Maat-ka-Ra Hatshepsut

Garden and Pools

update: 28.11.2015

Like many Egyptian temples also the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari had - a rather modest - garden with two pools. Probably, the neighboring temple of Mentuhotep Nebhepetra served as a model although it did not have pool.
Already Naville discovered in front the entrance to the lower courtyard (forecourt) on the right and on the left of the causeway two enclosures formed by low stone walls. When he cleared them, he found in each the remains of a tree (see below, photo by E. Noppes) and an earthenware pipe piercing the wall, which probably were used for the irrigation of the tree. The remnants of both trees were identified by G. D. Schweinfurth as remainders of Persea trees (Mimusops schimperi; Naville, E., The Temple of Deir el-Bahari, part VI, London 1894-1908, p.20).

Remains (stem) of a Persea-tree (Mimusops schimperi; photo by E. Noppes) planted in front of the temple after the times of Hatshepsut - so, the actual label at the pit is wrong.

In the lower courtyard Naville found numerous, approx. 10 foot (~ 3 m) deep, round pits, but he did not give detailed data about the location. Totally, 66 deep pits were found, which had been filled with Nile mud. Most likely in such holes, directly south of the ramp to the middle courtyard, Naville discovered the remainders of two trees. However, these trees were not planted in enclosures, as the two in front of the entrance, but were apparently planted in a haphazard way (Naville, loc. cit., plate CLXXII and see the following reconstruction).
Furthermore, he reported that in other places of the lower courtyard  the remnants three trees had been found, again he provided no information about the localization (Naville, loc. cit., p. 20). Naville did not report any findings which would indicate planting in other temple areas, e.g. on the upper terraces.

Reconstruction according to Naville, E., The Temple of Deir el-Bahari, Part VI. London 1894-1908, plate CLXIX. The red dot gives the location of the tree-pit which Arnold discovered in the notes of Winlock (see below).

The pits were so numerous that Naville thought about an artificial irrigation. He wrote literally:
"All this vegetation must have required a great deal of artificial watering, since these pits are numerous. The natives call them sagiehs, and they say that there are a great number of them along the avenue where the sphinxes stood." (Naville, loc. cit, page 1).
Obviously, Naville had understood that sagiehs (= Sakijehs; water lifting devices) were used for the irrigation. However, sagiehs were not used in Egypt before the Ptolemaic times. Probably Naville may have misled by the information provided by the natives -he himself did not find any water pipelines or channels (Wilkinson, A., 1998, p. 77).
Inside two pits (he did not mention in which) Naville identified the stumps of palm trees still in situ. Winlock, who examined the site approximately 20 years later, assigned these palms to graves, which were introduced in later times in the lower courtyard (Winlock, 1942, p. 90; Wilkinson, A., 1998, p. 76).
The roots, which were discovered in other pits, were of apricot trees, which were not introduced into Egypt until Ptolemaic-Roman times (Wilkinson, A., 1998, 78). What had been planted there in Hatshepsut's time is not known.

Winlock, who continued the excavations of the Egypt Exploration Fund in the temple of Hatshepsut after World War I, also discovered that the two Persea-trees, which had been planted in the pits in front of the entrance, were not from the time of Hatshepsut. These two trees are in fact successors planted in later times, which also have not survived. There is no information what had been planted in these pits at Hatshepsut's time.
Arnold, who evaluated the notes from Winlock about the excavations in the district of Mentuhotep at Deir el-Bahari, registered in addition another tree pit from the time of Hatshepsut which was located just in the middle before the northern wing of the 1st portico (= Hall of Hunting), approximately halfway up the ramp to the 2nd terrace (Arnold, D., Winlock, H.E., 1979; plate 44). Obviously, the notes of Winlock did not contain any information what had been planted there. However, it may be assumed that a similar pit was present on front of the southern wing (to achieve a balanced impression of the portico).
Possibly the above reconstruction design is not completely correct - if the pits more drawn left of the ramp to the 2nd terrace would have been placed more to the center the southern wing of the portico, then trees before both wings of the portico were arranged in a symmetrical way. However the reconstruction shows two planted pits, respectable 2 trees, which suggests a correct presentation.

During excavations in 1923-24 Winlock discovered in front of the 1st ramp the remainders of 2 T-shaped pools. The shallow pools were arranged on both sides of the main axis (see next photo), thereby flanking the causeway to the 1st ramp with the head of the Ts. Each is about 10 ms long (from north to south) and about 6 m wide across the top of the T. They were part of a garden, both pools were surrounded by the above mentioned 66 deep pits which still can be recognized today.

Above the remains of the northern pool (photo: E. Noppes).

The two pools (see photo above) look like a canal ending in a harbor as shown in pictures from ancient Egypt.
The two basins were not lined with (stone) walls but still filled with dried Nile mud. Most likely, the basins had been planted with papyrus, because Winlock found remainders of cut papyrus stalks in the dried mud and a fragment of a fowler's throw stick (Winlock 1924; 1942).
Based on the findings in the pools Winlock drew parallels to the reliefs in the northern side of the 1st portico were the queen is shown cutting papyrus and hunting waterfowl in the papyrus (marshes) (Winlock, 1942; Gessler-Löhr, 1983). Perhaps, so Winlock, the ritual actions shown on the walls had been performed en miniature at the pools.

A use of the two pools for the ritual cleaning of priests - as the sacred lakes were used - was excluded by Gessler-Löhr.

During the last years a restored sphinx of Hatshepsut using ancient remains has been erected next to the northern pool (see photo below taken in November 2015).



1. Portico

2. Portico

3. Portico

Djeser djeseru Location of the Building History of the Building Djeser djeseru - the times after

Copyright: Dr. Karl H. Leser (Iufaa)