Above the doorway are two small skylights that allow light to enter at different times of year – there is a corresponding skylight in the room behind this to allow the light to penetrate deeper into the sanctuary.
The sun illuminate via these skylights on the 10/11 November and 1/2 Feb (either side of the solstice) – there are various theories why this should be so.
Looking east to the horizon from the upper terrace – the alignment is just left of the road, in the distance the pylons of Karnak are just visible three miles away.
There are other interesting features of the temple – the unfinished tomb (TT353) of Senenmut which lies in a small quarry nearby. His other ‘upper” tomb (TT71) is on a rocky outcrop just south of the temple on a hill called Sheikh Abd al Qurna (See picture of this tomb in the essay Pilgrimage to Sheikh Abd al Qurna). He was the vizier of Hatshepsut and architect of the whole temple complex. This unfinished tomb is also orientated east-west. The first chamber contains one of Egypt’s oldest astronomical ceilings and a lunar calendar (see my Wheel of the Year in Ancient Egypt for analysis of this). The tomb was never used, although work was begun to extend it, the final (unfinished) chamber lies under the temple – forming a subterranean crypt under the first terrace. One of the passages is also orientated toward the shrine of Hathor on the first terrace.
Ahmose I was the founder of the 18th dynasty who laid the basis for what has become known as the New Kingdom. His name means “Born of Iah” Ie Born of the Moon God. Iah (cognate with Hebrew Yael) is one of the original names of the moon, perhaps older (in this role) than Thoth of Khonsu. It usually denotes the visible moon just as as “Aten” denotes the visible sun. A number of 18th dynasty monuments have important connections with the moon ie the astrological ceiling of Senenmut. Can we surmise that the visible moon and sun has some particular significance during this period?
This film shows view from end of the walk:
30 Jan 2014 New Moon
31 Jan/1st Feb (solar alignment)
1st Feb (first crescent/first arrival day)
21/22 Winter Solstice
For ideas see David Furlough’s site here:
For plans etc see Szafrański, Zbigniew Queen Hatshepsut and her Temple – polish-english edition
vol 4 p141 describes the solar alignment and that of early November and 1st Feb – suggesting it brackets the coldest two months of the year -considered important twilight or liminal points. Interesting but as Egyptian months were 30 days long – the interval doesn’t quite fit?