September 27, 2013

The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut (Deir el Bahri)

The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut (Deir el Bahri)
The mortuary temple of Hatshepsut is the most beautiful in the necropolis, and the queen herselfis one of the most colourful figures in ancient Egyptian history. She was the daughter of Thutmose I and the only one of his children of direct royal lineage, being the child of the Great Royal Wife, Queen Ahmose. Her two half- brothers were by lesser wives. However, Hatshepsut ruled concurrently with Thutmose II and his son, Thutmose III.

Deir el Bahri
For half a century (c. 1500-1450 BC) there occurred what is usually regarded as a feud in the family of the Thutmosides: evidence of pharaonic vanity (Hatshepsut removed part of the roof of her father’s colonnade at Karnak in order to erect her great granite obelisks), petty jealousy (Thutmose III later built a wall to hide her obelisks and removed her name in order to insert his own), and what might be seen as vicious acts of frustration. Hatshepsut’s body has never been identified with certainty. Her red sandstone sarcophagus had been enlarged to receive the body of her father, Thutmose I, while her own sarcophagus contained the mummy of Thutmose II, who appears to have died prematurely, after a short co-regency with Hatshepsut. Then, when Thutmose III finally came to the throne, he obliterated all references to the ‘female pharaoh’ from every temple in the land, particularly from Deir el Bahri.

Hatsheptsut is also a romantic figure, for her name is closely linked with that of her architect, Senmut, who designed her terraced sanctuary. He rose from the position of tutor to her daughter to one of great influence in the court. In fact, he was granted the privilege of constructing his tomb below the mortuary temple of his queen, and inscriptions in some parts of her temple show that they were intimately related.

Deir el Bahri
Hatshepsut, as pharaoh, wore a royal kilt and the ceremonial beard, which were symbols of kingship. Her temple was designed, like the adjacent i ith Dynasty mortuary temple of Mentuhotep the Great, with terraced courts. These rose, one above the other, by connecting inclined planes at the centre. Ascending from the Lower Court we pass through two colonnades. The reliefs to the south show the transportation of two obelisks by river. In one register they can be seen on the deck of a barge, and in the other a trumpeter leads a group of archers to the inauguration ceremony.

The Central Court (A) was where Hatshepsut planted the incense trees that were imported in small tubs from the Land of Punt. The whole story is related in relief in the famed Punt Colonnade to the left. The corresponding colonnade to the right is the Birth Colonnade that records Hatshepsut’s divine birth.

The Punt Colonnade (B) commemorates the expedition that Hatshepsut made to Punt, on the Somali coast, under the orders of Amon. On the left-hand wall (a) is the village of Punt. The houses are constructed on stilts, with ladders leading to the entrances. The inhabitants of Punt greet the Egyptian envoy and his officials, and show them products for barter. The fat, ungainly Queen of Punt is there, along with the donkey on which she travelled. With their inherent wit, the ancient Egyptians inscribed a text near the donkey reading: ‘This is the donkey that carried his wife’.

A scene of the Egyptian fleet setting sail, and arriving in Punt can be seen on the rear wall (b). The incense trees are transported aboard the vessel in tubs. At the centre of the wall (c), Hatshepsut (defaced) offers the fruits of her expedition to Amon: incense trees, wild game,-cattle, electrum and bows.

Temple of Hatshepsut
The Shrine of Hathor (D) lies to the left of the Punt Colonnade. It has two roofed-in colonnades that are supported by Hathor columns, leading to the shrine, which comprises three chambers, one behind the other. The second colonnade has some interesting reliefs. On the right-hand wall Thutmose III, holding an oar, stands in the presence of different deities. There are rows of ships with canopies and thrones. It is a festal scene with soldiers and fan- bearers. On the rear wall is a representation of Thutmose III (replacing Hatshepsut) having his hand licked by the Hathor cow. And, on the left-hand wall (d) is a boat containing the Hathor cow with the monarch drinking from the udder.

In the first chamber of the shrine (e) Hatshepsut (or Thutmose III) is represented with the deities. The colour, especially on the ceiling, is excellent. The second chamber (f) has a fine relief of Hatshepsut (scraped) making offerings to Hathor, who stands on the sacred barge beneath a canopy. A little nude boy holds a sistrum in front of the erased figure of the queen. The third chamber (g) has an unusual pointed roof, and the wall reliefs show Hatshepsut (on each of the side walls) drinking from the udder of the cow, Hathor, with Amon standing before them. On the rear wall the queen stands before Hathor and Amon, with the latter holding the hieroglyph for Life (Ankh) to her face.

The Birth Colonnade (C) is adorned with a series of reliefs ‘proving’ Hatshepsut’s right to the throne by divine birth. On the. rear wall (h) is a scene showing a council of gods in the presence of Amon. Then Thoth, god of wisdom, leads Amon (figure erased), to the bedchamber of Queen Ahmose (i). The seated Amon faces the queen and impregnates her with the Ankh, the breath of life, held to her nostrils. Near the centre of the wall (j) the queen mother is large with child. She stands, dignified in her pregnancy, smiling with contentment as she is led to the birth room.

The scene in which Amon and the queen mother are borne to the heavens by two goddesses (k) is badly damaged. In the scene of the actual birth (also badly damaged), the queen mother sits on a chair that is placed on a sort of lion-headed bed held aloft by various gods (1). The scene of Hatshepsut and her ka being fashioned on a potter’s wheel by the ram-headed god Khnum has also been erased, but in the scene towards the end of the wall they pass through the hands of various goddesses who record the divine birth. Witnesses are the ibis-headed Thoth, the ram-headed Khnum and the frog-headed Heket.

To the right of the Birth Colonnade is the well-preserved Shrine of Anubis (E). On the right-hand wall (m) - above a small recess is a scene of the queen (damaged) making a wine-offering to the hawk-headed Sokar, a god of the dead. On the rear wall offerings are made to Amon (to the left) and Anubis (to the right) with the sacrificial gifts heaped up before each.

The Upper Court (F) is being reconstructed and is closed to visitors. In the open-roofed chamber to the right (G) is an ancient altar for the cult of Ra, the Sun-god. To the left (H) is a sacrificial hall. The Sanctuary (I) is hewn out of the natural rock, and comprises two chambers with large recesses to the sides. The innermost chamber was hollowed out of the mountain in Ptolemaic times, and was dedicated to the cults of two of Egypt’s wise men: Imhotep, the builder of Zoser’s Step Pyramid at Sakkara (2686 BC) and Amenhotep, son of Hapu, the architect who lived in the reign of Amenhotep III (1390 BC). Both these wise men were worshipped as gods of healing in Ptolemaic times, and it would seem that Hatshepsut, builder of the mortuary temple, had been forgotten. The Ptolemies regarded the building as a mystical sanctuary connected with these two wise men and, in fact, Deir el Bahri came to be regarded as a place of healing. In the Christian era the upper terrace was converted into a monastery, which gave the temple its name: Deir (monastery) el Bahri (the northern).

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