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Pharaoh-Seti-I

Seti I

Seti I – Menmaatre Seti I (or Sethos I as in Greek) was a pharaoh of the New Kingdom Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt, the son of Ramesses I and Sitre, and the father of Ramesses II. As with all dates in Ancient Egypt, the actual dates of his reign are unclear, and various historians claim different dates, with 1294 BC to 1279 BC[4] and 1290 BC to 1279 BC[5] being the most commonly used by scholars today.

The name ‘Seti’ means “of Set”, which indicates that he was consecrated to the god Set (also termed “Sutekh” or “Seth”). As with most pharaohs, Seti had several names. Upon his ascension, he took the prenomen “mn-m3‘t-r‘ “, usually vocalized as Menmaatre, in Egyptian, which means “Established is the Justice of Re.”[1] His better known nomen, or birth name, is transliterated as “sty mry-n-ptḥ” or Sety Merenptah, meaning “Man of Set, beloved of Ptah”. Manetho incorrectly considered him to be the founder of the 19th dynasty, and gave him a reign length of 55 years, though no evidence has ever been found for so long a reign.

The spectacular tomb of Seti I reveals the importance of his reign. As the son of Ramses I, Seti was only the second pharaoh of the 19th dynasty. However, many Egyptologists consider him the greatest pharaoh of the New Kingdom.

A Military Man

As the son of Ramses I and Queen Sitre, Seti Merenptah followed in his father’s footsteps as a military man. Egyptians considered him a powerful man, and he earned multiple titles, including troop commander, vizier and head archer. He led many campaigns during the reign of his father and during his own reign.

Upon the death of his father, Seti took the name Menmaatre Seti as his official pharaoh name, which meant “Established is the Justice of Re.” He married Tuya, the daughter of a military lieutenant. They had four children together. Their third child, Ramses II, would succeed Ramses on the throne in approximately 1279 BC.

Blurring of Dates

The exact dates of Seti’s reign are uncertain. Egyptian pharaohs frequently changed the dates of previous reigns to remove unpopular pharaohs from history. Because of this practice, many theories exist as to when rulers actually ascended to the throne and how long they remained in power.

Most researchers believe Seti reigned from 1290 BC to 1279 BC. Estimates of this vary from 5 to 20 years. The longest estimate is that he ruled for 55 years, although there is little evidence to this claim. Because of the revisions to history, birth and death dates are unknown.



Restoration of Egypt

Seti’s strong military experience played a major role during his reign. He personally led many military campaigns into Syria and Lybia. He continued expanding Egypt to the east and worked to restore the empire to the past glory of the 18th dynasty. His troops were the first Egyptian forces to meet the Hittites in battle, keeping them from invading Egypt.

Egyptians knew Seti as the “Repeater of Births,” meaning he began an era of order and restoration. Approximately 30 years had elapsed between the reigns of Tutankhamen and Seti I. The pharaohs during this time period focused on the restoration of not only the empire, but also the reliefs vandalized during the reign of King Akhenaten. Egyptologists recognize Seti I as the best known of all the restorer pharaohs due to his marking of repairs with his name.

Many of Seti’s restorations and additions are considered continuations of work left incomplete by previous rulers. He continued the work started by his father on the great Hypostyle hall at Karnak. He also began the construction of the Great Temple of Abydos, but left it to be finished by his son.

Seti’s Tomb

Archaeologist Giovanni Belzoni discovered the tomb of Seti I in October of 1817. Located in the Valley of the Kings in western Thebes, the tomb features an amazing display of display of tomb paintings covering the walls, columns and ceilings. The paintings and bas reliefs provide researchers with valuable information full of meaning and symbolism.

The quality of the reliefs throughout the parts of the building probably surpasses anything found at any other New Kingdom site.

Belzoni considered the tomb the finest tomb of all the pharaohs. Hidden passageways revealed secret rooms, while long corridors served to confuse tomb robbers. Despite the amazing tomb, Seti’s sarcophagus and mummy were missing. It would take archaeologists 70 years to find the final resting place of Seti I.

In 1881, Seti’s mummy was found in the mummy cache at Deir el-Bahri. Damage to his alabaster sarcophagus indicated that his tomb had been robbed and his body disturbed during antiquity. His mummy was damaged, but he had been carefully repaired and re-wrapped.

Examinations of his mummy revealed Seti died of unknown causes before the age of forty. Some researchers believe he died of an illness involving his heart. The hearts of most pharaohs remained in place during mummification. Seti’s mummified heart was located on the wrong side of the body, leading to the theory that perhaps it had been relocated in an effort to cleanse it of disease.

Sources: wikipedia, ancient-egypt-online.com. Reliefs image source: Flicker (kairoinfo4u).

Ahmose-bust

Ahmose I

Ahmose I (Egyptian: Jˁḥ ms(j.w), sometimes written Amosis I, “Amenes” and “Aahmes” and meaning Born of Iah[5]) was a pharaoh of ancient Egypt and the founder of the Eighteenth dynasty. He was a member of the Theban royal house, the son of pharaoh Seqenenre Tao and brother of the last pharaoh of the Seventeenth dynasty, King Kamose. During the reign of his father or grandfather, Thebes rebelled against the Hyksos, the rulers of Lower Egypt. When he was seven years old his father was killed,[6] and he was about ten when his brother died of unknown causes, after reigning only three years. Ahmose I assumed the throne after the death of his brother,[7] and upon coronation became known as Neb-Pehty-Re (The Lord of Strength is Re). The name Ahmose is a combination of the divine name ‘Ah’ (see Iah) and the combining form ‘-mose’.

Egypt’s 18th Dynasty that established the New Kingdom is, to most people interested in Egypt, a dynasty of stars. It is the dynasty of Tutankhamun who was a fairly minor king, but perhaps the best known of any of the pharaohs. It was also the dynasty of the well known Akhenaten, and of Queen Hatshepsut.

The founder of this Dynasty is less well known to the general public, but unquestionably of major importance to Egyptian history. He was Ahmose I, during who’s reign Egypt was finally and completely liberated from the Hyksos. Various scholars attribute different dates to his reign, but he probably became ruler of Egypt around 1550 BC at the age of 10, and ruled for a period of around 25 years before his death (examination of his well preserved mummy suggest he was about 35 when he died).

Ahmose I (Amosis to the Greeks) was given the birth name Ah-mose (The Moon is Born). His thrown name was Neb-pehty-re (The Lord of Strength is Re). He was probably a boy when he assumed the thrown, having lost his father Seqenenre Taa II and his brother Kahmose within three years of each other. His mother was Queen Ashotep, a powerful woman who was perhaps his co-regent during his early years.

Egyptologists believe that during his very early reign, little was probably accomplished and perhaps the Hyksos may have even gained some ground, recapturing Heliopolis. However, by the end of his first decade in power, we know from an Autobiography of Ahmose, son of Ibana, a naval officer from El-Kab, that he laid siege on Avaris (The tomb of Ahmose Pennekheb, another soldier also records the campaigns). This was a long battle interrupted by the need to put down insurrections in already liberated territories, but appears to have been successful sometime between his 12th and 15th year as ruler. Afterwards, he attacked the southwest Palestinian fortress of Sharuhen in a six year siege that would finally put an end to Hyksos control of Egypt.

Stele of Ahmose I – Egyptian_Museum

Next, he turned his attention to Nubia (Kush) and, while Kamose (his predecessor) may have gained some ground prior to his death, Ahmose I pushed the boundaries south to the Second Cataract. Here, he established a new civil administration at Buhen probably initially headed by a Viceroy named Djehuty.

Apparently, while Ahmose I was in Nubia, former Hyksos allies again attempted a few uprising in the north lead by an arch enemy of Kamose named Teti-en. In this instance, Ahmose I’s mother, Ahhotpe, was probably responsible for putting down the rebellion and for this she was awarded the gold flies, an award for valor that was found on her mummy in her intact tomb at Thebes.

After Ahmose I’s campaigns in Nubia, he once again returned to Palestine during his 22nd year in power and may have fought his way as for as the Euphrates, according to information on a stela of Tuthmosis I.

Ahmose I married his sister, Ahmose-Nefertiri, who became Egypt’s first great God’s Wife of Amun, and had a number of children including:

  • Merytamun – eldest daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (died young)
  • Tair – daughter of Kasmut
  • Satamun – 2nd daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (died infant)
  • Sapair – eldest son of Ahmose-Nefertari (died young)
  • Saamen – 2nd son of Ahmose-Nefertari (died infant)
  • Aahotep – 3rd daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (Queen)
  • Amenhotep I – 3rd son of Ahmose-Nefertari (King)
  • Satkames – 4th daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (died aged 30)
  • Henttameh- daughter of Thenthapi
  • Ahmose – daughter

We also know from Ahmose, son of Ibana that he supported his reign and rewarded local princes who had supported the Theban cause during the Second Intermediate Period by gifts of land (as recorded in Ahmose, son of Ibana’s tomb at el-Kab). We also know that he initiated some temple building projects, notably at Abydos. However, though we know he reopened the Tura limestone quarries, little survives of his construction apart form a few additions to the temples of Amun and Montu at Karnak. However, a recent Dutch-Egyptian team of archaeologists believe they may have unearthed the remains of Ahmose’s palace in the Al-Dabaa area in the Sharqiya Governorate of Egypt, a location that was probably the ancient Hyksos capital.

He was buried in the Dra Abu el-Naga area, but his tomb has yet to be found. His actual mummy was found in the Deir el-Bahari cache. He did have a cenotaph at South Abydos, consisting of a cliff temple and a pyramid and temple on the edge of the Nile valley. The pyramid which measures about 70 meters square is the last known royal example built in Egypt. Some battle scene decorations within the pyramid may have depicted his wars with the Hyksos. In these scenes are some of the earliest representation of horses in Egypt.

kernak-luxor-columns

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple – Luxor East Bank, Upper Egypt. Thebes was the capital of New Kingdom Egypt. It had grown in importance throughout the Middle Kingdom, when it was a sanctuary of the god, Montu. Karnak and Luxor Temples together were known as Waset, Thebes was the later Greek name for the town. The history of Karnak Temple and its gods is told in three performances in different languages each evening in a spectacular Sound and Light Show.

Karnak is the biggest temple complex in the world, covering an area of 100 hectares and there is nowhere more impressive to the first-time visitor. Much of it has been restored during the last century and our knowledge of the buildings here in different periods of Egyptian history is still increasing each year. In ancient times, Karnak was known as Ipet-isut, ‘The most select of places’.

The temples are built along two axes (east-west and north-south) with the original Middle Kingdom shrines built on a mound in the centre of what is now called the Temple of Amun.

On the west side is the entrance to the temple used by visitors which was once a quay built by Rameses II to give access via a canal to the river Nile. This is where boats carrying statues of the gods would have arrived and departed from the temple during festivals, such as Opet, and from where the cult statue of Amun would leave on its weekly tour of the west bank temples such as Deir el-Bahri and Medinet Habu. There are many names of kings on the quay each recording the levels of inundations during their reigns.

On the right, in front of the first pylon, is a small barque shrine built by Hakor in Dynasty XXIX, which was used as a resting place during the gods’ professional journey to and from the river.

An avenue of ram-headed sphinxes leads the visitor towards the massive front of the first pylon, each one holding a statue of the king, Rameses II, in its paws (later usurped by Pinudjem of Dynasty XXI). The sphinxes were fantastic beasts with the body of a lion and the head of a ram, a symbol of the god Amun.

The first pylon is unfinished and its height, originally of 43m, is still pretty impressive. There is no certainty as to who built it, but it’s thought that it may have been the Dynasty XXV king Taharqo whose buildings are in the forecourt. Alternatively, it may have been constructed by Nectanebo I of Dynasty XXX who built the temenos walls which link to the pylon and surround the temple complex. The remains of a mudbrick ramp can still be seen on the inner side of the pylon, the only example we have, and which shows how the pylon was constructed.

The forecourt is now inside the entrance pylon but would have originally been outside the main temple. In the centre are the remains of the giant Kiosk of the Nubian pharaoh, Taharqo, with its one complete papyrus column still standing. It is worth remembering that Karnak Temple was built to expand outwards from a central core, the oldest part being in the middle of the main axis, behind the sanctuary of Amun.

To the north of the forecourt and adjoining the first pylon, is the triple barque shrine of Seti II, with three rooms built to contain the barques of Mut, Amun and Khonsu, the gods of the Theban triad.

On the south side of the forecourt is the entrance to a temple of Rameses III, who was not satisfied with the simple way-stations of his ancestors and built an elaborate barque shrine designed as a mini-version of his mortuary temple at Medinet Habu on the west bank. Its first court is lined with Osirid statues of Rameses and its walls show festival scenes and texts. Next to this is the ‘Bubastite gate’, built by Sheshonq of Dynasty XXII, the biblical king ‘Shishak’.

The second pylon was built by Horemheb but not completed until the reign of Seti I. Seti’s son Rameses II built two colossal statues of himself which stood in front of the pylon gate. A third statue of Rameses II still stands in situ and has a tiny statue of his daughter Bent’anta between its feet. This statue was later usurped by Rameses VI then the High Priest Pinudjem I. Inside the walls of this pylon many of the sandstone talatat blocks from the Akhenaten temple were found which had been reused as infill in the construction of the walls.

Through the entrance of the second pylon is the famous hypostyle hall. Standing amongst its 134 gigantic columns the visitor can’t help but be awe inspired by the grandeur of the place. The centre 12 columns are larger (21m tall) and have open papyrus capitals, which may have been intended to symbolise the original ‘mound of creation’. The other 122 columns are smaller (15m) and have closed capitals, perhaps representing the swamp which surrounded the mound.

The hypostyle hall was begun by Amenhotep III who built the side walls which close off the space between the second and third pylons. It was not completed until the reign of Seti I who carved his beautiful raised reliefs around the walls of the northern half. His son Rameses II completed the decoration of the southern half of the walls and pillars, often overcarving his father’s reliefs with his own crude sunk relief carvings including temple foundation rituals. ‘Rameses the Great’ was not going to be forgotten.

Both Seti and Rameses have left us fine examples of temple ritual and the relationship of the pharaohs with their gods. Accounts of their battle exploits are carved around the outer walls. It was Rameses who added a roof of stone slabs to the hall and we can imagine the dim, mysterious atmosphere it would have had, lit only by the high clerestory windows. The pillars are very close together and it’s difficult to get an overview of the hypostyle hall. When it was in use the spaces between the columns would have been filled with statues of gods and kings. Looking back at the hypostyle hall from beyond the third pylon we can see just how high it must once have been.

The third pylon was built by Amenhotep III and beyond this to the east, we move towards the older part of the temple, built in early Dynasty XVIII. Many reused blocks have also been found inside the third pylon from buildings which are now being reconstructed in the open-air museum. One of a pair of obelisks of Tuthmose I is still standing in the area between the third and fourth pylon and the bases of a pair belonging to Tuthmose III can also be seen. The north-south axis of the temple branches off from this court.

It seems that each successive pharaoh was compelled to build bigger and better than his forebears. As we get closer to the sanctuary area, the original Temple of Amun, the pylons get smaller and closer together. The fourth and fifth pylons, built by Tuthmose I are much smaller than the third and the area between them is the oldest extant part of the temple. This area was once a pillared hall containing wide papyrus columns – perhaps the prototype of the hypostyle hall and had huge Osirid statues of Tuthmose I lining its walls. It was later restored and added to by various pharaohs, including his daughter Hatshepsut who built two red granite obelisks here, one of which still remains, and the pyramidion of the other lies on its side near the sacred lake. The texts on Hatshepsut’s obelisk give important details of the building of the monument from a single piece of granite and gilded with the finest gold. It is dedicated to her father Amun and it attempts to legitimise her claim to the throne.

Not much remains of the sixth pylon which was built by Hatshepsut’s successor, Tuthmose III, apart from texts giving details of captured prisoners on its lower walls. The area before the sanctuary contains two beautiful pillars, sometimes called the pillars of the north and south, erected by Tuthmose III. The northern pillar shows the emblem of Lower Egypt, the papyrus, and the southern one is the lily (or Lotus) of Upper Egypt.

The sanctuary now standing is a granite barque shrine which was built by the Greek Philip Arrhidaeus and replaces an earlier shrine of Tuthmose III. The rooms surrounding the shrine were built by Hatshepsut, who had constructed an even earlier shrine here. If we walk around the passage we can see a statue pair representing Amun and Amunet, dedicated by Tutankhamun and thought to show the face of the boy-king.

The open area behind the granite sanctuary is the oldest part of Karnak Temple where the earliest sanctuary once stood, right at the heart of the Temple. In the Middle Kingdom a shrine of Senwosret I stood here but the area was robbed for its stone and all that remains is a large alabaster slab which would have had a shrine built on it. The central court is surrounded by various semi-ruined chambers which contain a wealth of fragmentary but interesting reliefs if you have time to explore them.

Following a paved path along the south side of the central court, the visitor will come to a building known as the Festival Temple of Tuthmose III, anciently called ‘Most splendid of Monuments’ and built as a memorial temple to Tuthmose and his ancestral cult. The pillars inside the hall are said to imitate the ancient tent poles of a pavilion, unique in Egyptian architecture, and still show good remains of the coloured decoration. One of the rooms to the southwest of the pillared hall once contained a table of kings which listed the names of 62 kings and is now in the Louvre in Paris. There are several ruined statues to the north of the hall, in an area which was used as a church in the Coptic era. Behind the columned hall is a suite of rooms dedicated to Amun. A larger room to the north is sometimes known as the Zoological Garden, or Botanical Garden because it contains superb delicate carvings representing plants and animals which Tuthmose encountered on his Syrian campaigns.

A flight of wooden stairs lead over the wall behind the festival temple. In the area leading towards Karnak’s east gate is a small ‘Temple of the Hearing Ear’, built by Rameses II. Here local inhabitants of Thebes would bring their petitions to the gods of Karnak, or rather to the priests who would intercede. This was a tradition suggested by earlier niche shrines built against the back of the Tuthmose complex.

Also just inside the crumbling eastern walls are various remains of later temple structures such as a Colonnade built by Taharqo. The Eastern gate must have been once imposing but is now in quite a ruinous state. Beyond this gate and outside the main temple walls, the scant remains of Amenhotep IV’s (Akhenaten) Karnak temple buildings were discovered. These were excavated in the 1970s and many of the colossal statues of Akhenaten now in the Luxor and Cairo museums came from here.

Following the walls round to the north, we come to the Temple of Ptah. The original three sanctuaries were constructed by Tuthmose III and dedicated to the Memphite god, Ptah. It was restored by the Nubian king Shabaqo and later much added to by the Ptolemies and Romans. There are Ptolemaic screen walls and flowered columns in front of the original sanctuary area. The north and centre sanctuaries were dedicated to Ptah and the southern one to Hathor. Today, in the southern shrine which is usually now kept locked, is a beautifully restored statue of the lioness goddess Sekhmet.

Beyond the temenos wall to the north is the derelict Precinct of Montu, who was the earlier falcon-headed god of the Theban area before Amun gained prominence. The temple was originally built by Amenhotep III and his cartouches can still be seen on some of the blocks in the compound. Several later kings added to the temple and a large propylon gate was built by Ptolemy III in the quay area to the north. There were many smaller adjoining chapels and shrines dedicated to various deities, as well as an avenue of human-headed sphinxes to the north.
Moving west, past the shrines of the ‘God’s Wives of Amun’, we come to the Open Air Museum which houses various blocks and reconstructed shrines found in other parts of Karnak. Most of the fragments here were found inside the second and third pylons or in the floor of the court of the seventh pylon.

The limestone barque shrine of Senwosret I is an airy structure, built as a ‘way-station’ for the king’s jubilee. On its beautifully carved square pillars, we see the king offering to Amun in his ithyphallic form. Next to this is a shining white alabaster shrine built by Amenhotep II, a much simpler construction, and also a similar shrine built by Tuthmose IV. Also here, archaeologists are reconstructing parts of a Temple of Tuthmose IV towards the back of the museum, which are showing some very fine reliefs. One of the most recent reconstructions in the open-air museum is the ‘Red Chapel’ of Hatshepsut which was the original Sanctuary of Amun at the heart of Karnak. It was dismantled by Tuthmose III who rebuilt his own sanctuary, reusing Hatshepsut’s door jambs. Later Amenhotep III made use of the red chapel’s blocks as part of the filling of his third pylon, which is why they have survived in such good condition. French archaeologists have spent the past few years rebuilding the chapel from the available blocks – a very difficult task due to the original construction techniques.
On the other side of the Temple of Amun, to the south, the visitor comes to the Sacred Lake. The area in the foreground was originally a fowl yard and the domesticated birds belonging to Amun were driven from here through a stone tunnel into the lake each day. The lake is overlooked by seating for the Sound and Light show today, but underneath here the remains of priests’ houses were found.

Pylons seven, eight, nine and ten run on a north-south axis to the main temple, called the transverse axis. When the court before the seventh pylon was excavated, a treasure store of 751 stone statues and stelae were found, along with over 17,000 bronzes which now form a large portion of the Cairo Museum collections. Some of the statues can now be seen in the Luxor Museum. They were probably buried in the Ptolemaic Period, but no-one knows exactly why.

The way through the eighth to tenth pylons is blocked due to work in progress. The ninth pylon at present is being painstakingly taken down and reconstructed. Blocks from local Aten temples were used as infill here and we can see some of these talatat blocks of Akhenaten now in the Luxor Museum. To the east of the ninth pylon is a chapel commemorating Amenhotep II’s jubilee, restored after the Amarna Period by Seti I.

In the south-west corner of the Amun precinct, we come to the Temple of Khonsu – ‘son’ of Amun and Mut, a well-preserved small temple from the late New Kingdom, built towards the end of the Ramesside Period. The temple has the feeling that it is built in miniature, with squat pillars and low ceilings, which seems appropriate for Khonsu, the child. Reliefs in the rooms to the back of the temple still have some good colour, including this unusual depiction of a lion-headed ithyphallic god.

A doorway from the Khonsu Temple leads through to a later structure adjacent to it. This is a temple dedicated to the hippopotamus goddess Apet, or Opet (not to be confused with the festival of Opet). She is said to have helped women in childbirth, possibly a later aspect of the goddess Tauret. Reliefs inside the temple, however, depict the funeral rites of Osiris, in the Graeco-Roman tradition.

Karnak can be a confusing place, its buildings spanning a long period in Egyptian history. Most visitors on guided tours have very little time to see much of the temple, and many visits are needed to get even a brief idea of the temple as a whole.

How to get there

Karnak Temple is on the northern edge of the town of Luxor. It is within walking distance from the Corniche, but visitors may prefer to take a taxi or a caleche (horse-drawn carriage) each way from the centre of town. Karnak temple is open from 6.00am to 4.30pm in winter and tickets cost EGP 65. To visit he open-air museum and extra ticket costing EGP 25 is required.

hatchepsut

Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut – Foremost of Noble Ladies. Hatshepsut was born in the 18th Dynasty. This Dynasty is also referred to as the New Kingdom. Hatshepsut entered this world as the daughter of royal parents. Her father was Tuthmosis I and ruled Egypt for approximately 12 to 14 years. Her mother was Ahmes. Ahmes was the sister of Amenophris I (Pharaoh who ruled Egypt for 21 years). In addition to Hatshepsut, Tuthmosis I and Ahmes had a son. They named him Anenemes. By birthright, Anenemes should have inherited the throne as the son of Tuthmosis I and Ahmes; however, he never became king.

Hatshepsut, on the other hand, went on to rule Egypt in later years for approximately 21 years. Hatshepsut ruled Egypt between 1479-1458/57. She ruled in a time when women were allowed to own property and to hold official positions. They were given rights to inherit from deceased family members and were allowed to present their cases in court. Women of Ancient Egypt had more freedom than other ancient cultures such as Greece where women were expected to stay home.

Hatshepsut Bust. Image: Dailymail

After the death of Hatshepsut’s father (Tuthmose I), her half-brother (Tuthmose II) succeeded the throne. As it was customary in royal families, the oldest daughter of the pharaoh would marry a brother to keep the royal bloodlines intact. Therefore, Hatshepsut married her half-brother. Tuthmose II was the son of one of her father’s lesser wives (Mutnofret); however, his reign would be short and his life short-lived. It may have been that Tuthmose II died of an illness and thus held the throne only for 14 years.

During their marriage, Hatshepsut and Tuthmose II were not able to produce a male heir but rather had a daughter whom they named Neferure. In later years, it appears that Neferure may have been married to her half-brother (Tuthmose III); much like her mother had married a half-brother in previous years. Tuthmose III was the son of Tuthmose II (Hatshepsut’s husband) and one of his royal concubines named Isis. This bloodline made Tuthmose III a stepson to Hatshepsut. Because Tuthmose III was very young when his father died, Hatshepsut became a co-regent and ruled right alongside the young stepson. It appears that within the second or third year of this co-regency reign, Hatshepsut proclaimed herself king with complete titles. She would be known as Maatkare (Matt is the ka of Ra) and also Khnemet-Amun-Hatshepsut (She who embraces Amun, the foremost of women). After this proclamation, Tuthmosis III would no longer reign as co-regent with Hatshepsut. In order to make Hatshepsut’s proclamation to king more official and more accepting to the Egyptian citizens, she invented a co-regency with her father Tuthmosis I. She even went as far as incorporating this fabricated co-regency into texts and representations. These were found decorating her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri. In addition, and also to make things still more official, Hatshepsut dedicated a chapel to her father in her mortuary temple. She hoped to acquire more acceptance as the new ruler of Egypt by changing the beliefs of her people.

Hatshepsut was a very unique and intelligent individual. She used various strategies to legitimize her position as pharaoh. Not only did she proclaim herself as pharaoh and fabricate a co-regency with her father (Tuthmose I), but she also tried to make herself more god-like by the invention of stories with the attachment to gods. She did this by making it appear as if the gods had spoken to her and her mother while in she was still in her mother’s womb. Hatshepsut misled her subjects and the uneducated public by indicating that Amon-Ra had visited her pregnant mother at the temple in Deir el-Bahri in the Valley of the Kings.

Hatshepsut was unique because she took on several male adornments while she ruled Egypt. Unlike most women of that time, she attached a false beard, wore male clothing, and was depicted in statutes as a pharaoh. She might have done this to make her transition to kingship and the acceptance of the priesthood more convincing. It may be that if she had ruled strictly with a more feminine-looking disposition she may not have been so readily accepted by the masses. Her strategy seemed to work and the priests supported her reign as pharaoh.

There were many prominent figures during her reign but there appears to be one person in particular who was probably foremost in her circle. This prominent person was Senenmut who was born of a humble family in Armant. He came to be known as Hatshepsut’s spokesman and steward of the royal family. In addition, he was known as superintendent of the buildings of the God Amun. During the later years, Hatshepsut had obelisks installed in the Temple of Amon-Re at Karnak. Senenmut supervised the transport and erection of these obelisks as well as the mortuary temple that was built for Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri. 

It appears that he must have been very well favored by the Queen as he had a separate tomb constructed close to Hatshepsut’s tomb for himself. He had this second tomb dugout in front of Queen Hatshepsut’s tomb in spite of owning another tomb at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna. During Hatshepsut’s reign, gossip followed the pair as it was suggested that his good fortune was due as a result of his intimate relations with the Queen. To add to this deduction, it was further fueled by the fact that he played a heavy role in the education of Hatshepsut’s only daughter Neferure. His brother, Senimen, also acted as nurse and steward to Neferure and this caused more gossip to run rampant. Several statues were found associating Senenmut with the Princess Neferure. History shows that Senenmut was a prominent figure during three-fourths of Hatshepsut’s reign and possibly after the death of Neferure (it appears that she died around the 11th year of Hatshepsut’s reign), that he fell out of graces with the queen for unknown reasons. Speculation has it that he may have had some kind of alliance with Tuthmosis III (Hatshepsut’s stepson) and this could have led to the demise of their relationship.

History also shows that the construction of the famous temple of Deir el-Bahri was most probably started by Tuthmose II and later finished by Queen Hatshepsut. The walls of the temple depict major achievements such as the expedition to Punt near the Red Sea. This trading expedition brought back many riches for the country.

To this day, the death of Hatshepsut remains a mystery. It appears that she reigned for fifteen years and her stepson took the throne after her disappearance. It’s also believed that the hatred for his stepmother pushed him to erase the memory, existence, and any depictions of Queen Hatshepsut by destroying any monuments erected during her reign. Although her temple still stands, neither her tomb nor her mummy has ever been found. She has now come to be known as having been the only female pharaoh to erect the most monuments during her reign.

the-Luxor-Temple-Egypt

Luxor Temple

Luxor Temple – Luxor East Bank, Upper Egypt. Within the center of Luxor is the temple once known as ‘Ipet-resyt’ or ‘the southern Opet’ which served as a focal point for the Opet festival. Once a year the divine image of Amun with his consort Mut and their son Khonsu would journey in their sacred barques from Karnak Temples to the temple at Luxor to celebrate the festival which was held during the inundation. Opet’s primary function was religious but the festival was also significant in maintaining the king’s divine role.

The earliest remains found at Luxor Temple date to Dynasty XIII and it is possible that there was a shrine or temple on this site during the Middle Kingdom, but it became more prominent in Dynasty XVIII. It would seem that Hatshepsut first began the overland processional way which linked Karnak and Luxor temples, with barque stations along the route. It was Amenhotep III who constructed the colonnade and court in the heart of the temple which was added to by other pharaohs. Reused blocks of Hatshepsut, Tuthmose III and Amenhotep II from earlier destroyed structures have been found.

Unusually, the temple does not face the river, but its main axis faces Karnak with the remains of an avenue of sphinxes pointing to the professional way. This remaining 200m avenue of human-headed sphinxes was erected by Necatnebo I to replace the original ram-headed sphinxes of Amenhotep III when Nectanebo built an enclosure wall around the precinct. A Roman shrine with a headless statue of Isis can be seen in the north-western corner of the forecourt.

The modern entrance to the temple is to the west and after descending the new stone steps the visitor faces the massive first pylon, 21m high, which was a later addition by Rameses II. Six statues of Rameses stood before the pylon, but only three remain today with one of an original pair of tall obelisks. The northwest obelisk now stands in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. The pylon is decorated on its outer face with scenes of the battles of Rameses II and the famous ‘battle poem’. This is best seen in the early morning sun. The inner face has a dedication text and records of the battle of Kadesh as well as festival scenes. On the south face of the east tower in the first courtyard is a relief showing the exterior of the temple when it was first built, with flags flying on the flagpoles.

Beyond the first pylon is the court of Rameses II which would have been the original forecourt of Amenhotep III’s building. On the north-western side is a triple barque shrine of Amun, Mut and Khonsu constructed in sandstone with features belonging to the earlier structure of Hatshepsut retained in the rebuilding. Rameses’ great court features a colonnade around each of its sides interspaced with colossal statues, many of which the king usurped from Amenhotep III.

When entering the colonnade of Amenhotep III you may notice a slight change in the axis of the earlier part of the temple. This colonnade with its 14 tall papyrus columns was unfinished at Amenhotep’s death and its decoration only completed during the reign of Tutankhamun (and finally completed in the reign of Seti I). Here you can see superbly executed reliefs of the Opet procession to and from karnak on its west and east walls, but Tutankamun’s name has been altered throughout the texts to that of Horemheb. These are best viewed at night when the temple is floodlit, the lighting at the base of the walls throws the decoration into sharp relief.

The colonnade leads into the elegant columned court of Amenhotep III with barque shrines of Mut and Khonsu at its southern end. In 1989 during restoration work, a spectacular cache of statues was found beneath the floor of the eastern side of the court and these can now be seen in the Luxor Museum. Beyond the portico on the south side of the court is a room which was transformed into a cult chapel of the Roman legion based at Luxor during the third century AD. The room was plastered over and this has served to preserve the painted reliefs of Amenhotep III. A niche-shaped shrine is now a modern entrance to a small offering hall or vestibule, with pharaonic scenes of sacrifices and offerings to the gods. Within the sanctuary or barque shrine beyond, a free-standing shrine was built by Alexander the Great in which the Greek king appears as Pharaoh.

A doorway to the east leads to the ‘birth-room’ with its scenes illustrating the myth of the divine birth of Amenhotep III on the west wall. After scenes of the union of Amun with the king’s mother Mutemwiya, the creator god Khnum can be seen fashioning the baby king Amenhotep III with his ka behind him. Mutemwiya is shown giving birth and the newborn king is presented to the gods. These interesting scenes which claim the legitimacy of the king and his divine right to rule are also best seen when lit up at night.

Behind the sanctuary is a private antechamber known as the ‘Opet (harem) suite’, a broad hall with 12 columns which opens into a number of smaller chambers behind. These chambers are said to have a special significance relating to the creation and solar mythologies of Amun and Re at Luxor. The central chamber at the back of the temple was the original holy of holies which still has the remains of the pedestal on which the image of the god rested. It would seem that it was in these rooms that the real mysteries of the temple were enacted.

The exterior walls are also worth a look. The western side depicts the battles of Rameses II including the Syrian and Libyan wars, with details of named fortresses.

During the Roman occupation of Egypt, Luxor Temple was surrounded by a vast military encampment which may have housed as many as 1500 men. By this time the temple would have ceased to have a religious function and it is likely that many blocks from the outer temple buildings were used to supplement the mudbricks of the Roman barracks. Remains of stone pillars and avenues can still be seen all around the temple enclosure.

A Christian basilica was built in the north-eastern corner of the temple and later a mosque dedicated to the Muslim saint Abu’l Hagag was built over the site. This is now a monument in its own right and is a dominant feature of the eastern side of the Rameses court.

How to get there

Luxor Temple is on the Corniche in the central part of the town, opposite the ferry dock. Winter opening hours are 6.00am to 9.00pm and tickets cost EGP 50. In the evening the temple is floodlit and many of the reliefs which are indistinct during the day can be clearly seen.

Amenhotep-III-luxor

Amenhotep III

Amenhotep III 1390 – 1352 BC. Amenhotep III’s long reign of almost 40 years was one of the most pros­perous and stable in Egyptian history. His great-grandfather, Tuthmosis III, had laid the foundations of the Egyptian empire by his campaigns into Syria, Nubia and Libya. Hardly any military action was called for under Amenhotep III, and such little as there was, in Nubia, was directed by his son and viceroy of Kush, Merymose.

Colossal Amenhotep III British Museum

Colossal Amenhotep III British Museum

Amenhotep III was the son of Tuthmosis IV by one of his chief wives, Queen Mutemwiya. It is possible [though now doubted by some) that she was the daughter of the Mitannian king, Artatama, sent to the Egyptian court as part of a diplomatic arrangement to cement the alliance between the strong militarist state of Mitanni in Syria and Egypt. The king’s royal birth is depicted in a series of reliefs in a room on the east side of the temple of Luxor which Amenhotep III built for Amon. The creator god, the ram-headed Khnum of Elephantine, is seen fashioning the young king and his ka (spirit double) on a potter’s wheel, watched by the goddess Isis. The god Amun is then led to his meeting with the queen by ibis-headed Thoth, god of wisdom. Subsequently, Amun is shown standing in the presence of the goddesses Hathor and Mut and nursing the child created by Khnum.

The early years of Amenhotep III

Amenhotep III’s reign falls essentially into two unequal parts. The first decade reflected a young and vigorous king, promoting the sportsman image laid down by his predecessors and with some minor military activity. In Year 5 there was an expedition to Nubia, recorded on rock inscriptions near Aswan and at Konosso in Nubia. Although couched in the usual laudatory manner, the event recorded seems to have been rather low key. An undated stele from Semna (now in the British Museum) also records a Nubian campaign, but whether it is the same one or a later one is uncertain. A rebellion at Ibhet is reported as having been heavily crushed by the viceroy of Nubia, “King’s Son of Kush”, Merymose. Although the king, ”mighty bull, strong in might, the fierce-eyed lion” is noted as having made great slaughter within the space of a single hour, he was probably not present; nevertheless, 150 Nubian men, 250 women, 175 children, 110 archers, and 55 servan a total of 740 – were said to have been captured, to which was added the 312 right hands of the slain.

The opulent years of Amenhotep III

The last 25 years of Amenhotep III’s reign seem to have been a period of great building works and luxury at court and in the arts. The laudatory epithets that accompany the king’s name are more grandiose metaphen than records of fact: he took the Horus name ”Great of Strength who Smites the Asiatics”, when there is little evidence of such a campaign, similarly, ”Plunderer of Shinar” and ”Crusher of Naharin” seem singularly inappropriate, particularly the latter since one of his wives, Gilukhepa, was a princess of Naharin.

The wealth of Egypt at this period came not from the spoils of con­quest, as it had under Tuthmosis III, but from international trade and an abundant supply of gold (from mines in the Wadi Hammamat and from panning gold dust far south into the land of Kush). It was this great wealth and the booming economy that led to such an outpouring of artistic talent in all aspects of the arts.
Since the houses or palaces of the living were regarded as ephemeral, we, unfortunately, have little evidence of the magnificence of a place such as Amenhotep’s Malkata palace. Fragments of the building, how­ever, indicate that the walls were once plastered and painted with lively scenes from nature. Many of the temples he built have been destroyed too. At Karnak he embellished the already large temple to Amun and at Luxor he built a new one to the same god, of which the still standing colonnaded court is a masterpiece of elegance and design. Particular credit is owed to his master architect: Amenhotep son of Hapu.

On the west bank, his mortuary temple was destroyed in the next (19th) dynasty when it, like many of its predecessors, was used as a quarry. All that now remains of this temple are the two imposing stat­ues of the king known as the Colossi of Memnon. (This is in fact a com­plete misnomer, arising from the classical recognition of the statues as the Ethiopian prince, Memnon, who fought at Troy.) Of the two, the southern statue is the best preserved. Standing beside the king’s legs, dwarfed by his stature, are the two important women in his life: his mother Mutemwiya and his wife, Queen Tiy. A quarter of a mile behind the Colossi stands a great repaired stele that was once in the sanctuary and around are fragments of sculptures, the best of which, lying in a pit and found in recent years, is a crocodile-tailed sphinx.

A peak of artistic achievement of Amenhotep III

Some magnificent statuary dates from the reign of Amenhotep III such as the two outstanding couchant rose granite lions originally set before the temple at Soleb in Nubia (but subsequently removed to the temple at Gebel Barlzal further south in the Sudan). There is also a proliferation of private statues, particularly of the architect Amenhotep son of Hapu, but also of many other nobles and dignitaries.

It is in the great series of royal portraits, however, that the sculptor’s art is truly seen. Largest of them all (after the Colossi of Memnon) is the huge limestone statue of the king and queen with three small standing princesses from Medinet Habu. There are many other representations of the king, all of which project the contemplative, almost ethereal, aspect of the king’s features. Magnificently worked black granite seated statues of Amenhotep wearing the nemes headdress have come from excavations behind the Colossi of Memnon (by Belzoni) and from Tanis in the Delta. A number of statues of the king were reworked by later rulers, often by simply adding their cartouches, or occasionally altering the features or aspects of the body, as with the huge red granite head hitherto identified as being Tuthmosis III from Karnak (also found by Belzoni) and reworked by Ramesses II [now in the British Museum). Several portraits in statues, reliefs and wall paintings show the king wearing the helmet-like khepresh, the so-called Blue or War Crown.

One of the most incredible finds of statuary in recent years was made in the courtyard of the Amenhotep III colonnade of the Luxor temple in 1989. It included a superb 6-ft (1.83-m) high pink quartzite statue of the king standing on a sledge and wearing the Double Crown. The only damage the statue had sustained was under Akhenaten when, very carefully, the hated name of Amon was removed from the cartouch when it appeared as part of the king’s name. The inscriptions on the statue and its iconography suggest that it is a work from late in the despite the idealized youthful features of the king. It may possibly have been a cult statue.
The two most widely known portraits of Queen Tiy are the small ebony head in Berlin which, in the past, caused many authorities to sug­gest that she came from south of Aswan, and the petite-faced and crowned head found by Petrie at the temple of Serabit el-Khadim in Sinai which is identified as the queen by her cartouch on the front of her crown. Other fine reliefs of her come from the tombs of some of the courtiers in her service such as Userhet (TT 47) and Kheruef (TT 192).

Death and burial of Amenhotep III

Inscribed clay dockets from the Malkata palace carry dates into at least Year 38 of Amenhotep’s reign, implying that he may have died in his 39th regnal year when he would have been about 45 years old.

His robbed tomb was rediscovered by the French expedition in 1799 in the western Valley of the Kings (KV 22). Amongst the debris, they found a large number of ushabtis of the king, some complete but most­ly broken, made of black and red granite, alabaster and cedar wood. Some were considerably larger than normal. Excavations and clearance by Howard Carter in 1915 revealed foundation deposits of Tuthmosis IV, showing that the tomb had been originally intended for that king. Despite this, the tomb was eventually used for Amenhotep III, and also for Queen Tiy to judge from the fragments found of several different ushabtis of the queen.
Queen Tiy survived her husband by several years – possibly by as many as 12, since she is shown with her youngest daughter, Beket­ Aten, in a relief in one of the Amarna tombs that is dated between Years 9 and 12 of her son’s reign. (Beket-Aten is shown as a very young child and must have been born shortly before Amenhotep died, or even posthumously.) We know from polite enquiries about Tiy”s health in the Amarna Letters (p. 126) that she lived for a while at Akhetaten (modern el-Amarna), the new capital of her son Akhenaten. It has been suggested that there was a period of co-regency between the old king and his successor, but the argument is not proved either way. An inter­esting painted sandstone stele found in a private household shrine at el-Amarna shows an elderly, rather obese Amenhotep III, seated with Queen Tiy. Whether he actually lived for a time in this city is a matter of conjecture; Tiy certainly did and may well have died there, to be taken back to Thebes for burial.

Amenhotep III’s mummy was probably one of those found by Loret in 1898 in the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV 35), although recently it has been suggested that this body was wrongly identified by the ancient priests when it was transferred to the new tomb. On biological grounds, profes­sors Ed Wente and John Harris have proposed it to be the body of Akhenaten, or possibly Ay. A previously unidentified female mummy (the Elder Woman) from the same cache has been tentatively identified as Queen Tiy, based on the examination of her hair and a lock of hair in a small coffin from the tomb of Tutankhamun inscriptionally identified as Tiy”s.

Amenhotep III Names and Burial

Birth name: Amen-hotep (heqa-waset) (Amun is Pleased, Ruler of Thebes)
Throne name: Nub-maat-re (Lord of Tuth is Ra)
Burial: Tomb KV 22, Valley of the Kings, Thebes