Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hatshepsut's Temple at Deir-El-Bahri

This is a detail of a statue of Hatshepsut, the only woman pharaoh in antiquity.
In order to make her claim to be a ruling pharaoh, rather than just a regent or a queen, she depicted herself as a man in art and in (self-created) mythology.
This statute detail of her in the guise of Osiris (Egyptian god of the dead) shows traces of red-orange paint on the face, which was a masculine color. (Women were painted yellow, to show the difference between an indoor feminine complexion and an outdoor masculine suntan.)
Also, she is shown wearing the false beard of pharaoh's (male) authority:

There is a whole row of these statues on the upper facade of her funerary temple at Deir-El-Bahri. Her feet are close together and her arms crossed on her chest, just like a mummy's (Osiris was usually shown swathed as a mummy in art).

Here is a view of the temple as a whole, from further down the valley:

During Hatshepsut's time all that barren rock was enlivened by a small cultivated oasis of greenery, including trees she brought from the fabled land of Punt, where she opened trade to revive the Egyptian economy. My guide book says that they were myrrh trees. You can still see the remnants of their roots at the entrance (they look kind of dry and pitiful, today, but must have been lovely in her time).

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