Ancient Voices from the Philae Island: The Heritage of Speaking Stones

Document Type : Academic peer-reviewed articles


Director of Writing and Scripts Center Bibliotheca Alexandrina


Ancient inscriptions are an important component of the cultural heritage which helps us understand the development of societies. Such inscriptions reflect both personal and official interactions with past events. Many different ethnic communities visited Egypt and then left their inscriptions in different scripts and languages in various parts of the country. Questions that arise here are: Why did these communities visit Philae Island? And what is the heritage of ancient inscriptions on Philae Island? This paper tries to give a contextual overview and a reasoning of the heritage of ancient inscriptions that were left by different peoples who lived or visited Philae Island. In addition, this paper will try to establish a step forward in the history of writing and its development in Egypt through the ages. Shedding light on the content of such inscriptions would help better understand the historical, social and religious aspects of Philae, and thus improve management of the cultural heritage of the island. Finally, it should be noted that this contribution is not intended as a catalogue of the inscriptions left on the island; it will however highlight the island’s rich cultural heritage, which may serve as a determining factor in any future restoration processes of the island’s facilities. In other words, this paper suggests a different and innovative approach to a historical study of the island, and that is through a reading of its inscriptions. The paper is divided into three parts: firstly, the historical impacts on the development of the island buildings and their decoration, followed by a survey of ancient inscriptions, and thirdly, an analysis and commentary.