KEMETIC SCIENCE

KEMETIC SCIENCE
Positive Progress Through The Benevolent Use Of Knowledge

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chapel Dedicated To The Birth of HORUS - Denderah-Hathor

 A chapel devoted to Horus to celebrate the new rein , of Augustus.


The temple of Hathor was constructed over a period, we believe, of thirty-four years, between 54 and 20 BC. When Ptolemy XII died in 51 BC, the temple was, after four years of building activity, still in its early stages, although it did contain some underground crypts. It seems that the remainder of the temple was build during the twenty-one year reign of his successor, Queen Cleopatra VII. At the time of her death in 30 BC, the decoration work had just begun (on the outer rear wall).


Trajan
 making offerings to Hathor in the Roman birth house
Horus


Ihy was a young god personifying the jubilation emanating from the sacred rattle.
 
The name of Ihy was interpreted by the Egyptians as "sistrum-player" which was the raison d'etre of this god. The sistrum was a cultic musical instrument used primarily (but not exclusively) in the worship of Hathor, mother of Ihy. He can hold the sacred rattle and necklace (menat).

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Its scenes depict Trajan, Augustus' later successor, making offerings to Hathor, and are among the finest to be found in Egypt. It was the ritual location where Hathor gave birth to the young Ihy or Harsomtus, two alternative youthful deities who stand for the youthful phase of creator gods in general. There are also, of course, figures of the god Bes, a patron of childbirth, carved on the abaci above the column capitals. The reliefs on the exterior walls are superbly preserved, and portray the divine birth and childhood of the infant Horus, whose rites legitimize the divine descent of the king.



The temple plan is classical Egyptian, completely enclosed by a 35 by 59 meter wall standing 12.5 meters high. However, unlike those of earlier temples, the facade of the hypostyle hall that fronts the main temple is constructed as a low screen with inter-columnar walls exposing the hall's ceiling and the Hathor style sistrum capitals of its 24 columns. According to a dedication inscription on the cornice thickness above the entrance,  this part of the temple was built under Tiberius between 34 and 35 AD. The structure measures 26.03 by 43 meters and is 17.2 meters high. It has an 8 meter long architrave that spans the central intercolumniation. Above, a towering cavetto, built from one course, and the massive volume of the corner tori cast heavy shadows and articulate the edges of the facade.



The main temple area is fronted by several Roman Period kiosks. After those, the monumental gateway of Domitian and Trajan is set in a massive mud-brick enclosure wall that surrounded the complex, and leads to an open area. Although the site lacks a colonnade and the two pylons which ought to precede the inner temple, an unfinished inner enclosure wall of stone surrounds a courtyard with side entrances which open before the large hypostyle hall added in the 1st century AD by the emperor Tiberius.




However, prior to the temple proper is the Roman Period birth house of Dendera on the west, perhaps built by Nero, though more probably by Trajan. Although the dedication inscriptions refer to Trajan, Nero is depicted in the main hypostyle hall of the of the Hathor temple, offering the model of a birth house. This is the latest preserved temple of its type.

The new sanctuary was well designed and followed Ptolemaic models. In order to match the level of the Hathor temple, the new building was erected on a high platform. A temporary access staircase led up at the side of the platform. The roofing slabs were not positioned, as usual, beneath the level of the cavetto molding around the buildings top, but would have probably been hidden by a parapet wall.

The core building contains a sequence of three rooms. Two corridors that isolate the large sanctuary are notable. These passages are too narrow to be used and must have been added for symbolic and optical effect. The rear wall of the sanctuary is dominated by an enormous false door that is framed by a double cavetto molding on slender columns and topped by an uraeus frieze. A cult niche high up in the wall corresponds to the location of the statue niche in the sanctuary of the main temple.


The birth house was surrounded by an ambulatory. The composite capitals of the columns carry high pillars with Bes figures. The frontal ambulatory extended by the addition of three columns into a kind of kiosk, with the front corners formed by L-shaped pillars. The kiosk had a timbered roof that somehow must have connected to the stone structure of the birth house. This merging of the ambulatory with a kiosk is a novelty. At older birth houses, a court was attached as a separate structure.


The main temple at Dendera is the grandest and most elaborately decorated of its period. It is also one of the most important temple sites of Egypt, providing examples of a rich variety of later temple features. It is also one of the best preserved temples of this period, surviving despite the destruction of the temples of Hathor's consort Horus and their child Ihy or Harsomtus which originally stood close by.

The massive foundations probably contain many blocks from the earlier structure it replaced. Early texts refer to a temple at Dendera which was rebuilt during the Old Kingdom, and several New Kingdom monarchs, including Tuthmosis III, Amenhotep III and Ramesses II and III are known to have embellished the structure. However, while fragments of earlier periods have been found on the site, there have been no earlier buildings unearthed. Pepi I and Tuthmosis III in particular were recalled in the new temple's inscriptions.


Cleopatra VII Philopator and Caesarion from the rear of the Temple 
of Hathor at Dendera


The temple of Hathor was constructed over a period, we believe, of thirty-four years, between 54 and 20 BC. When Ptolemy XII died in 51 BC, the temple was, after four years of building activity, still in its early stages, although it did contain some underground crypts. It seems that the remainder of the temple was build during the twenty-one year reign of his successor, Queen Cleopatra VII. At the time of her death in 30 BC, the decoration work had just begun (on the outer rear wall).


The temple plan is classical Egyptian, completely enclosed by a 35 by 59 meter wall standing 12.5 meters high. However, unlike those of earlier temples, the facade of the hypostyle hall that fronts the main temple is constructed as a low screen with inter-columnar walls exposing the hall's ceiling and the Hathor style sistrum capitals of its 24 columns. According to a dedication inscription on the cornice thickness above the entrance,  this part of the temple was built under Tiberius between 34 and 35 AD. The structure measures 26.03 by 43 meters and is 17.2 meters high. It has an 8 meter long architrave that spans the central intercolumniation. Above, a towering cavetto, built from one course, and the massive volume of the corner tori cast heavy shadows and articulate the edges of the facade.



The Roman Birth House (mammisi) was built when the earlier structure, begun by Nectanebo I and decorated in the Ptolemaic Period, was cut through by the foundation of the unfinished first court of the main temple of Hathor. Only a false door at the eastern exterior wall of the main temple of Hathor reminds one of the original sanctuary. Originally, this birth house measured about 17 by 20 meters and consisted of a triple shrine opening to a transverse hall. It was built mainly of brick but received an interior stone casing. Within this older structure, the walls of the wide hall depict the Ptolemaic kings offering to Hathor. A scene on the north wall shows the creator god Khnum fashioning the child, Ihy, with Hekat the goddess of childbirth seen in her image as a frog.

Both birth houses are now accessible. They differ considerably in plan and decoration.

Between the new and old birth houses are the remains of a Christian basilica that can be dated to the 5th century AD. It is an excellent example representative of early Coptic church architecture.


High 
Relief of Bes in the forecourt of the temple at Dendera
High Relief of Bes in the forecourt of the temple at Dendera

South of the earlier birth house is a mud-brick "sanatorium.. This sanatorium is the only one of its type known in association with an ancient Egyptian temple. Here, visitors could bathe in the sacred waters or spend the night in order to have a healing dream of the goddess. It had benches around its sides where the sick rested while waiting for cures affected by the priests. An inscription on a statue base found in this location suggests that water was poured over magical texts on the statues, causing it to become holy and to cure all sorts of diseases and illnesses. Basins used to collect the holy water can still be seen at the western end.