, Ptol. 4.5.27
), formed a portion of the limestone rocks which run westward from the Arabian hills into Upper and Middle Egypt.
This upland ridge or spur was to the east of the city of Hermopolis Magna, in lat. 27 1/4, and gave its name to the town of Alabastra.
It contained large quarries of the beautifully veined and white alabaster which the Egyptians so largely employed for their sarcophagi and other works of art.
The grottoes in this ridge are by some writers supposed to occupy the site of the city Alabastra (see preceding article), but this was probably further from the mountain. They were first visited by Sir Gardner Wilkinson in 1824.
The grottoes of Koum-el-Ahmar
are believed to be the same with the ancient excavations. They contain the names of some of the earliest Egyptian kings, but are inferior in size and splendour to the similar [p. 1.82]
grottoes at Benihassan.
The sculptures in these catacombs are chiefly devoted to military subjects--processions, in which the king, mounted on a chariot, is followed by his soldiers on foot, or in war-chariots, with distinctive weapons and standards.
The monarch is also represented as borne in a kind of open litter or shrine, and advancing with his offerings to the temple of Phtah. His attendants seem, from their dress, to belong to the military caste alone. (Wilkinson, Topography of Thebes,
p. 386.; Mod. Egypt,
vol. ii. p. 43.)