Thoth Hill

The spur of mountain now known as Thoth Hill is at the very northerly point of the Theban necropolis and an exhausting three hour hike from the road leading to the Valley of the Kings, just past the house which Howard Carter once used. The path is very steep and is only recommended in winter. To visit the remains a local guide is necessary. On the peak, which was known locally as ‘the Crown of Thebes’, is the oldest known temple to be built in Thebes, its origins dating to the Archaic Period.

In 1904 a structure was first discovered here by George Sweinfurth and surveyed in 1909 by Petrie who identified it as a heb-sed monument built by the Middle Kingdom pharaoh Mentuhotep Sankhkare. Fragments found at the site were inscribed with the name of the pharaoh and three baboon statues (representing the god Thoth) gave the site its erroneous name of Thoth Hill.

The temple site was more thoroughly excavated during 1995-98 by a Hungarian Mission directed by Gyozo Voros. They found a mudbrick structure built on top of an artificial Middle Kingdom stone terrace. Walls with an entrance pylon contained a free-standing sanctuary with three chambers. Many objects were found in the clearance work including foundation deposits at the four corners of the temple and fragments of a limestone lintel and limestone door jambs which were carved with an inscription in the name of Sankhkare, dedicating the temple to the god Horus. It was thought by the excavators that the temple had been astronomically oriented towards the heliacal rising of the star Sirius (at that time) which was associated with the god Horus in ancient times.

Further work by the Hungarian archaeologists was to investigate the level below the artificial Middle Kingdom terrace and to everyone’s great surprise a previously undiscovered stone temple was revealed, with a plan similar to the later structure, but having only a single sanctuary. It would seem that the terrace of the later temple had been built from the collapsed walls of the earlier structure. Pottery and architectural fragments found in the earlier remains date the structure to the Archaic Period. The earlier temple differs in its orientation to Sirius by around two degrees from the later structure, suggesting a shift in the star positions over the intervening centuries and the astronomical calculations involved assist in its dating.

~ by Su on September 9, 2010.