Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Page 19: Temple Origin

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The site of Buto (Tell el-Fara'in) in the northwestern Delta is an ancient one, extending from Predynastic times to the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. Nothing has been found of the earliest shrine, but symbolically it represented all Lower Egypt.
... with sacral functions relating to the Egyptian gods. David O'Connor has linked the structures to the 'fortresses of the gods' mentioned in early ancient Egyptian inscriptions. These seem to have been ceremonial gathering places for the Egyptian gods known as the shemsuher, the 'entourage of Horus', who were associated with the king as the manifestation of the falcon god Horus - probably regarded as the same deity worshipped at Hierakonpolis. According to a reconstruction by O'Connor and others, in Early Dynastic Period the cult gods of various regions made symbolic journeys to the fortresses of the Egyptian gods for the celebration of important ritual events. The gathering of the gods in these enclosures may have been connected with the annual gathering of taxes, but seems to have been symbolic of royal or religious power, or both.

At least ten of these enclosures have been found in varying degrees of completeness at Abydos, dating from the first and second dynasties and from the period termed Dynasty 0. Consisting of large rectangular brick walls measuring about 65 x 122 m (213 x 400 ft), with two still standing heights of over 10 m (32 ft 9 in), the enclosures are inset with niches along three of their four sides and are decorated with more elaboratet panels on the east. This style of building has been called 'palace facade' because it is commonly believed that the structures imitated the walls of the living king's palace.

The royal enclosures of the 2nd Dynasty at Abydos seem
to have mimicked in brick architecture the wood and reed
structures of some of the earliest cultic complexes. At the
top left in the diagram is the funerary enclosure of king
Khasekhemwy, the great ruin of which, known as the
Shunet el-Zebib, is seen below...
The open courts of these enclosures may have contained a sacred mound similar to that found in the shrine of Hierakonpolis as well as in other later temples and shrines. This mound is of particular significance as it may have been regarded as a symbol of the original mound of creation in Egyptian mythology, from which the primordial falcon god was said to have surveyed the world from his perch or standard.

The 'followers' or 'entourage' of Horus also played an important role in the enactment of the regenerative Sed festival, and ancient series of rituals involving the periodic recoronation of the king on the thrones of Upper and Lower Egypt.  This festival was ideally held 30 years after the king's accession and was very probably performed within the court of the fortress of the Egyptian gods. Because the ceremonies could renew the king's powers in this life and the next, they were assimilated into the funerary complexes of Old Kingdom rulers, as may be seen in the famous Sed-festival courts and shrines of Djoser's Step Pyramid at Saqqara.