Deir el-Bahari is essentially a complex of mortuary temples and tombs. The first monument built here is the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II from the eleventh dynasty. The construction of this temple started in the 21st century BC. Later during the eighteenth dynasty, Amenhotep I and Hatshepsut also constructed monuments at this site. The Arabic word Deir el-Bahari translates to the northern monastery in English. Historically, this name refers to that monastery built there in the 7th century CE.
Location of Deir el-Bahari Complex
This structure stands on the west bank of the Nile, opposite Luxor, Egypt. Undoubtedly, this site forms an integral part of the Theban Necropolis. The peak of el-Qurna separates it from the Valley of Kings. Geographically, it lies on the same axes as the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor in Thebes.
Significance of the location
Hathor was the goddess who nursed and brought up every king. This role included their mythological ancestor, the god Horus. For the goddess, the site of Deir el-Bahari stood to be sacred. Moreover, people believed that a manifestation of the goddess resided in the hills.
Hence, the temple of Hatshepsut lies beneath the shadows of these hills. On the other side lies the Valley of the Kings. The latter is the final resting place of some of the most famous rulers of ancient Egypt.
From these mountains emerge Stelae bearing prayers to Hathor in cow form. This particular geological formation resembles a naturally pyramid-shaped summit. Hence, this is why king Nebhepetre Mentuhotep chose this location as his tomb and mortuary temple.
What constitutes the Deir el-Bahari complex?
The Deir el-Bahari complex consists of three temples. These handcrafted terraces slowly rise towards the cliff face. Hence, this makes for a stunning sight to view. Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s beautiful temple is the most famous structure in the complex. Apart from that, the site also houses two other temples. These temples were a worship place for the pharaohs who built them.
The oldest temple on the site is from the eleventh dynasty. Ancient Egyptians dedicated this temple to the cult of god Amun. Pharaoh Mentuhotep could give himself honour as a god through this mortuary temple. The last temple built in this complex is of pharaoh Thutmose III.
Discovery of these temples in the Deir el-Bahari complex
Three temples from ancient Egypt were lost to time until historians discovered them. Firstly, the temple of king Mentuhotep II lost much of its original structure. Subsequently, historians uncovered the terraced temple of Queen Hatshepsut between 1894-96.
Subsequently, it underwent partial restoration. A polish archaeological mission set out to restore the third terrace sanctuary and retaining wall in 1968. This mission also discovered a third temple by Thutmose III in 1435 BCE between the two earlier temples.
All three temples linked to each other through long causeways to valley temples. It also had docking facilities.
The Features of Deir el-Bahari Complex
Mortuary temple of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep
Mentuhotep II reunited Egypt at the start of the Middle Kingdom. He built an unusual funerary complex. The temple saw construction on several layers in the grand bay of Deir el-Bahari. The following features are so prominent in Deir El-Bahari Complex:
Additionally, a large square structure stands on the terrace. It might represent the primaeval mound. As the temple faces east, the design might relate to the sun cult of Re.
The square structure opens to an unfinished tomb that contains a seated statue of the king. Archaeologists also found the figures of the twelfth dynasty king Senusret III. This temple complex also had six mortuary chapels and shaft tombs. The ancient Egyptians built these tombs for the pharaoh’s wives and daughters.
Mortuary temple of Hatshepsut
The most famous monument in the Deir el-Bahari complex is the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut. It is also known as Djeser-Djeseru or ‘The Holy of Holies.’ This beautiful structure is collonaded and designed by Senenmut. It served the purpose of worshipping the queen and honouring the god Amun.
The temple saw construction into the cliff face that rose sharply above it. Hence it is considered one of the most incomparable monuments of ancient Egypt. It is 97 feet tall. Located in the valley basin of Deir el-Bahari, cliffs surround the temple. Unfortunately, today the terraces of the Deir el-Bahari only represent a faint version of Senenmut’s vision.
Temple of Thutmose III
Thutmose III built a temple complex that worshipped the god Amun. The temple discovered in 1961 played an essential role in the beautiful festival of the valley. Firstly, a landslide in the latter twentieth century caused massive damage to the structure of this temple.
Secondly, the temple served as the source of building materials. Finally, in Christian times it became the site of a Coptic cemetery.
Royal and non-royal Tombs in Deir el-Bahari complex
A hidden recess in the cliffs to the south of the temples revealed a tomb. It contained a cache of forty royal mummies. Priests moved the mummies from the Valley of the Kings to this cache. The hidden mummies were most likely placed there by twenty-first dynasty priests. These priests intended to prevent further desecration and looting.
Originally the tomb was supposed to be the last resting place for priests. Most likely for the family of Pinedjem II from the 21st dynasty. Moreover, in the cache, the mummies of Ahmose I, Amenhotep 1, Thutmose I, Thutmose II, Thutmose III were found. They also found mummies of Ramesses I, Seti I, Ramesses II and Ramesses IX.
Historians also found the twenty-first dynasty High priests and pharaohs Pinedjem I, II in a different room. In addition, situated here are the private tombs from the middle kingdom. These are the two most famous private tombs located at Deir-el Bahari.
The first is of Meketre from the middle kingdom. However, the second is the secret tomb of Senemut. The architect and steward who oversaw the construction of the temple Hatshepsut.
Archaeologists from Warsaw University discovered a treasure chest and wooden box. It dates back to 3500 years in the Egyptian site of Deir el-Bahari. The stone chest consisted of many items. Linen covered all of these items.
Moreover, the team also found three bundles of flax. Historians believe that the third bundle contained an ibis egg. This egg had a symbolic meaning for the ancient Egyptians. Additionally, a little trinket box discovered inside the bundle supposedly had the name of Thutmose II.
Deir el-Bahari complex held much archaeological and cultural significance from ancient Egypt. Moreover, the three temples of this complex have provided historians with a peek into the past. Therefore, visitors flock to the complex to visit these stunning temples and see the remains of Ancient Egypt.