Tanis or San El Hagar as it is called today was once the capital of ancient Egypt. When the Arabs conquered Egypt in the 7th century,
Tanis was called San and because it had many rocks and stones, which means Hagar in the Arabic language, they called it San El Hagar.
Some historian records assert that Tanis dates back to the Old Kingdom of ancient Egyptian history as some stone blocks that were found in Tanis held the names of Cheops, Pepi I, and some other Old Kingdom Pharaohs.
Tanis is located about 150 kilometers northeast of Cairo, the capital of the 19th province of Lower Egypt or Northern Egypt.
In the Middle Kingdom, many kings and Pharaohs of Egypt had establishments and structures founded in Tanis like the Kings Senosurt I and Amenmehat I.
The city truly flourished during the reign of Ramses II to perpetuate the visits of his father and grandfather to the city. The grandfather of Ramses II was one of the army leaders in the reign of Hour Moheb and his father also visited the city when he became Seti I, the king of Egypt in 1330 BC.
The walls of the city, which were constructed by King Senosurt I and it was made out of brick stones with a width of seven meters still remain today and they hold the name of the king, in some locations all over the walls.
On the other hand, Ramses II constructed three temples in Tanis; the Grand Temple, the Small Temple, and the Temple of the Gods. This is besides a large number of obelisks and the only surviving sacred lake that survived in the Nile Delta.
Tanis had some water storage wells to preserve the required water to be used by the builders of different structures of the city, the priests of the temples, and some of the officials working for the king.
The Royal Necropolis of Tanis hosts the tombs of the kings and queens who belong to the 21st and the 22nd dynasty and some princes and military leaders as well.
Tanis used to host a large number of obelisks in many locations. However, most of them were destroyed due to earthquakes and the many attacks that the area was exposed to.
Moreover, some of the obelisks that were originally constructed to be erected in Tanis were relocated to other places like the obelisk of Ramses II which was transferred to be put in El Andalus Garden in Cairo, and the other obelisk that belongs to Ramses II as well that has positioned in the Cairo Airport.
This is besides many obelisks that were exported outside Egypt to be put in many cities in Europe, like Rome and Istanbul.
The Name of Tanis
Many historians and archeologists believe that Tanis is the richest historical site in Egypt. The city has the name “Janet” during the reign of the Pharaohs.
The name “Tanis” is derived from the word “Jan” in the ancient Egyptian language and the Coptic name “San”, the word that has been mentioned in the Old Testament and all these names refer to the capital of the kings of the 21st and the 22nd dynasties in Egypt.
The significant geographical location of Tanis and its port situated on the Manzala Lake made the city an important destination for the establishment of Alexandria and its port in the Ptolemaic period in Egypt.
The Items that were taken From Tanis
When the French invasion of Egypt, led by Napoleon, entered Egypt in the 17th century, the French scientists accompanying the military forces stated in some of their historical records that Tanis survived at the time and many of its treasures and components were in a good state.
However, many of the items that were found in Tanis at the time were taken to Europe. This includes two large statues of sphinxes that were relocated in Paris and some other valuable items that were taken to Berlin and Saint Petersburg. On the other hand, some of the statues and findings that were unearthed in Tanis were sent to the Louver. No wonder the historical site of Tanis today has slightly lost its importance.
Excavation works in Tanis throughout History
The first archeologist that ever did serious excavation works in Tanis was the famous French scientist, Auguste Mariette in the middle of the 19th century.
The French archeologist was able to unearth many interesting items including a number of royal statues that date back to the Middle Kingdom. He also stated that Tanis might have been the capital that Ramses II has established for himself in the Delta and it was called Pi Ramses, a city that no evidence or traces belonging to it were ever found.
The second archeologist that explored Tanis was Petrie, an English Egyptologist that excavated Tanis at the end of the 19th century. He was able to configure the whole design of the historical site of Tanis and its temples. Moreover, some of the findings of Petrie are now put on display in the British Museum in London.
However, the most important excavation that was carried out in Tanis was done by the famous French Egyptologist, Pierre Montet and lasted for more than 25 years from 1922 until the 1950s.
Montet was able to prove, by scientific evidence, that Tanis was never Pi Ramses, the capital of Ramses II during the New Kingdom. He is also the archeologist credited with discovering the royal necropolis that dates back to the period of the 21st and the 22nd dynasties in Egypt
The tombs of the royal necropolis of Tanis were all constructed using mud brick stones. Many tombs were unearthed in Tanis with four of them being constructed in the period from 1039 till 991 BC; one of them belonged to King Amenemope who ruled Egypt from 993 BC till 984 BC.
There were also some remarkable sarcophaguses that were found in the tombs in Tanis. This includes the royal coffin of Sheshonk III who ruled Egypt from 825 to 733 BC and the coffin of Taklot II who governed the country from 850 to 825 BC.
The Surviving Sections of Tanis
Tanis that we view today looks significantly different than what the city was centuries ago as the historical site today is full of ruins. The main courtyard lies in the heart of the area and most of the fortified historical walls of the city are now gone.
In the historical site of Tanis today there are a lot of ruined columns that date to different periods of Egyptian history starting from the Old Kingdom, passing by the Middle Kingdom, and ending with the New Kingdom and the establishments of Ramses II.
The historical site of Tanis today has a surface area of around 75 acres and the most important structure in Tanis is the Temple of Amun constructed by Ramses II.
Inside the temple of Amun, there are two water wells that were functioning as a Nilometer, the gadget that the ancient Egyptians used to measure the height of the water in the river Nile to get ready for the harvest season.
This is beside the royal necropolis that dates to the period of the 21st and the 22nd dynasties where many golden and silver items were unearthed they are now put on display in the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities and they are called “The Treasures of Tanis”.
What the tourists can view in Tanis today is a number of historical establishments that include a number of temples including the Temple of Amun, the Temple of Mut, the Temple of Khonsu, and the Easter Temple.
The Royal Necropolis dating to the period of the 21st and the 22nd dynasties located in Tanis is also of interest and it is located inside the complex of the Temple of Amun.
There are also the ruins of a sacred lake that the priests of the Temple of Amun used for their rituals and it is the second largest sacred lake that survived until today after the sacred lake of the Temple of Karnak in Luxor.
There are four large wells located inside the Temple of Amun as well as different shapes and sizes showing how the ancient Egyptians were clever in the usage of water-preserving methods.
Tanis is surely not like other remarkable Pharaonic structures that survived in Egypt like the Temple of Luxor, the Temple of Karnak, and the Temple of Horus in Edfu which are almost included in every tour to Egypt. Tanis is more likely to be suggested for travelers visiting the country for the second or third time or for tourists who are truly fond of ancient Egyptian history and architecture.