The terraced temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari is a million-year house. The temple
which was completely built from limestone is like its older neighbor, the
mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II Neb-hepet-Ra (founder of the
Middle Kingdom, 11. Dynasty around 2000 B.C..; see also Location
of the Building), an unusual creation of Egyptian temple architecture. Instead of the usual consequence of 1.
pylon - > courtyard - > 2. pylon - > - column hall the building is
structured by a sequence of terraces, whose front of columned halls (porticos) open
directly to the east.
The temple of Hatshepsut resembles in certain elements the
mortuary temple Mentuhotep, differs however from this by the separation of the
royal tomb from the temple. The royal tomb of Hatshepsut, KV20, lies not far from
her temple but was attainable only by the Valley of Kings (see also 2.
photo under Location of the Building).
From the Valley Temple, from which little has survived, a processional
way about 37 m broad led to the temple Djeser Djeseru. The
processional way consisted of a paved road approx. 6 ms wide which was lined on both sides by a row of sphinxes.
Due to the number of preserved bases approx. 70 sphinxes had been lined up along the road
with a distance of about 17 m between each of them. These sphinxes
carried on their lion body the head of the queen most likely with a different
head-dress. They had been carved in sandstone from Gebel es-Silsilah, some
fragments have been found in 2005 inside the tomb of Harwa (TT37).
For instance on half distance a bark station was
built from but nearly nothing of it has survived. The processional way
was like the entire temple enclosed by with a wall.
The processional way ended at a great courtyard (= 1.
terrace) in which a garden with papyrus planted in basins was built. The western side of the
courtyard is formed of two pillared halls (1st portico). Between the
two pillared halls the 1st ramp leads to the 1st terrace. In front
of the 1st ramp still remains of t-shaped basins planted with papyrus
can be seen (see drawing of the reconstructed temple below).
The row of sphinxes was continued on the 1st terrace however here in the middle
courtyard they were most likely made of granite.
The description of Garden and Pools is presented on a separate
Each portico consists of a two-row colonnade which supports the
ceiling. In the lower, 1st portico, the outer row is built of pillars which
are square on the outer side but rounded on their inner side (see also
Building Phase II).
The inner row is built of 16-sided columns. The exterior of the
pillars of the 1st portico was decorated (see the following illustration) however only on two columns of the
northern side of the portico (Hall of Hunting) remains of the
decoration have survived. An important element of the decoration was
formed by two colossal statues of Hatshepsut placed at both outer ends
of the portico.
From the original decoration of the
pillars exteriors there are two well-preserved examples to be seen on 2
pillars of the northern wing of the 1st portico. The two pillars each
show a palace facade on which a falcon who is crowned with a double
crown (see left) is sitting.
The photo below shows the colossal statue of Hatshepsut at the end of
the northern wing of the 1st portico.
The ceiling of the 2nd portico is also supported by two rows of
square pillars. On all four sides of each pillar Hatshepsut -
embraced by Amun - was depicted. Only on every fourth pillar Thutmosis
III appeared in the same scene instead of the queen.
The pillars of the 2nd portico carry not only the portico of the upper terrace, but also the statues of Hatshepsut standing in front of them. From these
statues, however, only few are preserved, probably the most of them
were already destroyed in the times of Thutmosis III and
"buried" in the proximity of Djeser djeseru. When they
were discovered by chance - just the first Egyptologists excavating
at Deir el-Bahari had put their debris just over them - many of the statues showed as
the other monuments of Hatshepsut clear traces of destruction e.g.
the attempts to make the face unrecognizable by destruction.
Above one of the statues of Hatshepsut
standing in front of the portico of the 3rd terrace.
The terraces are, as already mentioned, connected by ramps with each
other. In the middle of both ramps a central row of stairs lead upwards (see also
the following photo of the upper ramp).
The balustrade of the upper ramp is formed on both sides by a
cobra (a "Wadjit"-snake). The heads of the cobras form the
lower ends of the balustrade. On both cobra-heads cobras a Horus-falcon
is sitting (see photo below). This is an allusion to the legend of Osiris
in which a cobra protected and nursed the infant Horus - thus
"carrying" him - while he hided himself from Seth in the
Papyrus-jungle of the delta.
The lower ramp has a "balustrade" without further decoration, the ramp heads showed
on both sides in sunk relief a lion which, however, is preserved only on the
interior side of the left - southern - balustrade (see photo below). Probably,
these pairs of lions symbolized the guards at the "Gates to the
A closer look shows that the lion exhibits an inconspicuous
hair whorl at his shoulder (see arrow). This hair whorl is interpreted as an
characteristic feature of a young lion (see Budde, D., Zur Symbolik der
sogenannten Schulterrosette bei Loewendarstellungen. ZAES 127, 2000, 116-135).
The front end showed also in sunk relief a large Ankh-sign
that, with human arms, held up a cartouche with the name of Hatshepsut. Also this decoration element is
preserved only on the front end of the southern balustrade (see the following photo).
In order to keep the download times short I divided the
pages about the porticos. The links above lead to the corresponding
pages. From there you can either jump to the next portico or jump
back with the one of the links shown below (which are available on