Cult Temples

Most of the temples in the Theban necropolis were built for the mortuary cults of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom period, but there are a few additional small structures built during earlier dynasties or Greek and Roman rule. These were dedicated to specific deities of the periods in which they were constructed and do not come into the category of mortuary temples.

Deir el-Shelwit


Four kilometres south of Medinet Habu on the road to Armant which takes you past the site of Amenhotep III’s palace at Malqata, a small temple of the goddess Isis was built by the Romans. The structure consists of a propylon gateway decorated with deeply carved reliefs by the Emperors Galba, Otho and Vespasian, who appear before various deities. A large court was once surrounded by walls which no longer exist, but there were remains of a doorway bearing a cartouche of Caesar at the centre of the court. A well was built in the north-west corner of the court.

Temple at Deir el-Shelwit

The main temple structure is usually kept locked and unless the key is made available the visitor has to be content with peering through a grill covering the doorway into the dark interior. This consists of a narrow hall and a sanctuary, decorated by Emperors Hadrian and Antonius Pius, surrounded by six small chambers and a staircase to the roof. The decoration includes interesting reliefs and inscriptions concerning rituals of the deities acknowledged during the Roman Period, at a time when many of the old rituals were becoming difficult to understand.

Temple of Thoth at Qasr el-Aguz

In the middle of the village of Kom Lolla, not far from the entrance to the temple of Rameses III at Medinet Habu, is a tiny Temple of Thoth constructed by Ptolemy VIII, Euergetes II. It was also dedicated to the ancestors of the Ptolemaic pharaoh. The temple is usually kept locked, but the visitor can ask in the village for the guardian who has the key. There is no entrance charge, but expect to pay baksheesh to the guardian.

Temple of Thoth at Qasr el-Aguz

The structure is very simple, consisting of a small forecourt leading to three chambers. There is little to be seen in the first hall, but the entrance door to the second hall depicts the titles of Ptolemy and Cleopatra II. Scenes in the second hall show the king offering before various deities. The sanctuary behind also shows the king before deities although much of the decoration is difficult to make out. The reliefs here depict Ptolemy making offerings to some of his ancestors, Ptolemy V and Ptolemy IV with their queens. Ptolemy VIII can also be seen receiving the heb-sed symbol from Thoth. The northern wall of the sanctuary depicts the king opening a shrine containing Thoth and the rear wall shows him making offerings of ritual objects to many different (and some lesser known) deities. The ceiling shows the goddesses of the north and south, Nekhbet and Buto as vultures.

Temple of Hathor at Deir el-Medina

Deir el-Medina is primarily known as the ‘Village of the Workmen’, the community of artisans who were employed in the construction of the royal tombs and other monuments of the Theban necropolis during the New Kingdom. It was also the site of several known temples dating up to the Ptolemaic Period. Deir el-Medina is to the south of Sheikh ‘Abd el-Qurna, taking a right-hand fork off the road to the Valley of the Queens.

Deir el-Medina Temple of Hathor

The largest of the temples extant today is a Temple of Hathor ‘Goddess of the West’, situated on the hillside to the north of the workmen’s houses. The temple is built on the site of several earlier temples, the first constructed by Tuthmose I and a temple of Rameses II on this site was destroyed during the Ptolemaic Period, when Ptolemy IV Philopator began the present Temple of Hathor. This was one of the last temples to be contained within a high mudbrick enclosure.

The gate into the enclosure was added by Ptolemy XIII, Neos Dionysos, who is also depicted on the lintel in the entrance to the columned hall. A narrow vestibule beyond, decorated by Ptolemy VI Philometor, has a staircase on the left-hand side which leads up to the roof. The vestibule is beautifully decorated with floral columns and Hathor pillars in a very well-preserved condition and still with much colour. A column to the left-hand side of the doorway of the vestibule depicts the deified Imhotep with his mother and wife and on the right shows the deified Amenhotep, son of Hapu.

Deir el-Medina Temple of Hathor

The vestibule has three doorways leading to three sanctuaries dedicated to Hathor as the local goddess of the Theban necropolis (centre), Amun-Sokar-Osiris representing the underworld (left) and Amun-Re-Osiris as a solar god (right). The reliefs in each of the sanctuaries, showing the king offering to a wide variety of deities, are very well-preserved and have recently been cleaned to show their colours. In the sanctuary of Amun-Sokar-Osiris there is a relief showing a judgement scene where the heart is being weighed – usually only seen in tombs. Another scene from this sanctuary shows the four-headed Ram of Mendes who represents the four winds.

There are the remains of several votive chapels against the north enclosure wall. On the southern side of the enclosure was a mudbrick birth-house, common in Ptolemaic temples, built by Ptolemy X Soter II and Cleopatra III. A Roman Iseum (Chapel of Isis), probably built by Caesar Augustus, was situated against the western wall behind the sanctuaries. The temple was later re-used as a Coptic monastery.

Site of New Kingdom temples

Scant remains of a temple dedicated to the cult of Amenhotep I (who is thought to be the founder of the workmen’s village) can be seen on the hillside immediately to the north of the Ptolemaic temple enclosure. Just in front of this are the reconstructed remains of a large Hathor Chapel built for the workmen by Seti I. On the hillside opposite the entrance to the Ptolemaic temple are the remains of a temple built by Rameses II and dedicated to Amun, Mut and Khons, the Theban Triad. Reconstruction work has recently been undertaken on these small temples.


Entrance to the temples of Deir el-Medina are included in the ticket for the workmen’s village and tombs of Sennedjem and Inherkau, costing EGP 30 from the ticket office.

~ by Su on February 9, 2009.