last update: 21.11.2013

"Palace of Maat" - North-Chambers of Hatshepsut


The floor-plan above shows the arrangement of the chambers of Hatshepsut around the Red Chapel. According to Porter & Moss II, Theban Temples, the rooms are with Latin numbers; the rooms numbered 1-5 on the north side are not numbered in Porter & Moss. The walls painted in yellow mark the boundary wall of the Middle Kingdom Court.
The floor plan is a modified excerpt from Burgos, Larché, La Chapelle Rouge, 2008, p. 337, extension phase (C) under Hatshepsut.

Antechamber (Porter&Moss Room XI)
Today, one has to walk around the sanctuary erected by Philip Arrhidaeus to reach the Northern chambers. Presumably, most visitors to the temple of Karnak have visited these rooms – at least partly.

The southern outer wall of the chambers impresses immediately with the list of offerings consecrated by Thutmose III (above the beginning with the offering of two obelisks). Right next to the cartouches of the king there is one of three contemporary sources of the name "Palace of Maat" (red arrow), i.e. Thutmose III inaugurates his offerings to Amun in the "Palace of Maat".

A dark-granite door gives access to the Northern Chambers. Originally, this door had been the eastern gate of the Red Chapel - it was reused here and decorated in the name of Thutmosis III.

Entrance to the Northern Chambers. The granite-door had been originally the eastern door of the Red Chapel and was reused by and decorated in the name of Thutmosis III. The architrave shows titles and names of Thutmosis III, on both sides the king is embraced by Amun.

On both jambs the final lower parts of the decorations shows the door-name: "sbA Mn-xpr-Ra Imn wr bA.w = Door of Men-Kheper-Ra [with the name] Amun, great with Ba-power" (see photo above). According to Grotthoff (Grotthof, Th., Die Tornamen ägyptischer Tempel. Aegyptiaca Monasteriensia 1, Aachen 1996; S.94) the is the original door-name by Thutmosis III.

The door leads into the antechamber (Porter&Moss, R XI) which gives access to the two eastern chambers XII and XIII and to the smaller rooms 1 to 5 on the western side.
Both photos above show the heavy damaged inner side of the door. The decoration of the left jamb is nearly completely concealed by the western wall of rooms XII und XIII.

A look on some architectural details (left photo) reveals that the wall with the text of Annals, the granite door, and the wall with the offering list of Thutmosis III were erected in front of the original southern wall of the chambers.   The is also confirmed by an inspection of chamber 5. This reveals that the southern wall of the chamber contains a window which is now "closed" by the wall with the Annals. The frame of the window still shows traces of the original decoration with a colored band.

Little of the original decoration has been preserved on the walls of antechamber XI. Beside the entrance to Room XIII is a representation of Tuthmosis III before a table with offerings (below). Remains of offering tables are also preserved at the northern inner wall.

East wall of Room XI, between Rooms XIII (left) and XII (right): Thutmosis III (left holding a staff) in front of a table with gifts.

Rooms 1 to 5
The northern chambers are severely destroyed. From the western chambers 1 - 5 most of the walls have only survived to a height of about 1 m, the decoration of these walls is nearly completely lost.

View of the northern chambers of Hatshepsut, on the left the remains of the chambers 1 - 5, on the right the two chambers 6 and 7.

View in the northern chambers from West to East (in the background the Akh-menu), in front the remains of the Chambers 1-5, across the two rooms XII and XIII. The red arrow points to the above gate of Thutmose III, the green one to Room XII, the blue one to Room XIII, the yellow arrow points to a remnant of the original floor in the antechamber Room XI, which shows the same decoration as the floors in the rooms 1-4 (see following photos), the black arrow points to the rear wall of the "Annals" text.

Enough stones of the floors have survived to reconstruct the decoration in chambers 1 - 4 as well as in the antechamber (see Burgos and Larché, 2006). Obviously, there are no findings concerning the floor-decoration in chambers 5 - 7.

Eye catching is the decoration of all threshold to chambers 1 - 4 with the pattern shown above. The block shown is still in situ forming the threshold of the entrance leading into chamber 3.

The floors of chambers 1 - 4 as well as the floor of the antechamber had been decorated with a pattern that consisted of a wAs-sign on the left, a Dd in the middle, and an anx-sign on the right all mounted together above a  nb-Zeichen - which read together as: "All happiness, all stability, all life": The block shown above has lost its nb-signs. This pattern repeated oneself and covered the floors completely. According to Burgos and Larché (2006) the pattern inside the chambers had been aligned with the nb-signs facing east whereas in the antechamber the signs were facing west.

The walls of the chambers are strongly destroyed. Since they had been decorated only from about 1 m above the ground, almost nothing remains of their decoration. A cartouche of Thutmose II is preserved on the right outer door jamb of Chamber 1 in the North West corner - probably usurped from Hatshepsut.
Nevertheless, it is worth to look into the two chambers 2 and 3 where few remains of the wall decoration have survived. The following photo of the rear wall of Chamber 4 shows - on the left side - the remains of an ithyphallic Amun (the figure has been chiseled out) standing in front of an offering table (right). The side wall to Chamber 3 shows on both sides still recognizable remains of god, king and offerings.

Chambers 6 and 7 (Porter&Moss Room XII and XIII)
The two eastern chambers 6 and 7 (Porter&Moss Room XII and XIII) give the impression, as if they have had "survived" into modern times as they can be seen today. Today the two chambers are separated by a wall which however is not the original one because it previously had been the right exterior of the right chamber.
When Mariette started the first attempt in the 19. century "to clear up" the area, he discovered that directly behind the wall of the "Hall of Annals" of Thutmosis III an original wall of Hatshepsut, covered with a colored relief - Thutmosis III had simply erected a new wall of sandstone in front of it and inscribed his annals on the new wall (see also: Barguet, Le Temple d'Amon-Re à Karnak, 1962, p. 148-153). The relief of Hatshepsut already showed clear attempts to extinguish her memory - by rough chisel the raised relief, e.g. the figure of Hatshepsut, was eliminated. In addition, it shows first attempts to re-assign the inscriptions, recognizable by finer and flatter chisel impacts, with which one tried to smooth the area of her cartouches again.
According to Dorman (1988) the "Hall of Annals" of Thutmosis III can not have been built and decorated before his regnal year 42 - therefore, one could deduce a late start of the persecution of Hatshepsut from the fact that the wall has not yet completely redecorated. 

When the French Egyptologists detected the implications of the wall, they decided to split the blocks. The side of the blocks with the relief which had been covered so far by the wall of the "Hall of Annals" were used in place of the missing block of the left chambers to re-erected the partition. Using the other half of the original blocks the rear side was set up again at the old place, just as the wall of the "Hall of Annals" of Thutmosis III.

The photo above shows the rear side of the chambers of Hatshepsut (on the right chamber 7) and the barque shrine of Philippos Arrhidaios (left). Between the barque shrine and chamber 7 from left to right: the passage to the northern chambers, the wall of the "Hall of Annals" of Thutmosis III, the gap which resulted from splitting the wall of Hatshepsut, and the remaining blocks of the southern wall of chamber 7 (photo: E. Noppes).

Chamber 7 (Porter&Moss Room XII)
The eastern wall of room 7 shows no original details anymore.

The North wall of the room shows well-preserved colored reliefs and is a destination of numerous tours in the Karnak Temple. Each of the two registers contains three scenes.
In the right (eastern) scene of the upper register, Hatshepsut is led by Atum and Monthu to Amun.

In the central scene Hatshepsut, followed by her Ka, is shown consecrating offerings to Amun, (see following photo). In the third, left (western) scene, she stands with a heap of offerings before the ithyphallic Amun.

Above the register the remains of destroyed cryptograms of Hatshepsut (which formed the conclusion of the wall to the ceiling) are still visible.

For the following photo the three scenes of the lower register were assembled from single images to provide a complete view.

Above the lower one of 2 registers of the original wall of Hatshepsut which had been covered by the wall of the "Hall of Annals" of Thutmosis III
on the left - hardly discernable - Hatshepsut (2) offers in front of Amun (1), behind her there is as small figure, her Ka (3);
right of this scene Hatshepsut (5) - with a Hst-vase in each hand - is shown running towards the ithyphallic Amun (4) to offer "Water" (the same scene is shown on a block of the Red Chapel - see next picture);
in both scenes her figure was hacked away and her cartouches were partly destroyed; 
further right (6) the remains of a side wall are discernable
far right (7) Hatshepsut is purified by Thot (right) and Horus (left) who pour Ankh-signs over the queen

A double click on the picture will load a page with a high resolution version to view more the details (a double click on the high-resolution photo leads back to this page).

On this wall all representations of the Queen and most of the time also her cartouches are deliberately destroyed. All representation of gods are, however, not damaged, i.e. after the construction of the wall of the annals by Thutmose III these scenes were no longer accessible for the iconoclasts of the Amarna period and remained therefore unchanged.

At the very right edge the photos above show the remainders of a side wall (perhaps of a transverse wall or a spur). This wall was probably taken down by Thutmosis III during the erection of his new bark shrine. Earlier, this remainders had been interpreted as remainders of a transverse wall. However, with a transverse wall in place there would not have been enough space for the Red Chapel in the center the chambers. Therefore, the remainders had been the reason for the fact that for some time the original position of the Red Chapel was located in front of the "Chambers of Hatshepsut".
Today these remainders are interpreted as a part of a spur and the Red Chapel is now reconstructed in the center of the "Chambers of Hatshepsut" (see below detail taken from Burgos, Larché, 2008, plan page 254).

The opposite southern wall of room 7 shows also in two registers representations of the Queen. Again, above the register the remains of destroyed cryptograms of Hatshepsut (which formed the conclusion of the wall to the ceiling) are still visible.
The upper register (Porter & Moss, register I) shows (from right to left) the queen  (cartouches changed to Thutmose II or III) in two scenes before the striding Amun (right) and his ithyphallic manifestation (center), and in the third (left) scene (cartouche changed to Thutmose III) with an offering list and gifts before Amun.

That also this wall was once built for and decorated by Hatshepsut is proved by the fries with herr cryptogram above the list of victims of the upper register.


Porter&Moss Room XIII
Room XIII is largely destroyed and most of the time not accessible. A part of the right jamb of its entrance is still in place, pieces of its architrave are scattered in the area – both remains were decorated in the name of Thutmose II. The interior walls of Room XIII were up all decorated from chest height so that from the right interior wall, except one block, only the lower, undecorated stones are left. From the decoration of the two smaller sides remains only traces of bands of color are preserved on the inner side of the door. The following photo shows the entrance to this room.

Entrance to Room XIII. The floor is scattered with fragments of dark granite among them parts of an architrave. A big part of the right door jamb is still in situ showing titles of Thutmosis II. (according to: Porter&Moss, loc. cit.).


The Luxor-Museum exhibits this door-jamb showing the titles of Hatshepsut. Perhaps it would fit into the entrance of Room XIII.

According to the description at the Luxor-Museum the block originates from a magazine of Hatshepsut at Karnak-temple which was used to store myrrh.

On the northern inner wall of Room XIII have been preserved from about chest height above.
Porter&Moss II, p. 103, No. 304, describe the scenes as follows:
[Queen with Ka] libating to the Great Ennead“ referring to Urk. IV 576 (182) „[…daß Du] [Gottes]häuser [baust], Gottesbilder bildest und die (Opferbrote bestimmst […auf] dem Horusthron, dem ewig Leben gegeben werde.“, and also to Barguet, Temple, 151, who summarily mentioned „Offerings to the Great Ennead of Karnak [of which still nine mummiform gods are depicted sitting in the lower register]“.
Strictly speaking the document quoted by Porter&Moss is "Blumenthal, Müller, Reineke, Urkunden der 18. Dynastie, Übersetzung 5-16, Berlin 1984, S. 144", and differing from Barguet only 8 seated gods are still recognizable.

The photo shows a panoramic view of the scenes of the northern inner wall which was prepared from multiple pictures. A double click on the picture loads to a high resolution version so that more details may b viewed (a double click on the high-resolution photo leads back to this page).

On the left side the legs of the king have survived, right before him numerous offerings are depicted. Left of the king there would be space enough to depict his Ka but there is hardly anything identifiable. The row of 8 seated deities in the Hebsed-robe starts with the 4th (from left) block. All seated deities are separated by a vertical inscriptions. Five columns contain a cartouche which may be easily completed to or may be read as the throne name of Thutmose II (1 x) or Thutmose III (3 x) or birthname "Thutmose".

The outer walls of the Northern Chambers offer nothing spectacular with one exception one on the North side. There, a short part of the original inscription of Hatshepsut has survived that tells us when the rooms were build - namely in the year 17 (right, bottom row).

The inscription preserved was part of the decoration which continued East over the entire outside. This part has only been preserved because Thutmose III erected built a gate here. The Western jamb (see below) covered the inscription - the remaining part of the wall has been smoothed but not decorated again.

Exterior wall of the North Chambers with the inscription of Hatshepsut and the remains of the gate which had been placed here against the wall (and the inscription) by Thutmose III. The rough-hewn blocks of the lower stone row are part of the "Podium of Hatshepsut".


Copyright: Dr. Karl H. Leser (Iufaa)