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Nagoa Ash Shatb, Egypt

Temple of Kom Ombo

One of its engravings is believed to be among the first representations of medical and surgical instruments.  

The Temple of Kom Ombo is an unusual double temple constructed during the Ptolemaic period, which lasted from 108 to 47 BC. The ancient Egyptian place of worship features a unique engraving that is thought to be among the first representations of medical and surgical instruments.

The relief showing the medical tools is among the most intriguing features of the temple. It can be found in the building’s rear, in the passageway that surrounds the main area. The depicted surgical instruments include scalpels, curettes, forceps, speculators, scissors, medicine bottles, and prescriptions. The image is completed with two goddesses sitting on birthing chairs. At the time the relief was carved, Egyptian medical science was almost certainly the most advanced in the world.

The temple’s double dedication is reflected in its layout: It’s perfectly symmetrical along the main axis and has twin entrances, two connected hypostyle halls with the reliefs of two gods on either side of a column, twin chambers, and twin sanctuaries. The eastern half of the temple was dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek (god of the Nile and creator of the world), his wife Hathor, and their son Khonsu. The western half of the temple was dedicated to the falcon god Horus (god of the sky and protector of the king), his wife Tasenetnofret, and their son Panebtawy. It is likely that there were two separate priesthoods who tended to the deities.

Much of the temple has been destroyed by natural forces and builders who used its materials for other projects. Some of the reliefs were defaced by Copts who once used the temple as their church. However, what survived is still reminiscent of its magnificent history. The walls and columns are decorated with finely executed reliefs of both the gods. Some surfaces even managed to hold onto their original colors.