptian Museum, Citadel, Old Cairo. SHOP! Overnight Cairo. Stay in Sheraton Hotel (5 Star)

12 March
Transfer to airport for return flights to St. Louis which leave at 4:10 am and travel Cairo/Amsterdam/Detroit/St. Louis and arrive at 4 PM