August 12, 2013

Temple of Deir el Medina at Luxor

Temple of Deir el Medina at Luxor
The area of Luxor, with its powerful priesthood and marvellous monuments on both sides of the Nile, was not the scene of much Graeco-Roman reconstruction. The small, elegant and beautifully preserved temple in the necropolis, known as Deir el Medina, is an exception. It was founded by Ptolemy IV on a site with a long history. It honoured two of Egypt’s great sages. These were Amenhotep, son of Hapu, who lived in the reign of Amenhotep III (1390 BC), and Imhotep, builder of the Step Pyramid of Sakkara, wise sage and physician of Zoser’s Court well over a thousand years earlier (2686 BC).

Temple of Deir el Medina at Luxor Map
Over the doorway from within the First Court is a representation of the rising sun, symbolically depicted as a scarab, being praised by eight sacred apes. The scenes on all the walls depict Ptolemy IV and his wife Arsinoe making offerings to Egyptian deities: Amon-Ra, Hathor and Shu, god of the atmosphere (right-hand wall).

Temple of Deir el Medina at Luxor
On the screen walls with Hathor-shaped pillars that separate the First from the Second Court, are the two honoured sages, Amenhotep, son of Hapu, and Imhotep.

The three chambers to the rear of the temple are all in painted relief and in a fine state of preservation. The left-hand chamber has a particularly noteworthy judgement scene. It shows the soul of the deceased, followed by Maat, walking towards the Court of Justice. A second figure of Maat stands on the threshold in welcome. In the scene of the weighing of the heart of the deceased against the feather of Truth in the scales of justice, Horus and Anubis stand witness. Thoth, the god of wisdom, notes the verdict. Beside the scales are a youthful Horus seated upon the crook that symbolises power, and a fearful monster. In the case of a favourable judgement, it is the young Horus who claims the soul; in the case of failure, the monster has his claim.

Temple of Deir el Medina at Luxor
Presiding over the trial is, of course, Osiris, god of the underworld. Before him are four genii rising out of a lotus flower.

These are the children of Horus, guardians of the Canopic jars, where the viscera removed during embalming were placed. Above Osiris are the forty-two judges of the dead.

Temple of Deir el Medina at Luxor
On the opposite, right-hand wall, is a representation of a large sacred barge, belonging to Soker-Osiris, resting on a pedestal. In front of it are two standards bearing the emblem of Wepwawat, the ancient god of Abydos, and three other standards behind it. Towards the end of the wall Ptolemy burns incense in an elaborate censer before the figure of the god Min in a shrine. Anubis is clad in a red robe and holds a disc in his hand.


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