Thanks to its design and decorations, the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir El-Bahri is one of the most distinctive temples in all of Egypt. It was built of limestone, not sandstone like most of the other funerary temples of the New Kingdom period.
It is thought that Senimut, the genius architect who built this Temple, found inspiration in his design by the plan of the neighboring mortuary, Temple of the 12th Dynasty King, Neb-Hept-Re. The Temple was built to commemorate the achievements of the great Queen Hatshepsut (18th Dynasty), and as a funerary Temple for her, as well as a sanctuary of the god, Amon Ra.
In the 7th century AD, it was named after a Coptic monastery in the area, known as the “Northern Monastery”. Today it’s known as the Temple of Deir El-Bahri, which means in Arabic, the “Temple of the Northern Monastery”. There is a theory suggesting that the Temple, in the Early Christian Period, was used as a Coptic monastery.
This unique temple describes the conflict between Hatshepsut, and her nephew and son in law, Tuthmosis III, since many of her statues were destroyed, and the followers of Tuthmosis III damaged most of her Cartouches, after the mysterious death of the queen.
The Temple consists of three imposing terraces. The two lower ones would have once been full of trees. On the southern end of the 1st colonnade, there are some scenes, among them the famous scene of the transportation of Hatshepsut’s two obelisks.
On the north side of the colonnade, there is a scene that represents the Queen offering four calves to Amon Ra.
The 2nd terrace is now accessed by a ramp; originally it would have had stairs. The famous Punt relief is engraved on the southern side of the 2nd colonnade. The journey to Punt (now called Somalia) was the first pictorial documentation of a trade expedition that was recorded, and discovered, in ancient Egypt; until now. The scenes depict in great detail, the maritime expedition that Queen Hatshepsut sent, via the Red Sea, to Punt, just before the 9th year of her reign (1482 B.C) This famous expedition was headed by her high official, Pa-nahsy, and lasted for 3 years. His mission was to exchange Egyptian merchandise for the products of Punt, especially gold, incense and tropical trees.
To the south, there is the shrine of the Goddess Hathor. The court that leads to this chapel has columns, where Hathor, who is shown with a woman’s face and cow’s ears, is carrying a sistrum (a musical tool), yet on the walls, she is depicted as a cow. In this part of the Temple, King Tuthmosis III erased the Queen’s names.
On the northern side of the 2nd colonnade, there is a scene depicting the divine birth of Hatshepsut. The Queen claimed that she was the divine daughter of Amon Ra to legitimize her rule.
Beyond the colonnade to the North is the chapel of Anubis, god of mummification and the keeper of the necropolis.
The 3rd terrace is also accessed by a ramp. It consists of two rows of columns, the front ones taking the Osirid form (a mummy form); unfortunately, Tuthmosis III damaged them. The columns at the rear, sadly, have all been destroyed; also by Tuthmosis III. He obviously bore a real grudge against the former queen!
The colonnade, which leads to the sanctuary of the Temple, has also been severely damaged. This sanctuary consists of two small chapels.
In the Ptolemaic period, a third chapel was added to the sanctuary, which was also decorated with various scenes, the most remarkable being the ones representing Amenhotep, son of Habo (18th Dynasty) who, like Imhotep from the 3rd Dynasty, was another genius architect from Ancient Egypt.
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