Medinet Habu

last update: 14.01.2010
  Description of the 18. Dynasty Temple -



The floor plan above shows the parts of the small temple of Amun which were built during the reign of Hatshepsut (I-----I) or Thutmosis III (I-----I). The red lines in the chapels built by Hatshepsut mark the walls which had been decorated by Hatshepsut - all other parts of the walls were either decorated by Thutmosis III or sketched by Hatshepsut but carved for Thutmosis III.

Above a reconstruction of the small temple of Amun after the temple had been extended by Thutmosis III (Hölscher, 1930)

The today's gallery has a few alterations from later periods. For example, today 4 polygonal columns with a rather strange arrangement are standing in the ambulatory (the left photo below shows the eastern one of two columns on the north side). These polygonal columns were built-in by Achoris (3rd king of the 29th Dynasty), when construction faults in the foundation led to cracks in the barque shrine of Thutmosis III. The columns were taken from the adjacent chapels of the "God's Wifes of Amun" as testified by the cartouche of Amenirdis ont one of the columns. The columns were used to support in each case three or four stone blocks of the ceiling.

Polygonal columns built-in by Achoris (3rd king of the 29th Dyn.) Formerly plastered cartouche of the "God's Wife"  Amenirdis.

The access to the temples has been changed too. Originally, the ambulatory had only one entrance on the eastern side. Later 4 barriers (parapets) were removed between the pillars, so that the temple received two accesses on the north side as well as the south side.
On the northern side a gate (the next photo) was inserted between both eastern pillars by Achoris.
On the opposite south side another entrance was built at the same time together with the Ptolemaic wing. According to Hölscher it cannot be ascertained anymore when other both entrances had been built.

East side of the shrine and the gate of Achoris (right), behind the gate of Achoris the northern wing built in the ptolemaic period.

Sometime the windows were closed between the pillars with two stone slabs mounted on top of each other. One them is preserved from in situ in the southern window of the eastern side. These stone slabs were decorated on their outer side - the decoration of the preserved slab dates from the Saitic period and shows Isis and Osiris before an offering table, on the other side of the table a goddess (Satet?; Porter&Moss, Vol. II, p. 466) is depicted holding arrows and a bow in her hands.

Above teh east side of the 18. Dynasty-temple with the last stone slab placed in the (southern) left window. The photo below shows the decoration dated from the Saitic period.

The ambulatory was probably built completely by Thutmosis III. Only the 4 pillars of the eastern front (without pillarsat the corners) could still have been begun under Hatshepsut, because their horizontal joints lie in another level{plain} than those of the remaining pillars. The pillars are approx. 87 cms square, on the eastern side they are more closely spaced than on the other sides. The pillars are connected with parapet walls (intercolumnar walls) which were rounded at the top.

Above: the entrance of the gallery (ambulatory) viewed from the court erected during the Kushite period.

For the following presentation of the pillars, i.e. their decoration, the pillars were numbered as usual (see for comparison: Porter&Moss, BD II, or Myśliwiec, 1985). The numbering starts at the eastern entrance, the pillars A - H are south and the pillars I - P are north of the temple-axis.

All pillars were decorated on three sides by Thutmosis III, the outer sides - like the whole outside of the temple - were not decorated (until Ramses III). All representations always show Thutmosis III before a divinity - on the photo below he is shown on the eastern side of pillar P before Upuaut, "Lord of the Necropolis ", and receives "life" (in this scene Thutmosis III wears the Red Crown of Upper Egypt.
Almost all representations of the divinities were erased in the time of Akhnaton and restored in the 19th dynasty.

Myśliwiec stated (1985) that the scenes on the pillars should exhibit a special distribution. According to his analysis the king appears on the inside of each pillar always before Amun-Ra whereby he should wear in any of these presentation in correspondence with the geographic partition of the "Two Lands" on the north side the Red Crown of Lower Egypt and on the south side the White Crown of Upper Egypt.

Both statements prove untenable as for example on the photo above the king is depicted on the inside of pillar M wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt (this can also be demonstrated at other places). On the inside of pillar N (photo below) he embraces the ithyphallic Amun-Kamutef, "Lord of the Heaven".

The insides of the pillars show the following arrangement (see als the table below):

- the king is always depicted before one of the two manifestations of Amun;
- on the south side the king always weras the White Crown of Upper Egypt - except on pillar F  (where he is depicted before the ithyphallic Amun, and wears a kind of a wig);
- on the north side the king wears alternating the Red and the White Crown, parallel to pillar F on the south side he wears a special headress (nemes) in front of the ithyphallic Amun.

Pillar Inside   Pillar Inside
East Wall - north side   East Wall - south side
Amun-Ra I   A Amun-Ra
Amun-Ra j   B Amun-Ra
North Wall   South Wall
Amun-Ra L   D Amun-Ra
Amun-Ra M   E Amun-Ra
ithyphallic Amun N   F ithyphallic Amun
Amun-Ra O   G Amun-Ra
Amun-Ra P   H Amun-Ra
Red Crown Nemes      ???    White Crown
The table shows encoded in colors the distribution of the different types of crowns on the inside of the pillars which belong to the east wall (A,B, I, and J) and to the north or south wall.

From the table above it arises clearly that the statement of Myśliwiec applies only to the insides of the 4 pillars of the east wall (front side) of the ambulatory (i.e. for pillars I and J north of the temple axis, as well as to A and B south of the axis ; the pillars at the corner do not belong to the front wall).

In the representation for the peripteral temple Thutmosis III impresses particularly by various feather crowns. In general these crowns consist of some constant elements whose presence is optional:

two  ostrich feather,
two falcon feathers,
two horizontal ram horns,
two high cow horns,
two little animal horns,
one solar disc,
two or more cobras of equal number.
The right photo of the north wall shows a scene in which Thutmosis III.  is performing grounding ceremonies.

In this group most often two crown types appear in which two ostrich feathers form the main element:

a) the "atef"-Crown which consists of two ostrich feathers  framing a kind of "tiara" that looks like the White Crown (see photo above),

b) a crown assigned to the god Anedjtj in which the feathers are directly mounted on ram horns (as shown on western side of pillar M where Thutmosis III stands before Seth, "Lord of Upper Egypt, Lord of Heaven ", right photo).


The representation of the gods on the transverse sides of the pillars reveal the following arrangement (see table below):
- on the eastern, the front side of the temple, the main deities of the country and those of the realm of the dead are presented;
- on the south side appear the gods whose names show a geographical allocation to Nubia and the parts of Upper Egypt which lie to the south of Thebes; Sobek and Harendotes which have no geographical epithets establish an exception here;
- on the north side various gods have been arranged or those who have relations with the counties which lie north of Thebes.

Pillar     Pillar   Pillar     Pillar

East Wall - north side


East Wall - south side

J Amaunet Amun-Ra I   A Atum Ra-Horakhti B
K Month Mut J   B Osiris Anubis C

North Wall


South Wall


Gate of Achoris

K   C Harendotes Sobek D
M Haroeris Hathor of Theben L   D Hathor of Edfu Satet E
N Hathor of Dendera Seth M   E Khnum Anuket F
O Harsiese Onuris-Shu N   F Horus Behedetj Horus G
P Upuaut Khnum (Hypselis) O   G Nekhbet Menhit (Esna) H
    Thot P   H Horus (Nubia)    
  Double Crown White Crown       Red Crown Feathercrown  
The table shows which gods are presented opposite to each other on the transverse sides of the pillars and indicates by color-coding which crown Thutmosis III wears before the god. On the south side only feather crowns appear with 2 exceptions. Myśliwiec explains this by the fact that the king faces on pillar G the patron goddess Nekhbet and with a parallelism between the pillars H and P the exceptions. On the north side no special arrangement reveals itself.

On the opposite transverse sides of pillars I (right) and J (links) Myśliwiec detects an interesting combination of gods and crowns.

On the right (pillar I) Thutmosis III. appears before Amun wearing the Red Crown of Upper Egypt, on the left (pillar J) he wears before Amaunet a doublefeather crown like Amun (plus ram horns), whereas now the goddess is depicted with the Red Crown of Upper Egypt.
Does Thutmosis identify himself with Amun, the husband of Amunet?

Myśliwiec supposes additional ideas behind the decoration, e.g. the representation of gods with solar aspects (Atum, Ra-Horahkti) on opposite pillar sides, but he could demonstrate them - again with exceptions - only on pillars south of the temple axis.
Independent of all details and possible ideas behind the decoration, above all, obviously one statement of Thutmosis III. was behind the representation of the king in the presence of the most important gods of the Egyptian realm of gods:

"I am the legitimated ruler, accepted by all gods."

The temple from the 18th Dynasty had only one access on its eastern side (see photo below) which probably could not be closed by a gate. Only the eastern outside of the temple was decorated with relief and inscriptions. The architrave bears a long inscription with titles of Thutmosis III, the outsides of the 6 pillar show the king in front of Amun. On the southern outside Thutmosis III wears like on the southern inside always the White Crown of Upper Egypt. On northern outside he wears a Red Crown or a Double Crown (on the left) and a feather crown with 2 cobras and ram horns (middle). The representation on the right corner pillar is not visible due to the Ptolemaic extension.

On left half of the Ptolemaic lintel  Ptolemy VII Euergetes and Cleopatra II are depicted before the ithyphallic Amun and Amaunet, on the right of it Ptolemy offers a figure of Ma'at to Amun and Mut. On the right half Ptolemy and Cleopatra III are shown before Re-Horakhti and Hathor (far right), to the left Ptolemy offers again a figure Ma'at to Amun and Khons. The lintel is crowned with a winged solar disc with 2 cobras.

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Copyright: Dr. Karl H. Leser (Iufaa)