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Metropolitan Museum of Art: Temple of Dendur, Nubia
On display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (Home Page) in 2004; installed in 1978

TEXT Beneath Illustrations

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Gate and temple entrance

Cavetto cornice

Sun disk flanked by the outspread wings of Horus

Columns on the porch

Papyrus with lotus blossoms bound with them

Row of papyrus stalks and lotus flowers


Row of papyrus stalks and lotus flowers

Metropolitan Museum of Art - Temple of Dendur photo and description

Circa 15 B.C.E.
Roman period Egyptian

Egyptian temples were not simply houses for a cult image but also represented, in their design and decoration, a variety of religious and mythological concepts.

One important symbolic aspect was based on the understanding of the temple as an image of the natural world as the Egyptians knew it.

  • Lining the temple base are carvings of papyrus and lotus plants that seem to grow from water, symbolized by figures of the Nile god Hapy.
  • The two columns on the porch rise toward the sky like tall bundles of papyrus stalks with lotus blossoms bound with them.
  • Above the gate and temple entrance are images of the sun disk flanked by the outspread wings of Horus, the sky god.
  • The sky is also represented by the vultures, wings outspread, that appear on the ceiling of the entrance porch.

The king is identified by his regalia and by his names, which appear close to his head in elongated oval shapes called cartouches; many of the cartouches simply read "pharaoh." This king was actually Caesar Augustus of Rome, who, as ruler of Egypt, had himself depicted in the traditional regalia of the pharaoh. Augustus had many temples erected in Egyptian style, honoring Egyptian deities. This small temple, built about 15 B.C.E., honored the goddess Isis.

Photos and their arrangement © 2004 Chuck LaChiusa
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