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Title: Thinis  
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Subject: List of ancient Egyptian dynasties, Early Dynastic Period (Egypt), Ancient Egypt/Selected article, Menes, Memphis, Egypt
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Lost city
Thinis is located in Egypt
Approximate location (at Girga) in modern Egypt
Country Ancient Egypt
Nome Nome VIII of Upper Egypt
Earliest evidence c. 4000 BCE
 • Type Nomarch (Old Kingdom)
Mayor (New Kingdom)

Thinis or This (Egyptian: Tjenu) was the capital city of the first dynasties of ancient Egypt. Thinis is, as yet, undiscovered but well attested to by ancient writers, including the classical historian Manetho, who cites it as the centre of the Thinite Confederacy, a tribal confederation whose leader, Menes (or Narmer), united Egypt and was its first pharaoh. Thinis began a steep decline in importance from Dynasty III, when the capital was relocated to Memphis. Its location on the border of the competing Heracleopolitan and Theban dynasties of the First Intermediate Period, and its proximity to certain oases of possible military importance, ensured Thinis some continued significance in the Old and New Kingdoms. This was a brief respite and Thinis eventually lost its position as a regional administrative centre by the Roman period.

Due to its ancient heritage, Thinis remained a significant religious centre, housing the tomb and mummy of the regional deity. In ancient Egyptian religious cosmology, as seen (for example) in the Book of the Dead, Thinis played a role as a mythical place in heaven.[1]

Although the precise location of Thinis is unknown, mainstream Egyptological consensus places it in the vicinity of ancient Abydos and modern Girga.[2][3][4]


  • Name and location 1
  • History 2
    • Pre-dynastic and Early Dynastic periods 2.1
    • Old Kingdom 2.2
    • New Kingdom and Late Period 2.3
  • Religion 3
  • References 4
  • Bibliography 5

Name and location

The name Thinis is derived from Manetho's use of the adjective Thinite to describe the pharaoh Menes.[5] Although the corresponding Thinis does not appear in Greek, it is demanded by the Egyptian original[2] and is the more popular name among Egyptologists.[5][6] This is also suggested.[7]

In correcting a passage of Hellanicus (b. 490 BCE), Jörgen Zoega amended Τίνδων όνομα to Θιν δε οι όνομα.[8] Maspero (1903) found that this revealed the name Thinis and also, from the same passage, a key geographic indicator: επιποταμίη (English: on the river).[8] Maspero used this additional detail to support the theory, which included among its followers Jean-François Champollion and Nestor L'Hôte, locating Thinis at modern-day Girga or a neighbouring town, possibly El-Birba.[8] Other proposals for Thinis' location have lost favour at the expense of the Girga-Birba theory: Auguste Mariette, founder director of the Egyptian Museum, suggested Kom el-Sultan; A. Schmidt, El-Kherbeh; and Heinrich Karl Brugsch, Johannes Dümichen and others[9] supported El-Tineh, near Berdis.[8] Mainstream Egyptological consensus continues to locate Thinis at or near to either Girga,[2][3][4] or El-Birba[6] (where an inscribed statue fragment mentioning Thinis is said to have been found).[10]


Nearby Abydos (Osireion pictured), after ceding its political rank to Thinis, remained an important religious centre.

Pre-dynastic and Early Dynastic periods

Although the archaeological site of Thinis has never been located,[11] evidence of population concentration in the Abydos-Thinis region dates from the fourth millennium BCE.[11][12] Thinis is also cited as the earliest royal burial-site in Egypt.[13]

At an early point, the city of Abydos resigned its political rank to Thinis,[14] and although Abydos would continue to enjoy supreme religious importance,[14] its history and functions cannot be understood without reference to Thinis.[10] The role of Thinis as centre of the Thinite Confederacy (or Dynasty 0) and into the Early Dynastic Period (specifically Dynasty I and Dynasty II)[15] is taken from Manetho,[16] and, according to Wilkinson (2000), seems to be confirmed by Dynasty I and late Dynasty II royal tombs at Abydos, the principal regional necropolis.[16]

Old Kingdom

Mentuhotep II, pharaoh of the Theban Dynasty XI, finally brought Thinis under Theban sway during his campaign of reunification.

Such importance seems to have been short-lived: certainly, the national political role of Thinis ended at the beginning of Dynasty III (c. 2686 BCE),[17] when Memphis became the chief religious and political centre.[17] Nonetheless, Thinis retained its regional significance: during Dynasty V, it was the probable seat of the "Overseer of Upper Egypt", an administrative official with responsibility for the Nile Valley south of the Delta,[18] and throughout antiquity it was the eponymous capital of nome VIII of Upper Egypt and seat of its nomarch.

During the wars of the First Intermediate Period (c. 2181 – c. 2055 BCE), Ankhtifi, nomarch of Hierakonpolis, demanded recognition of his suzerainty from the "overseer of Upper Egypt" at Thinis,[19] and although the city walls, cited in Ankhtifi's autobiography,[19] seem to have left Ankhtifi capable of only a show of force,[19] he appears to have purchased Thinis' neutrality with grain.[20]

Following Ankhtifi's death, Thinis was the northernmost nome to fall under the sway of Intef II, pharaoh of the Theban Dynasty XI (c. 2118 – c. 2069 BCE).[20][21] Progress north by the Theban armies was halted by Kheti III, pharaoh of the Heracleopolitan Dynasty IX, in a battle at Thinis itself[21] that is recorded in the Teaching for King Merykara,[22] and, throughout Intef II's later years, his war against the Heracleopolitans and their allies, the nomarchs of Assyut, was waged in the land between Thinis and Assyut.[21]

As Thebes began to take the upper hand, Mentuhotep II (c. 2061 – c. 2010 BCE), on his campaign of reunification, brought Thinis, which had been in revolt, possibly at Heracleopolitan instigation[23] and certainly with the support of an army under the command of the nomarch of Assyut,[20] firmly under his control.[23]

During the Second Intermediate Period (c. eighteenth century BCE), Thinis may have experienced resurgent autonomy: Ryholt (1997) proposes that the Abydos dynasty of kings might better be called the "Thinite Dynasty"[24] and that, in any event, their royal seat was likely at Thinis, already a nome capital.[25]

New Kingdom and Late Period

The city's steady decline appears to have halted briefly during Dynasty XVIII (c. 1550 – c. 1292 BCE), when Thinis enjoyed renewed prominence, based on its geographical connection to various oases[26] of possible military importance.[27] Certainly, the office of mayor of Thinis was occupied by several notable New Kingdom figures: Satepihu, who participated in the construction of an obelisk for Hatshepsut[28] and was himself subject of an exemplary block statue;[29] the herald Intef, an indispensable member of the royal household and the travelling-companion of Thutmose III;[28][30] and Min, tutor to the prince Amenhotep III.[28]

Nonetheless, Thinis had declined to a settlement of little significance by the historic period.[31] The misleading reference on a seventh-century BCE Assyrian stele to "Nespamedu, king of Thinis" is nothing more than a reflection of Assyrian "ignorance of the subtlety of the Egyptian political hierarchy".[32]

Certainly, by the Roman period, Thinis had been supplanted as capital of its nome by Ptolemais, perhaps even as early as that city's foundation by Ptolemy I.[7]


A tableau from the Book of the Dead (green-skinned Osiris is seated to the right). In ancient Egyptian religious cosmology, Thinis features as a mythical place in heaven.

As each nome was home to the tomb and mummy of its dead nome-god, so at Thinis was the temple and last resting-place of Anhur,[33] whose epithets included "bull of Thinis",[34] worshipped after his death[33] as Khenti-Amentiu,[13] and who, as nome-god, was placed at the head of the local ennead.[35]

The high priest of the temple of Anhur at Thinis was called the first prophet,[36] or chief of seers,[37][38] a title that Maspero (1903) suggests is a reflection of Thinis' decline in status as a city.[39]

One such chief of seers, Anhurmose, who died in the reign of Merneptah (c. 1213 – c. 1203 BCE), broke with the tradition of his New Kingdom predecessors, who were buried at Abydos, and was laid to rest at Thinis itself.[40]

The lion-goddess Mehit was also worshipped at Thinis,[41][42] and the restoration of her temple there during Merneptah's reign was probably overseen by Anhurmose.[40]

There is evidence that succession to the office of chief of seers of Anhur at Thinis was familial: in the Herakleopolitan period, one Hagi succeeded his elder brother, also called Hagi, and their father to the post;[43] and, in the New Kingdom, Wenennefer[44] was succeeded in the priestly office by his son, Hori.[45]

In ancient Egyptian religious cosmology, Thinis played a role as a mythical place in heaven.[1] In particular, as set out in the Book of the Dead, its eschatological significance can be seen in certain rituals: when the god Osiris triumphs, "joy goeth its round in Thinis", a reference to the celestial Thinis, rather than the earthly city.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Massey 1907: 637
  2. ^ a b c Gardiner 1964: 430 n.1
  3. ^ a b Ryholt 1997: 163 n. 594
  4. ^ a b Strudwick 2005: 509
  5. ^ a b Verbrugghe and Wickersham 2001: 131
  6. ^ a b Bagnall 1996: 334
  7. ^ a b Tacoma 2006: 54 n. 63
  8. ^ a b c d Maspero 1903: 331 n.1
  9. ^ Moldenke: 89
  10. ^ a b Wilkinson 2000: 354
  11. ^ a b Anderson 1999: 105
  12. ^ Patch 1991
  13. ^ a b Clark 2004: 115
  14. ^ a b Maspero 1903: 333
  15. ^ Lesley 1868: 154
  16. ^ a b Wilkinson 2000: 67
  17. ^ a b Najovits 2003: 171
  18. ^ Bard 1999: 38
  19. ^ a b c Hamblin 2006: 373
  20. ^ a b c Brovarski 1999: 44
  21. ^ a b c Hamblin 2006: 375
  22. ^ Parkinson 1999: 225
  23. ^ a b Hamblin 2006: 385
  24. ^ Ryholt 1997: 163
  25. ^ Ryholt 1997: 165
  26. ^ Redford 2003: 176 n. 58
  27. ^ Bryan 2006: 104
  28. ^ a b c Bryan 2006: 100
  29. ^ Wilkinson 1992: 30
  30. ^ Redford 2003: 176
  31. ^ Maspero 1903: 331
  32. ^ Leahy 1979
  33. ^ a b Maspero 1903: 163
  34. ^ Pinch 2002: 177
  35. ^ Maspero 1903: 205
  36. ^ Maspero 1903: 177
  37. ^ Kitchen 2003: 108
  38. ^ Frood 2007: 108
  39. ^ Maspero 1903: 177 n.1
  40. ^ a b Frood 2007: 107
  41. ^ Pinch 2002: 164
  42. ^ Frood 2007: 267
  43. ^ Fischer 1987
  44. ^ Frood 2007: 97
  45. ^ Frood 2007: 189


  • Anderson, David A. (1999), "Abydos, Predynastic sites", in Bard, Kathryn A., Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt, London: Routledge .
  • Bard, Kathryn A., ed. (1999), "Old Kingdom, overview", Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt, London: Routledge .
  • Brovarski, Edward (1999), "First Intermediate Period, overview", in Bard, Kathryn A., Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt, London: Routledge .
  • Bryan, Betsy M. (2006), "Administration in the reign of Thutmose III", in Cline, Eric H. and O'Connor, David, Thutmose III: A new biography, Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press .
  • Clark, Rosemary ([2000] 2004). The sacred tradition in ancient Egypt: The esoteric wisdom revealed.  
  • Fischer, H. G. (1987–1988). "A parental link between two Thinite stelae of the Herakleopolitan period". Bulletin of the Egyptological Seminar 9: 15–23. Retrieved 2010-05-21. 
  • Frood, Elizabeth (2007). Biographical texts from Ramessid Egypt. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature.  
  • Leahy, A. (1979). "Nespamedu, "king" of Thinis".  
  • Parkinson, R. B. ([1997] 1999). The Tale of Sinuhe and other ancient Egyptian poems. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  
  • Patch, Diana Craig (1991). The origin and early development of urbanism in ancient Egypt: A regional study.  
  • Strudwick, Nigel C. (2005). Texts from the pyramid age.  
  • Tacoma, Laurens E. (2006). Fragile hierarchies: The urban elites of third century Roman Egypt.  
  • Verbrugghe, Gerald P.; Wickersham, John M. (2001) [1996]. Berossos and Manetho, introduced and translated: Native traditions in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.  
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