August 20, 2013

Temple of Kalabsha

Temple of Kalabsha
This was one of the largest free-standing temples of Nubia, over 76 metres long and 22 metres wide. It has been saved by the Federal Republic of Germany from the flooding. Twenty thousand tons of stone were transported and the temple was re-erected fifteen kilometres south of Aswan, close beside the High Dam. The whole project took eighteen months and is another feat of salvage archaeology.

Temple of Kalabsha
While dismantling the temple, some of the inscribed and decorated stones in the foundations proved to have been reused from earlier monuments: a Ptolemaic shrine, and a gateway attached to it. The great reconstructed gateway was given to the Federal Republic of Germany in recognition of their contribution to the Nubian campaign (it is now in the Egyptian Museum in West Berlin); the shrine has been rebuilt on the south end of Elephantine island.

This temple is built entirely of Nubian sandstone and is dedicated to the Nubian god Merul (Greek Mandolis) a rough equivalent of the Egyptian Osiris. It was probably started by Thutmose III and added to by his son, Amenhotep II, whose reliefs have survived. During the Ptolemaic period, major repairs were carried out, and columns of the Ptolemaic period stand in the forecourt. Many of the reliefs and inscriptions date to the Roman period. With the introduction of Christianity the temple was converted into a church.

The Entrance Pylon (P) is at a slight angle to the main temple. It is approached from a terrace and is unadorned, apart from the representations of deities in the thickness of the doorway and grooves for the flag-staffs. The top of the pylon can be mounted via a stairway on the inside of the left-hand pylon (a).

The Court (i) was surrounded on three sides by colonnades of richly adorned floral capitals. On each side of the court four tiny chambers have been constructed within the wall. A doorway to the right (b) leads to the passage that surrounds the temple (7) and a shrine (8).

Temple of Kalabsha
To the rear of the court is a fa£ade of imposing columns joined by walls leading to the hypostyle hall. The walls are decorated. The two to the left bear representations of Thoth and Horus, who anoint the king, and a representation of the seated Harsiesis. The first wall to the right bears the celebrated decree of Aurelius, military overseer of Ombos and Elephantine (c. AD 248). It is written in Greek and orders the owners of pigs to remove their animals from the temple.

On the second column to the right are two more Greek inscriptions, and between them is a long inscription in Meroitic script; this was the last modification of the cursive hieroglyphics adapted to the native language.

The last inscription in the temple may be found in the right-hand corner of the facade (c). It dates to the latter half of the sixth century and records that the Blemmys were defeated by Silko, king of Nubia and Ethiopia (Kush was known as Ethiopia in Graeco-Roman tirpes).

The Hypostyle Hall (2) has twelve columns, the first four united by screen walls. All the columns have elaborate floral decorations. The reliefs to the rear (at d), show a Ptolemaic pharaoh making offerings of land to Isis, Mandolis and another deity with a shield. To the right (e) Amenhotep II, the original founder of the temple, is depicted offering a libation to Min and Mandolis. On the screen wall to the left of the entrance (f) is an interesting painting dating to the Christian era; it shows the damned in a fiery furnace being handed a sword by an angel.

Temple of Kalabsha
The chambers to the rear (3), (4) and (5) have excellently preserved reliefs in colour — so bright as to be considered garish. On the base of the walls of the first chamber is a procession of Nile-gods being led by the pharaoh, with offerings for Mandolis, Osiris, Isis and other deities. A stairway inside the left-hand wall leads to the roof of the third chamber (5).

The second chamber (4) shows Roman emperors before the gods. The stairway from this chamber leads to the top of the girdle wall that leads to a tiny two-roomed shrine with a crypt (g), which was formed in the thickness of the wall.

The sanctuary is decorated with reliefs, also well preserved, but of inferior artistic execution. It is interesting to see the Nubian type becoming manifest, even in the physionomies of the pharaohs and the headdresses and costumes of the deities. These reliefs in a temple in Nubia, showing Isis and Horus, the most loved of deities, depicted with dark faces, are curious.

Temple of Kalabsha
The passage surrounding the inner chambers (6), which is approached from the court (1), contains representations of Roman emperors before the deities.

In the outer passage (7), which was built against the rock in the temple’s original setting in Nubia, there was a shrine (perhaps a Birth House) at the left-hand corner (8), and another w ell-preserved shrine (9) in the north-eastern angle, both believed to date from Ptolemaic times; they have not been rebuilt in Kalabsha Temple, but reconstructed on the south of the Island of Elephantine.

Near the temple of Kalabsha, lying to the south, are some rock inscriptions, which were also saved before the inundation of Nubia.


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