The New Kingdom Temple of Khnum

Oct 8, 2018

Thutmosis I offering ointments to the goddesss Anuket, lady of Nubia. Block reused in the foundation of the temple of Nectanebos II. (Foto by F. Arnold, DAAI)

Project description

The investigation of the ancient town and temples of Elephantine has been carried out by the German Archaeological Institute Cairo (DAI) in cooperation with the Swiss Institute for Egyptian Building Archaeology (Swiss Institute) since 1969. In the New Kingdom temple of Khnum, the project concentrated on the documentation of the reused blocks in the temple house of Nectanebos II during the 2015-2016 season.

Decorative program

Altogether some 80 blocks and fragments have been recovered from the Khnum temple area. 

“The blocks originate from at least two different buildings of early Thutmosid date. The first building was a small barque station built by Queen Hatshepsut for the processional barque of Khnum. The second building was probably founded by Thutmosis I and finished or enlarged by Thutmosis II. Both buildings originally stood to the west of the main temple of Khnum, in the area later occupied by the temple house of Nectanebos II.”

“Many of the blocks found in the foundations of Nectanebos II appear to originate from a small barque station, measuring about 8.5 m in width and 10 m in depth. The building was composed of a central chamber which was surrounded by an ambulatory, with at least four square pillars on each side. Best preserved are the monolithic pillars, which were 64 cm wide and about 277 cm high (Fig. 36). So far four almost complete pieces have been identified, as well as several dozen fragments. Seven relief blocks and several fragments can be attributed to the 68 cm thick walls of the inner chamber. In addition, three fragments of architraves have been found, as well as many pieces of the cornice, painted in blue and green. 

On the pillars and walls of the barque station… Hatshepsut was depicted with her complete royal titles. Later her names were erased and either left blank or replaced by those of her deceased husband Thutmosis II. In all cases the queen had originally been depicted as a woman. The female figures were later replaced by figures of a male king.” 

Some of the relief blocks originate from a building constructed by Thutmosis I.  “A group of nine large relief blocks bear a decoration in raised relief of similar size and style. The blocks were part of scenes showing the introduction of the king into the temple, the presentation of cattle to the god Khnum-Ra (Fig. 38), the king adoring a male god, the coronation of the king and the presentation of years to the king by Anuket and by another female god.”

Documentation method

Not specified by the authors.

Visual example(s)

Fig. 36. Three sides of a pillar from the barque station of Hatschepsut, found reused in the foundation of the temple of Nectanebos II. (Drawing: F. Arnold/L. Majerus, DAI)

Fig. 38. Thutmosis II presenting cattle to Khnum-Ra. Block reused in the foundation of the temple of Nectanebos II. (Drawing: F. Arnold, DAI).

What we like

  • Clean single-weight lines representing the carved decorative surface.
  • Larger damaged areas are indicated as light gray homogeneous surfaces. The appearance of damage on the drawings is a welcome addition that makes clear why carving is missing or less detailed in certain areas.  
  • Painted outlines are represented (although not as prominently as carved elements) by the application of lighter shades of gray, wherever paint traces remain strong enough to be indicated.
  • Traces of earlier decorative phases are highlighted by red oulines and light red homogeneous fill that is in stark contrast with the grayscale appearance of the rest of the drawing and immediately draws our attention to this piece on information. 
  • Graffitti are indicated by using solid black brush strokes and presented as part of the drawings in their original context.
  • Basic reconstruction drawn by single-weight lines is provided to connect individual wall fragments indicating their relative placement on the wall. 

Additional reading

For the original context of the material appearing in this article click on the following title to download:

Stephan Johannes Seidlmayer, Felix Arnold, et al. – Report on the Excavations at Elephantine by the German Archaeological Institute and the Swiss Institute from autumn 2015 to summer 2016 

For more information on this project and additional information about the many different projects carried out by the DAI (German Archaeological Institute), visit their Elephantine research site

Précis and commentary by Júlia Schmied

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