Mortuary Temple of Mentuhotep II

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The Mortuary Temple of Mentuhotep II, is an ancient mortuary temple of Ancient Egypt, built for Mentuhotep II, the Eleventh Dynasty king who reunited Egypt at the beginning of the Middle Kingdom. This temple was Mentuhotep II's most ambitious and innovative building project.

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Also known as the Akh-sut-Amun (Ancient Egyptian: 3ḫ-swt-Jmn "Transfigured are the places of Amun"), the Mortuary Temple of Mentuhotep Nebhepetre, marks a break with the Old Kingdom tradition of pyramid complexes and foreshadows the Temples of Millions of Years of the New Kingdom. As such, Mentuhotep II's temple was certainly a major source of inspiration for the nearby, but 550-year later temple of Hatshepsut and the temple of Thutmose III.

However, the most profound innovations of Mentuhotep II's temple are not architectural but religious. First, it is the earliest mortuary temple where the king is not just the recipient of offerings but rather enacts ceremonies for the deities (in this case Amun-Ra). Second, the temple identifies the king with Osiris. Indeed, the decoration and royal statuary of the temple emphasizes the Osirian aspects of the dead ruler, an ideology apparent in the funerary statuary of many later pharaohs.

Finally, most of the temple decoration is the work of local Theban artists. This is evidenced by the dominant artistic style of the temple which represents people with large lips and eyes and thin bodies. At the opposite, the refined chapels of Mentuhotep II's wives are certainly due to Memphite craftsmen who were heavily influenced by the standards and conventions of the Old Kingdom. This phenomenon of fragmentation of the artistic styles is observed throughout the First Intermediate Period and is a direct consequence of the political fragmentation of the country.

Central Terrace

circa 2000 BCE

On the temple terrace, a 60-metre-wide, 43-metre-deep and 5-metre-high podium supports the upper hall surrounding an ambulatory and the core building. The ambulatory, separated from the upper hall by a 5-cubit-thick wall, comprised a total of 140 octagonal columns disposed in three rows. For most of these columns, only the base is still visible today.

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