The memorial temple of Hatshepsut – in Deir El Bahri, is one of the most prominent temples we have in Egypt. It is located on the west bank of the Nile River in Luxor, Luxor governorate. It is a semi-rock-carved temple. This aspect was unusual for that time. Indeed, the temple of Queen Hatshepsut became a real engineering marvel of the ancient builders. Now, we consider it as one of the most famous structures of ancient Egyptian architecture.
The construction of the funeral temple began during the life of Hatshepsut. The court architect, Senmut, built this amazing temple. Worth noticing that this architect prepared a secret tomb for himself and left his portrait in one of the secret corners in this temple.
The Ancient Egyptians found the Hatshepsut Temple next to the temple of Pharaoh Mentuhotep I. Please, note that Mentuhotep was the ancestor of the pharaohs of the XVIII dynasty. The area where the temple of Hatshepsut is located has an Arabic name – Deir el-Bahri. According to its enormous size and abundance of decorative ornaments, this temple surpasses all other similar structures of Ancient Egypt. It stands out sharply with a view over the temples of Ancient Egypt.
Structure of Hatshepsut Temple
Temple of Hatshepsut is a semi-rock one. Its ground rooms are combined with a sanctuary, carved into the rocks. The temple consists of three terrace steps, towering above each other and connected by gentle stair-ramps. We list these features as follows:
Lower Terrace of the temple.
The second terrace of the temple.
Also, the Upper Terrace of the temple.
Lower Terrace of the temple
A wall surrounds the lower terrace, which serves as the central courtyard. This wall is decorated with stone statues of a falcon. From the west, a 22-column portico closes the courtyard. A ramped staircase divides this courtyard in the middle. It was framed by monumental figures of lions, and on the sides of the portico stand colossal 8-meter high figures of Queen Hatshepsut. The Ancient Egyptian artists shaped these statues in the form of the god Osiris. The portico is decorated with painted reliefs depicting Queen Hatshepsut, trampling on enemies and making a sacrifice to god Amun. Hereabouts, you can see scenes of military parades, a chain of slaves, and episodes of construction work.
Second terrace of the temple
A staircase that cuts through the portico leads to the second terrace of Hatshepsut Temple. Once in its centre, there was an artificial pond surrounded by trees. The western part of the terrace is also decorated with a portico with tetrahedral monolithic columns. It is also dissected by a staircase and serving as the basis for the third, upper terrace. On the walls of the portico are preserved relief compositions dedicated to the life of Queen Hatshepsut. Here, the mother of the future ruler of Egypt, Queen Ahmes, is married to the god Amun-Ra.
Then there are scenes of the birth of Hatshepsut from this “divine” marriage, her coronation, receiving blessings from the goddess Hathor, … etc. The reliefs, at the opposite end of the terrace, are depicting an expedition sent by the queen. Hatshepsut sent this expedition to the legendary country of Punt to bring back many jewels and rare plants. According to most researchers, the country Punt should be understood as the east coast of Africa. Probably, the same country was in ancient times known to the inhabitants of the Middle East under the name Ophir. The reliefs depict monkeys, panthers, giraffes, huts on stilts – typically African scenes.
Upper Terrace of the temple
The staircase leading to the upper terrace is decorated with sculptures of giant cobras, on the back of each of which sits a falcon. These are heraldic figures symbolizing Upper (cobra) and Lower (falcon) Egypt, and the whole composition personifies the unity of Egypt. The ladder is framed by a pair of sphinxes, carved from red Aswan granite.
The upper terrace hosted the main temple rituals. Therefore, the entrance to the Hatshepsut sanctuary cut into the rocks. The facade of the sanctuary is a portico with four-sided columns, in front of each of which once stood a monumental statue of the queen. Thus, these huge statues were gloriously visible far from the ships sailing down the Nile. The columns surrounded the whole terrace. Also, there were several small chapel churches. In the southern wing of the portico located the sanctuary of the goddess Hathor, the patroness of Queen Hatshepsut.
In the depths beyond the colonnade of the portico, a mysterious labyrinth of underground halls cut into the rocks opens up. Their floors of the halls were lined with gold and silver plates; cedar doors were inlaid with bronze; the walls were decorated with faceted columns, and the arches were covered with brightly painted reliefs. The entrance to the main hall was framed by three-meter statues of Queen Hatshepsut in the form of the god Osiris. However, Ancient Egyptians made its doors of “black copper” inlaid with Electra (an alloy of gold with silver).
In the main hall of the underground sanctuary, there was a huge marble statue of the queen. Unfortunately, only fragments have survived from it. In total, there were more than two hundred statues in the temple, 140 of them sphinxes. Sculptures from the temple of Hatshepsut are the most outstanding examples of ancient Egyptian art of the XVIII dynasty. They depict Queen Hatshepsut in three forms: in the form of a pharaoh, in the form of the god Osiris, and in the guise of a sphinx. These portraits bring to mind the appearance of the ancient ruler: a face oval narrowed to the chin, a small mouth, almond-shaped eyes under wide arches of eyebrows. The eyelids line, with the help of makeup, was extended to the temples.
On all the statues, the sculptors tried to convey the portrait resemblance exactly, but if large statues (8 and 5 m high), which were part of the exterior of the temple, only the general resemblance was outlined and only the most characteristic features were reproduced. The statues from the main shrine, which had a cult character, were made first great masters and in a very thin and soft manner to recreate the portrait appearance of the queen.
Temple of Hatshepsut after her Death
The luxurious decoration of the temple of Hatshepsut did not last long. In fact, after the death of the queen, the legitimate heir Thutmose III, who ascended the throne, first of all, ordered to destroy all the images of his predecessor all over the country and to erase the inscriptions where her name existed. All the sculptures of the temple were smashed and buried nearby.Recently, archaeologists discovered these sculptures after many centuries of ignorance.