Institut für die Kulturen des Alten Orients

Multidimensional Philology in the Pronaos of Esna in Upper Egypt (Reinhart Koselleck Project, DFG)

Most of the inscriptions of the pronaos of Esna date from the 1st-3rd centuries CE and thus represent one of the youngest and most extensive as well as self-contained hieroglyphic text corpora that has come down to us. The texts are known for their rendering in a thoroughly local “orthography” that may at first sight be difficult to understand but was designed to give terms (especially theophoric elements, materiae sacrae and toponyms) an ambiguous meaning and was unique in terms of its productivity. In addition, the place where the specific rendition of a word, sequence or phrase was placed seems to have played a crucial role in determining their importance within the decoration of the pronaos, and therefore the design of the building can and must be understood as integral.

All the texts of the pronaos were edited by Serge Sauneron between 1963 and 1975 (Esna II–IV, VI; the volume Esna VII was published posthumously in 2009, all of which can be downloaded free of charge from the IFAO website), and this eminent Egyptologist is also responsible for the development of the main features of the local theology (not least through his translation of numerous central texts).

In his work, the specifics given above were not the focus (although Sauneron was well aware of their importance, cf. Esna VIII), so that the Reinhart Koselleck project, which started in 2022, comes into play here.

In order to create a basis that is as secure as possible, the first goal is to present a German translation of all texts of the pronaos (example: Fig. 3) as well as the special features of the writing system with a glossary in which the sometimes very different variants of all words will be collected in full (example: Fig. 4) and a signlist (example: Fig. 5) for the scientific community. In addition, special aspects, texts, representational and textual conventions of the decoration from Esna are examined in individual studies. The extensive documentation, which shows the already cleaned parts of the pronaos after the restoration work of the Esna project will prove to be of great help and use, so that not only engraved, but also purely painted elements can be included in the work.

Project team

Director: Prof. Dr. Christian Leitz.

Researchers: Florian Löffler, M.A., Dr. Daniel von Recklinghausen, Dr. Bettina Ventker.



Chr. Leitz, Fl. Löffler, Chnum. Der Herr der Töpferscheibe. Altägyptische Embryologie nach Ausweis der Esna-Texte. Das Ritual „Darbringen der Töpferscheibe“, Studien zur spätägyptischen Religion 26, Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden 2019.

D. von Recklinghausen, Das Land von Pfeil und Bogen. Studien zu Neith und ihren Attributen in der Theologie des Tempels von Esna. Esna-Studien I, Studien zur spätägyptischen Religion 36, Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden 2022.

Chr. Leitz, Einleitung in die Litaneien von Esna. Esna-Studien II, Studien zur spätägyptischen Religion 38, Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden 2022.

Chr. Leitz, Hieroglyphika latopolitana. Eine Studie zu mehrdeutigen Schreibungen in Esna. Esna-Studien III, Studien zur spätägyptischen Religion 39, Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden 2023.


D. von Recklinghausen, Der Kaiser und seine Mitregenten in Hieroglyphen. Zu einer neuen Inschrift im Tempel von Esna, in: Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Kairo 76/77, 2020/2021, 353–368.

D. von Recklinghausen, Zur Lesung des Wortes "Ꜣḥt" in den Inschriften von Esna, in: Lingua Aegyptia 29, 2021, 291–302.

Last update: 24th April 2023 (Florian Löffler).