Hatshepsut Temple: An Ancient Site for the Expression of Ma’at
Ma’at encompasses the ideals of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice—ideals represented by Egypt’s powerful female pharaoh Hatshepsut. She co-ruled with Thutmose III between 1473 and 1458 BC, and this period is historically regarded as one of the most peaceful and prosperous times amid these lands. While Hatshepsut is often depicted as male replete with a full beard, she openly acknowledged her female status and objectivity to Yin Yang balance with her various names and relief appearances throughout her reign.
Once she became Egypt’s co-ruler, Hatshepsut made claims of hailing from divine birth as a culmination of Amun Ra and her mother. Furthermore, she claimed that Thutmose I had named her successor to the throne prior to his transition, and one of the massive reliefs decorating her massive funerary complex depicts him crowning her as ruler amid the presence of the Neteru, hence supporting her claim.
The Demise and Destruction of Hatshepsut’s Sacred Site
After Hatshepsut transitioned into the afterlife, it became clear that Thutmose III resented having to co-rule the lands—much less with a female. Hence, he ordered a number of the temple’s paintings, reliefs, and inscriptions to be destroyed or defaced, having images of himself put in their place. He also had many of her statues buried and even had his own mortuary temple placed at the site. However, further removing the glory of Hatshepsut from the temple was Pharaoh Akhenaten, but his reasoning was both religious and political rather than misogynistic and due to envy.
The Cult of Amun had become more powerful than the throne, causing costly chaos amid numerous pharaoh’s monarchies historically. His quick solution was to abolish the cult and replace Egypt’s traditional religious beliefs with monotheism practices centered on Aten—the solar god. Of course, Akhenaten had his followers further damage numerous indications that Amun was honored here. However, enough ancient ruins and impressive reliefs remain within this three-storied complex to capture one’s imagination of its original splendor and intentions.
Sacred Sites at Hatshepsut Temple
One approaches the first level of the temple via a 100-foot causeway that was likely lined with sphinxes, exotic shrubbery and colonnades honoring Hatshepsut. What remains today are reliefs of Thutmose III and scenes of the ancients quarrying and transporting obelisks down the Nile. On the second level lies a shrine dedicated to Hathor and a wall that depicts the birth of Hatshepsut which is often called the Birth Colonnade. A special chapel is dedicated to Amun Ra—her claimed ‘father’—lies amid the northern end of the colonnade.
When transitioning from the second to the third level, visitors are captivated by the striking statues of Horus in falcon form that flank the courtyard’s ramp. Beyond the courtyard are multiple chambers and areas where large octagonal columns remain. It is likely that many of relics and images representing Hatshepsut were destroyed on this level as well. While typically off-limits to the public, there is a doorway leading to a chapel dedicated to the Royal Cult and one honoring the Solar Cult, and the Sanctuary of Amun lies just behind the courtyard.
Embrace the ideals of Ma’at and soak in the energy of one of Egypt’s most beloved feminine leaders with a tour of Hatshepsut’s Temple.