For other uses, see Tanis (disambiguation).
صان الحجر

The ruins of Tanis today
Shown within Egypt
Location San El-Hagar, Al Sharqia Governorate, Egypt
Region Lower Egypt
Coordinates 30°58′37″N 31°52′48″E / 30.97694°N 31.88000°E / 30.97694; 31.88000Coordinates: 30°58′37″N 31°52′48″E / 30.97694°N 31.88000°E / 30.97694; 31.88000
Type Settlement
Map of ancient Lower Egypt showing Tanis

Tanis (/ˈtæns/; Ancient Greek: Τάνις; Egyptian: Djanet; Arabic: صان الحجر Ṣān al-Ḥagar) is a city in the north-eastern Nile Delta of Egypt. It is located on the Tanitic branch of the Nile which has long since silted up.


t Z1
or D
t niwt
Djanet (ḏˁn.t)
in hieroglyphs

Tanis was a city in ancient Egypt and served as a parallel religious center to Thebes in the Third Intermediate Period. No archaeological evidence from it pre-dates the reign of Psusennes I (1039-991 BC, 21st Dynasty), but many scholars think it originated in the late New Kingdom. Tanis's creation was most likely due to the silting up of the Nile branch that ran by Pi-Ramesses, which forced people to seek another area with access to water. Later on, Tanis would become known as Thebes of Lower Egypt.

The kings at Tanis saw themselves as the legitimate successors on the throne of Upper and Lower Egypt. They used traditional titles and displayed their royalty in building work, although that was insignificant when compared to activity at the height of the New Kingdom.[1]

Tanis was founded in the late Twentieth Dynasty, and became the northern capital of Egypt during the following Twenty-first Dynasty. It was the home city of Smendes, founder of the 21st dynasty. During the Twenty-second Dynasty, Tanis remained as Egypt's political capital (though there were sometimes rival dynasties located elsewhere in Upper Egypt). It was an important commercial and strategic city until it was threatened with inundation by Lake Manzala in the 6th century AD, when it was finally abandoned. The refugees founded the nearby city of Tennis.

The Hebrew story of Moses’ being found in the marshes of the Nile River as told in Exodus 2:3-5 is commonly located at Tanis. However, the intent of those stories may be as spiritual as much as historical allegories, as no supporting archaeological evidence has been unearthed. The demise of the city may well have been caused by the relocation of Nile tributaries.[2]


The Royal Tombs of Tanis

Tanis was the site of numerous archaeological digs beginning in the 19th century, involving Flinders Petrie and Auguste Mariette.

In 1866, Karl Richard Lepsius discovered at Tanis the Decree of Canopus—an inscription closely related to the Rosetta Stone, which was likewise written in Egyptian (hieroglyphic and demotic) and Greek. This discovery contributed significantly to the decipherment of hieroglyphics.

There are ruins of a number of temples, including the chief temple dedicated to Amun, and a very important royal necropolis of the Third Intermediate Period (which contains the only known intact royal Pharaonic burials — the tomb of Tutankhamun having been entered in antiquity). Many of the stones used to build the various temples at Tanis came from the old Ramesside town of Qantir (ancient Pi-Ramesses/Per-Ramesses), which caused many former generations of Egyptologists to believe that Tanis was, in fact, Per-Ramesses. However, the burials of three Dynasty 21 and Dynasty 22 pharaohs — Psusennes I, Amenemope and Shoshenq II  — survived the depredations of tomb robbers throughout antiquity. They were discovered intact in 1939 and 1940 by Pierre Montet and proved to contain a large catalogue of gold, jewelry, lapis lazuli and other precious stones including the funerary masks of these kings.

The chief deities of Tanis were Amun; his consort, Mut; and their child Khonsu, forming the Tanite triad. This triad was, however, identical to that of Thebes, leading many scholars to speak of Tanis as the "northern Thebes".

In 2009, the Egyptian Culture Ministry reported archaeologists had discovered the site of a sacred lake in a temple to the goddess Mut at the San al-Hagar archaeological site in ancient Tanis. The lake, built out of limestone blocks, had been 15 meters long and 12 meters wide. It was discovered 12 meters below ground in good condition. This was the second sacred lake found at Tanis. The first lake at the site had been identified in 1928.[3]

In 2011, analysis of high-resolution satellite imagery, led by archaeologist Sarah Parcak of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, found numerous related mud-brick walls, streets, and large residences, amounting to an entire city plan, in an area that appears blank under normal images. A French archeological team selected a site from the imagery and confirmed mud-brick structures approximately 30 cm below the surface.[4]

In the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark, Tanis was said to be the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant, which was hidden in a secret chamber called the Well of Souls. Tanis was fictitiously depicted as having been destroyed in a sand storm and buried until 1936, when it was discovered by a German expedition outside Cairo. In fact, Tanis was the site of numerous archaeological digs beginning in the 19th century.

In the novel The World's Desire by H. Rider Haggard, Tanis is the principal location of the action.

See also


  1. De Mieroop, Marc Van (2007). A History of Ancient Egypt. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. p. 400. ISBN 9781405160711.
  2. Lindsay Falvey (2012) Musing on Agri-History. Asian Journal of Agri-History 16.
  3. Johnston, Cynthia. Pharaonic-era sacred lake unearthed in Egypt. Reuters, October 15, 2009.
  4. Pringle, Heather Satellite Imagery Uncovers Up to 17 Lost Egyptian Pyramids 27 May 2011


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tanis, Egypt.
Preceded by
Capital of Egypt
1078 BC–740 BC
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