The excavations at Tell-el-Maskhutah, of which illustrations are given, have resulted in some of the most interesting and important discoveries that have ever rewarded the labors of archaeologists. The idea of founding an English society for the purpose of exploring the buried cities of the Delta originated with Miss A. B. Edwards, the well-known authoress of "One Thousand Miles up the Nile," and was carried into effect mainly by her own efforts and the energy and zeal of Mr. Reginald Stuart Poole, of the British Museum, aided by the substantial support of Sir Erasmus Wilson, without whose munificent donations the work could never have been accomplished. The "Egypt Exploration Fund," thus founded and maintained, was fortunate in securing the co-operation of M. Naville, the distinguished Swiss Egyptologist, who set out for Egypt in January of this year with the object of conducting the explorations contemplated by the society. After a consultation with M. Maspero, the Director of Archaeology in Egypt, who has throughout acted a friendly part toward the society's enterprise, M. Naville decided to begin his campaign by attacking the mounds at Tell-el-Maskhutah, on the Freshwater Canal, a few miles from Ismailia. The mounds of earth here were known to cover some ancient city, for some sphinxes and statues had already been found; but what city it could be, archaeologists were at a loss to determine; though some, with Professor Lepsius at their head, believed it to be none other than the Rameses or "Raamses," which the Children of Israel built for Pharaoh, and whence they started on their final Exodus. Any identification, however, of the sites of the Biblical cities in Egypt was so far merely speculative.
Practically nothing definite was known as to the geography of the Israelite sojourn, except that the Land of Goshen was undoubtedly in the eastern part of the Delta, and that Zoan was Tanis, whose immense mounds are to form the next subject of the society's operations. The route of the Exodus was as uncertain as everything else connected with Israel's sojourn in Egypt. What sea they crossed, and where, and by what direction they journeyed to it, remained vexed questions, although Dr. Brugsch had set up a plausible theory, in which the "Serbonian Bog" played an important part.
THE EXCAVATIONS PITHOM-SUCCOTH
Six weeks of steady digging at Tell-el-Maskhutah, under M. Naville's skillful direction, placed all these speculations in quite a new light. The city under the mounds proved to be none other than Pithom, the "store" or "treasure city" which the Children of Israel "built for Pharaoh" (Exod. i. 11). Its character as a store place or granary is seen in its construction; for the greater part of the area is covered with strongly built chambers, without doors, suitable for the storing of grain, which would be introduced through trap doors in the floor above, of which the ends of the beams are still visible. These curious chambers, unique in their appearance, are constructed of large, well made bricks, sometimes mixed with straw, sometimes without it, dried in the sun, and laid with mortar, with great regularity and precision. The walls are 10 ft. thick, and the thickness of the inclosing wall which runs round the whole city is more than 20 ft. In one corner was the temple, dedicated to the god Tum, and hence called Pe-tum or Pithom, the "Abode of Tum." Only a few statues, groups, and tablets (some of which have been presented to the British Museum) remained to testify to its name and purpose; the temple itself was finally destroyed when the Romans turned Pithom into a camp, as is shown by the position of the limestone fragments and of the Roman bricks.
The statues, however, and especially a large stele, are extremely valuable, since they tell the history of the city during eighteen centuries. From a study of these monuments, M. Naville has learned that Pithom was its sacred, and Thukut (Succoth) its civil, name; that it was founded by Rameses II., restored by Shishak and others of the twenty-second dynasty; was an important place under the Ptolemies, who set up a great stele to commemorate the founding of the city of Arsinoë in the neighborhood; was called Hero or Heroöpolis by the Greeks (a name derived from the hieroglyphic ara, meaning a "store house"), and Ero Castra by the Romans, who occupied it at all events as late as A.D. 306. Indications are also found of the position of Pihahiroth, where the Israelites encamped before the passage of the "Reedy Sea," and of Clysma. All these data are directly contradictory to preconceived theories: Pithom, Succoth, Heroöpolis, Pihahiroth, and Clysma had all been hypothetically placed in totally different positions. The identification of Pithom with Succoth gives us the first absolutely certain point as yet established in the route of the Exodus, and completely overthrows Dr. Brugsch's theory.
It is now certain that the Israelites passed along the valley of the Freshwater Canal and not near the Mediterranean and Lake Serbonis. The first definite geographical fact in connection with the sojourn in the Land of Egypt has been established by the excavations at Pithom. The historical identification of Rameses II. with Pharaoh the oppressor also results from the monumental evidence. One short exploration has upset a hundred theories and furnished a wonderful illustration of the historical character of the Book of Exodus. The finding of Pithom (Succoth) is, however, only the beginning, we hope, of a series of important discoveries. When enough money has been collected for the proposed exploration of Zoan (Tanis), results of the highest interest to students alike of the Bible and of Egyptian antiquities may, with certainty, be predicted.
The uppermost view shows a portion of the diggings; a workman is bringing up a barrow-load of soil from one of the deep store chambers which the Children of Israel built more than three thousand years ago. In the foreground lie the fragments of a fallen granite statue, the head and face of which are intact. The other illustration is taken from the temple end of the excavations. The sculptured group of Rameses the Great seated between divinities is one of a pair that adorned the entrance; its companion and the sphinxes that guarded the pylon are at Ismailia. Beyond this group, and a little to the left, is seen the great Stele of Pithom, set up by Ptolemy Philadelphus and Arsinoë, and containing a mass of important information in its long hieroglyphic inscriptions. Behind this, and on either side, the massive brick walls of the store chambers and the inclosing wall of the temple can be traced; while on the right hand, in the middle distance, is a heap of limestone blocks, already collected by Rameses II. for the completion or enlargement of the temple.
The excavations were photographed for M. Naville, by Herr Emil Brugsch, of the Boulak Museum, and our illustrations are taken from these photographs, supplemented by sketches.--S.L.P., in Illustrated London News.