Queen Nefertari’s Egypt » Pharaohs, Goddesses & Temple

Pharaohs, Goddesses & Temple

Temples of the Pharaohs Abu Simbel

Pharaohs built huge stone temples to honor the gods and to immortalize themselves. These structures were covered with carved and painted images and hieroglyphic texts declaring the spiritual and political power of the pharaohs who commissioned them. Due to the high prosperity of his reign, Ramesses II was the most prolific builder of large-scale monuments in Egyptian history.

Ramesses II was considered a living god in Nubia, an ancient kingdom on the Nile that had become a part of the Egyptian empire during the New Kingdom. There, along Egypt’s southern border, he built the twin temples of Abu Simbel. They took twenty years to construct and were completed around 1244 BCE. The Great Temple celebrated the pharaoh. The companion Lesser Temple, shown nearby in a model from the 1800s, was dedicated to the goddess Hathor but built to honor Nefertari, Ramesses’s primary queen. The Great Temple is decorated by four colossal seated statues of Ramesses II that measure roughly 65 feet tall. The smaller Lesser Temple is faced with six standing colossal figures: four of Ramesses II and two of Nefertari.


Religion in Ancient Egypt

The ancient Egyptians lived in a region subjected to the powerful forces of nature. In the face of damaging storms, earthquakes, floods, and droughts, the Egyptians formed religious cults, developing a huge pantheon of gods and goddesses who they thought governed all aspects of life.

Egyptians appealed to their deities through various rituals, ceremonies, and celebrations. They built elaborate temples dedicated to the gods in cities throughout Egypt and made daily offerings there. In exchange, they believed that the gods would grant life, health, and strength to the land and its people. The temple of each deity was made up of several rooms. Only the pharaoh and other high priests were allowed to enter the innermost sanctuary, where a sacred statue of the deity was kept inside a shrine. The statue was anointed, dressed, and fed in the most important ritual of the day, the morning offering ceremony.

Although these ceremonies were traditionally carried out by men, women also served the gods. Egypt’s queens played an important role in religious processions and celebrations, representing the female aspect of the divine on Earth.


The Pharaoh Human and Divine

The ruler of ancient Egypt was known as the pharaoh, a title and position inherited by royal birth. The pharaoh served as the empire’s spiritual, judicial, and political leader. While living, the pharaoh was considered the incarnation of Horus, son of the sun god Ra, temporarily dwelling among mortals. Death would transform the pharaoh into a full god but while on Earth, he was charged with maintaining justice, truth, order, and cosmic balance. His duties were a combination of practical and ritual. The pharaoh, or his representatives, officiated in the temples, presided over the law courts, and defended the country from enemies both external and domestic.


Sekhmet Goddess of Divine Wrath

One of the most frightening Egyptian deities was Sekhmet, the goddess of divine wrath and plague, and the fiercest hunter of the Egyptian pantheon. Daughter of the sun god Ra, she personified the sun’s rays that give life or take it away. These statues show her holding an ankh, the symbol of life, and her lion head reinforces her powerful nature. Worshippers made offerings to a different statue of Sekhmet every morning and evening to ask for her protection and to ensure that she remained in her gentle, domesticated form: the cat goddess Bastet. During the reign of Amenhotep III (about 1390–1353 BCE), hundreds of statues depicting Sekhmet were produced, including the four displayed in this gallery.


Stela Depicting the Goddess Hathor and Ramesses II

Excavation site unknown
New Kingdom, 19th–20th dynasty (about 1292–1075 bce)
Limestone
Cat. 1462
The hieroglyphs and symbols on this engraved stone slab indicate that the Goddess Hathor is granting Ramses II a reign of 100 thousand years.

[No artwork description.]


The Reign of Ramesses II

Ramesses II, also known as Ramesses the Great, was a major political force during his sixty-six-year reign (about 1279–1213 bce), expanding his empire’s borders and maintaining diplomatic relations across the Mediterranean region.

The small engraved stone slab in the case to the right was probably a votive monument used in a household shrine. It shows the goddess Hathor holding an ankh (the symbol of life) to Ramesses II’s mouth, indicating that she is granting him a reign of one hundred thousand years.


Ostracon Depicting a Prince

Valley of the Queens
New Kingdom, 20th dynasty, reign of Ramesses III (about 1186–1155 bce)
Limestone with red paint
S. 05637
This painted limestone fragment (called an ostracon) depicts Setherkhepeshef, one of Pharaoh Ramesses III’s sons, with his arms raised in worship. The fan in his left hand indicates his high status. The sketch may be a study for the decoration of the prince’s tomb.

[No artwork description.]


Fragment from a Statue of Amenhotep III

Probably from Kom el-Hettan (the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III), Thebes
New Kingdom, 18th dynasty, reign of Amenhotep III (about 1390–1353 bce)
Granite
Cat. 3148
The face of a colossus from the temple of Amenhotep III in Thebes.

[Artwork Description: A large fragment of the nose and mouth of a colossus in speckled brown and black granite. The fragment shows a smoothly carved nose, philtrum and lips. Ragged edges of the fragment contrast with the delicate lines that make up the nostrils and lips and the smooth stone surface.]


Fragments of the Past

Many of the objects recovered from ancient Egypt are fragmentary. Although this one’s exact origins are unknown, its style and dimensions are similar to the standing colossal sculptures at Amenhotep III’s temple in Thebes. In these giant figures, Amenhotep was typically depicted with a rounded, youthful face, a large, smiling mouth, and fleshy lips.


Statue of the Goddess Sekhmet

Thebes
New Kingdom, 18th dynasty, reign of Amenhotep III (about 1390–1353 bce)
Granodiorite
Cat. 0250
This sculpture dedicated to Sekhmet bears the name of Pharaoh Ramesses IV (about 1155–1149 bce) on the side of the throne.

[Artwork description: This monumental stone statue shows a goddess with the face of a lioness sitting rigidly on a throne with her arms bent and her hands resting on either side of her lap. Her bare feet are firmly planted on the bottom of the raised platform. An elaborate headdress sits atop her wig, resting on her forehead. The two flaps of the wig hang down on either side of her face and rest on the top of her bare breasts. Her upper torso is naked but a skirt covers her body from the waist to just above the ankles.]


Stela of Pakhen

Excavation site unknown
New Kingdom, early 18th dynasty (about 1480–1425 bce)
Limestone
Cat. 1458
Some pharaohs and queens were worshipped as gods after their deaths. This stela, a vertical stone slab, shows a man named Pakhen making an offering to Pharaoh Thutmose II, who can be identified by his cartouche (In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche is an oval with a line at one end at right angles to the oval, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name). The image of the pharaoh probably represents a statue, since he is shown seated on a podium.

[No artwork description.]


Stela of Nakhtsu and Panakht

Probably from Deir el-Medina
New Kingdom, 19th–20th dynasty (about 1292–1075 bce)
Limestone
Cat. 1454
Pharaoh Amenhotep I and his mother, Queen AhmoseNefertari, were worshipped as deities in the village of Deir el-Medina. Here, they appear seated in the upper part of this stela. Below, Nakhtsu, a worker in Deir elMedina, worships the god and goddess alongside his son, Panakht. His wife and other children appear in a lower section.

[No artwork descriptions.]


Talatat Depicting Pharaoh Ramesses II

Hermopolis
New Kingdom, 19th dynasty, reign of Ramesses II (about 1279–1213 bce)
Limestone
S. 18141
This type of small stone block (known as a talatat) was used to construct buildings. The surface was completely re-carved and reused during the reign of Ramesses II. The new carving depicts Ramesses II worshipping a deity, whose scepter is visible between the pharaoh’s hands.

[No artwork description.]


Statue of the Goddess Sekhmet

Thebes
New Kingdom, 18th dynasty, reign of Amenhotep III (about 1390–1353 bce)
Granodiorite
Cat. 0251
This sculpture, rededicated by Pharaoh Ramesses IV (about 1155–1149 bce), also bears an inscription on the left side carved by Jean-Jacques Rifaud in 1818. Rifaud was a French sculptor who accompanied Bernardino Drovetti, an official representing the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, on expeditions throughout Egypt between 1805 and 1827. Together they documented and amassed antiquities

[Artwork description: This monumental stone statue shows a goddess with the face of a lioness sitting rigidly on a throne with her arms bent and hands resting on either side of her lap. The right hand grasps an ankh, the symbol of life, which is a cross topped with a circle. Her bare feet are firmly planted on the bottom of the raised platform. A large oval disk crowns her head and a cobra is centered in the bottom third of the crown, which balances just behind the lion’s ears. The mane is indicated by a series of triangular bas relief carved triangles. A wig hangs down from either side of the head with the ends resting halfway against the figure’s bare breasts. Her upper torso is also bare except for a multilayered collar, but a skirt incised with a vertical band of cartouches covers her body from just below her navel to a couple of inches above her ankles. Cartouches also decorate both sides of the throne adjacent to the goddess’s legs.]


Statue of the Goddess Sekhmet

Thebes
New Kingdom, 18th dynasty, reign of Amenhotep III (about 1390–1353 bce)
Granodiorite
Cat. 0252
On this sculpture, the name of the goddess on each side of the legs was replaced with the name of the 22nd dynasty’s Pharaoh Shoshenq I (about 943–923 bce)

[Artwork description: This monumental stone statue shows a goddess with the face of a lioness sitting rigidly on a throne with her arms bent and hands resting on either side of her lap. The right hand grasps an ankh, the symbol of life, which is a cross topped with a circle, while the left hand has fingers splayed out flat. Two decorated wristbands feature vertical stripes. Her bare feet are firmly planted on the bottom of the raised platform. A flat crown broken into a rough shape sits atop a wig, whose flaps hang down on either side of the head, behind ears that have been broken off, and rest against the figure’s breasts that are covered by floral shapes. A collar of bands fills the space between the wig flaps and the breasts and a narrow band is positioned just below the breasts. A skirt covers her lower body from below her navel to just above her ankles.]


Symbols of Power

Egypt’s pharaohs are recognizable in tomb paintings and temple carvings by their symbols of power. The central Statue Bearing the Name Thutmose I depicts several: the nemes headdress, a striped head cloth worn by royalty; the uraeus, an upright cobra worn on the pharaoh’s forehead, said to spit fire at his enemies; and a bull tail (visible between the statue’s legs, attached to his belt), a symbol of male authority.


Statue Bearing the Name Thutmose I

Temple of Amun, Karnak
New Kingdom, 18th dynasty, reign of Thutmose I (about 1493–1483 bce)
Granodiorite
Cat. 1374
The name Thutmose I is carved in the oblong cartouches (groupings of hieroglyphs) on this statue. The inscription, however, seems to have been re-carved over previous hieroglyphs. The original pharaoh depicted was likely either Thutmose I’s father (Amenhotep I) or grandfather (Ahmose I). Statues were rededicated to assert a new pharaoh’s authority, to emphasize the continuity of order, or because it was less expensive than carving a new statue.

[Artwork description: A human head is carved in jade green. The face is in the center and is surrounded by hair with a cylindrical headdress on top. The hair is formed by five rows of lines in relief. It frames the face and continues to the bottom of the sculpture. The forehead is slightly pointed with curved eyebrows and round balls for eyes. The sides of the face slant down on each side to form a V shape where the chin would be. A high ridged nose begins between the eyes and continues down to form round nostrils on each side. There are only small indentations in the area where the mouth would be. Beneath the chin area are three vertical raised lines with a horizontal line connecting them below. This pattern is repeated three more times to the bottom of the sculpture where it connects with the hair on each side.]


Statue of the Goddess Sekhmet

Thebes
New Kingdom, 18th dynasty, reign of Amenhotep III (about 1390–1353 bce)
Granodiorite
Cat. 0254

[Artwork description: This monumental stone statue shows a goddess with the face of a lioness sitting rigidly on a throne with her arms bent and her hands resting on either side of her lap. The right hand holds the hieroglyph of life (an ankh, which is a cross topped with a circle) and papyrus. Her bare feet are firmly planted on the bottom of the raised platform. The mane is indicated by a series of triangular bas relief carved triangles. A wig hangs down from either side of the head with the ends resting halfway against the figure’s bare breasts. Her upper torso is also naked below a decorated collarbut a skirt covers her body from the waist to just above the ankles.]


The Pharaoh and the Gods

Considered a living god, the pharaoh served as the empire’s spiritual, judicial, and political leader. Pharaohs built huge stone temples to honor the gods and to immortalize themselves.

This monumental sculpture depicts the great pharaoh Ramesses II seated between the sun god Amun, on the left, and the goddess Mut, on the right—the two patron deities of Thebes. The figures are all the same size, showing that, in this instance, god, goddess, and king were considered equally important. Statues like this represented the role of the pharaoh as an intermediary between humans and the gods, preserving cosmic balance.


Statue of Ramesses II, Seated between the God Amun and the Goddess Mut

Temple of Amun, Karnak
New Kingdom, 19th dynasty, reign of Ramesses II (about 1279–1213 bce)
Granite
Cat. 0767

[Artwork description: Three figures are sitting on a stone throne. They are all looking straight ahead. The figures on each end have their outside hand sitting on their thigh and their inside arm behind the middle figure. The middle figure has each arm behind the back of the people next to him. The arms make an “X” shape between each figure. All are sitting so that their lower legs hang straight down from their knees with their feet resting on a stone platform. The center figure has the solid body of a young man. The person to his right appears to be older with slightly more flesh around the abdomen. The figure to his left is slimmer and shorter and has breasts. The two men are wearing skirts that end above their knees. The woman has a skirt that extends halfway down her calves. They are all looking straight ahead with their lips turned up into a slight smile. Each has a distinctive headdress. The center figure’s head covering begins just above his eyebrows and extends to the top of his head. It is square shaped with one corner centered above his nose. Triangle shapes are formed from the top side corners of the hat to his shoulders and then neck. A relief figure is in the center of the headdress. Two short, curved horns extend outward above the figure. A large disc about the size of his head rests between the horns. Behind the disc are two columns that are slightly curved outward at the top. It is hard to tell if the columns are part of the headdress or are decoration on the wall behind the figures. The headdress of the man to our left is simpler. It is a large cylinder that begins above his eyes and is slightly wider at the top. Above this are two columns that rise to slightly higher than those of the middle figure. They are incised with a design. The woman’s hair is carved with parallel lines to form bangs and the top of her head before continuing down behind her ears to end above her breasts. She wears a cylindrical crown. A relief figure is in the middle of her forehead and extends into the crown. Long, curved horns extend out and up from the top of the cylinder. They reach as high as the columns of the central figure. A large disc rests inside the horns. All figures have intricately carved designs around their necks, chests, arms, and clothing. Designs are also carved into the wall behind them.]


Model of the Lesser Temple of Abu Simbel

Probably Italian
Early 1800s, acquired around 1825
Stuccoed wood
Cat. 7104a-b

[Artwork description: Stone model of the Temple of Nefertari. Two pieces that are flat on the bottom and rounded on the top with rough, rock edges, sit touching in the middle. Both halves contain three figures surrounded by walls covered in hieroglyphics. These walls form a hallway in the middle where the two pieces meet. The left side has three figures, the first and third are identical. A tall, thin man wearing a wrap around his waist called the shendyt that has horizontal stripes on two parts and vertical stripes on the left. His arms hang at his sides and he is barefoot. He wears a headpiece that is cone shaped with a ball on top and an upside down triangle on the front. He has large eyes that are deeply set, a short nose, and a rectangular piece just under his chin. Two smaller figures are in the chamber with him, one on each side. It is difficult to see their details. The middle figure appears to be female with a bird-like head. Her breasts are uncovered and she wears a wrap around her waist with a jagged bottom. She wears a wig that cascades down each shoulder and has a flat band at the end. She wears a hat that has a circle on top with two pieces that extend from it like rabbit ears. She has long thin legs and bare feet. Her right hand is extended forward and her left arm and hand cross over her torso. There are two smaller figures in the chamber with her, one on each side. It is difficult to see their details. The right half has one male figure that is the same from the left side. The next two figures are very similar. They appear female and are wearing a dress with a belt around the waist. They both have a wig that is flat over the forehead and extends down to the shoulders, ending in a flat, horizontal band. They have head pieces with a large oval at the base and two pieces that extend up like rabbit ears. They have finer facial features that are difficult to distinguish. The first one has her right arm to her side and her left arm across her torso holding a cross-shaped object. The second has both arms at her side. Both have two smaller figures in the chambers next to them, one on each side. The hieroglyphics fill each of the columns between the figures and a horizontal strip above them. The carvings are very small and difficult to distinguish. There are several cracks, chips, scratches, dents, and areas of discoloration from aging.]


Model of the Lesser Temple of Abu Simbel

Probably Italian
Early 1800s, acquired around 1825
Stuccoed wood
Cat. 7104a-b

[Artwork description: Stone model of the Temple of Nefertari. Two pieces that are flat on the bottom and rounded on the top with rough, rock edges, sit touching in the middle. Both halves contain three figures surrounded by walls covered in hieroglyphics. These walls form a hallway in the middle where the two pieces meet. The left side has three figures, the first and third are identical. A tall, thin man wearing a wrap around his waist called the shendyt that has horizontal stripes on two parts and vertical stripes on the left. His arms hang at his sides and he is barefoot. He wears a headpiece that is cone shaped with a ball on top and an upside down triangle on the front. He has large eyes that are deeply set, a short nose, and a rectangular piece just under his chin. Two smaller figures are in the chamber with him, one on each side. It is difficult to see their details. The middle figure appears to be female with a bird-like head. Her breasts are uncovered and she wears a wrap around her waist with a jagged bottom. She wears a wig that cascades down each shoulder and has a flat band at the end. She wears a hat that has a circle on top with two pieces that extend from it like rabbit ears. She has long thin legs and bare feet. Her right hand is extended forward and her left arm and hand cross over her torso. There are two smaller figures in the chamber with her, one on each side. It is difficult to see their details. The right half has one male figure that is the same from the left side. The next two figures are very similar. They appear female and are wearing a dress with a belt around the waist. They both have a wig that is flat over the forehead and extends down to the shoulders, ending in a flat, horizontal band. They have head pieces with a large oval at the base and two pieces that extend up like rabbit ears. They have finer facial features that are difficult to distinguish. The first one has her right arm to her side and her left arm across her torso holding a cross-shaped object. The second has both arms at her side. Both have two smaller figures in the chambers next to them, one on each side. The hieroglyphics fill each of the columns between the figures and a horizontal strip above them. The carvings are very small and difficult to distinguish. There are several cracks, chips, scratches, dents, and areas of discoloration from aging.]


Statue of Ramesses II, Seated between the God Amun and the Goddess Mut

Temple of Amun, Karnak
New Kingdom, 19th dynasty, reign of Ramesses II (about 1279–1213 bce)
Granite
Cat. 0767

[Artwork description: Three figures are sitting on a stone throne. They are all looking straight ahead. The figures on each end have their outside hand sitting on their thigh and their inside arm behind the middle figure. The middle figure has each arm behind the back of the people next to him. The arms make an “X” shape between each figure. All are sitting so that their lower legs hang straight down from their knees with their feet resting on a stone platform. The center figure has the solid body of a young man. The person to his right appears to be older with slightly more flesh around the abdomen. The figure to his left is slimmer and shorter and has breasts. The two men are wearing skirts that end above their knees. The woman has a skirt that extends halfway down her calves. They are all looking straight ahead with their lips turned up into a slight smile. Each has a distinctive headdress. The center figure’s head covering begins just above his eyebrows and extends to the top of his head. It is square shaped with one corner centered above his nose. Triangle shapes are formed from the top side corners of the hat to his shoulders and then neck. A relief figure is in the center of the headdress. Two short, curved horns extend outward above the figure. A large disc about the size of his head rests between the horns. Behind the disc are two columns that are slightly curved outward at the top. It is hard to tell if the columns are part of the headdress or are decoration on the wall behind the figures. The headdress of the man to our left is simpler. It is a large cylinder that begins above his eyes and is slightly wider at the top. Above this are two columns that rise to slightly higher than those of the middle figure. They are incised with a design. The woman’s hair is carved with parallel lines to form bangs and the top of her head before continuing down behind her ears to end above her breasts. She wears a cylindrical crown. A relief figure is in the middle of her forehead and extends into the crown. Long, curved horns extend out and up from the top of the cylinder. They reach as high as the columns of the central figure. A large disc rests inside the horns. All figures have intricately carved designs around their necks, chests, arms, and clothing. Designs are also carved into the wall behind them.]

Queen Nefertari’s Egypt » Pharaohs, Goddesses & Temple