Mortuary Temple of Seti I

The Mortuary Temple of Seti I

Beside the modern hamlet of el-‘Araba el-Madfuna are the impressive remains of a unique Egyptian temple built by Seti I (19th Dynasty). The temple contains seven sanctuaries set in a row, each gave to a different deity, the southernmost one rewarding Seti I himself. This dedication emphasizes the building’s role as a funerary shrine for Seti I. This is supported by the name of the temple: “The house  of  millions  of  years  of  the  King  Men-Ma’at-Re  [Seti  I],  who  is  contented  at Abydos.” Actually buried in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes, Seti I was coming a longstanding  Egyptian  royal  tradition in building  a  secondary  funerary  complex  at Abydos, the cult central of the Egyptian god Osiris. The temple’s put up relief decoration carved under Seti I on fine white limestone evokes a traditional, classical style. Many of the serious reliefs also retain their original painted details, forming some of the finest bas-reliefs kept from ancient Egypt.

The consequence of the Amarna period, with Seti I restoring the worship of the traditional Egyptian  gods,  may  explain  the  merged  dedication  of  the  temple  to  (from  south  to north) Ptah, Re-Horakhty, Amen-Re, Osiris, Isis and Horus. The unusual L-shaped project of the temple is caused by a southeast wing appended to the main rectilinear temple. This wing  contains  rooms  dedicated  to  Memphite  funerary  deities,  such  as  Sokar  and Nefertum, further underlining the national and funerary centre of the temple. In addition, a good list of legitimate pharaohs is offered in the “kings’ gallery” to the south of the  sanctuaries  in  the  passageway  passing  to  a  butchering  room.  The  names  of Akhenaten, Smenkhkare and Tutankhamen are missed from the list, as if to wipe off their reigns from qualified history.

The temple is set within  a  great  enclosure  wall  (circa  220×350 metre)  with  a  important mudbrick  pylon  confronting  the  desert,  from  which  a  prosodion  way  probably  led  to  the royal tombs at Umm el-Qa’ab. Access to the temple was from the east, up ramps that led into two large courtyards, one after the other. The temple was left unfinished at the death of King Seti I and most of the front part of the temple was finished in sunk ease during the reign of King Seti I’s son Ramses II. The southeast home wall of the first court contains a agency of Ramses II struggling the Hittites at Qadesh. The names of Merenptah, Ramses III and Ramses IV are also preserved on these front courts. To the east of these courts lies a large storehouse or set of magazines, such as were likewise found at the Ramesseum. In the center of these is a pulpit with pillars which would have served as a reception center for entry or outgoing goods.

With  seven  chancels,  the  temple’s  program  is  exceptionally  broad.  Access  to  the sanctuaries  was  through  two  cross  hypostyle  halls,  the  first  with  two  rows  of columns and the second with 3. In the first hypostyle hall the names of King Seti I have been overwritten by Ramses II. The seven sanctuaries are mostly decorated with scenes from the daily cult ritual rendering the king recording the shrine, offering and anointing the god’s statue and barque and then leaving while sweeping away his footprints as he goes. Six of these shrines have a false door depicted on their west wall through which the deity was thought to enter the temple. The exception is the shrine to Osiris; here an actual door leads to a unique suite of rooms at the back of the temple in which the Mysteries of Osiris were celebrated. The highlight of these ceremonial occasions was the erecting of the djed pillar, symbolise the resurrection of Osiris.