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Coptos

agricultural town, Qina muhafazah (governorate), Upper Egypt. It is situated at the large bend of the Nile north of Luxor (al-Uqsur) and lies along the east bank of the river. Known to the ancient Egyptians as Qebtu, the town was of early dynastic foundation. It was important for nearby gold and quartzite mines in the Eastern Desert, worked during the 1st and 2nd dynasties, and as a starting point for expeditions to Punt (in modern Somalia). Qebtu was associated with the god Min (temple ruins remain) and the goddess Isis, who, according to legend, found part of Osiris' body there. Destroyed in AD 292 by Diocletian, Qift later became a Christian community, lending its name to the Coptic Christians of Egypt and also to Egypt, via the Greek name Aegyptos. Important as a medieval caravan trade centre, the town is now known chiefly for its ruins. The famous road to the Red Sea, via Wadi Hammamat, that made the town important starts just to the east at the desert edge. Pop. (latest est.) 15,000.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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