Sun TemplesTemples - The Buildings - Builders & Buildings
Sun or Solar Temples are dedicated only to the reverence of the Sun God, Ra and the Pharaoh seems to have needed to have this added to his usual Mortuary Temple worshipping complex in order to achieved what he needed to reach the “best” version of his Afterlife.
This was brought into action by 6 or 7 Pharaohs who all reigned during the 5th Dynasty. The temples were all erected in the Old Kingdom Period until Pharaoh Akhenaten awakened the principle with his Sun Temple inside Karnak Temple, Thebes.
All Sun Temples appear to follow the same layout rules:
- Had to be built on the West side of the Nile or the side of the Nile that the dead could ascend to use the Afterlife from
- There was one entrance in and one exit out
- They were divided into 3 sections
- Small Valley Temple next to the Nile or a Canal
- Causeway leading from the Valley Temple to the Sun Temple
- The Sun Temple which had its footing on the Desert Plateau
- The Temples seem to have been constructed for Open Air Worshipping
The only 2 Temples that have been found and investigated to date are those of Pharaoh Userkaf and Pharaoh Nyuserre.
The other Pharaohs who are thought to have built Sun Temples are:
Pharaoh Neferefre and
Ra’s Favourite Place. The Sun Temple of Pharaoh Nyuserre
A Temple dedicated to the Sun God Ra at Abu Gorab by Pharaoh Nyuserre, who was the 6th Pharaoh of the 5th Dynasty. The Temple appears to have been constructed towards the end of his approx. 30-year Reign.
A Valley Temple would allow Pharaoh and his Priests access to the Sun Temple via the Nile and then a walk along a long Causeway. The Sun Temple itself was entered from the East and was a walled enclosure in a rectangular shape.
The Sun Temple’s Alabaster Offering Table or Altar was in the centre of its Courtyard. It comprised of 5 large blocks and each of these was decorated with a hieroglyph: one for Ra and the other 4 for Hotep, so all would read Ra-hotep or “let Ra be satisfied” if viewed from the compass points. Confirming that the Offering Table was for Food and Drink due directly to the deity. Records have confirmed that this would have included 2 Oxen and 2 Geese per day, most of which would have gone to feeding the Priests who were the caretakers of the Temple.
An Obelisk, a symbol of Sun God Ra, was erected at 36m high at the Temple’s Western end; being built on an 20m high angle sided podium which gave it further prominence. All made from Limestone apart from the very base which was built of Red Granite for strength.
Pharaoh’s Heb Sed Festival and the changing of the Seasons were shown in Reliefs throughout the Temple.
As with all Temples, storage and administrative rooms were included in the plan of the building. The east wall of the Courtyard contains the remains of 9 basins made from Alabaster. The theories for the use of these vary from bloodletting of the offering animals to water drinking vessels. Egyptologists are yet to complete further analysis to be able to provide a clear answer.
A Sun Boat was found buried in a mud brick Chamber to the south of the Temple which had a size of 30m long by 10m wide.
The Stronghold of Ra: The Sun Temple of Pharaoh Userkaf
Temple dedicated to the Sun God Ra, by Pharaoh Userkaf, the Founder of the 5th Dynasty. He built it at Abu Gorab and it seems to have been erected in Regnal Year 5.
The Valley Temple
This allowed Pharaoh and his Priests access to the Sun Temple via the Nile and then a walk along a Causeway. Although the Valley Temple is now destroyed, the evidence suggest that it had an open Courtyard with Pillars and Chapels.
The Sun Temple
It was entered from the East and was a walled enclosure in a rectangular shape. The Temple seems to have been a solid Mastaba ringed by a Wall which included single roomed 2 Chapels for offering purposes.
A Granite Obelisk was added to the top of the Temple but seems to have been added at a later date and probably by another Pharaoh.
It appears as though the Temple was in use to the end of the 5th Dynasty as Seal Impressions and Pottery items were found with the Cartouche’s for Pharaoh’s Userkaf, Sahure, Nyuserre, Djedkare and Unas. This would allow time and provide a motivation for the addition of this Obelisk.
The Pottery also confirms that the Valley Temple was in use until the end of the 6th Dynasty.
Whereas there are strong reports that the Sun Valley Temple’s Obelisk had collapsed by the New Kingdom Period under Pharaoh Thutmoses III and they were interpreting the remains as a Pyramid rather than a full Temple.