Framed by steep cliffs and poised in elegant relief, stands the temple of Deir cl Bahri. justly deserving of its name ‘Most Splendid of All’, it was the inspiration of the beautiful Queen Makere Hatshepsut, daughter of Thutmose I. What strikes one first when approaching this temple is its unity with nature. Far from being belittled by the
stark purity of the cliffs behind, the temple was so designed that the cliffs form a backcloth. Hatshepsut, whose royal lineage to the Great Royal Wife Ahmose made her the only lawful heir among Thutmose I’s children, his sons being by minor Wives, was prevented by her sex from succeeding as Pharaoh. She consequently married her half—brother Thutmose II. During his reign and her subsequent co-regency with
Thutmose III she retained power in her capable hands.
To appreciate the temple of Deir el Bahri one must know a little of the character of the beautiful woman who conceived it. She was indisputably iron-willed and not willing to let the fact that she was a Woman stand in her way. She assumed a throne name Makere. She wore a royal skirt and ceremonial beard, the badges of kingship. She proved her right to the throne in numerous reliefs of her divine birth.
Once Hatshepsut had secured her right to the throne she embarked on the building of temples and monuments and also on the restoration. of damaged sanctuaries. This was perhaps especially important to her since she could hardly record her name in history through military conquest and sought to do so through architectural magnificence. The obelisks she had erected in Karnak temple were so placed that the glittering tips should inundate the Two Lands mst as it appears in the horizon of heaven’. And she planned her mortuary temple to be no less spectacular. Her architect Senmut, whilest  drawing inspiration from the adjacent 11th Dynasty temple of the Pharaohs Montuhotep II and III, carried it out on a very much larger scale. Adopting the idea of the terrace and adding an extra. tier, he made such imposing use ofit that he deserves special credit. He designed a terraced sanctuary comprising courts, one wore the other with connecting inclined planes at the centre. Shrines were dedicated to Hathor  and Anubis and chambers devoted to the cult of the queen and her parents.   It was a labour of love, for Senmut, who first entered the service of Hatshepsut as tutor to her daughter Nefrure, had ambitions and abilities that took him high on the ladder of success. He not only ended with no fewer than forty titles but conducted himself as a member of the royal family, enjoying privileges and prerogatives never before enjoyed by a man of humble birth. He was Hatshepsut s supporter and lover and doubtless also her political adviser. He was also granted a privilege accorded to no official before or after: that of constructing his tomb near the mortuary temple of his monarch.

Hatshepsut  had two tombs. Her body was found in neither. The first she had dug in the V alley of the Kings where all members of the royal family were laid to rest in the 18th Dynasty. The second, after she became monarch, was in the Taket Zeid Valley, south of Dier el Bahari and overlooking the Valley of the Kings. The former tomb Was so designed that the corridors, buried 213 metres beneath the barrier hill, should lead to the tomb chamber itself directly beneath the mortuary temple. it was as though, while wishing‘ to construct her tomb in the royal valley, she wanted at the same time to conform. to the ancient practice of linking the tomb with the mortuary  temple. She never achieved her goal. Bad rock or other causes led to the passage being continued in a swerve 98 metres below ground level and then abandoned. It is devoid of relief and inscription and. apart from limestone slabs relating chapters from
the chapters of the dead in red and black; sketch form, is a rather pathetic and crude passage. In her red sandstone sarcophagus the body of her father Thutmose I had been laid to rest, until the priests of the 20th Dynasty removed his mummy to the shaft of Deir el Bahari  for safekeeping. In fact Hatshepsut’s sarcophagus had been enlarged tp receive his body. Why was Thutmose I laid to rest in his daughter s tomb? Because his own had already been used by Thutmose II, who died prematurely after a short coregency with Hatshepsut. And Hatshepsut’s mummy? It probably suffered the same fate as her statues and representations in murals. For, when Thutmose III finally asserted himself and expelled her from the throne, years of frustrated energy swelled forth in a campaign of destruction when he obliterated from every temple throughout the land, but from Deir el Bahri in particular, every reference to the female Pharaoh. Later, when Akhenaten removed references to Amon from the temples of Egypt, the inscriptions of Deir el Bahri were further mutilated. Ramses II endeavoured to restore them but the workmanship was inferior. And in this condition the beautiful temple remained, with only minor alterations taking place until Christian  monks set up a convent there. Sadly, but understandably, they too scraped the walls and added to the overall desecration.
Two of the learned members of Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt in 1798 first made the temple of Deir el Bahri known to the modern world, releasing part of it from its sandy embrace. Champollion was responsible for deciphering the hieroglyphics and attempting to unravel the family feud. Nlariette interpreted the picturesque reliefs
of the Voyage to Punt. In 1894 the Egyptian Exploration Fund started to exhume the temple properly but their work was not completed for nine years. Some of the colonnades were roofed in and certain other necessary alterations were carried out to preserve the remaining reliefs and colonnades.

Lower and Central Courts
We ascend the temple of Deir el Bahri from the lower court where two colonnades have been restored. These comprise twentytwo columns on each side arranged in double rows. In the southern colonnade is a scene showing two obelisks being transported by water (those Hatshepsut had erected at Karnak). The first row
shows them on the deck of the barge and below a trumpeter leads a group of archers to the inauguration ceremony.
Passing between the two colonnades we come to the central court (Plan 12 A), which leads to the upper terrace. We are now faced with two famous colonnades. On the left (B) is the Colonnade of the Expedition to Punt. On the right (C) is the Birth Colonnade.

Punt Colonnade
The Punt Colonnade commemorates an expedition ordered by Queen Hatshepsut to the Land of Punt (in the East Africa/Somalia area) to bring back myrrh and incense trees to be planted on the terraces of the temple. The relief tells us that Amon himself ordered the expedition and it appears that Hatshepsut not only carried out the divine will but made the expedition a major mission. On the southern wall (a) we can see the village in Punt where the houses are constructed over water with ladders leading up to the entrances. We can see the mayor of the city, the inhabitants, the grazing cattle and even the village dog. The Egyptian envoy and his entourage are greeted in Welcome and are shown presenting merchandise for barter. The fat, deformed queen of Punt is there. The hieroglyphics relate that this illustrious monarch travelled by dontrey and. with obvious wit, the artists have shown the little donkey itself. Throughout the span of Egyptian history, from pre-dynastic times to the fall of the empire, it was not often that deformed or physically handicapped persons were sculpted or drawn. The few that were belonged to the earlier dynasties and were people of the lower classes. The portrayal of the queen of Punt suffering from the swollen legs of elephantiasis, and without even a royal carriage for transport, makes one feel that neither Hatshepsut nor her artists had much respect for her.
On the back wall at (b) the Egyptian fleet sets sail, arrives in Punt and we see the transportation of the incense trees planted in small tubs (top row) and on board the vessel (lower row). These will be carried back to Deir El Bahri, there to be planted in the court. In fact the roots are still on site to this day. One cannot but feel, divine will notwithstanding, that more than a little of Hatshepsut"s whim and fancy went into the elaboration of the whole mission. In a joyous representation at the centre of the
long hack wall (c) the queen (defaced) can be seen offering the fruits of her expedition to  Amon: incense trees, Wild game, cattle, electrum and bows. The whole mural speaks of success and pleasure.
Shrine of Hathor
To the left of the Colonnade of Punt stands the Shrine of Hathor (D). lt has two roofed--in colonnades with Hathor columns leading to the shrine itself which comprises three chambers, one behind the ether. and each with several recesses. In the colonnaded court is a large sacrificial scene on the southern wall (d) showing a boat containing the Hathour-cow' with Queen Hatshepsut drinking from the udder. On the rear western wall is a representation of  Thutmose II (replacing Hatshepsut) having his hand licked by the Hathor in the first chamber (e) Hatshepsut or Thutmose III is represented with several of the deities. The colour is excellent, especially on
the ceiling which is decorated with stars on a blue sky. The second room. (f) shows Hatshepsut (scraped) making offerings to Hathor, who stands on the sacred barge beneath the canopy. This is a relief of unusual beauty. Ehi, son of Horus, is the little nude boy who holds a sistrum in front of the queen. The third room (g) has an
unusual pointed roof and the wall reliefs show Hatshepsut (on each of the side walls) drinking from the udder of the cow, Hathor, with Ainon standing before them. On the back wall is another particularly beautiful relief of Hatshepsut standing between Hathor and Anion with the latter holding before her face the hieroglyph symbol
of life.
Birth Colonnade
The Birth Colonnade corresponds exactly to the Punt Colonnade. As already mentioned, it was constructed to allay concern about Hatshepsut’s right to the throne. The theory of divine origin was above discussion, let alone dispute, and this is shown in a scene of the ram-headed Khnuin shaping Hatshepsut and her Ka on the potter’s wheel (h) under instructions from Amon who has impregnated the queen mother. Among the particularly fine representations is that of the queen mother Ahmose (i), full with child. She radiates joy and stands dignified in her pregnancy, smiling a smile
of supreme contentment as she is led to the birth room. Unfortunately most of the scene in which Amon and the queen mother are borne to the heavens by two goddesses seated on a lion-headed couch, is badly damaged. But the grotesque figure of the god Bes can be seen in the lower row (j)
In the scene of the actual birth the queen mother sits on a chair in which is placed on a couch held aloft by various gods. This in turn stands upon another couch also supported by gods. The queen mother has a retinue of female attendants. Hathor then presents
Hatshepsut to Anion and the twelve kzis of the divine child are suckled by twelve goddesses (k). Hatshepsut and her ha have been erased but in the scene at the end of the wall (l) they pass through the hands of various goddesses who record the divine birth. Hatshepsut’s mother is shown in the presence of the ibis-headed Thoth,
the ram-headed Khnum and the frog-headed Heket. She also converses with Amon who tells her that her daughter shall exercise kingship throughout the land.
By depicting Hatshepsut as a boy and by repeating the theme of Amon laying a hand of blessing on her shoulder, the most important prejudices against her rule are overcome. Small and Upper Courts, Sanctuary To the right of the Birth Colonnade is a small court (E) comprising. twelve sixteen-sided columns in three rows, and leading to the Chapel of Anubis, which has three chambers The walls of the court have very well preserved reliefs. The upper court (F) suffered most severely at the hands of the Christian monks. It includes a small vestibule leading to one of the few alters (G) to come down for us in their original place.
The sanctuary (I) included three chambers. The first two have valuted ceilings and adjoining recess.

Source: Jill Kamil, Luxor Ancient Thebes and the Necropolis, 1996

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  1. Dear May,

    I am working on a museum exhibit about the frankincense trade and would love to acquire a high resolution file of your Punt Colonnade photo. Please let me know how to get in touch with you. You can email me at

    Sincerest thanks,

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