Thursday, June 9, 2011

Page 20: Old and Middle Kingdom Development of Ancient Egyptian Temples

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Pyramid temples, sun temples and provincial temples of the Old Kingdom
In its developed form the Old Kingdom pyramid complex contained, in addition to possible various minor chapels, two structures which are referred to as temples. A valley temple - which provided an entrance to the complex from the Nile or its canal - was connected b a long, walled causeway to the second structure, a mortuary temple, where sacrifices and other rituals were conducted for the deceased king.

In the earlier ancient Egyptian pyramids the mortuary temple usually stood on the north or south side of the pyramid in a north-south oriented enclosure. Later pyramid enclosures, from the 4th dynasty. positioned the mortuary temple at the base of the eastern face of the pyramid superstructure and were oriented on an east-west axis - the orientation of most later temples of all types.

By the time of Khafre / Chephren (2520-2494 BC) the plan of the royal mortuary temple was established, with certain fixed areas: an entrance hall was followed by a broad columned court, which gave access to the rear section of the temple containing an enclosed area with five shrines or niches for statues of the king, as well as storage chambers and an inner sanctuary. Essentially, most of these elements are also found in later temple design. While many of the details are clearly different, a very real transition may be seen in the Old Kingdom mortuary temple from the simply plans of the Pre-dynastic and Early Dynastic shrines to the more complex Middle and New Kingdom forms of the developed ancient Egyptian temple.

An important variant of the pyramid temple is found in the sun temples constructed by a number of kings of the 5th Dynasty at various sites in the general area of the Memphite necropolis. Specifically intended to establish an eternal cult of the king 'in the domain of Ra' they were additional to the pyramid cult complex.

Six of these structures were built, though only that of Niuserre (2416-2388 BC) at Abu Ghurab survivies to any recognizable extent. In fact, four of the sun temples known to have been built have not been located; but it is likely that all these ancient Egyptian temples shared a fairly common plan and function Judging by the temple of Niuserre, the sun temple of the 5th Dynasty were similar to the standard pyramid complex in having a valley temple with a causeway leading up to the main enclosure with its focal structure - in this case, an obeliskoid monument rather than a pyramid - and ancillary buildings.
The so-called valley temple of the standard Old Kingdom pyramid complex was built with access to water and functioned primarily as an elaborate entrance to the complex and also served as a symbolic portal to the world of the afterlife. A long, enclosed causeway linked the valley temple with the mortuary temple at the base of the pyramid itself. Click the picture to enlarge.