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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

A Sandstone Block from the Henqet-ankh Temple of Thutmosis III in Swansea

Monday, 7 October 2019

A Sandstone Block from the Henqet-ankh Temple of Thutmosis III in Swansea

Over the past two weeks I have had the pleasure of being a team member of the Thutmosis III Temple Project, directed by Dr. Myriam Seco Álvarez. Thutmosis III is known to have built several monuments on the West Bank of Luxor, including his so-called "Temple of Millions of Years", which is located on the edge of the cultivation about 100m north of the Ramesseum. In ancient times the temple was also referred to as the "Mansion of Menkheperre (Thutmosis III) Henqet-ankh". The site had been previously excavated by Georges Daressy (1888–1889), Arthur Weigall (1905), and Herbert Ricke (1934–1937), although no systematic excavation of the site had been undertaken before the project commenced work in 2008 (fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Sorting fragments (photo by Myriam Seco Álvarez)

My work at the site focused on the Ritual of the Hours, particularly those of the Night, in addition to the thousands of limestone blocks. The Ritual of the Hours were inscribed in raised relief on sandstone blocks forming a vaulted ceiling of a rear room within the temple. All traces of this room have virtually disappeared besides several hundred blocks of varying sizes. However, the room also originally contained a granite false door located on the western side, which functioned to allow the ka of the pharaoh to teleport between his tomb and the temple in order to receive offerings. At an unknown date this false door was removed from the temple and transported to the neighbouring site of Medinet Habu. Discovered face down in the late twentieth century, it was erected at the entrance to the Roman temple, where it still stands (fig. 2). At the very top are the remains of the feet belonging to the personifications of the Twelfth Hour of the Day and the First Hour of the Night.

Fig. 2: False door at Medinet Habu

Interestingly, the Egypt Centre has a close connection with this temple since we have a sandstone block (W1371) which clearly originated from the site. The raised relief depicts a standing figure on the right with a small figure of an offering bearer directly in front (fig. 3). Most importantly, the rectangular box above her head gives the name of the temple: "Mansion of Menkheperre Henqet-ankh"! This block was purchased by "Llewellyn" on behalf of Sir Henry Wellcome from the 1906 Robert de Rustafjaell sale. The lot (58) is described as "Other fragments in sand and limestone–kneeling figure of woman, etc., Men with offerings, etc.; Thebes and Deir-el-Bahri". The fragment is even depicted in the plates (X. 4) of the catalogue. Visitors to the Egypt Centre can find it in one of the display drawers within the House of Life.

Fig. 3: Sandstone fragment (W1371)

Other reliefs from the temple may also have been sold in the 1906 de Rustafjaell sale, although this is difficult to determine due to the lack of images in the catalogue for the majority of pieces. One fragment, however, could be BM EA 43457 (fig. 4), which was purchased by William Talbot Ready (1857–1914) as part of lot 57. It is also depicted in plate X (1) of the catalogue. The fragment was subsequently sold to the British Museum in 1907. This lot is described as "Others–cartouche of Thothmes III, head of Ammon-Ra, vultures, etc.; Deir-el-Bahri". While the mention of Deir el-Bahari might imply that it originated from the temples there, it was commonly used by Victorian travelled to refer to the greater surrounding area. De Rustafjaell may have acquired these reliefs around the same time that the temple was being excavated by Weigall in 1905 (Weigall (1906).

Fig. 4: Relief of Thutmosis III:

Readers to this blog can follow the progress of the Thutmosis III Temple Project via the website or through their Facebook page. I am most grateful to Dr. Myriam Seco Álvarez for inviting me to be part of this project!

Bierbrier, M. L. (2012) Who Was Who in Egyptology. London: The Egypt Exploration Society. 4th edition.
Daressy, G. (1926) 'Le voyage d'inspection de M. Grébaut en 1889'. Annales du Service des Antiquités de l'Égypte 26: 1–22.
Griffin, K. (2017) 'Toward a better understanding of the ritual of the Hours of the Night (Stundenritual)'. In Tombs of the South Asasif necropolis: New discoveries and research 2012–14, ed. E. Pischikova. The American University in Cairo Press: Cairo. 97–134.
Ricke, H. (1939) Der Totentempel Thutmoses' III.: Baugeschichtliche Untersuchung. Beiträge zur ägyptischen Bauforschung und Altertumskunde 3 (1). Cairo: Selbstverlag.
Seco Álvarez, M. (2014) 'The Temple of Millions of Years of Tuthmosis III'. Egyptian Archaeology: The Bulletin of the Egyptian Exploration Society 44: 21–25.
——— (2017) 'Excavations in the "Temple of Millions of Years" of Thutmosis III'. In Proceedings of the XI International Congress of Egyptologists, Florence Egyptian Museum, Florence, 23–30 August 2015, ed. G. Rosati and G. M. Cristina. Archeopress Egyptology 19. Oxford: Archeopress. 581–586.
Seco Álvarez, M. and J. M. Babón (2015) 'Middle Kingdom tombs beneath the Temple of Millions of Years'. Egyptian Archaeology: The Bulletin of the Egyptian Exploration Society 47: 27–30.
Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge (1906) Catalogue of the Collection of Egyptian Antiquities Formed in Egypt, by R. de Rustafjaell, Esq. Queen's Gate, S. W. London: Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge. 
Weigall, A. E. P. (1906) 'A report on the excavation of the funeral temple of Thoutmosis III at Gurneh'. Annales du Service des Antiquités de l'Égypte 7: 121–141.

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