Temple of Deir el-Bahri, Thebes
The great Temple of Deir el-Bahri is magnificently situated at the foot of the sheer cliffs fringing the desert hills, the light-colored, almost white, sandstone of the temple standing out prominently against the golden yellow to light brown rocks behind.HistoryThe temple was built at the beginning of the New Kingdom, in the reign of Queen Hateshepsut, who was at once aunt, stepmother and mother-in-law of Tuthmosis III and Co-ruler with him.
Deir el-Bahri - Gateway
An avenue of sphinxes originally led up from a valley temple (now disappeared) in the plain, ending at a gateway (also almost totally destroyed) at the entrance to the temple precinct. In front of the gateway, in square masonary enclosures, were two persea trees (Mimusops schimperi), the stumps of which still remain.
Deir el-Bahri - Lower Court
We first enter the Lower Court, at the farther (west) end of which is a ramp leading up to a colonnaded terrace. On either side of the ramp is a balustrade; on the left hand side, at the foot, is a lion couchant. Each half of the colonnade had two rows of 11 pillars, those in the rear row being 16 sided, those in the front row square, adorned at the top with falcons, vultures and snakes. Little is left of the inscriptions and reliefs on the walls.On the rear wall of the northern colonnade are remains of a relief depicting a pond on which waterfowl are being caught with nets. Rear wall of southern colonnade (right to left): the Queen (figure obliterated) making an offering to an ithyphallic Amun; erection and dedication of the temple obelisks; ships and soldiers on their way to a festival; ships transporting two obelisks from the Aswan quarries to Thebes. In front of the ramp are two cavities in the rock in which papyrus plants were grown; there were also round holes for flowers.From the lower court there is a good view of the fine masonry of the southern retaining wall, built of carefully dressed limestone blocks with simple but effective decoration, echoing that of the pillars in the colonnade.
Deir el-Bahri - Middle Court
Continuing up the ramp, we reach the Middle Court, which, like the lower one, is bounded on the west by a colonnaded terrace: to the right the Birth Colonnade, to the left the Punt Colonnade. The Birth Colonnade has two rows of 11 pillars supporting the roof, with the same scenes on all four sides of the pillars: Amun laying his hands in blessing on the shoulders of the Queen (whose figure is invariably obliterated) or Tuthmosis Ill. The inscriptions and reliefs on the walls relate to the procreation and birth of the Queen (note the two fine figures of her mother Ahmes: in one she is conducted while pregnant into the presence of the ram headed Khnum and the frog headed Heqet, in the other she stands opposite the ibis headed Thoth). Two steps at the north end of the colonnade lead down into a Vestibule with 12 16 sided columns and fine mural reliefs.In the south wall of the vestibule is a small niche with representations of the Queen (figure obliterated) before Osiris. To the left of the niche is Anubis, originally with the Queen behind him; to the right Nekhbet and Harakhty, between whom the names of the Queen were originally inscribed. Above the niche in the north wall is Tuthmosis III making a sacrifice to the falcon headed god of the dead Sokar; to the right of the niche Anubis and the Queen (obliterated); to the left the Queen (obliterated) standing in a chapel in front of the symbol of Emewet. Rear (west) wall: left, the Queen (obliterated) making an offering to Amun, with votive gifts heaped up in front of him; right, a similar scene with Anubis.From the rear of the vestibule three steps lead into the Chapel of Anubis, which consists of three chambers with vaulted roofs. On the walls are paintings with well preserved coloring, depicting the Queen (always obliterated) in the presence of various gods, in particular Anubis. On the east wall of the second chamber Tuthmosis III is depicted once, pouring out water in the presence of Sokar. The colonnade along the north side of the terrace, with 15 16 sided columns and four rear chambers (now walled up), was left unfinished.
Deir el-Bahri - Punt Colonnade
On the south side of the ramp is the Punt Colonnade, which is identical in plan to the Birth Colonnade.The reliefs, some of which are unfortunately much damaged, depict a trading expedition to Punt (on the Somali coast) in the reign of Hatshepsut. On the south wall is a village in the Land of Punt, with bee hive shaped huts set among palms and incense trees on the coast and entered by ladders. In the lower row, to the right, the Egyptian Envoy and his retinue are received by the Prince of Punt; above, the Envoy in front of his tent looking at the gifts that have been heaped on him. The west wall shows (on the left) the arrival of the Egyptian vessels at Punt, where they are laden with merchandise; on the right, the voyage home; above, the people of Punt and the Egyptians with their gifts, while dignitaries prostrate themselves in homage to the Queen; beyond this, the Queen (obliterated), accompanied by her guardian spirit, dedicating to Amun the valuable wares brought back from Punt (note the cattle grazing under the trees); gold and other precious metals being weighed, with the goddess Seshat keeping a record; Horus operating the scales, with the Nubian god Dedun behind him; below, incense being measured, with Thoth noting down the quantities; seven incense trees in tubs, brought back from Punt; Tuthmosis III offering incense to the barqe of Amun, which is borne by priests; the Queen in the presence of Amun (a long inscription between them obliterated). On the north wall the Queen (obliterated) seated under a canopy with her guardian spirit behind her; in front are various dignitaries, whom she is addressing, and a long inscription.
This mortuary temple is considered the best preserved temple of the Early Middle Kingdom. It is also the oldest known Theban temple.
More Temple of Deir el-Bahri Pictures