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Meretites-and-Kahai

A Priestess and a Singer Locked in a Lasting Egyptian Love Story

A beautiful love story bloomed around a tomb painting found in Saqqara, Egypt. The image shows an ancient Egyptian couple in a tender scene. While sweet, this type of image isn’t a common one – so researchers may be as interested in the painting and story as romantics are.

The intriguing painting graces the wall of a 4,400-year-old tomb belonging to a couple, their children, and possibly even their grandchildren. A priestess named Meretites and her husband, a singer named Kahai who performed at the pharaoh’s palace, are the primary owners of the tomb, and are the couple depicted in the painting.

Miral Lashien, a researcher at Macquarie University, suggested the beautiful nature of the tomb can be attributed to the social status the couple held in the Pyramid Age.

Saqqara, chapel of Kahai and his family, 5th Dynasty, around 2420 BC – 2389 BC. (Image Source: pinterest http://www.ancient-origins.net/)

In fact, colorful scenes of people singing and playing musical instruments, such as harps and flutes, are splashed across the wall of the duos tomb. However, the scene that draws in the viewer the most is undoubtedly the portrayal of the priestess and singer lovingly gazing into each other’s eyes while Meretites places her right hand over Kahai’s right shoulder.

This type of image would be considered a tame or gentle depiction of a couple in the Western world today, but in ancient Egypt it was not normal – not even for a married couple. There are actually few examples of a face-to-face embrace from the Old Kingdom period (2649 – 2150 BC), the time period when Meretites and Kahai lived and pyramid building thrived. As Lashien reflected, “I think that this indicates very special closeness.”

Although a full-color image of the tomb painting didn’t appear in the media until 2013, the tomb itself was found in 1966 and the couple’s moment was portrayed in low quality black-and-white in a book in 1971. The more striking representation of the ancient Egyptian couple made global headlines thanks to the work of scientists at Macquarie University’s Australian Center for Egyptology.

Lashien explained that making higher quality color images of the tomb available was a necessary action, “This tomb is one of the most colorful examples of Old Kingdom art and certainly deserves a full-color publication.”

Apart from the eye-catching murals, the tomb also has five “false doors” with images of the deceased. The ancient Egyptians believed that these were a conduit between the world of the living and that of the dead. Furthermore, the living loved ones would place food in front of these ‘doors’ as offerings for the dead.

By April Holloway
Source: Ancient Origins (ancient-origins.net)

great-pyramids-giza

Archaeologists discover a mysterious void inside Egypt’s Great Pyramid

Archaeologists have uncovered a mysterious enclosure hidden deep inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, the oldest of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

The massive cavity stretches for at least 30 metres and lies above the grand gallery, an impressive ascending corridor that connects the Queen’s chamber to the King’s in the heart of the historic monument. It is the first major structure found in the pyramid since the 19th century.

It is unclear whether the void is a chamber or a corridor, or whether it played any more than a structural role in the pyramid’s construction – such as relieving weight on the grand gallery below. But measurements show that it has similar dimensions to the grand gallery, which is nearly 50 metres long, eight metres high and more than a metre wide.

Inside the great pyramid

Scientists discovered the void using sensors that detect particles known as muons, which rain down on Earth when cosmic rays slam into atoms in the upper atmosphere. The muons travel at close to the speed of light and behave much like x-rays when they meet objects. Armed with suitable equipment, researchers can used them to reveal the rough internal structure of pyramids and other ancient monuments.

“We know that this big void has the same characteristics as the grand gallery,” said Mehdi Tayoubi at the HIP Institute in Paris, a non-profit organisation that draws on new technology to study and preserve cultural heritage. “It’s really impressive.”

NG STAFF. SOURCE: MORISHIMA, K. ET AL. DISCOVERY OF A BIG VOID IN KHUFU’S PYRAMID BY OBSERVATION OF COSMIC-RAY MUONS. NATURE – Image Source: National Geographic http://news.nationalgeographic.com

Also known as Khufu’s Pyramid, or the Pyramid of Cheops, the Great Pyramid was built in the 4th dynasty by the pharaoh Khufu, who reigned from 2509 to 2483 BC. The monument rises 140 metres above the Giza Plateau and has three chambers known from previous explorations: a subterranean one at the base of the pyramid, the Queen’s chamber at the centre, and the King’s chamber above. While a granite sarcophagus sits in the King’s chamber, King Khufu’s mummy is missing, and his queens were buried elsewhere. Whatever riches were once in the chambers were looted long ago.

Egyptologists have scores of theories about how the pyramid was built, but there are no reliable accounts of its construction. Herodotus wrote of stones being drawn from quarries near and far, with some being shipped down the Nile on boats. The mammoth construction project occupied the lives of a hundred thousand men, fuelled in part by radishes, onions and leeks, he noted.

To pinpoint the cavity, scientists from Nagoya University in Japan, and KEK, the country’s high energy physics lab, installed muon-detecting photographic plates and electronic muon detectors around the Queen’s chamber. At the same time, researchers from CEA, France’s energy research organisation, trained “muon telescopes” on the pyramid from the outside. All three techniques can tell from which direction incoming muons arrive.

When the teams compared their results, all had found a muon hotspot in the same place, indicating the presence of a large cavity in the pyramid. While most of the monument is made of stone that absorbs muons, chambers and cavities let the particles pass through.

Muon analysis allows scientists to look deep inside ancient monuments without drilling holes or causing other damage to the precious structures. But the technique produces low resolution images, making it impossible for the researchers to tell if the newly-found void runs horizontally or parallel to the grand gallery. Nor can they be sure it is a single enclosure rather than a series of smaller cavities close together, they report in Nature.

“What we are sure about is that this big void is there, that it is impressive, and was not expected by any kind of theory,” said Tayoubi. To shed more light on the purpose of the cavity, Tayoubi called on specialists in ancient Egyptian architecture to come forward with ideas of what it may be so they can be modelled and checked against the team’s data. The cavity may have relieved weight on the roof of the underlying grand gallery, or be a hitherto unknown corridor in the pyramid. The team has no plans to drill into the cavity to explore inside, but they are developing a tiny flying robot that might one day be sent in, if the Egyptian authorities approve.

“It’s a tribute to humankind,” said Tayoubi of the pyramid. “It asks a question about what is our future. If they have been able to do this with the means they had 4,000 or 5,000 years ago and they left this heritage today, what will our own society leave for future generations?”

Peter Der Manuelian, professor of Egyptology and director of the Harvard Semitic Museum, said the discovery was “potentially a major contribution to our knowledge about the Great Pyramid.”

“I’m sure there are imperfections and perhaps small voids or cavities in several locations in the pyramid. What makes this one so interesting is the size, seeming to rival the grand gallery itself in scale,” he said.

“The muons can’t tell us about chambers, form, size, or any possible objects, so it’s far too early to speculate. I know most people want to know about hidden chambers, grave goods, and the missing mummy of King Khufu. None of that is on the table at this point. But the fact that this void is so large warrants further non-invasive exploration,” he added.

In 2011, Rob Richardson, a researcher at the University of Leeds, sent a small snake-like robot into one of the tunnels of the Great Pyramid and took pictures of hieroglyphs that had not been seen for 4,500 years. “I think people assume that all these mysteries of what’s in our world are known but there are still places like the pyramids where we simply don’t know,” he said. “The pyramids have been there for thousands of years and we still don’t know exactly why they are there, what they were used for, or how they were built.”

Source: theguardian.

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Smenkhkare

Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare Djeser Kheperu (sometimes spelled Smenkhare, Smenkare or Smenkhkara) was a short-lived pharaoh in the late 18th dynasty. His names translate as ‘Living are the Forms of Re’ and ‘Vigorous is the Soul of Re – Holy of Forms’. His reign was during the Amarna Period, a time when Akhenaten sought to impose new religious views. He is to be distinguished from his immediate predecessor, the female ruler Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten (usually identified as Nefertiti). Unlike Neferneferuaten, Smenkhkare did not use epithets in his royal name or cartouche.

King Smenkhare

Very little is known of Smenkhkare for certain because later kings, beginning with Horemheb, sought to erase the entire Amarna Period from history.

Smenkhkare was known as far back as 1845 from the tomb of Meryre II. There he and Meritaten, bearing the title Great Royal Wife, are shown rewarding the tomb’s owner. The names of the king have since been cut out but had been recorded by Lepsius circa 1850.

Later, a different set of names emerged using the same throne name: “Ankhkheperure mery Neferkheperure [Akhenaten] Neferneferuaten mery Wa en Re [Akhenaten]”. This led to a great deal of confusion since throne names tended to be unique. For the better part of a century, the repetition of throne names was taken to mean that Smenkhare changed his name to Neferneferuaten at some point, probably upon the start of his sole reign. Indeed, Petrie makes exactly that distinction in his excavation notes of 1894.

Smenkhkare King

Akhenaten’s nominal successor was Smenkhkare, probably a younger brother of the king, but it appears that they may have died within months of each other. Smenkhkare’s two-year reign was in reality a coregency during the last years of Akhenaten’s life. A graffito in the tomb of Pairi at Thebes (TT 139) records a third regnal year, and there are indications that Smenkhkare was preparing the ground for a return to the old orthodoxy and had left Akhetaten. He was married to Merytaten, the senior heiress of the royal blood line, but she seems to have predeceased him. Her sister Ankhesenpaaten thus became the senior survivor of the six daughters – having herself borne a small daughter by Akhenaten, named after her – and was married to the young Tutankhaten, the heir apparent (who was later to change his name to Tutankhamun).

Mysteries of Smenkhkare

The scenes in the tombs of Meryre II and Huya (located in the Amarna Northern tombs necropolis) depicting the “reception of foreign tribute” are the last clear view of the Amarna period. The events depicted in the tomb of Meryre II are dated to the second month of Akhenaten’s regnal year 12. (In the tomb of Huya they are dated to year 12 of the Aten.)

They show the last appearance of the royal family as a whole (that is: Akhenaten and his chief-queen Nefertiti, together with their six daughters), which scholars have dated to their satisfaction. These scenes are the first dated occurrence of the latter name-forms of the Aten. After this date, the events at Amarna and their chronology become far less clear. It is only with the accession of Tutankhamun, and the restoration early in this king’s reign, that events appear to become clear again.

A scene from the tomb of Meryre II, depicts pharaoh Smenkhkare and his Great Royal Wife Meritaten handing out tribute from the “window of appearances”. The inscription was recorded upon discovery, but has since been lost.

This image is commonly taken to be Smenkhkare and Meritaten, though it may be Tutankhaten and Ankhesenpaaten. Image: wikipedia

It is in this late Amarna period that Akhenaten’s co-regent and probable immediate successor comes to the fore. Akhenaten is generally assumed to have died in the late autumn of his 17th regnal year (after the bottling of wine in that year). Nefertiti disappears from view somewhat earlier (around regnal year 14); the reasons for this are unclear and under scholarly debate (see below). Around the same time a new co-regent is first attested.

Another Historical Context

Many of the questions surrounding Akhenaten’s co-regent and successor revolve around the names attested for this individual (or individuals). Two closely similar, yet distinct sets of names, appear in the records available for the late Amarna period. These are:

  • Ankhkheprure+epithet Neferneferuaten+epithet (sometimes transliterated as Nefernefruaten)
  • Ankhkheprure Smenkhkare Djeserkheperu

Both these sets are written in two cartouches. The epithets in the former name-set are “desired of Neferkheprure/Waenre” (i.e. Akhenaten). The first set of names also sometimes appears in feminine form as “Ankhetkheprure Neferneferuaten” and sometimes the epithet for the nomen is then replaced by “beneficial to her husband”. The former set of names appears to be earlier, and the association of these names with Akhenaten seems more substantial than is the case for the latter set. Both names are associated with Meritaten as great royal wife.

Both sets of names are only poorly attested. To date, no objects other than a wine jar label and six royal seals bearing the names of Ankhkheprure Smenkhkare Djeserkheperu are known. Only one named-depiction of Smenkhkare along with Meritaten (in the tomb of Meryre II) is known. Some objects with the names of Ankhkheprure Neferneferuaten were reused in the burial of Tutankhamun (see below), and the female variant of these names appears on faience-ring bezels.

Because of the presence of the feminine Ankhetkheperure Neferneferuaten, scholars have generally dropped the old view that there was only one, male individual involved. The theory used to suggest he first acted as Akhenaten’s co-regent under the name Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten and, after the death of Akhenaten, succeeded him under the name Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare.

Several theories have been proposed to accommodate a woman:

  • To some scholars, the shared prenomen, function, and queen indicate that there is only one person associated with these different names. They seek to identify this individual as a female member of the royal family
  • Others, based on the feminine variation of the Neferneferuaten name on the one hand, and the identification of the body in KV55 as that of Smenkhkare (see below), see evidence for two distinct individuals, one female and the other male

It must be noted there is disagreement as to which names belong to each individual.

The mystery of Tomb 55 in the Valley of the Kings

A great deal of controversy surrounds the question of Smenkhkare’s mummy and burial. In January 1907, Edward Ayrton (working for Theodore Davis) discovered the badly water-damaged contents of an unfinished tomb in the Valley of the Kings (KV 55). Arguments have raged ever since over the identity of the occupant of the rishi-type coffin, because the cartouches on it had all been hacked out. Initially Davis believed he had found the tomb of Queen Tiy – the damaged body being identified as female – and published it as such.

Subsequently, the body changed sex and was identified as Akhenaten, the previously thought female characteristics of the skeleton being paralleled with those of Akhenaten’s portrayals, especially the pelvic area. More detailed forensic examination, however, now suggests that the body belonged to Smenkhkare, and serological examination (blood grouping) of tissue, as well as close skull measurement comparisons, indicate that the occupant was a brother, or possibly half-brother, of Tutankhamun – the entrance to whose tomb (KV 62) is a mere 15 yards (13.7 m) away across the Valley floor.

At one time, it appears that there were three bodies in the tomb. One of them was that of Queen Tiy, and parts of her great gold overlaid wooden sarcophagus shrine were found there. Her body was probably taken from here round into the West Valley to join her husband, Amenhotep III, in KV 22 (p. 119). Four alabaster canopic jars with finely carved female heads wearing the characteristic court wig of the period were found in the tomb; they show evidence of having been adapted by the addition of a royal uiaeus to the brow which was subsequently broken off. Unfortunately they are uninscribed, but were presumably en suite with the coffin. It has been suggested that the canopic lids are portraits of Kiya, a hitherto obscure junior queen of Akhenaten.

The cartouches on the coffin had all been deliberately hacked out, literally to deny the occupant access to the next world because loss of name was a terrible thing. The texts still in place, however, had feminine endings to the appropriate words, indicating that the coffin had been made for a royal female. This was thought possibly to have been Merytaten, Smenkhkare’s wife, or now, Kiya. The cartouches, it was suggested, had been hacked out because the perpetrators believed that the occupant was the hated Akhenaten (his could have been the third body in the tomb at the time).

It seems that they hoped to remove the bodies of Queen Tiy and Smenkhkare from the contamination of association with the heretic king Akhenaten, but made a mistake and removed Akhenaten’s body instead. On that basis, somewhere in a small undiscovered tomb or cache in or near the Valley of the Kings, Akhenaten’s body may still lie undisturbed. It will be accompanied by whatever of Smenkhkare’s funerary equipment was removed from Tomb 55, and that should include ushabti figures for Smenkhkare because, although examples are known for the rest of the royal family, not even a fragment of one survives bearing his name.

temple-nefertari

Temple of Nefertari

Nefertari, also known as Nefertari Meritmut, was an Egyptian queen and the first of the Great Royal Wives (or principal wives) of Ramesses the Great. Nefertari means ‘beautiful companion’ and Meritmut means ‘Beloved of [the goddess] Mut’. She is one of the best known Egyptian queens, next to Cleopatra, Nefertiti, and Hatshepsut. She was highly educated and able to both read and write hieroglyphs, a very rare skill at the time. She used these skills in her diplomatic work, corresponding with other prominent royals of the time. Her lavishly decorated tomb, QV66, is one of the largest and most spectacular in the Valley of the Queens. Ramesses also constructed a temple for her at Abu Simbel next to his colossal monument there.

Nefertari

Nefertari held many different titles, including: Great of Praises (wrt-hzwt), Sweet of Love (bnrt-mrwt), Lady of Grace (nbt-im3t), Great King’s Wife (hmt-niswt-wrt), his beloved (hmt-niswt-wrt meryt.f), Lady of The Two Lands (nbt-t3wy), Lady of all Lands (hnwt-t3w-nbw), Wife of the Strong Bull (hmt-k3-nxt), god’s Wife (hmt-ntr), Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt (hnwt-Shm’w-mhw). Ramesses II also named her ‘The one for whom the sun shines’.

Outside of Temple of Queen Nefertari

Outside of Temple of Queen Nefertari

Nefertari, or Beautiful Companion, was the first and most beloved of the wives of Ramses 11. Indeed, her form is slim and graceful, and she is extremely fair. Since her magnificent tomb in the Valley of the Queens at Luxor is closed to the general public, we are fortunate that we can see her depicted in her temple at Abu Simbel. It lies to the north of the great temple of Ramses II and is dedicated to Nefertari and to the goddess Hathor.

Temple of Nefertari – Nefertari & goddess Hathor

The terrace (1) leads to the sloping facade that provides the frame for six recesses, three on each side of the central doorway. Within each there are standing figures: four of the king and two of the queen. They appear to be walking forward with spirited strides. Ramses wears an elaborate crown of plumes and horns. On Nefertari’s head are plumes and the sun disc. At their sides are small figures of their children – the princesses beside Nefertari and the princes beside Ramses.

The legend of the love of Ramses for his wife is enumerated along with his titles: ‘Ramses, strong in Maat (Truth), beloved of Amon, made this divine abode for his royal wife, Nefertari, whom he loves’.

Throughout the temple, on pillar and wall, and even in the sanctuary, the names of the royal couple are linked in their shared dedication to the goddess Hathor.

The buttressed sloping projections between the figures on the facade bear hieroglyphic votive inscriptions. At the centre of the broadest, central section is the doorway leading to the Hypostyle Hall (2), a traverse chamber (3) and the sanctuary (4). The thickness of the doorway shows Ramses before Hathor, to the south, and Nefertari before Isis, to the north; Isis makes a gesture as though to crown her.

The Hypostyle Hall (2) has six pillars decorated on the front with sistra-the musical instrument associated with the goddess Hathor and with the heads of Hathor. Behind are representations of Ramses, Nefertari and various deities. The reliefs on the entrance walls (a) and (b) have fine representations of Ramses, accompanied by Nefertari, smiting a Libyan in the presence of Ra-Harakhte, and a Nubian in the presence of Amon-Ra respectively. The side walls have similar offering scenes. At (c) Ramses offers food to Ptah and also stands in front of the ram-headed Harshef. Nefertari makes offerings to Hathor. And Ramses offers wine to Ra-Harakhte. At (d) Ramses stands before Hathor. Ramses is blessed by Horus and Set of Nubt. Nefertari stands before Anukis. And Ramses presents an image of Maat to Amon. On the rear walls are Nefertari and Hathor (to the right) and Nefertari and Mut (to the left). Mut was the wife of Amon-Ra and, like Hathor, a mother figure.

Interior of Temple of Nefertari

The traverse chamber (3) is adjoined by two unfinished chambers, to the right and left. Over the doorways, however, are reliefs of Hathor the sacred cow in a marsh, which are worth noting. In one case, Hathor is being worshipped by Ramses and in the other by Nefertari.

The sanctuary (4) has a recess to the rear, and the roof is supported by sistra. A representation of Hathor in the form of a cow protecting the king (who appears below her head) is a fine relief. On the right-hand wall Nefertari offers incense to Mut and Hathor. On the left the king pours a libation over his own image and also that of his wife.

djoser-head

Djoser

Djoser (read as Djeser and Zoser, also known as Netjerikhet, Tosorthos, and Sesorthos, c. 2670 BCE) was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the 3rd dynasty during the Old Kingdom and the founder of this epoch. He is well known under his Hellenized names Tosorthros (from Manetho) and Sesorthos (from Eusebius). He was the son of king Khasekhemwy and queen Nimaathap, but if he also was the direct throne successor is still unclear. Most Ramesside Kinglists name a king Nebka before him, but since there are still difficulties in connecting that name with contemporary horus names, some Egyptologists question the received throne sequence.

Djoser statue, 3rd Dynasty Egyptian Museum (image: wikipedia)

Djoser was the first king of the Third Dynasty of Egypt, reigning for over twenty years. Some sources indicate a king named Sanakht as the first ruler of the Third Dynasty but this claim is challenged as Sanakht’s name is only known from two reliefs, the Abydos king list, and the Turin papyrus, not from archaeological evidence. Early archaeologists identified Sanakht’s tomb as mastaba K2 at Beit Khallaf based on the two reliefs mentioned above, which were found there; but this identification has been challenged and largely discredited. Manetho’s chronology, routinely used to date the reigns of the kings of Egypt, is also unclear on who he was or when he ruled. Djoser’s reign, following Khasekhemwy, is far more certain than the vague suggestions of a king named Sanakht and so he is now accepted as the first king of the Third Dynasty. Djoser is best known for his Step Pyramid, the first pyramid built in Egypt, although he initiated many other building projects; so many, in fact, that scholars have suggested a reign of almost thirty years to account for the number of tombs, temples, and monuments he commissioned.

Djoser’s Reign

Very little is known of Djoser’s youth or family life. His name Netjerikhet means “divine of body” and ‘Djoser’ is derived from the Djed symbol of stability. He succeeded his father, Khasekhemwy, the last king of the Second Dynasty, and his mother was the queen Nimaathap. His wife was Hetephernebti who was probably his half-sister. Although it was common for the pharaoh to have a queen and lesser wives, Djoser took no other women besides Hetephernebti.

Once he assumed the throne, he almost instantly began commissioning his building projects. Historian Margaret Bunson writes that Djoser “ruled during an age witnessing advances in civilization on the Nile such as the construction of architectural monuments, agricultural developments, trade, and the rise of the cities” (66). Although cities had begun to grow during the First Dynasty, under Djoser’s reign they became more numerous and the architecture more ornate. Djoser’s pyramid complex alone is the best example of the great advance in architectural design at the beginning of the Third Dynasty. Ornamentation was taken to a much higher level and symbols used to remind people of the blessings of the gods and the harmony of the land. The Djed symbol which, besides representing stability, is associated with the god Osiris, was used in the pillars in Temple T of Djoser’s Saqqara complex and appears on his other monuments as well.

The stability of the country under Djoser was due in part to his success in securing his borders and then extending them. Expansion of the realm into the region of Sinai was accomplished through military expeditions. He defeated the Libyans in battle and annexed part of their lands. The position of the king was linked to military ability and victories were a sign of the gods’ favor. The armies of Djoser, therefore, brought honor to his name and to the country but he became legendary, without these campaigns and long before his Step Pyramid was built, for another reason: the re-building of the Temple of Khnum which ended a famine.

Famine Stela

The Famine Stele is an inscription from the Ptolemaic Dynasty (332-30 BCE), long after Djoser’s rule, which tells the story of how the king saved his country. A famine broke out in Egypt which lasted for seven years. No one knew how to resolve the problem and none of Djoser’s consultants seemed to be of any use. Djoser had a dream in which the god Khnum, the god of the source of the Nile River, came to him and complained that his temple on the island of Elephantine (near modern-day Aswan) was in disrepair and people had lost their respect for the god who gave them life through the river.

The Famine Stele is an inscription from the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt (332-30 BCE), which tells the story of how King Djoser saved his country. (image: www.ancient.eu)

Djoser consulted with his vizier Imhotep and with one of his governors, Medir, and they suggested he sail to the island of Elephantine to pay his respects to Khnum and see about the temple. Djoser did so and, finding the temple in the poor condition his dream had foretold, erected a new one in its place. Once the new temple was completed, the famine ended and Djoser was hailed as the hero of his people.

The temple built by Djoser, and the surrounding courtyard and outer buildings, may still be seen in the modern day, although the temple went through renovations during later dynasties. These modern-day ruins date from Djoser’s reign and so the Famine Stele has been accepted by some as history and interpreted by others as legend. As the stone dates from almost 2,000 years after Djoser’s reign, the actual significance of the inscription lies in how Djoser was remembered by his people; whether the event actually happened as described is immaterial. An unpopular pharaoh would not have generated such a legend, no matter what miraculous feats he was involved in, and the Famine Stele attests to the honor and high esteem Djoser was regarded with.

The Pyramid of Djoser

The step pyramid of Djoser, located at Saqqara, was the first of its kind. It consisted of six mastabas; a tomb structure built on top of one another with the lower one always being the smallest. Using this construction technique created a stepped structure-type pyramid that would be used by future pharaohs. This type of construction method would continue to be used under the Pharaoh Sekhemkhet and Pharaoh Khaba. The design was created by Imhotep, chancellor to Pharaoh Djoser and high priest of Ra at Heliopolis. As the designer of the step pyramid, Imhotep became known as the world’s first great architect.

Djoser Step Pyramid

There are multiple canopic jars that mention Queen Nimaethap as “Mother of the King’s children” and “Mother of the King of the Two Lands.” These writings have identified Nimaethap as Djoser’s mother, and Khasekhemwy as his father. Djoser’s queen was Hetephernebti, who was an important queen during the period and is believed to have also been a daughter of Khasekhemwy. If this were true, this would stand to reason that Hetephernebti would also be a step-sister to the pharaoh as well as his wife. Together, Djoser and Hetephernebti had only one daughter, Inetkaes.

Successor

Since Djoser died without a son, another family member most likely became pharaoh. Sekhemkhet would only reign for about seven years before dying; however, the family connection is unknown. This particular pharaoh’s name was unknown until an unfinished step pyramid was discovered in 1951 AD. This unfinished step pyramid is also believed to have been designed by Imhotep, but was probably not finished due to Sekhemkhet’s death during its construction. Only the first mastaba was finished, and is buried beneath sand dunes. Because of this structure being underneath a sandbank, Sekhemkhet’s temple continues to be known as the Buried Pyramid.

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Temple of Hathor

The all overshadowing building in the Dendera Temple Complex is the main temple, namely Hathor temple (historically called the Temple of Tentyra). The temple has been modified on the same site starting as far back as the Middle Kingdom, and continuing right up until the time of the Roman emperor Trajan.[1] The existing structure was built no later than the late Ptolemaic period. The temple, dedicated to Hathor, is one of the best preserved temples in all Egypt. Subsequent additions were added in Roman times.

Temple of Hathor

Layout elements of the temple:

  • Large Hypostyle Hall
  • Small Hypostyle Hall
  • Laboratory
  • Storage magazine
  • Offering entry
  • Treasury
  • Exit to well
  • Access to stairwell
  • Offering hall
  • Hall of the Ennead
  • Great Seat and main sanctuary
  • Shrine of the Nome of Dendera
  • Shrine of Isis
  • Shrine of Sokar
  • Shrine of Harsomtus
  • Shrine of Hathor’s Sistrum
  • Shrine of gods of Lower Egypt
  • Shrine of Hathor
  • Shrine of the throne of Rê
  • Shrine of Rê
  • Shrine of Menat collar
  • Shrine of Ihy
  • The Pure Place
  • Court of the First Feast
  • Passage
  • Staircase to roof

Depictions of Cleopatra VI which appear on temple walls are good examples of Ptolemaic Egyptian art.[2] On the rear of the temple exterior is a carving of Cleopatra VII Philopator (the popularly well known Cleopatra) and her son, Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar (Caesarion), fathered by Julius Caesar.

Goddess Hathor, Goddess of Love

Hathor was a major goddess in the ancient Egyptian pantheon, who personified the principles of joy, feminine love, and motherhood, and her cult center was at Dendera, one of the best-preserved temple complexes in all of Egypt. The Temple of Hathor is the largest and most impressive buildings in this religious complex, and is visually stunning with its grand entrance, detailed carvings, hieroglyphs, and decorated ceilings.

Magnificently decorated ceiling inside the Temple of Hathor

Dendera

The city of Dendera is located on the west bank of the Nile, about 60 km ( miles) to the north of Luxor, in the 6th Nome of Upper Egypt. The Dendera Temple Complex is situated around 2.5 km ( miles) to the southeast of this city.

Dendera is said to mark an old holy place, even by the standards of the ancient Egyptians. It has been pointed out that there is evidence for religious structures built at the site during the reign of the Old Kingdom Pharaoh Pepi I (towards the end of the 3rd millennium BC). There are also remnants of a temple that was built during the New Kingdom, specifically the 18th Dynasty. The current complex, including the Temple of Hathor, however, dates to the Ptolemaic and Roman periods, with (at least) one building dating to the Late Period. This is the mammisi (birth house) of Nectanebo II, the last native ruler of ancient Egypt who ruled during the 4th century BC.

The Best Preserved Temple in all of Egypt

The Dendera Temple Complex covers an area of 40,000 square meters ( sq. ft.), and is surrounded by a large mudbrick wall. Within this enclosure are various structures, including the Temple of the Birth of Isis, a Roman mammisi (attributed either to the reign of Trajan or Nero), a sanatorium, and a sacred lake. It was made famous by a carving that many believe depicts an electrical lightbulb. Nevertheless, the most impressive part of the temple complex is undoubtedly the Temple of Hathor.

The famous Dendera lightbulb

The Temple of Hathor was largely constructed during the Late Ptolemaic period, specifically during the reign of Ptolemy XII and Cleopatra VII. Later additions were made during the Roman period. Although built by a dynasty of rulers who were not native Egyptians themselves, the design of this temple has been found to be in accordance to that of other classical Egyptian temples, with the exception of the front of the hypostyle hall, which, according to an inscription above the entrance, was constructed by the Emperor Tiberius.

Part of the magnificently decorated ceiling inside the Temple of Hathor

Piety to the Gods

Like the native Egyptian pharaohs before them, the Ptolemaic and Roman rulers of Egypt also used the temple complex as a means of propaganda, and to showcase their piety towards the gods of Egypt. Thus, for instance in the hypostyle hall of the Temple of Hathor, there is a depiction of the Roman Emperor Nero offering a model of the mammisi to the goddess. This image has been cited as evidence that Nero was involved in the construction of the Roman birth house. On the other hand, the dedication inscriptions and decorations in the birth house itself make reference to Trajan, thus suggesting that it was this emperor who was responsible for its construction.

Apart from these, there are also scenes in the temple complex portraying the Ptolemaic rulers. For example, carved onto the external face of one of the temple walls is a huge relief of Cleopatra VII and her son by Julius Caesar and co-ruler, Ptolemy XV (better known as Caesarion). The two Ptolemaic rulers are shown dressed in Egyptian garb, and offering sacrifices.

Relief of Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra VII and Caesarion, Dendera Temple

Hathor was also regarded as a goddess of healing, and this is evident in the presence of a sanatorium in the temple complex. Here, pilgrims would come to be cured by the goddess. Sacred water (which was made holy by having it poured onto statues inscribed with sacred texts) was used for bathing, unguents were dispensed by the priests of Hathor, and sleeping quarters were provided for those hoping that the goddess would appear in their dreams, and so aid them.

Sources: Wikipedia (wikipedia.org), Ancient Origins (ancient-origins.net). Images sources: pinterest, paulsmit.smugmug,google-images.

Dendera-Temple-Complex

Dendera Temple complex

Dendera Temple complex (Ancient Egyptian: Iunet or Tantere; the 19th-century English spelling in most sources, including Belzoni, was Tentyra) is located about 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) south-east of Dendera, Egypt. It is one of the best-preserved temple complexes in Egypt. The area was used as the sixth Nome of Upper Egypt, south of Abydos.

Layout and Description

The whole complex covers some 40,000 square meters and is surrounded by a hefty mud brick enclosed wall. Dendera was a site for chapels or shrines from the beginning of history of ancient Egypt. It seems that pharaoh Pepi I (ca. 2250 BC) built on this site and evidence exists of a temple in the eighteenth dynasty (ca 1500 BC). However, the earliest extant building in the compound today is the Mammisi raised by Nectanebo II – last of the native pharaohs (360–343 BC). The features in the complex include:

  • Hathor temple (the main temple)
  • Temple of the birth of Isis
  • Sacred Lake
  • Sanatorium
  • Mammisi of Nectanebo II
  • Christian Basilica
  • Roman Mammisi
  • a Bark shine
  • Gateways of Domitian and Trajan
  • the Roman Kiosk

The Temple Complex

Visitors to Luxor, who have the time, should try and visit the famous Temple of Hathor at Dendera. In a taxi, the trip takes about 1hour from Luxor. The buses, which are always accompanied by a Police convoy, that leaves at 0800 daily . The entrance fee is LE 35.

The Temple is located about 4KM from the River Nile, on its west bank, roughly opposite the city of Qena, the capital of the province and governorate of Qena (population – 2,000,000), which is inhabited by both Coptic and Muslims. This town is very famous for the manufacture of water pots, called “gula” jars in Arabic.

The Muslim Sheik, Abdel Raheeem El-Kenawi, who spent all of his life in this town and died in 1170 A.D, founded the modern city. The birthday of this saint is celebrated every year, and a great number of pilgrims come from all over Egypt for the festivities. The name of the city goes back to the time of the Pharaohs , and was taken from the ancient Egyptian word Qeny, which means, “to bend”; the River Nile has a huge (and famous) bend here.

The Temple of Hathor was built in the 1st century B.C and it is one of the best-preserved Temples in the whole of Egypt! Ptolemy VIII and Queen Cleopatra II built it, and then later, Roman Emperors continued to decorate it and honour the Goddess Hathor; the Goddess of maternity, love and music. The Greeks identified the Goddess Hathor as Aphrodite.

Temple of Hathor

The first gateway, built by Roman Emperor Domitian in 80 A.D, leads to the great hall of the Temple, which is decorated with Hathoric columns (columns with the face of Hathor on them) and is in a very good condition. The upper, front edge of the cornice is decorated with the winged sun disc, while stone screens between the columns and the scene, which represent the Roman Emperor Tiberius and other Roman rulers who present votive offerings to the Goddess of the Temple, enclose the front portion. Hathor is chiefly represented with the horns of the sacred cow protruding from her head, supporting the solar disc of the sun, and in her hands she is holding an “Ankh”, the symbol of life, and a sceptre. Sometimes she is also represented with the head of a cow.

The interior walls of the great hall have remarkable scenes that mainly depict sacrifices being made to the Goddess of the Temple. The amazing ceiling, with its astronomical representations, is very interesting! The ceiling is divided into 7 divisions, and the best remaining 3 are:

The first division on the eastern side, which depicts the Goddess Nut, the Goddess of the sky, who is bending herself towards the earth, with the sun disc shining on the Temple and the mask of Hathor.

Secondly, and next to the first, is a representation of the sun boat and star Goddess.

The sun boat and the Star Goddess

The third one is the western ceiling, which shows a perfect representation of the zodiac signs, which is one of the reasons that the Temple is so famous (the original zodiac relief is now in the Louvre museum in Paris, France). The 12 figures of the ram, the bull, the heavenly twins, the crab, the lion, the virgin, the scales, the scorpion, the archer, the goat, the watering pots and fishes with glittering tails. On the inner walls of the screen, the hawk headed God Horus, and the Ibis headed God Thoth, are pouring drops of holy water over the King. This scene is called the baptism scene, symbolising life and happiness.

The second hall has 6 columns adorned with rich capitals and granite pedestals. On both sides of this hall are small rooms that were used as storerooms, used to store the wine jars that came from the Island of Crete, and the fertile Fayoum and Kharga oases.

Next is the central chapel, which has two altars; one for the sacred boat, and the other for the sacrifices offered to the Goddess Hathor. The beautifully sculptured relief’s on the walls of the shrines represent Ptolemy VIII and other rules, whose names were left blank in the oval cartouches, dancing with offerings to the sacred boat of Hathor and her husband Horus. The representatives of the King, the high Priests and noblemen, used to gather in the great hall in preparation for the daily rituals. The ceilings are covered in stars, and black soot from the fires of the later inhabitants of the Temple.The rooms around the sanctuary were used for scientific purposes, the storing of the sacred boat, the sacred wreath, the golden image of the Goddess Hathor and musical instruments

There is a small corridor on the right, which leads to a small room that contains the crypt, highly recommended should you visit here.

The staircases, which lead to the roof of the Temple, are decorated with some beautiful symbols representing the 12 months of the year. On the eastern corner, of the roof, is the chapel of the God Osiris. The scenes on its walls represent Osiris rising from the dead and becoming the God of the underworld. It is from this chapel that the best representation of the zodiac was taken.

The most preserved, magnificent zodiac relief

The southern exterior wall relief show Cleopatra VII and her son Caesarian, son of JuliusCaesar, making offerings to Hathor and allthe other deities of Dendera. On the same wall, near the cornice, are some stone lion heads, serving as water spouts. Adjoining the Temple building to the west is the sacred lake, which was used for the priests’ ablutions. Next to the lake is a small shaft, discovered in 1917, which contained valuable treasures of Cleopatra’s era, which are now displayed in the Egyptian Museum.

Around the Temple are the remains of the mud brick wall, which surrounded the whole Temple, as well as the ruins of Coptic houses and churches, including a large number of Coptic crosses, which were chiseled into the stones. To the north lies the Mamisi, the birth house of Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris, which was erected by the Roman Emperor Trajan in 90 A.D. This little Temple is surrounded by a row of columns, with different capitals embellished with relief images of the God Bes, the chief God of childhood who drove evil spirits away from the babies. Bes is a hideous dwarf, with a big stomach and long whiskers.

Sources: Wikipedia (wikipedia.org), ask-aladdin (www.ask-aladdin.com).

 

 

ankhesenamun-kingtut

Ankhesenamun

Ankhesenamun (ˁnḫ-s-n-imn, “Her Life Is of Amun” or “Living through Amun”; c. 1348 – after 1322 BC) was a queen of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. Born as Ankhesenpaaten, she was the third of six known daughters of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten and his Great Royal Wife Nefertiti, and became the Great Royal Wife of her half-brother Tutankhamun.[1] The change in her name reflects the changes in Ancient Egyptian religion during her lifetime after her father’s death. Her youth is well documented in the ancient reliefs and paintings of the reign of her parents. Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun shared the same father but Tutankhamun’s mother has recently been established by genetic evidence as one of Akhenaten’s sisters, a daughter (so far unidentified) of Amenhotep III.

She was most likely born in year 4 of Akhenaten’s reign and by year 12 of her father’s reign she was joined by her three younger sisters. He possibly made his wife his co-regent and had his family portrayed in a realistic style in all official artwork.

Ankhesenamun was definitely married to one king; she was the Great Royal Wife of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. It is also possible that she was briefly married to Tutankhamun’s successor, Ay, believed by some to be her maternal grandfather.[2] It has also been posited that she may have been the Great Royal Wife of her father, Akhenaten, after the possible death of her mother, and co-regent of Akhenaten’s immediate successor, Smenkhkare.

Recent DNA tests released in February 2010 have also speculated that one of two late 18th dynasty queens buried in KV21 could be her mummy. Both mummies are thought, because of DNA, to be members of the ruling house.

There is little known about Ankhesenamun. She was initially known by her birth name of Ankhesenpaaten (meaning “She lives through the Aten” or “Living through the Aten”) in her earlier years of life. Written, throughout history, are variations of her name as this was altered during her marriage to Tutankhamun. She was approximately thirteen years old when she married Tutankhamun who was most likely her half-brother. Tutankhamun was probably around eight years old at the time that this marriage occurred. This historical timeline is known as the Amarna Period.

The alteration of names for both Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun occurred as they changed their form of worship from one God to another. Their reign initially included the worship of the God Aten (known as “The Sun-Disc) and this eventually changed to the worship of the God Amun (known as the “The Hidden One”). Sometimes Ankhesenamun is written as Ankhesenamon, Ankhesenamum, and other variations on the name.

What is known about Ankhesenamun is that she was born the third daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. History tells us that there were at least six known daughters born to this famous couple; Meritaten, Meketaten, Ankhesenpaaten, Nefernefruaten ta-Sherit, Nefernefrure, and Setepenre. The first three daughters appear to have had a more prominent position in the family hierarchy as they are depicted more frequently in pictures than the last three daughters.

It appears that Akhenaten, Ankhesenamun’s father, may have attempted to father children with the first three eldest daughters. It is suggested that Ankhesenamun’s second eldest sister may have died giving child birth. This is deducted from a scene found in the royal tomb which portrays a vivid display of this occurrence (a woman dying due to child birth). It is most likely that Akhenaten also fathered children from his other two daughter’s Meritaten and Ankhesenamun. Those children carried the names of their respective mothers with the addition of “ta-sherit” (junior) after their names. Including “ta-sherit” to the name of children who had the same name as their respective mothers, appeared to be the standard practice of that time.

As Nefertiti, Akhenaten’s queen disappears from history, Akhenaten marries the eldest daughter Meritaten. She now becomes the Chief Queen after her mother Nefertiti. Also during Akhenaten’s reign, he names Smenkhkare as co-regent (a person who would reign in conjunction with him). It was sometimes the practice of Kings or Pharaohs to name co-regents during their reign. Co-regents tended to be son’s or proposed heirs to the throne. During this time, Akhenaten decides to wed Meritaten (his daughter and current wife) to Smenkhkare for his wife. Akhenaten then takes Ankhesenamun, the third daughter, as his next new wife. Ankhesenamun now becomes the Chief wife of Akhenaten for a short period.

It appears that shortly after, both Meritaten and Akhenaten die and then Smenkhkare marries Ankhesenamun. History shows that they are married for approximately one to three years and then Smenkhkare also dies. Tutankhamun is named the next pharaoh and Ankhesenamun and Tutankhamun are then married. Although both are still children, Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun go on to rule Egypt over the next ten years. During the ten years, Ankhesenamun gives birth to two children (both girls). Both girls are born premature and die. One of the children is now known to have had a condition called Spengel’s deformity in conjunction with spina bifida and scoliosis. The two mummy encasements were found during the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

During their reign, history shows that Tutankhamun had an official adviser named Ay who most likely was the grandfather of Ankhesenamun. In addition, it seems that Ay most likely took advantage of the fact that both Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun were very young and he most probably had a heavy hand in molding and shaping Tutankhamun’s thinking in the early years. This likely occurred as changes and decisions during those early years of Tutankhamun’s rule carried the weight of a more-versed and more-mature ruler and could not have been done by a child of eight years old.

As Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun began to mature, Tutankhamun suddenly died for no apparent reason. Tutankhamun was about 18 years of age when he passed away and once again Ankhesenamun was left without a husband. The standard mourning period was 70 days and it appears that several major things occurred during this timeframe; 1) Tutankhamun’s burial site seems to have been put together in a haphazardly way, 2) Ankhesenamun is not mentioned or depicted at the burial site or are there any personal items of Ankhesenamun buried with Tutankhamun as this was the standard practice of including “wifely items” with the dead pharaohs, and 3) History now shows us that Ankhesenamun may have tried to contact the Hittite King Suppiluliumas for help. King Suppiluliumas was a well-known enemy of Egypt at that time.

Upon further review of Tutankhamun’s burial site, it seems that the walls were not fully painted as would have been fitting for a pharaoh of that time. Why? It also appears that many of the items found in the tomb were borrowed and did not belong strictly to Tutankhamun. Again the question is why? Speculation is that Ay, who was most probably in control of the burial procedures, was in a hurry to get everything completed and sealed as he may have been the person responsible for Tutankhamun’s death. Why does speculation lean toward that theory? Most likely because he had much control over the rule of Egypt during Tutankhamun’s rule until the boy king began to mature. He probably wanted him out of the way. In addition, history shows that he married Ankhesenamun shortly after Tutankhamun died and thereby became Egypt’s new pharaoh. Upon review of Tutankhamun’s skull, there is some evidence that Tutankhamun may have died a more brutal death than once thought and Ay is at the top of the list as a possible murderer.

In addition, the standard practice of that time would have been to mention and provide many items of the “Chief wife” of a pharaoh in a burial site. Unfortunately, there is little mention of Ankhesenamun at the burial site. The fact that any personal items belonging to Ankhesenamun at Tutankhamun’s tomb are missing make things even more suspicious. Why would this occur? Could it be that Ay may have been planning to take Ankhesenamun (most probably his granddaughter) as his wife and thereby become the new Pharaoh? It would not have been fitting to have his new wife depicted in Tutankhamun’s tomb. By marrying Ankhesenamun he would then have a direct link to the throne and be more readily accepted as Egypt’s new ruling pharaoh.

Amun The third suspicious piece to this puzzle is a letter sent to a Hittite King named Suppiluliumas from an Eqyptian queen. There is speculation that the letter could have been sent from another queen because the names referenced in the letter do not specifically mention Ankhesenamun or Tutankhamun but rather use the names Dahamunzu and her dead husband Niphururiya. However, upon further review of the Hittite phonetic translations of Egyptian language at that time, it would have been translated to point towards Ankhesenamun as the queen asking for help and Tutankhamun as the king having died. The letter states, “My husband has died and I have no son. They say about you that you have many sons. You might give me one of your sons to become my husband. Never shall I pick out a servant of mine and make him my husband!…I am afraid!” Why would Ankhesenamun be afraid? Could it be that she knew that Ay had contributed to her husband’s death? Could it be that she had seen Ay depicted in Tutankhamun’s tomb wearing the royal crown’s of Egypt with his name clearly written in hieroglyphs as the presiding priest over Tutankhamun’s picture?

Ankhesenamun

Upon receiving the request for help from the Eqyptian queen, King Suppiluliumas sent Hattusa-zita, a chamberlain, to verify that this was a true request and not a plan of treachery. Hattusa-zita returned verifying that this was not a scheme but rather a true plea for help. King Suppiluliumas then sent his youngest son Zanannza to marry the Egyptian queen (more than likely Ankhesenamun). Upon entering Egypt the whole group was murdered.

Ankhesenamun was left with no other alternative than to marry Ay who was at least 40 years her senior. A blue-glass finger ring has since been found containing both Ankhesenamun and Ay’s engraved names. This is further evidence that this marriage took place after Tutankhamun’s death. Shortly thereafter, Ankhesenamun disappears from history and even in Ay’s tomb there is no evidence that she was the chief wife.

Rather, it is Tiy who appears in Ay’s tomb. But as history writes itself, Ankhesenamun had married 4 pharaohs in her short lifetime; Akhenaten (her father), Smenkhkare (more than likely her half-brother), Tutankhamun (more than likely her half brother), and Ay (probably her grandfather).

Source: King Tut (kingtutone.com), Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org).

hatshepsut-temple

The Temple of Hatshepsut

The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, also known as the Djeser-Djeseru (“Holy of Holies”), is an ancient funerary shrine in Upper Egypt. Built for the Eighteenth dynasty Pharaoh Hatshepsut, it is located beneath the cliffs at Deir el Bahari, on the west bank of the Nile near the Valley of the Kings. The mortuary temple is dedicated to the sun deity Amun and is situated next to the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II, which served both as an inspiration, and later, a quarry. It is considered one of the “incomparable monuments of ancient Egypt.”

There are many examples of these great monuments and temples throughout Egypt from the pyramid complex at Giza in the north to the temple at Karnak in the south. Among these, the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BCE) at Deir el-Bahri stands out as one of the most impressive.

The building was modeled after the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II (c. 2061-2010 BCE), the great Theban prince who founded the 11th Dynasty and initiated the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (2040-1782 BCE). Mentuhotep II was considered a ‘second Menes’ by his contemporaries, a reference to the legendary king of the First Dynasty of Egypt, and he continued to be venerated highly throughout the rest of Egypt’s history. The temple of Mentuhotep II was built during his reign across the river from Thebes at Deir el-Bahri, the first structure to be raised there. It was a completely innovative concept in that it would serve as both tomb and temple.

The king would not actually be buried in the complex but in a tomb cut into the rock of the cliffs behind it. The entire structure was designed to blend organically with the surrounding landscape and the towering cliffs and was the most striking tomb complex raised in Upper Egypt and the most elaborate created since the Old Kingdom.

Hatshepsut, an admirer of Mentuhotep II’s temple had her own designed to mirror it but on a much grander scale and, just in case anyone should miss the comparison, ordered it built right next to the older temple. Hatshepsut was always keenly aware of ways in which to elevate her public image and immortalize her name; the mortuary temple achieved both ends.

It would be an homage to the ‘second Menes’ but, more importantly, link Hatshepsut to the grandeur of the past while, at the same time, surpassing previous monumental works in every respect. As a woman in a traditionally male position of power, Hatshepsut understood she needed to establish her authority and the legitimacy of her reign in much more obvious ways that her predecessors and the scale and elegance of her temple is evidence of this.

The Temple Design

She commissioned her mortuary temple at some point soon after coming to power in 1479 BCE and had it designed to tell the story of her life and reign and surpass any other in elegance and grandeur. The temple was designed by Hatshepsut’s steward and confidante Senenmut, who was also tutor to Neferu-Ra and, possibly, Hatshepsut’s lover. Senenmut modeled it carefully on that of Mentuhotep II but took every aspect of the earlier building and made it larger, longer, and more elaborate. Mentuhotep II’s temple featured a large stone ramp from the first courtyard to the second level; Hatshepsut’s second level was reached by a much longer and even more elaborate ramp one reached by passing through lush gardens and an elaborate entrance pylon flanked by towering obelisks.

Walking through the first courtyard (ground level), one could go directly through the archways on either side (which led down alleys to small ramps up to the second level) or stroll up the central ramp, whose entrance was flanked by statues of lions. On the second level, there were two reflecting pools and sphinxes lining the pathway to another ramp which brought a visitor up to the third level.

The first, second, and third levels of the temple all featured colonnade and elaborate reliefs, paintings, and statuary. The second courtyard would house the tomb of Senenmut to the right of the ramp leading up to the third level; an appropriately opulent tomb placed beneath the second courtyard with no outward features in order to preserve symmetry. All three levels exemplified the traditional Egyptian value of symmetry and, as there was no structure to the left of the ramp, there could be no apparent tomb on its right.

On the right side of the ramp leading to the third level was the Birth Colonnade, and on the left the Punt Colonnade. The Birth Colonnade told the story of Hatshepsut’s divine creation with Amun as her true father. Hatshepsut had the night of her conception inscribed on the walls relating how the god came to mate with her mother:

He [Amun] in the incarnation of the Majesty of her husband, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt [Thutmose I] found her sleeping in the beauty of her palace. She awoke at the divine fragrance and turned towards his Majesty. He went to her immediately, he was aroused by her, and he imposed his desire upon her. He allowed her to see him in his form of a god and she rejoiced at the sight of his beauty after he had come before her. His love passed into her body. The palace was flooded with divine fragrance. (van de Mieroop, 173)

As the daughter of the most powerful and popular god in Egypt at the time, Hatshepsut was claiming for herself special privilege to rule the country as a man would. She established her special relationship with Amun early on, possibly before taking the throne, in order to neutralize criticism of her reign on account of her gender.

Birth Colonnade – Hatshepsut’s Temple

The Punt Colonnade related her glorious expedition to the mysterious ‘land of the gods’ which the Egyptians had not visited in centuries. Her ability to launch such an expedition is a testimony to the wealth of the country under her rule and also her ambition in reviving the traditions and glory of the past. Punt was known to the Egyptians since the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150 – c. 2613 BCE) but either the route had been forgotten or Hatshepsut’s more recent predecessors did not consider an expedition worth their time.

At either end of the second level colonnade were two temples: The Temple of Anubis to the north and The Temple of Hathor to the south. As a woman in a position of power, Hatshepsut had a special relationship with the goddess Hathor and invoked her often. A temple to Anubis, the guardian, and guide to the dead, was a common feature of any mortuary complex; one would not wish to slight the god who was responsible for leading one’s soul from the tomb to the afterlife.

The ramp to the third level, centered perfectly between the Birth and Punt colonnades, brought a visitor up to another colonnade, lined with statues, and the three most significant structures: the Royal Cult Chapel, Solar Cult Chapel, and the Sanctuary of Amun. The whole temple complex was built into the cliffs of Deir el-Bahri and the Sanctuary of Amun – the most sacred area of the site – was cut from the cliff itself. The Royal Cult Chapel and Solar Cult Chapel both depicted scenes of the royal family making offerings to the gods. Amun-Ra, the composite creator/sun god, is featured prominently in the Solar Cult Chapel with Hatshepsut and her immediate family kneeling before him in honor.

Hatshepsut’s Reign

Hatshepsut was the daughter of Thutmose I (1520-1492 BCE) by his Great Wife Ahmose. Thutmose I also fathered Thutmose II (1492-1479 BCE) by his secondary wife Mutnofret. In keeping with Egyptian royal tradition, Thutmose II was married to Hatshepsut at some point before she was 20 years old. During this same time, Hatshepsut was elevated to the position of God’s Wife of Amun, the highest honor a woman could attain in Egypt after the position of queen and one which would become increasingly political and important.

Hatshepsut and Thutmose II had a daughter, Neferu-Ra, while Thutmose II fathered a son with his lesser wife Isis. This son was Thutmose III (1458-1425 BCE) who was named his father’s successor. Thutmose II died while Thutmose III was still a child and so Hatshepsut became regent, controlling the affairs of state until he came of age. In the seventh year of her regency, though, she broke with tradition and had herself crowned pharaoh of Egypt.

Painting of Queen Hatshepsut

Her reign was one of the most prosperous and peaceful in Egypt’s history. There is evidence that she commissioned military expeditions early on and she certainly kept the army at peak efficiency but, for the most part, her time as pharaoh is characterized by successful trade, a booming economy, and her many public works projects which employed laborers from across the nation.

Her expedition to Punt seems to have been legendary and was certainly the accomplishment she was most proud of, but it also seems that all of her trade initiatives were equally successful and she was able to employ an entire nation in building her monuments. These works were so beautiful and so finely crafted that they would be claimed by later kings as their own.

Hatshepsut’s Rediscovery

Hatshepsut’s name remained unknown for the rest of Egypt’s history and up until the mid-19th century CE. When Thutmose III had her public monuments destroyed, he disposed of the wreckage near her temple at Deir el-Bahri. Excavations in the 19th century CE brought these broken monuments and statues to light but, at that time, no one understood how to read hieroglyphics – many still believed them to be simple decorations – and so her name was lost to history.

The English polymath and scholar Thomas Young (1773-1829 CE), however, was convinced that these ancient symbols represented words and that hieroglyphics were closely related to demotic and later Coptic scripts. His work was built upon by his sometimes-colleague-sometimes-rival, the French philologist and scholar Jean-Francois Champollion (1790-1832 CE). In 1824 CE Champollion published his translation of the Rosetta Stone, proving that the symbols were a written language and this opened up ancient Egypt to a modern world.

Champollion, visiting Hatshepsut’s temple, was mystified by the obvious references to a female pharaoh during the New Kingdom of Egypt who was unknown in history. His observations were the first in the modern age to inspire an interest in the queen who, today, is regarded as one of the greatest monarchs of the ancient world.

Tomb of Queen Hatshepsut

How and when Hatshepsut died was unknown until quite recently. She was not buried in her mortuary temple but in a tomb in the nearby Valley of the Kings (KV60). Egyptologist Zahi Hawass located her mummy in the Cairo museum’s holdings in 2006 CE and proved her identity by matching a loose tooth from a box of hers to the mummy. An examination of that mummy shows that she died in her fifties from an abscess following this tooth’s extraction.

Although later Egyptian rulers did not know her name, her mortuary temple and other monuments preserved her legacy. Her temple at Deir el-Bahri was considered so magnificent that later kings had their own built in the same vicinity and, as noted, were so impressed with this temple and her other works that they claimed them as their own. There is, in fact, no other Egyptian monarch except Ramesses II (1279-1213 BCE) who erected as many impressive monuments as Hatshepsut. Although unknown for most of history, in the past 100 years her accomplishments have achieved global recognition. In the present day, she is a commanding presence in Egyptian – and world – history and stands as the very role model for women that Thutmose III may have tried so hard to erase from time and memory.

Source: Ancient History (www.ancient.eu), Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org).

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The Myth & Mysteries of Osiris

After the creation of the world, the first five gods were born of the union of Geb (earth) and Nut (sky) and these were Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys, and Horus. Osiris, as the first born, assumed rule as Lord of the Earth, with Isis as his queen and consort. He found the people of Egypt uncivilized and lawless and so gave them laws, culture, religious instruction, and agriculture. Egypt became a paradise under Osiris’ rule where everyone was equal and there was abundant food as the crops were always plentiful. Set was jealous of his brother’s success and grew resentful. Their relationship deteriorated further after Nephthys, Set’s wife, disguised herself as Isis and seduced Osiris, becoming pregnant with the god Anubis. Set had a beautiful coffin made to Osiris’ exact height and then threw a grand party where he presented this box and told the guests that whichever of them fit in it most perfectly could have it as a gift. When Osiris lay down in the coffin, Set slammed the lid on, fastened it shut, and threw it into the Nile, where it was carried away down river.

Osiris’ body traveled out to sea and eventually his coffin became lodged in a great tamarisk tree growing near Byblos in Phoenicia. The tree grew quickly around the coffin until it completely contained it. The king of Byblos, Malcander, came to the shore with his wife Astarte and admired the tree and the sweet scent which seemed to emanate from it. He ordered the tree cut down and brought to his palace as an ornamental pillar for the court, and there Osiris remained, trapped inside the coffin within the pillar, until he died.

Isis had meanwhile left Egypt in search of her husband and eventually came to Byblos, disguised as an older woman, where she sat down by the shore and cried for her missing husband. She was invited to the palace by the royal handmaidens who had come to the shore to bathe and there ingratiated herself to the king and queen so she was asked to be nursemaid for their young sons. Isis tried to make the younger boy immortal by bathing him in fire and, when Queen Astarte discovered this, she was horrified. Isis then revealed herself as the goddess and the king and queen promised her anything she wanted if she would only spare them. She requested only the pillar – which they swiftly granted to her.

Osiris as the kind and just ruler, murdered by his resentful brother, who comes back to life is the most popular and enduring image of the god.

After leaving the court, Isis cut Osiris from the tree and carried his body back to Egypt where she hid him from Set in the swampy region of the Nile Delta. She left him to go gather herbs to make a potion to return him to life, leaving her sister Nephthys to guard the body. While she was gone, Set learned of his brother’s return and went out to find his body. He managed to get Nephthys to tell him where it was, and when he found it, he hacked it into pieces and scattered it across the land and into the Nile. When Isis returned, she was horrified but quickly composed herself and went to work finding the pieces of her murdered husband. With Nephthys’ help, she recovered all of the body parts except the penis, which had been thrown into the Nile and eaten by the oxyrhyncus fish, which is why this fish was forbidden food in ancient Egypt.

Isis was able to revive Osiris and, once he was alive, she assumed the form of a kite and flew around him, drew the seed from his body into her own, and became pregnant with a son, Horus. Even though Osiris now lived, he was incomplete and could no longer rule the land of the living. He withdrew into the afterlife where he became Lord and Judge of the Dead. Isis, fearing what Set might do to her son, hid Horus among the swamps of Egypt until he was grown. At that point, Horus emerged as a mighty warrior and battled Set for control of the world. In some versions of the story, Set is killed but, in most, he is defeated and driven from the land. The chaos Set had unleashed on the world was conquered by Horus, who restored order, and then ruled with his mother.

Source: Ancient History (www.ancient.eu)