Tell el-Yahudiya (Jews' Hill) at Leontoplis, Egypt

The only other Jewish temple that was built to resemble the temple of Solomon was the Temple of Onias IV at Tell el-Yahudiya. This site dates back to the Middle Kingdom, and is believed to have been inhabited until the Roman period. The sites at Tell el-Yahudiya were first excavated in 1890 by Naville, and then again in 1906 by Petrie, and later by the French Archaeological Institute and du Buisson.1 The site is of particular inerest due to its unique architecture, which shows influences of the Hyskos people as well as Egyptians. 


Onias Onias belonged to a prominent family in Jerusalem and his family members held positions of priesthood in the temple of Solomon. He lived during the first half of the century BCE, when Judea was ruled controlled by the Maccabees. Onias expected to be appointed as High Priest, however Judas Maccabees refused to place him on the position. Since Onias IV was a friend of the king of Egypt (Ptolemy Philometor), he built his own temple at Leontopolis on the eastern Delta, a few kilometers north of Heliopolis and about 20km north of Cairo.2 He justified the construction of his temple by arguing that the Maccabees had polluted the temple at Jerusalem. Since he was popular among the Jews, Onias was accompanied to Egypt by a large number of followers and exiles from Jerusalem. His followers developed a large garrison near Memphis, known as the "Country of Onias".3

Archeological History The first archeological excavations at Tell el-Yahudiya occured in 1890. Researchers have been particularly interested in examining a walled enclosure measuring about 515m by 490m--which has no Egyptian parallels--called a Hyksos fortification and believed to have been designed by the Asiatic Hyksos people during the late Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period.4 Additionally, a state of Ramses II was discovered within the enclosure, and a temple of Ramses III was also discovered on the western side of the enclosure. The pottery found at this site has garnered the name "Tell el-Yahudiya ware" and is characterized by its black-fired clay decorated with a white zig-zag pattern.5 The location of Tell el-Yahudiya was initially contested as researchers recorded two sites: Tel el Yahud (Mound of the Jew) and Tel el Yahudieh (Mound of the Jewess), but it was eventually discovered that these were different sites at separate locations. Today, Tell el-Yahudiya can be found about 2km from the village of Shibin el-Qanatir along the road to Ismaliya

Leontopolis Leontopolis (also Nay-ta-hut and today Tell el-Yahudiya) is an Egyptian town located along the eastern delta, just north of Heliopolis. During the Roman period, Jews had large communities throughout Egypt, and their principal synagogue was located at Leontpolis after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.6 Translated, Leontopolis means "The City of Lions", reflecting worshipping of lions which occurred in Leontopolis.

Leontoplis, Egypt

© Mapbox, © OpenStreetMap