The memorial temple of Queen Hatshepsut in Deir El Bahri is one of the most prominent temples we have in Egypt. It is located in the west bank of the River Nile 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 mentioning, this architect prepared a secret tomb for himself, and left his portrait in one of the secret corners in this temple.
Hatshepsut Temple was found next to the temple of Pharaoh Mentuhotep I. By the way, 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. By 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 Queen Hatshepsut is considered as semi-rock one. Its ground rooms are combined in it with a sanctuary, carved into the rocks. The temple consists of three terraces-steps, towering above each other and connected by gentle stairs-ramps.
Lower Terrace of the temple
The lower terrace, which serves as the central courtyard, is surrounded by a wall decorated with stone statues of falcon. From the west, the courtyard is closed by a 22-column portico, divided in the middle by a ramp-staircase. It was framed by monumental figures of lions, and on the sides of the portico stand colossal 8-meter high figures of Queen Hatshepsut. These statues are shaped 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. Here 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. Once in its center there was an artificial pond surrounded by trees. The western part of the terrace is also decorated with a portico with tetrahedral monolithic columns, 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. At the opposite end of the terrace are reliefs depicting an expedition sent by the queen to the legendary country of Punt and bringing 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. 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 is intended to personify the unity of Egypt. The ladder is
framed by a pair of sphinxes, carved from red Aswan granite.
The upper terrace was intended for the main temple rituals. Here, 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. These huge statues were visible far from the ships sailing down the Nile. The whole terrace was surrounded by columns. Here there were several small chapel churches. The sanctuary of the goddess Hathor, the patroness of Queen Hatshepsut, was located in the southern wing of the portico.
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, and its doors were made of “black copper” inlaid with electra
(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 brought to our days the appearance of the ancient ruler: a face oval narrowed to the chin, a small mouth, almond-shaped eyes under wide arches of eyebrows, eyelids line with the help of makeup were 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 recreate the portrait appearance of the queen.
Temple after death of Hatshepsut
The luxurious decoration of the temple of Queen Hatshepsut did not last long. After the death of the queen, the legitimate heir of Thutmos III, who ascended the throne, first of all ordered to destroy all the images of his predecessor all over the country and to erase he inscriptions where her name was mentioned. All the sculptures of the temple were smashed and buried nearby, where many centuries later they were discovered by archaeologists.