Red Chapel of Hatshepsut

last update: 13.04.2009



The drawing below shows a floor plan of the Red Chapel, the direction of reading, and the position of the bases for the pedestals on which the bark or offerings were placed.

Floor plan of the Red Chapel (L. 17.54 m, B. 6.17 m, H. 5.64 m); the main entrance is on the left side (= west side);
the arrows indicate the alignment of the registers; in green: the positions of the three bases for the pedestals (the sizes of the basins are not to scale)

Entrance (western side) of the Red Chapel, the facade is about 7.70 m high and thus much higher than the chapel itself.

Rear (eastern side) side of the Red Chapel, the facade is about 5.77 m and just a few centimeters higher than the chapel; on the last but one step the sewer opens outwards (see below)

Side view (north side) of the Red Chapel

From the chapel dismantled by Thutmosis III about 300 blocks were discovered between 1898 and 1999. The egyptological investigation of the blocks by the "Centre franco-égyptien d'étude des temples de Karnak (= CFEETK)" under the direction of Nicolas Grimal and Francois Larché (see also Larché, F.," The Reconstruction of the So-Called "Red Chapel" of Hatshepsut & Thutmosis III in the Open Air Museum at Karnak", kmt, Vol. 10, No. 4, 1999-2000) and the architectural investigation of each block finally resulted in the reconstruction and re-erection of the Red Chapel. The construction was led by the CNRS stonecutter Franck Burgos and architect François Larché and ended in 2001.

The reconstruction revealed a few remarkable details:
- it turned up that almost all relief scenes extended only over one block (as shown above; Foto G. Haferkamp), extremely rare a scene extended horizontally over two blocks (as shown below) but
- never vertically over two blocks (with exception of some blocks of the doorjambs), that made it very difficult to identify the original position of the blocks ;
- all blocks had the same size, as it were forerunners of the "Talatat" blocks used by Akhnaton, therefore, it was relatively simply to raise the building - but also to take it down under Thutmosis III
- the blocks were walled in the chapel like in "brickwork" (next but one photo).

The above wall part of the Red Chapel shows how the standardized blocks had been used as in "brickwork". In the 2. row (from below) the blocks are arranged alongside, in the row above the blocks are arranged in each case transverse to the wall whereby attention was paid that the vertical joints did not overlap.

Adjoining blocks were connected with dovetails (see below) at least to prevent the blocks becoming shifted during the erection of the monument.

A dovetail-socket to join two blocks of the Red Chapel (Source: CFEETK)

All outer walls ends in circulating torus moldings and their tops were crowned with a cavetto cornice (see next photo). However, it can not be ignored that the torus moldings were not finished at all sides. 

The chapel contains three doorways in the same dimensions and installed at the same level. The doorways were closed by double-winged doors which open inwards.

View from east to west through the doorways of the Red Chapel.

The door-wings had one pivot each at their top and their bottom. Each wing was hanged by its pivot into a socket drilled into the lintel and then the wings were pushed forward through a groove until their lower pivot passed into a socket drilled into the floor. Thereafter, the groove was closed with a strip of stone (Clarke, S., Engelbach, R., Ancient Egyptian Construction and Architecture. New York, 1990).
The following drawings were taken from Arnold, Lexikon der Ägyptischen Baukunst, 2000, and modified. They show on the left the socket of the lintel and on the right the groove in the floor used to move a door-wing in its final position into the pivot in the socket (lower left).

The two next photos taken in the Red Chapel show one socket of the lintel and the grooves in the floor used to hang-in the door-wings.

The photo above shows in situ a strip of stone used to close the groove (last doorway at Medinet Habu).

The paved floor of the chapel was perfectly abutted, except around the two bases of the sanctuary which both were surrounded by a gully. The gullies were clearly intended to receive the water of purification which was used during the ritual ceremonies. From the gully around the easternmost basis a sewer runs eastward through the eastern door (see photo below).

Basis of the easternmost pedestal from the sanctuary, decorated with a lettuce-frieze and surrounded by a gully. Above the which runs through the floor of the eastern doorway.

Above the diorite block of the vestibule.

This block was discovered in 1995 in a pit in front of the chapel of "Osiris of Koptos" (east side of Karnak) and, based on several details, directly associated with the Red Chapel (Larché, 1999-2000). Larché (loc. cit.) assumed that the block had been secondarily hollowed out when it had been re-used in antiquity. Originally, the block had probably been solid and flat - like the other two platforms in the eastern part of the Red Chapel - and used in the vestibule as an offering stand or are pedestal for a bark.
The west side of the diorite basis shows the throne and the birth (Sa Ra) name of Hatshepsut (see below) with the accompanying texts "she may live forever" and "Beloved of Amun, Lord of the Thrones of the Two Lands, Lord of Heaven". The signs above her left cartouche  reads "sA Ra = son of Ra", those above the right one "Nfr nTr = Good God".

  The floor of the vestibule lies about 20 cm above the floor of the western side of the sanctuary, the step down to the sanctuary is part of the doorway (see photo below) and fits well with the closed door.

On the east side of the sanctuary the floor of the doorway is about 25 cm higher than the floor of the sanctuary i.e. on the same level as the floor of the vestibule and the surface of the two bases of the sanctuary. The floor of the sanctuary sinks by 5 cm from west to east.

The step from the vestibule down to the sanctuary presents on its left side (viewed from the sanctuary, directly above the groove which was used to hang-in the door-wing, a cartouche of Hatshepsut (see photo left).

  The floor of the vestibule remained undecorated.

One block of the floor of the sanctuary (block No. 249 which is placed between the two bases of the sanctuary) was decorated with a pattern that shows each on the left a wAs-, in the center a Dd-, and on the right an anx-sign all together above a nb-sign - every combination reads: "All happiness, all stability, all life".
All other blocks of the original floor had not been decorated.!

Due to the dust the decoration of the block can be seen only with difficulties, the left photo was taken after a short rain.

  Covering slabs have not been found to this day, perhaps the ceiling has never been finished. However, the left photo shows that there is enough place on the walls to support covering slabs.

The blocks can be viewed singly using the pages:
Red Chapel - Distribution of the Blocks of the South Wall
Red Chapel - Distribution of the Blocks of the North Wall.
Red Chapel - Distribution of the Blocks on the West Gate
Red Chapel - Distribution of the Blocks on the East Gate
Red Chapel - Distribution of the Blocks on the inner north-wall of the vestibule
Red Chapel - Distribution of the Blocks on the inner south-wall of the vestibule
Red Chapel - Distribution of the Blocks on the inner north-wall of the sanctuary
Red Chapel - Distribution of the Blocks on the inner south-wall of the sanctuary
Red Chapel - Distribution of the Blocks on the gates of the sanctuary

Copyright: Dr. Karl H. Leser (Iufaa)