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Welcome to My Official Web Page!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hatshepsut's Mortuary Temple

So I have a new blog boiler plate- one of the pictures from my trip to Hatshepsut's mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri back in 2005. The temple's name in ancient Egyptian was Djeser Djereru and translates to the Holiest of Holies. It's located just across from the Valley of the Kings, but it's even more impressive than the subterranean tombs. Of course, I'm a little biased.

Hat's temple is nestled within a rock amphitheater and blends into the mountain backdrop. It's quite the architectural marvel. Sadly, the building was destroyed in antiquity, probably by earthquakes in the 1st century, but a Polish archaeological team has been working to restore the temple and is just about done.

One thing you'll notice from the new blog picture is that Hatshepsut is portrayed as a man in the statue. These are Osiride statues, named for Osiris, the Egyptian god of the dead. Hatshepsut had this temple created so people could worship and pray to her after she died, hence the strange choice in gods. However, poor Hat was typically shown as a man, simply because a woman ruling Egypt was such an aberration. Unless you find an early depiction of her as Great Royal Wife (Egypt's term for queen), you'll see her dressed in a man's kilt with the Pharaoh's false beard. After her death, all her statues depicting her as Pharaoh were destroyed and dumped in a pit not far from her temple. Most historians believe this was an attempt to wipe history of a woman's rule. Out of sight, out of mind.

Within the temple are stories of her divine birth and her trade expedition to the mythical land of Punt, now thought to be modern-day Somalia. The former was likely an attempt to further legitimize her claim to the throne. It's a little hard to argue against someone who claims to be the daughter of Amun, the supreme god of all Egypt. The latter was one of her greatest accomplishments during her reign as Pharaoh, bringing back all sorts of fun stuff like baboons and priceless myrrh trees.

Standing outside the temple are trunks of some of those myrrh trees, preserved for all eternity. Can you imagine? Tree trunks from 3,500 years ago still preserved for gazillions of tourists to photograph each day?

It goes without saying that I was in heaven while visiting Deir el-Bahri, despite the 120 Farenheit temperatures. I need to go back- they even do hot air balloon rides over the valley at sunrise!


Amalia T. said...

I think it's totally fascinating how this trope of the Dual fathers--one divine, one mortal, seems to be repeated through so many cultures-- well, okay, by so many, I mean Hebrew, Egyptian, and Greek, but still! I wouldn't be at all surprised to find it in the Hindu mythology, as well. It's so often used to give legitimacy to a hero or a ruler. Theseus had two fathers, after all, and was King of Athens. Jesus was supposed to be King of Kings. I'm not sure that Hercules was a king of anything, but he was certainly a great hero and protector. I've been meaning to blog about it, but haven't had the time. Soon though! soon!

Dominique said...

Since people in our time know of some of the amazing things Hatshepsut did in her time as Pharaoh, I would have to say attempts to obliterate her from history were utter failures.

Muse in the Fog said...

Beautiful and completely fascinating!

Stephanie Thornton said...

Amalia- And didn't Sargon also claim divine lineage? Now I'm going to have to look that up!

Dominique- I'm so glad their attempts were utter failures! Although even as recently as the 1960's people were arguing whether she was male or female.

Muse in the Fog- Glad you found it interesting!

Lorel Clayton said...

I would love to see her temple. I have a massive Egyptian tour in mind...just need to save the bucks.

Jemi Fraser said...

Wow! Great photo & such interesting information. I didn't know the ancient Egyptians were that worried about having a female ruler. Strange :)

Guinevere said...

Very cool... I went to Egypt once, but it was a quick day in Cairo. I'm looking forward to going back some day!

So I have a question about depictions of Haptshepsut. Did she wear the false beard while ruling, or did she rule openly as a woman in her own court?

Gary Corby said...

Looks very cool indeed.

I'm not sure the duality is all that surprising. If you want to claim divine descent, you need to explain away the patently obvious real father one way or another. Alexander had a similar problem.

Ellie said...

I did that very balloon ride at dawn last February:


The views were incredible, which distracted me from the fact I was FREEZING - a very unusual feeling for Egypt!

Dreamstate said...

You have picked such an amazing woman for your subject. I've always been fascinated by her story. Thanks for sharing the photos!

Matthew Delman said...

Oooo ... pretty Egypt photos. I like!

Yeah, Hatshepsut and various ancient rulers claiming descent from the gods is no different than the Christian kings claiming descent from Christ as their right to rule.

Random Trivia: the King of Spain is called "His Most Catholic Majesty," and the King of France was called "His Most Sacred Majesty."

Stephanie Thornton said...

Matt- And the King of England also included King of France in his titles. :)

Dreamstate- I'm kind of obsessed with Hatshepsut. I'm glad you've heard of her- so few have!

Ellie- I am sooooooo jealous! It would be worth the hot air balloon just to cool off a little bit. It's so on my list!

Gary- So how did Alex do away with Philip? I wasn't aware that he claimed divine descent and shuffled Dad out of the way. Hat makes oodles of monuments dedicated to her human father, but at her temple makes a huge show out of how Amun visited her mom's bedchambers.

Guinevere- I'm afraid I can't answer your question factually. It's not really known what Hatshepsut wore to rule. If you read Pauline Gedge's book, Child of the Morning, she has her dressed like a man all the time. I took a different route in my novel.

Jemi- Egyptians gave women significant freedoms compared with the rest of the ancient world (especially Greece!), but allowing women to rule opens the door for dynastic strife and civil war. It's a straighter line to the throne if the eldest son always inherits.

Lorel- You need to go! It was the best trip I've ever been on. My husband agreed and he's been to over 40 countries!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I love it when you give us historical info about your wonderful Hatshepsut. You know you have us all fascinated by her, right?!

P.S. Congrats on hitting 100!! :-)

Voidwalker said...

Interesting that this place for the dead is considered "Holiest of Holy's" especially if you contrast that with the subsection of the Jewish temple in which a small room where only the high priest could enter was partitioned off and designated the same name, "Holy of Holy's."

Then again, holy literally translates to "set apart," so it can be apropriate for either, but it's an interesting thing to see.

L. T. Host said...

You-- people who get to travel, and your--traveling.

Way cool! I'm so jealous. I can't believe how amazing that temple looks!

K. Marie Criddle said...

The way you describe these amazing places and history makes me want to read your novel a LOT. Beautiful!

Stephanie Thornton said...

K. Marie- Yay! Now I just need to convince an agent!

L.T.- Traveling is the best use of money ever!

Voidwalker- The ancient Egyptians had something similiar- only the High Priest and Pharaoh were allowed to enter the gods' inner sanctuaries.

Shannon- Yay! My evil plan to make you all love Hatshepsut is working!

Lisa and Laura said...

Absolutely fascinating. I love hearing all about strong women.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

*waves hand wildly* Teacher! I have a question.
How do they know the statue is Hatshepsut if it's a guy with a beard? Does it label it as her? I find this fascinating--the rewriting of history to suit our needs.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that can compare to actually being where it all happened is it? I'm entranced by Ancient Egypt and humbled by your knowledge.

My fascination has always been English history so it's little wonder my WiP takes place there just before WW2, but with one sub-plot going way, way further back.

Thanks for posting the pictures. Wow.

Amalia T. said...

Gary and Stephanie (and Matt, too!): You can't do away totally with the mortal father, or else the person makes themselves into a bastard and they lose their right to rule whatever is inherited-- that is, if Alexander had abolished Philip totally as his father, he wouldn't have any claim to the Kingdom of Macedonia. If Theseus had not claimed his mortal father as well as Poseidon, he would have had no claim to ruling Athens. Hence the dual-fathership :)

Faith said...

Whaddaya know, my trip to Egypt was in 2005 as well! :D

My favorite part of the temple was definitely seeing the imprints from where the trees were planted. No textbook can ever convey the utter awe and majesty of Hatshepsut's temple. I want to go back too!

Natalie said...

How cool! I want to go to Egypt. It's crazy that they destroyed all the statues of her portrayed as a woman. Messed up. I just think, how would l like it if after I died everyone portrayed me as a man? Not cool. Not cool.

Gary Corby said...

Stephanie, Alexander visited the Oracle at Siwa in Egypt, after conquering the country. There he appears to have learned that his "real" father was Zeus-Amun, though he never later talked about what happened at the Oracle.

Amalia, yes, you're right, but Alexander is sort of a special case. It wasn't such a big deal in Greece to be a bastard if everyone agreed your Dad was the biggest, baddest God on the block. The greater danger in Greece was being done in for a severe case of hubris if no one credited your claim. It had been hundreds of years since anyone had seriously been able to claim divine descent and get away with it.

It does seem apparent that by this stage, Alexander's own explanation for his undeniable superiority to all other men was that he was God-descended, and it's not like anyone was about to challenge his position.

Terresa said...

120 degrees isn't too bad. No humidity, right? (Sounds like my home desert, to me! :)

But the 3,500 years old tree trunks sound like something else. Amazingness!!

Parag said...

This lovely structure is found in a steep half-circle of cliffs on the west bank of the Nile River and guarding the entrance to the great Valley of the Kings.
Egypt Hatshepsut Temple