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What is an Ancient Mortuary Temple?

What is Ancient Egypt?

Mansions of Millions of Years

A stone, purpose-built building; erected and maintained on the instructions of the Pharaoh during Pharaoh’s lifetime. After Pharaoh’s death, the Mortuary Temple became the place to venerate the deceased Pharaoh and ensure that their name was remembered for, “Millions of Years”.

The Cult of the Pharaoh would be established here before the death of the Pharaoh and usually all the Priests would be picked by Pharaoh directly.

The Priests dedicated to the Cult would be responsible for the well being of the Pharaoh’s Soul which was represented within the Temple by his Ka Statue or a Statue which represented his Soul.

This would include the waking, bathing, dressing, feeding, praying for and singing to the Statue which represented Pharaoh’s Soul during the day, and the putting to bed of the “Pharaoh” at night.

All this was completed to appease and venerate Pharaoh’s Soul and asking for Pharaoh to intervene on behalf of Egypt with the Deities.

The Mortuary Temple was only one part of the Pharaoh’s Mortuary Complex. Read on for more details. . . .

What is Ma’at?


The worldly and afterlife core that was the central guide of Egyptian life and religion.

Ma’at was so important that the concept was brought to life as a Goddess.

Pharaoh had the jurisdiction to perform all necessary religious rituals on behalf of Egypt as a whole which was ennobled on Pharaoh at the Coronation. The Coronation Rituals literally re-enacted God Horus’ accession to the Throne of Egypt in place of his father Osiris.

After Coronation, Pharaoh was the Deities living representative within the Land; and would become a Deity on death. He presided over the Temples, their Priests and Priestesses and ruled to ensure that the concept of Ma’at was maintained throughout.



Built on foundations of stone slabs set into sand-filled trenches. The Walls were built with large blocks of varying shape which were laid in courses. The stones were decorated along with their neighbours; first with reliefs carved directly into the stone and then brightly painted and sometimes gilded.

Early Development of Mortuary Temples


Old Kingdom Period and Middle Kingdom Period
Mortuary Temples usually were in a Complex with the Pharaoh’s Pyramid. They would have an open-air Court with Pillars, Storerooms, Shrines and a Chapel. In the Chapel the Pharaoh’s Priests would perform the ritual Daily Funerary Rites and present offerings to the dead Pharaoh’s Soul so Pharaoh would continue working towards Egypt’s Ma’at.

New Kingdom Period
Pharaoh’s were buried in rock hewn Tombs instead of Pyramids and so would have built separated Mortuary Temples from their Tombs. They continued to be administered to by Priests as mentioned above.

Looking at the difference in the Mortuary Temples:-

Firstly, Pharaoh Seti I’s Mortuary Temple – see my plan on right hand side

Located in Abydos beside the burial places of the majority 1st and some of the 2nd Dynasty Pharaohs

Built in Pharaoh Seti I’s Reign: 1290–1279 BC: 19th Dynasty

It served as a memorial to Pharaoh and also honours his father’s Temple, Ramses I

If you would like to learn more about Pharaoh Seti I’s Mortuary Temple at Abydos, click here.


Secondly, Pharaoh Menkaure’s Mortuary Temple Complex – see my plan below

Located on the Giza Necropolis near Cairo, beside Khafre and Khufu’s Mortuary Temple Complexes

Built in the Reign of Pharaoh Menkaure: 2575– c. 2465 BC: 4th Dynasty Pharaoh

To find out more about Pharaoh Menkaure’s Mortuary Temple Complex, click here.


Lastly, Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple – see my plan below

Located on the West Bank of Thebes and considered to be one of the finest examples of its type in Egypt. Built in Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s Reign: approx. 1479-1458 BC: 18th Dynasty

Entrance pylon into the First courtyard: This included a garden full of plants from the Land of Punt, with the central pathway was lined with Trees and Sphinx

The Ramp to Level 2 was graced by 2 Statues of crouching Lions 

Level 2: Second courtyard and Senenmut’s tomb; Birth Colonnade; Punt colonnade; Hathor chapel and Anubis chapel

  • Birth Colonnade to the right of the Ramp depicts Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s divine birth
  • Punt Colonnade to the left of the Ramp depicts Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s expeditions to Punt
  • Hathor chapel: south end of Colonnade with its own Hypostyle Hall
  • Anubis chapel: north end of Colonnade with its own Hypostyle Hall and astronomical ceiling
  • Ramp to level 3: Statues of 2 Statues of the God Horus depicted as a Falcon grace the sides of the Ramp

Level 3: Third courtyard: Royal cult chapel; Solar cult chapel and the Sanctuary of the God Amun

  • Portico with 2 sets of columns facing forward
  • Behind the columns there is a central Courtyard with small chambers off it
  • To the left is the Royal Cult Chapel
  • To the right is the Solar Cult Chapel
  • The Sanctuary of God Amun is behind the Courtyard and was aligned to point toward Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s Tomb in the Valley of the Kings

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