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An island near the head of the First Nile Cataract, Philae was the site of Lower Nubia's most important temple in late Meroitic and Ballana times. Because it lay just within the frontiers of Roman Egypt, it became Christian territory along with the rest of the Roman/Byzantine Empire in AD 330. It was already the site of a large cathedral and a bishopric before the conversion of the rest of Nubia. The Bishop of Philae was the de facto head of the Nubian church in its earliest years, and appointed its other bishops and priests. The cathedral and an adjoining church were excavated by H.G. Lyons for the Egyptian Service des Antiquites in 1895; there has been no excavation of other Christian remains.

Sources: For historical references see Vantini 1970, 821. For archaeology see Lyons 1896, 32-3; Clarke 1912, 89-90; and Monneret de Villard 1935, 7.

(Contributed by William Y. Adams.)