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Mortuary Temple of Pharaoh Merneptah

Theban Mortuary Temples - T vs MT - Thebes - The Places

Temple of Millions of Years of Merneptah

Pharaoh Merneptah ruled Egypt for approx. 10 years during the 18th Dynasty after the death of his long-lived father, Pharaoh Ramses II. He was buried in King’s Valley Tomb, KV8 and was succeeded by his son, Pharaoh Seti I.

Location

As with all other Theban Mortuary Temples, the Temple of Millions of Years of Merneptah is located on the West Bank of the River Nile at Thebes, modern day Luxor. It is found next to his father Mortuary Temple, the Ramesseum, and the Mortuary Temple of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. Pharaoh is known to have “robbed” much of the stonework for the Temple from that of Pharaoh Amenhotep III’s Mortuary Temple.

We cannot view this as a form of theft by the monarch but rather that the offending Pharaoh viewed the co-opting of other Pharaoh’s building stones into their own monuments as a way to make them sacred and bring a gravitas of importance to their own projects. If the stone was marked with another Pharaoh’s cartouche this almost made it like a modern time reliquary’s – even more sacred and bound with even more meaning. To learn how the builders used Stone and other material to build the Monuments of Ancient Egypt, click here.

Layout

Pharaoh chose a simpler layout for his Mortuary Temple than that of his father’s, the Ramesseum, or his grandfather, Pharaoh Seti I’s Mortuary Temple. It appears that Merneptah chose the layout which matched with Pharaoh Thutmoses III’s Temple.

Comprising of the entrance through the First Pylon along a pathway into the First Courtyard, also known as the Court of the Royal Prescence”, which had Osirian columns at either side. The Pathway leads directly on to the Second Pylon and into the Second Courtyard. From there were 2 Hypostyle Halls; the first had 12 columns, while the second was slightly smaller with only 8 columns. Beyond this was the Inner Sanctum for the Pharaoh’s Ka Statue and the Chapels and Ka Statues of the Theban Triad: the God Amun, the Goddess Mut and the God Khonsu.

Surrounding the main Mortuary Temple, but within the Temple’s mudbrick enclosure Walls were:

  • Palace
  • Priest’s House
  • A Well which served as the Temple’s Sacred lake equivalent
  • Workshops
  • Cult of God Ra’s Court and Chapel with a Sun Altar, alongside rooms for the Cults of the Ancestors
  • Storerooms including a Butchery room
  • Temple’s Treasury
  • Rooms for the Cult Priests of Pharaoh Merneptah to conduct their business

Loss of the Mortuary Temple and its Complex

As with many other ancient Temples, within and outside of Egypt, time and the weather has not been kind to the home of Pharaoh’s Cult. His Mortuary Temple was sited very close to the River Nile which flooded on a yearly basis. Whilst this is perfect for the agriculture of Egypt it is not so convenient for a Temple. To learn more about the Nile’s annual Flood, click here.   

To compound the Flooding and Weathering, the area has been subject to at least one earthquake in 27 BC. 

Thankfully, the Mortuary Temple has recently been restored so its remains can be navigated around with ease. The work was completed by the Swiss Institute of Archaeology in collaboration with Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). Please note that the remains are what is left to us after the Nile floods have removed:

  • First Pylon and Second Pylon
  • First Hypostyle Hall and its Chambers
  • Second Hypostyle Hall and its Cult Chapels