Hathor Temple, Abu Simbel

Hathor Temple in Abu Simbel

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The temple of Hathor and Nefertari, Abu Simbel, Aswān muḥāfaẓah (governorate), southern Egypt. It’s also known as the Small Temple, was built about 100 m (330 ft) northeast of the temple of Ramesses II and was dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Ramesses II’s chief consort, Nefertari. This was actually the second time in ancient Egyptian history that a temple was dedicated to a queen. For the first time, Akhenaten dedicated a temple to his great royal wife, Nefertiti. The rock-cut facade is decorated with two groups of colossi that are separated by the large gateway. The statues, slightly more than 10 m (33 ft) high, are of the king and his queen. On either side of the portal are two statues of the king, wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt (south colossus) and the double crown (north colossus); these are flanked by statues of the queen. Remarkably, this is one of the very few instances in Egyptian art where the statues of the king and his consort are equal in size. Traditionally, the statues of the queens stood next to those of the pharaoh but were never taller than his knees. In the 24th year of his reign, Ramesses went to Abu Simbel with his wife. In the Great Temple of the King, there are small statues of princes and princesses next to their parents. In this case, they are positioned symmetrically: on the south side (on the left as one faces the gateway) are, from left to right, princes Meryatum and Meryre, princesses Meritamen and Henuttawy, and princes Pareherwenemef and Amun-her-khepeshef, while on the north side, the same figures are in reverse order. The plan of the Small Temple is a simplified version of that of the Great Temple. As in the larger temple dedicated to the king, the hypostyle hall in the smaller temple is supported by six pillars; in this case, however, they are not Osiris pillars depicting the king. But they are decorated with scenes of the queen playing the sistrum (an instrument sacred to the goddess Hathor), together with the gods Horus, Khnum, Khonsu, and Thoth, and the goddesses Hathor, Isis, Maat, Mut of Asher, Satis, and Taweret; in one scene, Ramesses is presenting flowers or burning incense. The capitals of the pillars bear the faces of the goddess Hathor; this type of column is known as Hathoric. The bas-reliefs in the pillared hall illustrate the deification of the king, the destruction of his enemies in the north and south (in these scenes the king is accompanied by his wife), and the queen making offerings to the goddesses Hathor and Mut. The hypostyle hall is followed by a vestibule, access to which is given by three large doors. On the south and north walls of this chamber, there are two graceful and poetic bas-reliefs of the king and his consort presenting papyrus plants to Hathor, who is depicted as a cow on a boat sailing in a thicket of papyri. On the west wall, Ramesses II and Nefertari are depicted making offerings to the god Horus and the divinities of the Cataracts—Satis, Anubis, and Khnum. The rock-cut sanctuary and the two side chambers are connected to the transverse vestibule and are aligned with the axis of the temple. The bas-reliefs on the sidewalls of the small sanctuary represent scenes of offerings to various gods made either by the pharaoh or the queen. On the back wall, which runs west along the temple’s axis, there is a niche in which Hathor, as a divine cow, appears to be emerging from the mountain; the goddess is depicted as the Mistress of the temple dedicated to her and to queen Nefertari, who is inextricably linked to the goddess. Image by Elias Rovielo is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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