Deir el-Bahari is the home of the temple of Thutmose III. Located right in the centre of the Deir el-Bahari valley, the temple sits on a rocky platform. Hence, it dominates over the other surrounding structures. The Temple of Hatshepsut and Mentuhotep Nebhepetre surround the design itself.
These particular temples date back to the Eleventh dynasty. These temples, along with the temple of Thutmose III, form a splendid relic of ancient Egypt.
Location of Temple of Thutmose III
The temple of Thutmose III stands at Deir el-Bahari. Qurna mountain separates this temple from the Valley of the Kings. Additionally, also called the Northern Monastery on the west bank of the Nile across Luxor city.
History of the Temple of Tuthmose III
The temple construction occurred in the last decade of Thutmose III’s reign. We can guess that it was around 1435-1425 BC. Most probably, the temple saw destruction by an earthquake. It happened at the beginning of the twenty-first dynasty. Many discoveries took place eventually. One of them was the fragments of walls covered with relief decoration.
Moreover, the building modelled the neighbouring terraced temples. It resembles their pillared porticoes that flanked the ramps leading to higher levels.
Djeser-Akhet (“Holy of Horizon”) is another name for this structure. Later on, archaeologists unearthed the remains of the temple of Thutmose III in the years 1962 to 1967.
Prof Kazimierz Michalowski started these excavations. He was the director of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of Warsaw in Cairo. A resumption of work was done in 1978 to rebuild the temple’s decorations.
Thutmose III ruled Egypt during the 18th dynasty. The Egyptian pharaoh reigned between 1479 and 1425 BCE. The son of the Pharaoh Thutmose II and Isis lost his father at three years old. Since the king was too young to rule Egypt, his stepmother served as a regent.
Later on, Hatsheput declared herself as the pharaoh. Hence, making Thutmose commander of Egypt’s great armies. At the death of Hatshepsut, Thutmose III finally took the throne and ruled Egypt.
The king expanded the borders of Egypt into Syria, Palestine, Megiddo, and Mitanni. He successfully gained control of Nubia’s gold mines. Hence, increasing the treasury of Egypt and establishing himself as a great ruler.
Orientation of the Temple
A small elevated terrace immediately northwest of the funerary temple of Mentuhotep II houses the temple of Thutmose III. The temple was smaller than other complexes erected earlier at Deir el-Bahari. Hence, positioned tightly between Mentuhotep II and the temple of Hatshepsut immediately to the northeast.
The more significant part of the temple of Thutmose lies above the upper terrace of the temple of Hatshepsut. It rests on a square platform partially cut from the rock. Additionally, the platform partly constitutes loose stones supported by stone revetment.
Purpose of the Temple
The temple honours the god Amun primarily. Moreover, it reveres both the forms of the god; Amun-Re and Amun-Kamutef. The temple probably lent some role in the funerary cult of the pharaoh. However, the king’s actual funerary temple Hankhet-Ankh is a short distance away. It’s a bit south of Deir el-Bahari, adjacent to the hill of Qurna.
Historians say that the temple might have played an essential role in the ‘Beautiful Feast of the Valley.’ This Ancient Egyptian festival celebrated the dead. Initially, the temple Hatshepsut fulfilled the purpose of this festival. However, most probably, the temple of Thutmose received the god’s ship during its travel.
Rekhmire, the high official, vizier to Thutmose III, supervised the temple’s construction. It happened in the last decade of the king’s reign. William C. Hayes published documentary evidence that the building started in regnal year 42. The temple itself compromises both sandstone and limestone.
It probably didn’t get completed by regnal year 54, when the king died. Therefore, the structure saw completion through the king’s successor Amenhotep II.
Discovery of the temple
Scholars believed that the temple witnessed vast destruction by the end of the 20th dynasty. A landslide some 250 years after its completion could have caused this. Subsequently, the temple got plundered of its sandstone building blocks.
Finally, the built-up portion of its supporting platform saw a complete collapse. It led to the southeastern corner of the temple falling on the temple of Mentuhotep below.
However, a causeway existed leading up to the actual site. Archaeologists discovered the temple in the 1960s. They recovered relief fragments from Djeser-Akhet amongst the rubble of temple Mentuhotep II. The Egypt Exploration Society excavators found these fragments and foreshadowed the temple’s rediscovery several decades later.
Reconstruction of the temple
The temple of Thutmose III had large-scale destruction. In turn, it hindered the process of reconstruction. However, the upper terrace saw reconstruction due to the outlines of the walls. These were visible on the remains of the pavements. Moreover, the partly preserved column bases and shafts also showcased the shapes.
The excavations led to tens of thousands of relief fragments and wall inscriptions. Moreover, they also found statuettes, steles of dignitaries and sculptures of the ruler. This discovery included a 2 metre tall stone statue of Thutmose III.
PCMA UW resumed its work in 1978 and continues it today. It cooperates with the National Museum in Warsaw and the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. Their prime purpose is to focus on reconstructing the relief and architectural decoration. They also document and preserve polychrome bas reliefs. Since 2008, Monika Dolinska has directed the work.
Presently a small section of the western wall survives with some chambers. These structures saw restoration for most of the part. Moreover, the painted reliefs are held in position by polychrome blocks.
The excavation at the temple continues to provide interesting material. Archaeologists gain valuable insights into the crucial period of Ancient Egyptian civilisation.
Visitors see the grand temples that stand side by side in the Deir el-Bahari complex. The temple of Thutmose III boasts the royal power that the king held during his time. Despite the state of its destruction, the temple has unearthed precious insights into the lives of the Kings.