Select Page

Medinet Habu

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

Pharaoh Ramses III’s Mansion of Millions of Years

“The Temple of User-Maat-Re Meryamun Who Joins Eternity in the Possession of Amun in the West of Thebes”

 

New Kingdom Pharaoh Ramses III of the 20th Dynasty is probably best known for his Mortuary Temple and Palace Complex at Medinet Habu on the Theban Necropolis, his defeat of the Sea Peoples and the manner of his death. For more details about Pharaoh Ramses III, his life, his family, his reign and his buildings, click here.

Location

Medinet Habu is found on the Theban Necropolis on the West Bank of the Nile from Thebes, modern day Luxor. It is between the Malkata City Palace Complex of Pharaoh Amenhotep III (click here to visit Malkata) and the Ramesseum Mortuary Complex of Pharaoh Ramses II (click here to visit the Ramesseum) and the Mortuary Temple of Pharaoh Merneptah (click here to visit his Mortuary Temple).

Layout

Pharaoh’s architects relied heavily, if not outright copied, the layout of the Ramesseum when planning Medinet Habu’s Mortuary Complex. To compare Medinet Habu with the Ramesseum, click here to access the Ramesseum Webpage.

Around the Complex was the mudbrick Enclosure Wall with the entrance to the Temple through a fortified gatehouse. This seems to have been an addition to most other earlier Mortuary Temples and could have been due to security concerns after the incursions onto Egyptian soil that his reign suffered from.

There is a large space between the Gateway entrance and the First Pylon to walk through.

Moving inside the Temple itself, you are drawn through the First Pylon which is decorated with his Battle Victory from Regnal Year 11; the decorations are in the form of hieroglyphs and pictorial reliefs. The First Courtyard is open air and is surrounded with statues of Pharaoh as God Osiris on one side and Columns on the other.

Adjacent to the First Courtyard, although outside the Temple Walls is the Pharaoh’s Palace. This had a “Window of Appearances” connecting the Palace to the interior of the Temple itself.

The Pathway takes you on to the Second Pylon which is again decorated with a Battle Victory, but this is from his Battles with the Sea Peoples from Regnal Year 8. These decorated reliefs are the longest detail ever recorded in Egypt. Again, the decorations are in the form of hieroglyphs and pictorial reliefs. The Second Courtyard, also known as “Courtyard of the Feasts” is in the format of a Peristyle Hall which is highly decorated. The North and South Columns are decorated as Papyrus Scrolls, while the Eastern and Western Columns are of the Pharaoh in the guise of the God Osiris.

There are 2 more rooms between the first and second Hypostyle Halls which from decoration we know were used as a Chapel for the Cult of the God Montu and a further Treasury.

The Second Hypostyle Hall had 8 columns and 2 groups of rooms leading off from this Hall. At the rear of the Temple is the Inner Sanctum.  This is where Pharaoh’s Ka Statue would have been located. To understand more about how the Ancient Egyptians continued to venerate their deceased Pharaoh as a Deity, click here.

The first of these, to the South, was for the Osiris Cult of the deceased Pharaoh; the second of these, to the North, was for the Solar Deities, mainly the God Ra-Hokarty.

The Third and last Hypostyle Hall also had 8 columns and 2 groups of rooms leading off from this Hall. The Southern Rooms were set as Chapels for God Horus and Goddess Mut. The Northern Rooms were also Chapels for God Amun-Re, God Min, Goddess Mut and God Khonsu; otherwise known as the Heliopolis Triad.

The pathway leads up a ramp to the Third Pylon and into the large Hypostyle Hall. Archaeologists discovered reliefs and actual human heads of captives from battle placed within the Hall. Today only the bases of the 24 original columns remain, but on its south-western side it has a complex of 4 rooms which would have been the Treasury for the Cult of Pharaoh Ramses III. During the later periods of Egypt, the Greco-Roman onwards there was a Coptic Church set up here and some of the reliefs detailed inside the Hall have been obscured by those of the members of that Coptic Community.

What’s inside?

One of the Mortuary Temple’s best-known assets are the Reliefs

Subsidiary Buildings

Locations given are as if the viewer was looking from above:

  • Through the Gateway and to the left are the Funerary Chapels of the “Divine Adoratrices of Amun”. The Divine Adoratrices of Amun was a Title given to the Chief Priestess of the God Amun or the God’s Wife of Amun. Their duty was to represent and rule on a localised level for Pharaoh. The Priestesses were usually daughters of the Pharaoh so the power they wielded remained in the Royal Family.

These Chapels appear to have been added in later on during the 25th and 26th Dynasties as these. The Chapels were for

  • 25th Dynasty God’s Wife of Amun, Priestess Amenirdis I, sister of Pharaoh Shabaka
  • 25th Dynasty God’s Wife of Amun, Priestess Shepenupet II, daughter of Pharaoh Osorkon III
  • 26th Dynasty God’s Wife of Amun, Priestess Nitiqret, daughter of Pharaoh Psamtek I

It is noteworthy that all 3 of these Priestesses were buried within Pharaoh Ramses II’s Mortuary Temples, the Ramesseum.

  • Through the Gateway and to the right is a small 18th Dynasty Temple which was constructed by Queen Hatshepsut and Pharaoh Tuthmose III and dedicated to the God Amun. The Temple was enlarged throughout the Greek and Roman periods reusing decorated stone blocks which were “robbed” from the Temple dedicated to Queen Tuya and Queen Nefertari at the Ramesseum. Pharaohs are well known to have “robbed” much of the stonework for their own Mortuary Temples from that of their forebears. 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.
  • Through the Gateway and to the far-right hand side was the Sacred Lake and a Nilometer

Other Local Structures

  • Ramesses IV Mortuary Temple Ruin – attached to Medinet Habu: Virtually nothing survives of this temple. The ‘North Temple’ was built partially on this site opposite the Antiquities Inspectorates Offices.
  • Mortuary Temple Ruin of Architect Amenhotep. Amenhotep was the architect for Pharaoh Amenhotep III, together they created the Malkata Palace City Complex and the Pharaoh’s Mortuary Temple which is now known for its Statues named the Colossi of Memnon. To learn more about Architect Amenhotep, click here.  To tour the Malkata Palace City Complex, click here. To view Pharaoh Amenhotep III’s Mortuary Temple and see how it has been reconstructed, click here. Regrettably all that is left is a couple of column bases, some massive carved stone blocks and a few mudbrick Walls.
  • Mortuary Temple of Pharaoh Ay, also known as Menmenu, lies adjacent to the site but is in total ruins. The original layout had 2 small columned Halls with their side Chambers and 3 Inner Sanctuaries, but these were usurped and added to by Pharaoh Horemheb, Pharaoh Ay’s successor. Pharaoh Horemheb added 3 Pylons with their associated Courts and a small Palace area. Some of these additional areas have survived at the very least as a floor plan. There are theories that originally the Mortuary Temple may have been commissioned for Pharaoh Tutankhamun but due to his early demise it was unfinished and then co-opted by his successor Pharaoh Ay. To learn more about Pharaoh Ay, click here. To discover more about Pharaoh Tutankhamun, click here.