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Reading: Questioning the Location of the Old Kingdom Capital of Memphis, Egypt


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Research Paper

Questioning the Location of the Old Kingdom Capital of Memphis, Egypt


Serena Love

Stanford University, US
About Serena
I studied for an MA in Cultural Heritage Studies at the Institute, completing my dissertation on issues arising from the debate surrounding the future of the World Heritage Site in Dresden, Germany, in light of the planned construction of a modern bridge through the cultural landscape.Currently I am the Treasure Registrar in the Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure, The British Museum.
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The capital city of Memphis was ancient Egypt’s oldest and largest city. However, the city’s origin is shrouded in myth. This study challenges five different references to Memphis, from both classical and historical accounts and concludes that Memphis’ boundary should be redefined. These accounts are reviewed to illustrate the confusion amongst early historians and travellers as to the precise location of Memphis and to highlight the association between the capital and the pyramids of the Giza Plateau. For the Old Kingdom, the urban limits of Memphis should not be restricted to the modern mound of Mit Rahina, but rather the boundaries should be expanded to parallel the Old Kingdom pyramids. Recent archaeological investigations, employing sub-surface sampling techniques, have revealed contemporary Old Kingdom occupational debris scattered throughout the entire Memphite region. The inclusion of archaeological material, in combination with the historical records, will create a different interpretation for Egypt’s Old Kingdom capital city.

How to Cite: Love, S., (2003). Questioning the Location of the Old Kingdom Capital of Memphis, Egypt. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology. 14, pp.70–84. DOI:
Published on 15 Nov 2003.
Peer Reviewed


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