- WEST THEBES -
"The Temple of User-Maat-Re Meriamun Who Joins Eternity in the Possession of Amun in the West f Thebes."
Medinet Habu is a small village in the Western Thebes, located in 2 kilometers to the south from Ramesseum In the ancient times, it was called Janet and according to ancient legend, it was the place where the god Amon appeared to the World for the first time. Since that times, many pilgrimages arrived here. The evidence of it is the presence of the XVIII DynastyTemple, dedicated to Amon Janet, built during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut and Thutmose III. The sacred significance of this place subsequently prompted Ramesses III - the Pharaoh of the XX Dynasty to choose it for the construction of his own Mortuary Temple.
The reign of Ramesses III (1185 to 1153 BC) was the last period of prosperity of the great Egyptian Empire during the New Kingdom. It was marked by the number of military events and grandiose temple construction. Egypt, which managed to preserve its fundamental historical heritage, once again entered the period of blossom of the Royal Power. That time - for the last time...
The entire temple complex occupies an area of 300 m length and 210 width, and has more than 7 000 m2 of wall area covered with drawings and bas-reliefs. It's fortress walls are still standing and well preserved. The massive wall, made of mud bricks and encircling the entire territory of the complex is also not in a very bad condition.
The first pylon of the Temple is made in the style of a fortification gate, called "Migdol" (architectural feature of the ancient fortresses of Asia Minor).
This architectural structure is a unique feature of the Temple, giving it the status of a fortress and, in conjunction with the fortress wall, performing a protective function against invasion from the outside.
Besides the Migdol - we see the Main Pylon of the Temple.
The Main Pylon of the Temple leads to the open courtyard - the 1st Hypostyle Hall, one side of which has a colonnade in the form of Ramesses III statues in the shape of Osiris, and on the other side - is a colonnade with capitals in the form of lotuses.
The Second Pylon leads to the Hypostyle Hall, where the columns are also represented by the statues of Ramesses III.
Then follows the ramp, leading to the Tthird Pylon and then to a large Hypostyle Hall without a roof.
A detailed plan of the Temple and cross-sections of the main rooms are represented in the schemes, drawn by the archaeological mission of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, which provided large-scale excavations in Medinet Habu in the beginning of the XX century.
In addition to its architectural and artistic significance, the Temple of Ramesses III is best known as a treasure of stone annals, telling us about the King's numerous exploits, including his military campaign against the Libyans and his famous war against the so-called "Sea Peoples".
Texts and reliefs dedicated to the " Sea Peoples" are dated by the period of the eight years reign of Ramesses III (approximately 1190th years BC). They are containing a valuable information of Egyptian campaign against the "Coalition of the Sea".
The Temple complex of Ramesses III in Medinet Abu, located in the westernmost district of Thebes, was one of the most impressive buildings of Ancient Egypt, known before the beginning of the XIX century. The photographs and sketches made by the first European travelers show us a multiple layering of the late period buildings, constructed amid the ruins of the monumental structure of the Pharaonic era.
The first European, who made a description of the temple in the contemporary literature was Vivant Denon, who visited Medinet Abu in 1799-1801, during the Egyptian expedition of Napoleon Bonaparte.
"At the right, adjoining the village of Medinet- Abu, at the bottom of the mountain, is a vast palace, built and enlarged at different periods. All that I could make of it in this my first examination on horseback, was, that the lower part of this palace which abuts againsft the mountain, is the most ancient in its construction, and is covered with hieroglyphics, glyphics, cut very deep and without any relief, and that, in the fourth century, the catholic religion converted it to facred purpofes, and made a church of it, adding two rows of pillars in the style of the age, to support a covered roof. At the fouth of this monument there are Egyptian apartments, with ladders and square windows, the only building I had yet feen here which was not a temple; and beyond this are edifices rebuilt with old materials, but left unfinillied."
Vivant Denon, 1803 page 96
The Scottish artist David Roberts, famous for his series of lithographic paintings and sketches dedicated to Egypt and the Middle East, created during his long journeys in these parts of the World, has also depicted the Temple of Ramesses III. Below are two of his works.
French Orientalist Jean Francois Champollion has described the Temple of Ramesses III in details in 1829 in his work "Lettres de M. Champollion le jeune, écrites pendant son voyage en Égypte, en 1828 et 1829."
When the "Service de Conservation des Monuments de l'Egypte" was formed under the direction of the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, Medinet Habu was one of the first ancient sites to be systematically excavated between 1859 and 1899.
During this time, the main Temple was completely cleared, and a large number of buildings of the Coptic period, including the church described by Denon, were completely eradicated without without notes or records being taken.
Photographs, taken by the French photographer Felix Bonfis are clearly showing the state of the Temple complex during the time of archaeological works conducted by Mariette.
Further large-scale archaeological and restoration works, with subsequent detailed documentation, has been carried out since 1924 by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago under the leadership of a German professor, Egyptologist - Uvo Hölscher. The restoration of the architectural complex of Ramesses III is one of the most significant contributions to the study and preservation of the history of Egyptian architecture.
The huge bas-relief, depicting the calendar, occupies the most of the outside surface of the Temple wall, surrounding the entire complex of Ramesses III. Judging by the number of engraved lines, this is the longest hieroglyphic inscription, found in Egypt. Also this is the most complete surviving temple calendar of the Pharaonic era. The work of Uvo Hölscher, devoted to the calendar of Ramesses III, issued in the 1934, can be found here: "The Calendar, the "Slaughterhouse," and Minor Records of Ramesses III".
Clearing of the area in front of the entrance to the Temple, revealed the presence of the embankment and the channel, leading from the Temple to the Nile. Connected with the river connecting channel, surrounded by a fortification wall, the Temple complex of Ramesses III represents itself a grandiose architectural structure, previously unknown to the archaeologists and researchers of Egypt.
Medinet Abu, being the Arabic name of the late Egyptian settlement that grew inside and around the fortress walls of the ancient Egyptian Temple, flourished until the Middle Ages. During the scientific excavation, archaeologists constantly stumbled upon the city ruins of the various times - evidence of the cultural history of the late Egyptian period.
They documented them for later researches. Below, there are 2 schemes, shown for comparison, drawn by the scientists of the University of Chicago:
The scheme of the foundations of the late period of buildings on the territory of the Medinet-Abu Temple complex.
After studying the available material, describing this archaeological site, our survey and research team arrived to the Theban village of Medinet Abu. Below are the photos, representing the great architectural complex, left to our contemporaries, built by Ramesses III, King of the XX Dynasty, whose reign was the apogee of the New Kingdom.
Surroundings of the Temple.
Interior architectural structures.
The last photo of the previous row shows a fragment of the doorway leading to the room of the Sacred Bark, bearing the traces, left from the nails, once fastening the metal plates.
Bas-reliefs and statues.
Wall with the Calendar.
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