#21. Mortuary temple of Hatshepsut

Art Historical Background

This temple space has an aerial view of the temple itself and a statue of Hatshepsut from the interior. Therefore, I am going to break down this discussion into three parts: a historical context on Hatshepsut, the statue, and temple complex.

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Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut lived roughly 1479-1458 B.C.E (sooo like 1500 years before Christ!) and although she is not the only female pharaoh to rule ancient Egypt, she is one of the most badass. Egyptian rule typically went from father to son and so on; Hatshepsut got the throne because her half-brother/husband (yeahhhh…they did that a lot) died while his heir, Thutmose III, was still a baby. By the way Tutmose was not Hatshepshut’s son, but she was the principal wife.

During Hatshepsut’s reign, the arts peaked in Egypt and they had some successful military campaigns to the south and east. She even depicts one of these victories in a narrative relief in the interior of a temple at Deir el-Bahri.

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Hatshept with votive offerings

Surprisingly more statues of Hatshepsut have survived than nearly every other pharaoh, this is surprising because their preservation is due to their attempted destruction. When Thutmose III came to power, he ordered her statues be removed and broken. Many of these statues were buried together and later (much later) discovered by archeologists during the 1920’s.

The statue included in the 250 shows Hatshepsut with offering jars and would have lined a walkway in the temple. The Met Museum today has 6 of these statues facing each other leading up to a smaller seated statue of the pharaoh, mimicking the feeling in situ. But their original location in the temple remains a mystery.

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Art historically speaking Hatshepsut was depicted as a female in art at the beginning of her reign but slowly became more masculine as time went on. Some masculine emphasis includes the false beard and diminutive breasts. No, she was not transgendered, this was a deliberate power play to show her strength. This change in art also corresponded to her role change as regent for the young Thutmose to the ruler in her own right.

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The temple at Deir el-Bahri

The “mortuary temple of Hatshepsut” at Deir el-Bahri is actually part of a larger complex of various sanctuaries at different levels in the rock face. Each level is united by ramps and colonnades which would connect the rooms of various deities, most notably Amun, Hathor, Anubis, and Amun-Re.

The mortuary temple of Hatshepsut also has an interesting connection to the temple at Karnak: during a once a year festival the statue of the god Amun-Re would travel across the river to rest in the temple at Deir el-Bahri. So this temple complex is more than just the center of the funerary cult of Hatshepsut.

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The mortuary part of the temple consists of a group of rooms south of the western courtyard where the funerary rites to Hatshepsut and her father, Thutmose I, were performed. See the blog post of the Great Pyramids for another look at mortuary architecture in Ancient Egypt HERE.

Teaching Note:

Like the Great Pyramids & the Temple of Amun-Re, architecture is difficult for my students to wrap their heads around. There is just so much going on and it is also a religion that they are unfamiliar with. The same goes for teaching it, too. It’s hard to talk about a space when I have not visited myself. However, I do try to use videos (either in the classroom or as supplementary homework) to help my students “enter” these spaces.

Resources

Next Time: #22 Akhenaton, Nefertiti, and three daughters. New Kingdom (Amarna), 18th Dynasty. c. 1353-1335 BCE. Limestone.


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Some information was adapted from the Metropolitan Museum’s image labels taken during my visit this summer.

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