At the beginning of the 1st dynasty (about 3000 BC) a fortress was built on the island to establish Egypt’s southern frontier, so it was the first defense line in Upper Egypt. Elephantine Island became an important customs point and trading centre, moreover it remained strategically significant throughout the Pharaonic period as a departure point for the military and commercial expeditions into Nubia and the south.
The Island contains Ancient Egyptians artifacts due to its location at the first Cataract of the Nile, which provided a natural boundary between Egypt and Nubia. It was the cult center of god Khnum (the god of the inundation).
In ancient times, the island was an important stone quarry providing granite materials that would be transported widely within Egypt for monuments and buildings.
Although many of its artifacts are ruined, but the island is known by its beauty, as there is still considerable artifacts to see. The oldest ruins that is still standing on the island are a granite step pyramid from the third dynasty and a small shrine, built for the local sixth-dynasty monarch, Hekayib.
There is also a rare calendar, known as the Elephantine Calendar, dating to the reign of Thutmose III, found in fragments, there are also ruins of a Temple of Satet, who was Khnum’s wife, and guardian of the southern frontier.
The main attraction in the island is its Nilometer which is one of only three on the Nile, and was used to measure the water level of the Nile.
There has been an ongoing excavation at the town for many years by the German Archaeological Institute, and many other artifacts were found including a mummified ram of Khnum artifacts dating back to predynastic times and they were transferred to the Elephantine Museum.
In addition to the archaeological site, the island today is a part of the modern Egyptian city of Aswan.