Karanis in Egypt

A number of significant Roman Period buildings and artifacts were excavated by the University of Michigan expedition to Karanis. Students from St. Louis Community College visited the site with Professors Michael Fuller and Neathery Fuller during a field trip in 2010.


Stairway leading up to the North Temple at Karanis, Egypt. Photographed in 2010.



Ruins of Roman buildings at Karanis, Egypt. Photographed in 2010.

Information sign at the site during 2010.


Guard at the entrance to the Southern Temple at Karanis, Egypt. This temple was dedicated to the local crocodile gods (Pnepheros and Petesouchos). Photographed in 2010. Photographed in 2010.


Southern Temple at Karanis, Egypt. Photographed in 2010.


Stairway into the Southern Temple at Karanis, Egypt. Photographed in 2010.



Sand filled ruins around the Southern Temple at Karanis, Egypt. Photographed in 2010.



A carved lintel with a Greek inscription, an incense altar, and two crocodile representations was found in association with the South Temple. Schuman (1947:269, Plate LXIX.2) proposed that the lintel was originally place over the stairway at the entrance of the temple; it was discovered in three pieces against the east wall of the forecourt of the temple. The inscription records the dedication of the temple during the reign of Commodus in AD 160. The lentil measured 169 cm in length, 38 cm in height and 3 cm in thickness. [I colorized the altar, flame and two crocodiles to make them more apparent. The report does not suggest that any portion of the lintel was painted.]



Northern Temple in the distance at Karanis, Egypt. Photographed in 2010.



North Temple sign at Karanis, Egypt. Photographed during 2010. [The Temple of Sobek. The Northern Temple was dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek, to Serapis and to Zeus Amun (or Jupiter Amun).]

Raised podium/altar in the interior of the North Temple at Karanis Egypt. Photographed during 2010.

Interior rooms of North Temple at Karanis, Egypt. Photographed during 2010.

View from the interior looking down the axis of the North Temple at Karanis, Egypt. Photograph taken during 20210.


St. Louis Community College students inside the North Temple at Karanis, Egypt. The gentleman in the lower left corner of the image was our wonderful guide, Morad Nasr. Photograph taken during 20210.



Plainware pottery sherd at Karanis, Egypt. Photographed during 2010.

Plainware rimsherd at Karanis, Egypt. Photographed during 2010.

Slipped handle and body of a storage jar at Karanis, Egypt. Photographed during 2010.

Decorated rimsherd of a large storage vesel at Karanis, Egypt. Photographed in 2010.

Plainware rimsherd from Karanis, Egypt. Photographed in 2010.

Professor Neathery Fuller looks at the remains of an olive crushing installation at Karanis, Egypt. Photographed in 2010.

Crude stone bust at Karanis, Egypt. Photographed in 2010.

Grind stone basin made out of an older monument (see cartouches along the side) at Karanis, Egypt. Photographed taken in 2010.

Lintel with relief of a winged sun and two cobras (uraei) from Karanis, Egypt. Photographed in 2010.



Offering table with decoration of a lion's head from Karanis, Egypt. Photographed in 2010.

Professor Neathery Fuller inside the North Temple of Karanis, Egypt. Photograph taken during 2010.

Marble statuette of Isis excavated at Karanis that was found in association with the North Temple. This statuette is briefly mentioned by Boak (1933:9) as made from white crystalline limestone (marble?) and that the face has been lost. The face and arms were intentional damaged. Boak did not provide measurement of the small statue. Boak (1933:10) reported that a small base bearing a Greek inscription was found with the small statue; the inscription names the donor as a man named "Horion." Reg. no. 02.5941. Image from the Kelsey Museum on-line data base.

Field photograph of two wall paintings excavated at Karanis. The right painting shows Isis nursing Harpocrates. Image from the Kelsey Museum on-line data base.

Field photograph of the Isis nursing Harpocrates wall paintings from SE corner of house B50E at Karanis. Image from the Kelsey Museum on-line data base.

Alabaster statuette of Aphrodite excavated at Karanis. Image from the Kelsey Museum on-line data base.

Moldmade terra cotta figurine of Harpocrates excavated at Karanis. Image from the Kelsey Museum on-line data base. Reg. no. 6465.

Bronze statuette of Serapris/Zeus from Karanis. Image from the Kelsey Museum on-line data base. Reg. No. 1-881.

Serpentine bust of Sarapis from Karanis. Image from the Kelsey Museum on-line data base. Reg. no. 8526.

Limestone statuette of Nilus from Karanis. Image from the Kelsey museum on-line data base. Reg. no 2-5869.

Moldmade oil lamp dating from mid 3rd century to mid 4th century. Pear shaped lamp decorated with a frog in relief on rim has short rays crcling his head and extending from each side of his legs; outside of the rays small circles encircle head and flank legs, rayed cross, with flaring ends and small circle in each quarant, at base of nozzle. Length = 14.0 cm, width = 9.4 cm and height = 4.8 cm. Image from the Kelsey Museum on-line data base. Reg. no. 22369.

Basket made from palm leaves excavated from unit 0278 at Karanis. Image from the Kelsey Museum on-line data base. Reg. no. 8528.

Closeup of the portrait of a woman from a burial at Karanis. Image from the Kelsey Museum on-line data base. Reg. no. 02-8807.

Terra cotta figurine of a camel from Karanis. Image from the Kelsey Museum on-line data base. Reg. no. 6879.

Detailed terra cotta figurine of a horse from Karanis; excavation unit E39. Image from the Kelsey Museum on-line data base. Reg. no. 6890.

Wooden pull toy in the form of a horse found at Karanis. Image from the Kelsey Museum on-line data base. Reg. no. 7692.

Pottery lantern with attached rope from Karanis. Image from the Kelsey Museum on-line data base. Reg. no. 8144. Height = 21.4 cm. Described by Johnson (1981:36, plate 76.8144).

Stone altar base from near the North Temple with Greek inscription indicated that it was dedicated by Sarapion. The Greek inscription on the altar was translated by Boak (1933:12) as "Sarapion, son of Papos, dedicated [this] with good will." Reg. no. 3681. Digital copy from Karanis, the temples, coin hoards, botanical and zo÷logical reports : seasons 1924-31 by Boak (1933). The top of the altar was destroyed/mutilated in antiquity. The surviving portion of the altar measures 67 cm in height (Boak 1933:12).

Two sides of the large fire altar, manufactured out of local limestone, from the North Temple area. Digital copy from Karanis, the temples, coin hoards, botanical and zo÷logical reports : seasons 1924-31 by Boak (1933). The top of the altar measures 58 x 57 cm. and its total height above the unfinished base is 96 cm (Boak 1933:11). The two shorter sides (left) are decorated with a heavy festoon. The two longer sides (right) are decorated with "the head of a male deity, surmounted by a winged solar disk between two uraei - the face is bearded and above the eye brows are a pair of short curved horns" (Boak 1933:11). The altar was discovered between the outer and inner pylons of the temple; it is assumed that it was displaced from a more central location within the temple complex.

Inner Pylon and entrance to the North Temple at Karanis. Digital copy from Karanis, the temples, coin hoards, botanical and zo÷logical reports : seasons 1924-31 by Boak (1933).

View of the interior of the North Temple at Karanis from top of the west pillar of the inner pylon. Digital copy from Karanis, the temples, coin hoards, botanical and zo÷logical reports : seasons 1924-31 by Boak (1933).

Figure of hawk-headed crocodile lying in court of the North Temple at Karanis. Digital copy from Karanis, the temples, coin hoards, botanical and zo÷logical reports : seasons 1924-31 by Boak (1933). The hawk headed crocodile had been sculpted out of soft, white limestone; Boak (1933:9 - 10) notes that it measured approximately 40 cm in length.

An incense altar, a pottery libation bowl and stone figure of a crouching lion found in the courtyard of the North Temple. Digital copy from Karanis, the temples, coin hoards, botanical and zo÷logical reports : seasons 1924-31 by Boak (1933). The altar, manufactured from soft, white limestone, measured 39.8 cm in height and 17 x 17 cm at the base; the top of the altar is deeply lobed (Boak 1933:10).

Crouching lion statue carved from limestone and discovered near the North Temple of Karanis. Digital copy from Karanis, the temples, coin hoards, botanical and zo÷logical reports : seasons 1924-31 by Boak (1933). It is described as 44 cm in length and 13.5 cm in width; the top of the lion's head is 24.5 cm above the bottom of the base (Boak 1933:10).

Crouching lion statue carved from limestone and discovered near the North Temple of Karanis. A winged figure between the paws of the lion may represent the goddess Isis though other interpretations are possible. Image from the Kelsey Museum on-line data base. Reg. no. 3683.

Karanis was an agricultural center and many large graineries were documented at the site. Husselman (1952:69) and Ellis (1992:19) notes that the largest grainery (C65) excavated at the site is directly across the street from a large building that served as the "military barracks and headquarters of the detachment legionares or auxiliaries stationed at Karanis." Grainery C56 measured 18.5 by 16 meters with a height of 10 meters (3 stories); it consisted of 42 storerooms which were each divided into four parts. The exposed portion of the proposed barracks measures 16 meteres wide and 32.5 meters in length. [I colorized grainery C65 and the barracks to make them more obvious.]

Boak, Arthur E. R.
1933 Karanis, the temples, coin hoards, botanical and zo÷logical reports : seasons 1924-31. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.

Ellis, Simon P.
1992 Graceo-Roman Egypt. Shire Egyptology, Haverfordwest.

Husselman, Elinor M.
1952 The Graineries of Karanis. Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 83:56 - 73.

Johnson, Barbara
1981 Pottery from Karanis. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.

Schuman, Verne
1947 Two Unpublished Inscriptions from the South Temple Area of Karanis. Hesperia 16(4):267 - 271.



Webpage constructed by Michael Fuller, 22 January 2016
Updated 20 March 2016