Dayr El Bahri – Temple Hatshepsut (picture essay)

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0 The impressive location of Hatshepsut temple – a natural amphitheater orientated to the east,
thus good astronomical observation – for sun and moon rise, also sirius and orion

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Looking into the temple one can see dead centre the doorway into the barque shrine of Amun,
into which midwinter sun shines at dawn –

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The first rays of the sun pass through this door way in the upper terrace of the temple and then across the courtyard and through
another doorway hitting the backwall of the Amun Shrine.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Important dates

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
10/11 November

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 li,inal points. Interesting but as Egyptian months were 30 days long – the interval doesn’t quite fit?

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