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Temple of Dendur, c.15 BC, Roman period, Nubia, Dendur

The temple was given to the United States by the Arab Republic of Egypt in 1965, and eventually awarded (on the basis of being able to provide a suitable environment) to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1967.  The temple was stored on the Island of Elephantine before it was dismantled from its original location. It was installed into the purpose built Sackler Wing in 1978.
temple of Dendur in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York Egyptian temples were not simply houses for a cult image but also represented, in their design and decoration, a variety of religious and mythological concepts. One important symbolic aspect was based on the understanding of the temple as an image of the natural world as the Egyptians knew it. Lining the temple base are carvings of papyrus and lotus plants that seem to grow from water, symbolized by figures of the Nile god Hapy. The two columns on the porch rise toward the sky like tall bundles of papyrus stalks with lotus blossoms bound with them. Above the gate and temple entrance are images of the sun disk flanked by the outspread wings of Horus, the sky god. The sky is also represented by the vultures, wings outspread, that appear on the ceiling of the entrance porch.

On the outer walls between earth and sky are carved scenes of the king making offerings to deities, who hold sceptres and the symbol of life. The figures are carved in sunk relief. In the brilliant Egyptian sunlight, shadows cast along the figures' edges would have emphasized their outlines. Isis, Osiris, their son Horus, and the other deities are identified by their crowns and the inscriptions beside their figures. These scenes are repeated in two horizontal registers. The king is identified by his regalia and by his names, which appear close to his head in elongated oval shapes called cartouches; many of the cartouches simply read "pharaoh." This king was actually Caesar Augustus of Rome, who, as ruler of Egypt, had himself depicted in the traditional regalia of the pharaoh. Augustus had many temples erected in Egyptian style, honouring Egyptian deities. This small temple, built about 15 BC, honoured the goddess Isis and, beside her, Pedesi and Pihor, deified sons of a local Nubian chieftain.

In the first room of the temple, reliefs again show the "pharaoh" praying and offering to the gods, but the relief here is raised from the background so that the figures can be seen easily in the more indirect light. From this room one can look into the temple past the middle room used for offering ceremonies and into the sanctuary of the goddess Isis. The only carvings in these two rooms are around the door frame leading into the sanctuary and on the back wall of the sanctuary, where a relief depicts Pihor worshiping Isis, and below – partly destroyed – Pedesi worshiping Osiris.

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Views taken in 1885 (left) and 1851 (right).
1885 photo of the temple of Dendur1851 photo of the temple of Dendur
 
 
The left show the temple partially submerged.  The temple of 50 miles south of Aswan and 600 miles south of Cairo. The dam was originally built at Aswan in 1900 and was raised a number of times. The temple was totally submerged for part of each year. The right photo shows modifications made to the temple into a Coptic church in the 6th century AD. Cuts were made to receive brick additions. Inside the doorway is a Coptic inscription dedicating the church.
Drawing of temple by Salt
Consul-generals were supported by their nation, but not as modern ambassadors are.  Being consol-general was a financial opportunity and in Egypt that was by collecting and selling artefacts.  Drovetti (France) and Salt (Britain) sold a number of their collections to museums and royal families of Europe - which provides the nucleus our best collections (such as the Louvre, British Museum, Berlin and Turin).  Pasha Muhammad Ali was happy to exchange the past for present and cunningly played each consol against each other, obtaining the best 'deals' for Egypt and himself.  Other Western nation's consuls also gathered collections of antiquities. This marked the beginning of the systematic pillage of Egypt's archaeological patrimony on the part of the most important European countries (in particular, France, Great Britain, Austria and Prussia) and their diplomats.  This battle for valuable artefacts was styled the War of the Consuls.

Henry Salt was one of the most indefatigable diplomats.  He arrived in March-1816 as British Consul-General. Salt managed to gather enough material to sell 3 collections of ancient finds. This sketch was drawn by Salt during a tour, with William Bankes, of southern Egypt and northern Sudan in 1819.

Bankes found the temple 12 miles south of Kalabsha (which was relocated Khartoum to save it from the rising Lake Nasser), close to the river's west bank.  It was adjacent to the low cliff and was surrounded by the ruins of the ancient town. Built by Augustus over an existing shrine and was dedicated to two local deified brother - Pedesi and Pihor sons of a local Nubian chieftain (their titles suggest that they drowned) from date after the 26th Dynasty. Drowning was a venerated death and this put them among the deities worshiped.
 
A terrace and monumental pylon led to the main temple with its successive chambers of the Pronaos, the vestibule and the sanctuary, which concealed a crypt. Bankes had broadly plotted the temple in 1815 and added detail in 1819: a ceiling decoration of alternating winged vultures and cobras, the north door which, while well cut, was certainly not in the original plan and remains of paint on the cornice of the pylon. He observed that the terrace could not have been a quay since the river had never reached up to it (this fact, and his view that the damage to the pronaos resulted from its conversion to a church, are agreed by the report of the Centre d'Etudes et de Documentation sur l'ancienne Egypte (CEDAE).
 
Bankes believed the terrace area might have been a burial ground and suspected that the rear rock-cut chapel had been a tomb as there was a row of small tombs nearby, one with a stone mummy case and uninscribed lid. He sketched the pattern on the column bases and drew the sphinxes on the drums. The reliefs were 'not of the best & lightest sort, yet better than Kalapshe [Kalabsha] and possibly earlier'. The twenty-six drawings hold details of missing reliefs and some interesting architectural information including remains of what he considered the church conversion and a perhaps previously unrecorded structure near the end of the terrace. Several drawings shed light on the exterior part of the mysterious rock-cut chapel behind the temple. Bankes appears to be the only source giving measurements for this external anteroom, which, like the interior chamber, he found uninscribed.
 
This curious small undecorated chapel, containing a hollowed-out bench, was cut into the cliff behind the rear wall of the sanctuary of the temple. There were traces of a construction in front of it, but whether it had ever been joined to the temple could never be ascertained, even when the foundations of the temple were examined. It is not on the main axis of the temple and may have been the original shrine. Its door had been restored and strengthened when the temple was built. Bankes noted that the built section of this 'grotto' seemed to have been constructed later than the excavated part. On the stela in the sanctuary, Pedesi and Pihor are said to be 'entombed in the Holy Hill' so perhaps this was their tomb with the temple as their funerary chapel. When the temple was restored and consolidated in 1908-09 by Barsanti, he only partially rebuilt the chapel's antechamber as many of the stones of its walls were missing.
 
The temple was fully published by Blackman in 1911 and during the UNESCO rescue in October 1962, dismantled and extensively documented by CEDAE.
Edward William Lane
During his career Lane - 19th century British scholar Edward William Lane (1801-76) - produced a number of influential works yet one of Lane's most important works was never published. This was his book-length manuscript, Description of Egypt.
 
Apart from the Arabic-English Lexicon, Lane worked much longer and harder on Description of Egypt than on any other project, including Modern Egyptians, and it probably affected his life more profoundly than Modern Egyptians, despite the latter work's success. His failure to publish it was a serious loss to scholarship.
 
Description of Egypt, which would have been Lane's first book. Lane was working as an engraver's apprentice in London in the early 1820s when his imagination was captured by Egypt. The probable cause was Giovanni Belzoni's sensational exhibit at the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, which attracted enormous crowds. That, along with Belzoni's best-selling book, inspired one of the several waves of Egypt-o-mania that have swept across Britain, and indeed across western Europe. Embarking on a rigorous program, Lane read everything he could find about Egypt, both ancient and modern. He resolved to travel there and write an illustrated book about it.  The following was taken from his account and was written on 21st May 1826.
 
The next district, or portion of the valley, above Ab'oo Ho'r is Wa'dee Dendoo'r [Dendur].
 
On the western side (Ghur'b Dendoo'r) is a temple, of small dimensions, and of the same age as the main part of the great temple of Ckala'b'sheh; the reign of Augustus [30 BC-AD 14]. I landed before this temple early in the morning. It is situated almost close to the river; only a very narrow strip of cultivated land intervening; which, when I visited the spot, was covered with senna and the creeping colocynth.
 
The temple is built on the irregular slope of the low, rocky ridge; which is here strewed with detached masses of stone, intermixed with broken pottery, indicating that a small town stood here. My view of this edifice, is taken from the direction in which it is seen in ascending the valley. It has, in front, a small portal; before which is a square enclosure, formed by well-built walls of stone. The front-wall of this enclosure has a singular peculiarity: its exterior face being slightly concave, or curved inwards.
 
As the temple is unfinished, we may suppose that this enclosure was to have been filled up, so as to form a platform: indeed it is partly so filled. The portal is decorated with sculptures of the usual kind, representing offerings; but with only a mystic name, similar to that which I have mentioned in describing the great temple of Ckala'b'sheh; so that it is uncertain when the sculptures were executed. The space between this portal and the temple itself is covered with fragments of stone; some of which formed parts of the temple, and perhaps of the two wings of a propylxum connected by the portal above mentioned. Among them I observed a small figure of a hawk; the head of which was broken off.
 
The portico of the temple has two small columns; between which is the entrance. The front and the interior are sculptured, with the usual subjects of offerings, and bear, throughout, the hieroglyphic name of the Emperor Augustus (Autocrator Caesar). The exterior of the temple is also similarly sculptured. The interior has been plastered and painted by early Christians: but their work has almost entirely perished. Behind the portico is a little chamber, without any sculpture, excepting round the door through which we pass into the sanctuary. This is almost as small as the former chamber, and, like it, without decoration, excepting at the end, where is sculptured a shrine, in the form of a door, in which is represented the king offering to Isis. A few feet behind the temple, but not exactly in a direct line with the axis of the building, is a small, square chamber, excavated in the rock. Before the door of this was a little porch of masonry, which is now nearly demolished.

 


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