A Blog to Keep the Lizards Away. It's about posting and sharing the things I'm into. Hope you enjoy the show!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Love Nest For The Afterlife

Decorated ceiling of Senemut and the Queen's Underground Boudoir

18th Dynasty Egyptian Queen Hapshepsut built her Mortuary temple in Deir el-Bahari, a valley adjacent to the Valley of the Kings, in Luxor, Egypt. This glorious Temple was designed by Senemut, an architect who was also Hapshepsut's secret lover. 

Deir el Bahari is separated from the King's Valley by a mountain range and precipitous cliffs 1,000 feet high. When the Queen died in 1485 B.C. she was buried in a King's Valley tomb close to the dividing mountain range. Remarkably in the 19th century a small tunnel was found which burrows deep under the mountain and connects her King's Valley tomb with her mortuary temple in adjacent Deir el-Bahari.

Hapshepsut's Deir el-Bahari Temple

The tunnel descends sharply from her tomb and deep under the mountain opens into a small room. On the opposite side of the room the tunnel ascends steeply till it reaches the surface and a trapdoor hidden in the sand, in the next valley, on the right hand side of the Deir el-Bahari Temple.

Hapshepsut's tunnel only had to be big enough to allow her Ka [Spirit] to escape down to the room and join her companion Senemut for secret spiritual reunions.

Egypt's only female Middle Kingdom pharaoh Queen Hapshepsut

25 years ago I was able to convince the local guardian to unlock the covered Deir el-Bahari trapdoor. With a torch I slithered on my stomach over bat dung and other refuse for over 500 metres to reach the underground room and take this precious photograph of the wall and ceiling decoration - a rare early depiction of a middle kingdom astrological Star Clock and some beautifully executed representations of Sobek the Crocodile God and Taweret the Hippopotamus Goddess joined together.

The Star clock map or wheel is a calendar which divides the night into 30 decans or groups of stars which were visualised as star gods who rose and moved across the night sky over the course of 10 days.

Senemut's Star Map

Taweret, is the hippopotamus goddess of childbirth and love. Here she is represented as one of the constellations of the Northern sky, an ancient pole star with the other stars revolving around her.

When Taweret is shown with Sobek the crocodile she takes on the form of Ipet, a nourishing deity and the Mother of Osiris. Interestingly when the crocodile and hippo are seen together as a composite mythical creature, she is called Ammut - the "female devourer" or the "eater of hearts" the destroyer of those who led wicked lives. Just what was Senemut thinking?

Last year I was surprised to find the tunnel entrance has been exposed and the tunnel is in the process of being cleared and mapped, the surrounds landscaped and sign posted - making me all the more fortunate for having seen it in it's original condition.

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