Temple of Deir al-Bahri

Temple of Deir al-Bahri
Although different women came close to serving as Egyptian Pharaohs, Hatshepsut was the just woman to rule in her individual right (18th dynasty : 1479-1458 BC)  However, to cementum her unique place she was usually shown posing as a man heavy a pharaonic beard.  Earlier in her life, she was married to her half-brother Tutmosis II but was widowed before she could bear him a son.  She may well have seen herself as the natural heir to her father Tutmosis I and probably did everything she could to cement her position as his heir even before he died, pavage the way for her sequence.  On the uppermost terrace of the temple, is an inscription, allegedly attributed to him, that reads “he who shall do her homage shall latest and he who shall speak black in blasphemy of her Majesty shall die”.  This clearly shows her determination to claim Egypt’s throne.

Equally a powerful monarch, her edifices plans were some and she left repositories in Nubia as well as Upper and Lower Egypt but her most amazing achievements were in Thebes where in addition to her fabulous mortuary temple, she enlarged Karnak Temple and built a temple to Amun at Medinet Habu .  However, the chagrin of Tutmosis III, the young nephew she seized from the throne, was so great that afterwards her death he finished all references to her from her own temple.  He later built his own mortuary temple next to hers but long since it was low in a landslide, so perchance Hatshepsut had the last word after all.

Deir el Bahri is the temple’s Arabic name but it was originally known as the “Splendour of Splendours’ and its clear lines would have been softened by an over-planting of trees, aromatic flowers and shrubs.  As a final ornamentation for this stark but magnificent building, a long line of sphinxes probably linked the temple to the river.

Inscriptions on its lower and middle colonnades show Hatshepsut’s divine birth and her achievements, such as a made Nubian campaign, the transport from Aswan of obelisks for Karnak, and the collection of myrrh trees from Punt.  At the southern end of the middle terrace, which is reached via an impressive ramp, is a temple to Hathor the cow-eared goddess of the western memorial park.  There is a closed-gated refuge here and some fine reliefs of the goddess in cow form.  When archaeologists dug the site in the early separate of the last century, they found baskets of wooden penises that could have been used in rituals and birthrate ceremonies.  The upper colonnade, which is reached by a second ramp, was once whole lined with statues of Osiris, some with the face of Hatshepsut, but now only a few rest.  Perhaps it was through fear of offensive Osiris, that these imagines were not blemished.

Beyond the upper colonnade, further sanctuaries are recorded through a central doorway and a peristyle court.  Pictures of the Feast of the Valley advance decorate the north side of the court and scenes from the Opet festival decorate the south side. The other courtyards, at present remote, contained niche shrines to the gods taking Amun and an altar to the Sun god. 

At the put up of this upper court is a central rock-cut sanctuary to Amun beneath which is a tomb that was prepared for Hatshepsut but was evidently unused because she chose to be sunk in the Valley of the Kings (KV 20).  As it transpired, she was not to be left in peace in either place.

Last in the 19th century, in an inconspicuous tomb close to the temple, archaeologists found a cache of moms that had been gone there for refuge by the tombs’ ancient protectors.  Enterprising villagers had been selling them off for years before the trade was stopped.  Among those got in the tomb were the mummies of Hatshepsut, Tutmosis I, Seti I and Ramses II and King Ramses III

In a cave to the north of the temple, sexual graffito from a long forgotten dissident shows that irreverence of royalty is not new.  Among the variety of doodles and inscriptions is a getting of a Pharaoh wearing woman’s underwear being sodomised by an unknown man. Perhaps this could be a comment on the kinship between Hatshepsut and one of her ministers.

I have found visitors express dashing hopes with their first view of the temple.  This might be because it is so different from the later more ornate temples in the necropolis, but its lines are unchanged and its simplicity is powerful. This temple is a must see on any route even though it can get very busy in the earlier part of the day but in last afternoon when the tour buses have gave and the warmth of the sun has diminished the peace of the temple can be felt.