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Work Foundation deposit from the temple of Deir el-Bahri

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)

Foundation deposit from the temple of Deir el-Bahri

© Musée du Louvre/C. Décamps

Egyptian Antiquities
The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)

Author(s):
Bernadette LETELLIER

Foundation deposits, such as these models of building tools, were buried prior to the construction of a temple or royal tomb—and sometimes of a fortress, palace, or city. Samples of materials used (bricks, stones) and miniature tools (axes, hoes, etc) commemorated the construction work, while vases evoked the food offerings required by the cult. The materials varied over the years.

A royal ceremony

The foundation of temples, tombs, and certain important buildings was accompanied by a ceremony, presided over by the king, during which the plan of the future building was traced on the ground, the temple's orientation having been determined by astronomical sightings. During this celebration, objects and offerings were buried at the site of the future walls and floors, very often in the corners. The ceremony was held under the patronage of Seshat, goddess of knowledge and writing; images of the event show her "stretching the cord" with the king.

A wide range of buried objects

The objects that were buried under the foundations were representative of ordinary or precious materials (brick, faience, copper), building tools (axes, adzes), and ceremonial tools (stakes, mallets, hoes). They also included a large number of recipients, offerings, and skins of sacrificed animals. Finally, there were amulets, commemorative scarabs, and ritual objects. The type of flat adze that is represented here was probably not a tool; it resembles the object that was held to the mummy's face to reanimate it (the ritual "opening of the mouth"), and doubtless had a symbolic function: we know of the existence of a ritual "opening of the mouth" of the temple, which likened the building to an inert being that needed bringing to life.
The foundation deposits discovered in the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri are among the richest and most beautiful that have come down to us. Although all the objects presented here come from the queen's temple, they did not necessarily belong to the same original set.

Small wooden sleds have intrigued Egyptologists; they are generally supposed to be models of contraptions that were used to haul and tip blocks of stone. However, it is worth noting that such items have never been found elsewhere than in the foundation deposits of Deir el-Bahri.

The royal dedicatees

All the objects seen here bear one or more inscriptions which give, in various forms, the names of the royal dedicatees, of the building, and of the main god of the temple. They are engraved or traced in black ink. The plaques bear the simple formula: "The perfect god Maatkare given life, stability, and power" (Hatshepsut), and "The perfect god Menkheperre given life, stability, and power" (Tuthmosis III).

Hatshepsut served as regent for her young nephew Tuthmosis, and despite being pretender to the throne had therefore to associate him with her official acts.
A more elaborate formula—"The perfect god Maatkare, beloved of Amun who reigns in Djeser-djeseru"—signifies that the temple of Deir el-Bahri (called the "Holy of Holies") was dedicated to Amun, the god of Thebes, by Queen Hatshepsut.

Bibliography

- La vie au bord du Nil au temps des Pharaons, catalogue de l’exposition, Calais, 1980, p. 41, notice n° 63.

Technical description

  • Foundation deposit from the temple of Deir el-Bahri

    18th Dynasty, 1479-1457 BC, reign of Hatshepsut

    Luxor, West Thebes, temple of Deir el-Bahri

  • Wood, alabaster, siliceous faience

  • N 650, N 808, N 2253, N 791, N 658, N 790, AF 9465, E 1877, E 1878

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    The temple square
    Room 11

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