Elephantine (ĕlˌəfăntĪˈnē) [key], island, SE Egypt, in the Nile below the First Cataract, near Aswan. In ancient times it was a military post guarding the southern frontier of Egypt. The Elephantine papyruses, which date from the 5th cent. B.C. and describe a colony of Jewish mercenaries, were found there. Surviving ruins are extensive. The ancient nilometer, built to gauge the water level of the Nile, was restored in 1870.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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