Deir el-Bahari (Egypt)

The site of Deir el-Bahari is located on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes, almost opposite Karnak. A deep bay in the limestone cliffs contains two mortuary temples, the earliest of which is unique in its arrangement of raised terraces and colonnades. This temple was built for Nebhepetre Mentuhotep (2055-2004 BC), the Eleventh-Dynasty Theban king who reunited Egypt at the start of the Middle Kingdom. The king was buried at the rear of the temple, and there are also burials of female members of his family.

The mortuary temple of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep was the inspiration for the neighbouring temple of the Eighteenth-Dynasty 'king' Hatshepsut. This female king is shown as a man throughout the decoration of the temple, including episodes such as her divine birth and her expedition to the land of Punt. Within the temple complex, the shrine of the cow goddess Hathor was a focus for popular religion, where women often left offerings in the hope of conceiving a child. From the late Twenty-fifth Dynasty, priests of Montu were buried in catacombs below the floors of this chapel and that of Anubis.

A cache of royal mummies was found in the area by a local family, and cleared rapidly in 1881. This cache contained the bodies of a majority of the kings of the New Kingdom. Some are now on display in the Cairo Museum.

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