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This article deals with the problem of interpreting the Egyp-
tian temple space and its correlation with the festive scenes
depicted in the temple area. The author considers the relief
scenes of the Opet Festival and the Festival of Hathor pre-
sented in the temples of Deir el-Bahari and Karnak. It will
be shown that the symbolic meaning of the temple space
could be extrapolated on the graphic program of the festival
and thus, on its ritual program. The main symbolic idea of
the festivals studied was the night subterranean travel of the
sun-god and the pharaoh, who passed through the stages of
renewal, in order to resurrect on the eastern horizon or (in
the case of the pharaoh) arrive to the north – the place of
the circumpolar stars.
Dieser Artikel beschäftigt sich mit der Interpretation des
ägyptischen Tempelraumes und seiner Korrelation mit Fest-
Szenen, die im Tempel dargestellt sind. Es werden die Reli-
efszenen des Opet- und des Hathor-Festes, die in den Tem-
peln von Deir el-Bahari und Karnak dargestellt sind, un-
tersucht. Es wird gezeigt werden, dass die symbolische Be-
deutung des Tempelraumes auf das Darstellungsschema des


Festes – und somit auf sein rituelles Programm – übertra-

gen werden kann. Die wichtigste symbolische Idee der unter-
suchten Feste ist die unterirdische Reise des Sonnengottes
und des Pharaos während der Nacht. In dieser durchschrit-
ten beide die Phasen der Erneuerung, um nochmals entwe-
der am östlichen Horizont aufzusteigen oder, im Falle des
Pharaos, im Norden – am Ort der Zirkumpolarsterne –

The thorough studies of different Egyptian festivals celebrated in

the Theban temples under Hatshepsut and Thutmose III (15th .
) led us to the conclusion that each of these pharaohs paid a
great attention to the symbolic meaning of any temple building and
of festive routes. In this paper the author considers the relationship
between the temple spaces of Karnak and Deir el-Bahari and the
relief scenes of the Opet Festival and the Festival of Hathor.


One of the most important festivals in the New Kingdom Egypt
was the “Beautiful Feast of Opet” (Hb nfr n Ipt) celebrated in the
second month of Inundation and dedicated to the sun-god Amun-
Re.1 The key element of this festival was the journey of the phar-
aoh, priests, noblemen and other people with the bark of Amun-Re
from the Karnak temple to the Luxor temple and back to Karnak.
According to L. Bell, the aim of the Opet Festival was to renew the
forces and energy of nature, god and pharaoh.2
The earliest evidence of the festival ceremonies goes back to
the time of the queen Hatshepsut (1490–1468 BC) and her nephew
Thutmose III (1490, actually 1468–1436 BC). The first one depict-
ed the festival on the south wall of her Red Chapel at Karnak (figs.

1 During the reign of Thutmose III the celebrations of the

Opet Festival began on II Axt 15 and lasted eleven days. see Urk.
IV, 742 (1–2) (Annals of the king from the VIth pylon of Karnak);
Urk. IV, 824 (10) (the List of Feasts from the Elephantine Tem-
2 BELL (1997) 157.

5. 6)3 and on the south-east wall of the upper terrace in her mortu-
ary temple at Deir el-Bahari4 (figs. 3. 7). Thutmose III depicted the
Opet Festival on the north-south wall of the so-called Festival Hall
at the Akhmenu temple5, located behind the main temple of Kar-
nak (fig. 4).
The scenes of the Red Chapel and Akhmenu depict the main
participants of the festival (pharaoh, priests, musicians) and do not
show other people (noblemen, soldiers, rowers) pictured in the
Deir el-Bahari temple (fig. 7). This fact could be explained by the
purpose of these buildings. The Red Chapel was a sanctuary placed
in the centre of the temple and was inaccessible to the profanes6; so
was the so-called Festival Hall at Akhmenu. On the contrary, the
upper terrace of the Deir el-Bahari temple was the true Festival
Hall (wsxt-Hb(y)t) accessible to common people.7 This circum-
stance probably determined the subject and the differences in rep-
resentation of the Opet Festival: In the first case the figures are
carved strictly in accordance with the canonical rules, while in the
second they are more realistic.
Let us now pass on to the discussion of the orientation of the
temple structures and the Opet Festival scenes. Attention should
be paid to the fact that the Red Chapel was oriented on an east-
west axis, according to the path of the sun-god who came out of

3 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 66–68; see also LACAU – CHEVRIER

(1977–1979); the color photos of the Chapel’s blocks see on the web-
site of K. Leser (30th
July 2010). Soon after the death of Hatshepsut the Red Chapel had
been dismantled by Thutmose III who built the VIth pylon and the
Granite Sanctuary on its place: Porter – Moss (1972) 98. Now the
original building of the Red Chapel is reconstructed in the Open Air
Museum at Karnak: see MATHIEU (2000) 13–14; LARCHÉ (2000) 15–
4 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 357 (79–81) plan XXXV; NAVILLE (1906)

4–5, pl. 123–126.

5 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 110 (335–336); PÉCOIL (2000) pl. 80–81;

CARLOTTI (2001) pl. 17.

6 CARLOTTI (1995) 155–156; HEGAZY – MARTINEZ (1993)

7 On the function of temple rooms see ARNOLD (1962).

the sanctuary and moved westwards.8 This path apparently symbol-

ized the move of the sun to the place of its setting. Thus, the route
of the Opet Festival from Karnak to Luxor symbolized the night
subterranean journey of the sun, which is depicted in the Book of
Amduat (Book of what is in the Underworld).9 Here are some ar-
guments in favour of this suggestion.
First of all, the iconography of Amun-Re’s portable bark has
several features similar to the night boat of Re pictured in the Book
of Amduat. In the center of the Sun Boat is the old sun, coming to
the west; among his companions, as well as on a portable bark of
Amun-Re, are the “Mistress of the Bark” and the “Pilot of the
Bark”10, standing on the stern, whose role on the ceremonial bark
was performed by the pharaoh. Attention should be paid to the
shape of a fan over Amun-Re’s bark: In the scenes of the journey
from Karnak to Luxor it consists of densely gathered ostrich feath-
ers which resemble the sun setting over the horizon11, and in the
scenes of the return journey the fan feathers are straightened, imi-
tating the sun rays (fig. 6). This corresponds to the symbolic mean-
ing of the return journey associated with the appearance of the sun
in the east, when the god, after the night voyage, gained strength
and power, and lightened the world.
Probably in this context we should consider the six way-
stations built by Hatshepsut between the temples of Karnak and
Luxor which served as a resting place of Amun-Re’s bark on its
way to Luxor (fig. 5).12 The stations possibly symbolized the spatial
and temporal stages of the sun’s night journey in the Underworld
and corresponded to its first six hours, i. e. to the first half of the
night. This association is proved by the fact that some Egyptian
buildings resembled the hours of the sun’s day and night travel. For
example, the rooms of the Karnak temple corresponded to the day
hours of the sun’s journey in the sky – this is confirmed by the

8 BELL (1997) 158.

9 Cf. HORNUNG (1963–1967).
10 HORNUNG (1963) 10 (45. 51).
11 For the symbolic meaning of the fans see KEES (1912) 126–

127. 235–236.
12 There have been discovered the remains of only one of the-

se chapels, cf. PORTER – MOSS (1972) 276–277, plan XXVII (H);

RICKE (1954).

relief scene from the IVth pylon of the Karnak temple which pic-
tures Thutmose III worshiping Amun-Re at “the ninth hour of the
day”.13 Another example is the hall of the Luxor temple with twelve
pillars presumably symbolizing the hours of the sun’s day journey.14
Therefore the way-stations built by Hatshepsut between Kar-
nak and Luxor, each having an entrance from the west and exit
from the east, could symbolize the night hours and the valleys of
Duat. The entry of the solar bark into the chapel probably symbol-
ized the entry of Re into one of the night valleys of Duat. At the
end of the rites in the chapel the bark emerged from the building;
this meant, as we suggest, the lucky passage of Re through the val-
ley. Accepting the parallel between the Opet Festival route and the
night travel of Re, we may think that the temple of Luxor, where
the procession finally entered, was associated with the seventh
valley of Duat – the realm of the god Osiris and the place of strug-
gle between the gods and the snake Apophis, the personification of
evil and chaos.
Coming back to the problem of orientation of the Opet Festi-
val scenes in the temple space, the scenes from the mortuary tem-
ple of Hatshepsut and the Akhmenu temple are aligned on the
north-south axis and seem to be associated with the king’s post-
humous travel to the north – the place of circumpolar stars where
the deceased wished to live forever. This leads to the suggestion
that the symbolic program of the Opet Festival was related to the
posthumous fate of the pharaoh. Another proof to this assumption
is the presence of Osirian motives in the reliefs of the Red Chapel
and the Deir el-Bahari temple: The Osiride statues of Hatshepsut,
which flank the entrance to each bark station, and the statues of
Hatshepsut and Thutmose III, wearing the Heb-sed15 robe and

13 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 88 (239); BARGUET (1962) 336–

BRUNNER (1977) 81; BRYAN (1992) 86.

Sed Festival (jubilee) – the ritual of the renewal of king’s


forces and power that took place in year 30 of the reign and after
that each third year: cf. (1956) 7–28; UPHILL (1965) 365–
383. The royal figures wearing the Heb-sed robe (the cloth wrap-
ping the body from head to toe) resemble the mummified effigy of
Osiris: cf. LACAU – CHEVRIER (1977–1979) pl. 9; NAVILLE (1906)
pl. 125.

sitting on the royal bark, which are shown in the scenes of the re-
turn journey to Karnak. This evidence explains the presence of the
Opet Festival scenes in the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut, who
probably wished to participate posthumously in this festival, along
with the Feast of the Valley, represented on the south-west and
north walls of the upper terrace.16
Besides, it has to be said that the Opet Festival scenes from
Deir el-Bahari representing the travel from Karnak to Luxor are
oriented to the royal mortuary chapels (the symbol of the realm of
Osiris)17, while the scenes picturing the procession’s return trip are
oriented to the solar chapels dedicated to Amun-Re and Re-
Horakhty (fig. 3).18 This orientation of the festive scenes mirrored
the real route of the procession which moved from the north to the
south, from Karnak to Luxor, and backwards (see the scheme be-
The eastern shore The western shore
(the direction of the procession) (the orientation of the festive
scenes at Deir el-Bahari )
Karnak → Luxor solar chapels → mortuary chapels
Karnak ← Luxor solar chapels ← mortuary chapels
This circumstance certainly had a symbolic meaning: Hatshepsut’s
mortuary chapel from Deir el-Bahari, which marked the stages of
the journey of Re, preserves pictures of the queen worshiping the
gods of night and day19.20 Similar pictures are presented in the low-
er register of the seventh hour of Amduat21, which can be associat-
ed with Hatshepsut’s chapel. Thus, the royal chapel was associated
both with the Luxor temple and the seventh night hour of the Du-
at. These parallels allow us to suggest that the ceremonies per-
formed in the sanctuary of Luxor (such as the “Opening of the
Mouth” on the statues of Amun-Re22 and pharaoh) symbolized the

16 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 358 (81–83).

17 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 359–361.
18 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 362–363.
19 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 360–361 (101).
20 Cf. QUIRKE (2001) 72–73.
21 HORNUNG (1963–1967) pl. 7; PIANKOFF (1954) 282–283,

fig. 80.
22 BELL (1997) 176.

fight with the god Apophis. The final part of these ceremonies
meant the destruction of chaos and the establishment of order,
embodied in a temple shape. Thus, the return of the Opet Festival
procession at Karnak was related to the second half of the night
when the sun-god and the king sailed to the exit from the Duat –
to the east where both of them resurrected as Khepri, the morning
sun, in order to continue the day journey. In reality this was repre-
sented by the arrival of the festive procession to the shore of the
Karnak temple, called in the text of Hatshepsut’s obelisk “the hori-
zon of the earth, the sacred primeval hill” (Axt pw Ipt-swt tp tA qAA
Sps n sp tp).23 The orientation of the Opet Festival scenes to the
solar chapels might be interpreted on the one side as the regenera-
tion of the sun-god returning to its realm and rising on the east
horizon, and on the other side as the regeneration of the dead king,
who travelled both to the north and the east.
It is quite possible to suppose that the combination of the two
axes in the Opet Festival pictorial and actual program – east-west
and north-south – had two meanings: 1. the combination of the
god’s and king’s cults in the feast and 2. the travel of the sun-god
around the world.24 In general, one can see that the pictorial pro-
gram of the Opet Festival represented on the south wall of the Red
Chapel (where the scenes are oriented on an east-west axis) empha-
sizes the solar aspect of the festival and that of the Deir el-Bahari
temple (with the scenes oriented on a south-north axis) – the post-
humous fate of the pharaoh.
However, these observations are true mostly for the era of
Hatshepsut, and now it should be checked whether they are valid
for the reign of Thutmose III as well. Here we consider the seman-
tic relationship between the Festival Hall of Akhmenu (fig. 4) and
the Opet Festival scenes represented in this hall; unfortunately, the
scenes are badly damaged and only images of the procession’s re-
turn trip to Karnak remain. It is interesting to point out that the
orientation of these scenes is the same as in Hatshepsut’s mortuary
temple – from the south to the north. In that way, they are aligned
on the south-north axis, joining the royal chambers (including the

23 Urk. IV, 364 (2–3).

24 Cf. BRYAN (1992) 104.

so-called Chamber of Ancestors25) and the sun chapels dedicated to

the gods Khepri and Re-Horakhty.26 Such temple layout is charac-
teristic for the architecture of the New Kingdom mortuary tem-
ples;27 and this gives a reason to draw a parallel between the
Akhmenu- and Deir el-Bahari-temples, both of which belong to the
type of the temples called “Millions of Years”.28 Thus, it may be
suggested that the Opet Festival program remained generally un-
changed since the time of Hatshepsut and that it was also associat-
ed with the afterworld during the reign of Thutmose III. To sub-
stantiate this idea one should examine the decoration of the Festi-
val Hall.
It is noticable, that in the eastern part of the Hall, on each side
of its west-east axis, there are two columns decorated with the im-
ages of the pharaoh making offerings to the god Amun-Re during
the moon festivals, among which the festivals of 6th and 7th lunar
days, the Festival of the First Crescent and the Festival of Full
Moon are mentioned.29 The decoration of these “lunar” columns
face the center aisle of the Festival Hall, i. e. it is oriented along the
west-east axis. Possibly, this circumstance indicates the synchronici-
ty of the nocturnal movement of the moon and sun. Besides, the
columns are located near the entrance to the hall leading to the
east, to the sanctuary of Amun-Re. Of particular interest is the fact
that the name of the second hall sounds like “Men-kheper-Re (i. e.
Thutmose III) dispels the evil” (Mn-xpr-Ra xsr Dwt).30 This phrase
echoes the name of the 80th Chapter of the Book of the Dead,
“Making the transformation into the god who lightened the dark-
ness” (irt xprw m nTr rdit sSp kkw). In this chapter one should pay
attention to the following passage: „I filled the eye (of Re), when it
began to wane at the coming of the festival of the fifteenth day (or
the sixth day, according to another version of the Book of the

PORTER – MOSS (1972) 111–112, plan XIII (2).

26PORTER – MOSS (1972) 122, rooms XXXII–XXXVIII;
BARGUET (1962) 199–201.
27 STADELMANN (1986) 708; LASKOWSKI (2006) 195.
28 For more information about the temples of this type, see

HAENY (1997).
29 PÉCOIL (2000) pl. 49
30 BARGUET (1962) 191.

Dead31)… I have equipped Thoth (with all that is needful) in the

House of the Moon-god for the coming of the festival of the fif-
teenth day... I have come to lighten the darkness, which (I) turn
into the light” (mH.n.i irt m iwty.s n iit smdt… apr.n.i +Hwty m
Hwt iaH n ii smdt… ii.n.i r sSp kkw (iw) swt r HD sp sn).32
According to the Pyramid Texts, the 15th day of the month, or
the full moon, was identical to the sixth and seventh lunar days33
intended for making offerings to the dead king, in order to revive
him to a new life in the hereafter. Besides, the sixth and seventh
days were the days of the conclusion of the filling, i. e. the restora-
tion of the Eye of Horus associated with the sun and the king-
Thus, Thutmose III regarded himself as the guardian of the
sun’s path, as the destroyer of evil forces, which hindered the
movement of Re to the east. The pharaoh, as the chief priest, pro-
tected the Eye of Re by preparing different offerings to the god,
and made its emergence from the dark into light, in the east hori-
zon possible. On the other hand, the offerings performed during
the moon festivals were intended for the deceased king, for his
resurrection in the afterworld, i. e. symbolically, in the Festival Hall
of Akhmenu. Thus, the Festival Hall symbolized the nighttime and
the afterworld – this assumption is proved by the decoration of the
hall’s ceiling (the golden stars on a blue background), imitating the
starry sky.35 Then, the Opet Festival, partly represented in this hall,
was also related to the idea of the sun’s subterranean travel and to

31 NAVILLE (1886) chap. 80, line 7.

32 pAni, pl. 28; NAVILLE (1886) chap. 80, line 12; ALLEN
(1960) 155–156.
33 Pyr. §716a–b.
34 DERCHAIN (1962) 25.
35 BARGUET (1962) 169. In this case we are of the same opin-

ion as M. Murray, who believed, that the motif of yellow stars on a

blue background symbolizes the night sky: MURRAY (2002) 124;
such decoration could be seen, for example, on the ceiling of
Thutmose III’s burial chamber, where the scenes of the Book of
Amduat are represented: cf. ROMER (1975) 315–316. A. пwiek,
however, suggests that the motif of yellow stars on a blue back-
ground imitates the day sky and the motif of white stars on a black
background the night sky: пWIEK (2003) 297–298, n. 1230.

the mortuary cult of king. This symbolic program of the feast had
already been accepted by Hatshepsut; meanwhile, Thutmose III
stressed the lunar aspects of the Opet Festival, which thus correlat-
ed with the solar-lunar cycle.


Having determined the symbolic program of the Opet Festival, we
will now try to define the nature of the festive route under Thut-
mose III. To approach this question we will have to examine the
relief decoration of the buildings and events pertaining to this
In the Karnak temple complex Thutmose III built the VIth36
and the VIIth pylons37, arranging them along the east-west and
south-north axes respectively (fig. 4). It is significant that the main
decoration motif of both pylons was the king’s triumphant Syrian
campaigns (the king smiting his enemies). Thus, the pylons were
connected by the themes of their scenery demonstrating the mili-
tary victories of Thutmose III. This circumstance, as well as the
erection of obelisks in front of the IVth38 and the VIIth pylons39,
probably shows the desire of Thutmose III to equate the value of
the two temple axes, the north-south and east-west.
It seems important to pay attention to the orientation of the
relief scenes of some Thutmose III’s buildings at Karnak. The
granite pillars in front of the VIth pylon are decorated with scenes
of the “royal ascent” to Amun-Re, and the images face south, ra-
ther than east-west as it would normally be the case.40 A similar
orientation is formed in a scene on the VIth pylon, where the com-
positions depicting the military campaigns of Thutmose III face
north and south.41 As P. Barguet suggested, such location of scenes

36 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 78, plan X.

37 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 167, plan XIV. According to D.
Laboury, the VIIth pylon was built soon after the beginning of
Thutmose III’s sole governing: LABOURY (1998) 37–38.
38 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 74–75, plan X.
39 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 171, plan XIV.
40 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 86–87; BARGUET (1962) 112.
41 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 88; BARGUET (1962) 116.

set the course of the procession inside the temple to the south,
where the Chapel of Enthronement was located (fig. 4 [Nr. 6]).42
Probably, before the bark of Amun-Re finally stopped in the Bark
Sanctuary (the so-called Granite Sanctuary of Thutmose III built
behind the VIth pylon43) the ritual repetition of the coronation rites
was performed in the Chapel of Enthronement. On the other
hand, while orienting the relief scenes towards the south, the archi-
tects of Thutmose III “pointed” to the path leading to his own
Akhmenu temple. It is remarkable that the entrance to the building
was located to the south of the main east-west axis of the Karnak
temple; thus, Akhmenu was separated from the main part of the
temple of Amun-Re, and only by the long and narrow passage
connected with the hypostyle hall located between the IVth and the
Vth pylons.44 This place was called “Hall of Crowns” (nTri xawy, or
nTri sxmty);45 and there, according to the temple texts, the corona-
tion of Thutmose III was performed.46 Significantly, there we find
statues of Thutmose I, Thutmose III’s grandfather;47 thus the
southern route helped to establish a symbolic relationship between
the Akhmenu temple, the cults of pharaoh and his ancestors. Be-
sides, the same route connected the Karnak temple complex with
the temple of Luxor dedicated to the cult of the Royal Ka.48
The southern axis was not only used as route for the divine
bark, but was also directly related to the royal cult.49 The great im-
portance that Thutmose III attached to the southern direction
permits to suggest that during the reign of this pharaoh significant
changes occurred in the nature of some festive routes. To clarify
this issue one should turn to the decorations of the Karnak build-
ings located on the south-north path. Among them, we will con-

42 PORTER – MOSS (1972) plan X; BARGUET (1962) 114.

43 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 98–99, plan XII (1).
44 BARGUET (1962) 158.
45 BARGUET (1962) 313, n. 2.
46 Urk. IV, 573 (4); BARGUET (1962) 313.
47 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 80, plan X.
48 BELL (1985) 251–294. The Royal Ka (kA nswt) was the ex-

pression of the divine nature of the pharaoh.

49 see about this respecting Hatshepsut’s buildings in the

southern Karnak: HEGAZY – MARTINEZ (1993) 71.


centrate on the VIIth pylon50 and the alabaster chapel of Thutmose

III (fig. 4 [Nr. 4]).51
The gates of the VIIth pylon are labeled “Amun-Re, the great
of appearance in glory” (Imn-Ra aA xaw).52 The term “appearance in
glory” (xay) describes such different events, like the sunrise, the
pharaoh’s accession to the throne and the coronation.53 Thus, the
district of the VIIth pylon was a place of special praise to god and
pharaoh. That is why Thutmose III erected obelisks (symbols of
the sun54) in front of this pylon and placed on its walls the text
describing his accession to the throne.55 Perhaps, in this place the
sun dropped its first rays at dawn on the arrival of the Opet pro-
cession from Luxor. In this case, it is possible to suggest that the
Opet Festival procession not only left the Karnak temple through
the VIIth pylon, but also entered it upon its arrival from Luxor (this
route is fundamentally different from that under Hatshepsut, when
the procession entered the Karnak temple through the temple’s
west pylon).
If the VIIth pylon played an important role during the return
of the procession to Karnak, then a number of important festive
ceremonies must have been performed in that place. Perhaps the
alabaster chapel of Thutmose III was built for this purpose before
the VIIth pylon. According to the chapel’s inscriptions, this building
was constructed for Amun “on his every way” (Hr wAt.f nb)56,
which presumably means that the chapel was used during various
festive processions in Amun-Re`s honour. As shown by the chap-
el’s relief scenes, the pharaoh performed various rites inside or
outside the building; among them there were the consecration of
four mrt-chests, offering incense to the god, ritual run with an oar
and vases before Amun-Re.57 According to H. Kees, the latter rite

50 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 167, plan XIV.

51 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 173–174, plan XIV; Urk. IV, 851.
52 Urk. IV, 851 (12).
53 Wb III, 241 (8, 14).
54 BARGUET (1962) 313.
55 Urk. IV, 180–181.
56 Urk. IV, 852 (1–3).
57 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 173–174 (512–515); BARGUET

(1962) 267.

was similar to the Heb-sed run58 and was intended to demonstrate

the king’s power and force to the people. Judging by the Opet Fes-
tival images from the Red Chapel of Hatshepsut, the Sed Festival
ceremonies were performed in Karnak after the arrival of the pro-
cession from Luxor (fig. 6).59 Most likely, the same took place un-
der Thutmose III, who conducted these rites before his alabaster
Following the ceremonies in the court of the VIIth pylon, the
festive procession moved towards the main temple of Amun-Re,
and entered the court of the IVth pylon. There, another chapel of
Thutmose III60 was erected to celebrate one of the pharaoh’s jubi-
lees or his military victories in Syria (fig.4 [Nr. 5]).61 Perhaps this
chapel was a simple structure of calcite, aligned on a south-north
axis.62 Does this mean that the building could be used when the
procession arrived at Karnak? An analysis of the chapel’s relief
scenes orientation answers this question: The pharaoh’s images
face the northern part of the sanctuary, where it was faced by the
altar for Amun-Re’s bark, oriented southwards.63 Thus, during any
ceremony the bark was placed on the altar and its stern faced the
temple’s east-west axis. This position implies that the processional
path of Amun-Re’s festivals (including the Opet Festival) laid in the
southern part of the temple, opposite the god’s altar.64 So the par-

58 KEES (1967) 65.

59 Red Chapel, blocks 66. 102. 176.
60 GRIMAL – LARCHÉ (1993) 5–20; ARNAUDIÈS-
MONTÉLIMARD (2003) 159–217. Later the sanctuary was demol-
ished by Amenhotep III (1402–1365 BC).
61 This evidence comes from the chapel’s decoration, contain-

ing the scene of the Sed-Festival character and fragmentary in-

scription which reads: „Men-kheper-Re (i. e. Thutmose III) my
majesty, arrived from Syria (...), his hostile country” (Mn-xpr-Ra
ii.n Hm.i m Rtnw (…) xAst.f sbyt): ARNAUDIÈS-MONTÉLIMARD
(2003) 195.
62 ARNAUDIÈS-MONTÉLIMARD (2003) 213. 216.
63 ARNAUDIÈS-MONTÉLIMARD (2003) 179–212, pl. I–VII.
64 Proceeding from these considerations, we prefer not to ac-

cept the view of Arnaudiès-Montélimard that the bark chapel was

only used on the way from Karnak: ARNAUDIÈS-MONTÉLIMARD
(2003) 214. Meanwhile, Hatshepsut’s Red Chapel gives an example
of a construction with a passage where the bark of Amun-Re was

ticipants of the Opet Festival entered the courtyard of the IVth

pylon through the southern pylon of the temple and then carried
the bark inside Thutmose III’s chapel.
This study brought us to conclude: 1. during the reign of
Thutmose III the return route of the Opet Festival procession was
changed: Then it entered the Karnak temple through the southern
pylon, and 2. the program of the festival stressed the pharaoh’s
ritual role in it as well as his military power, as reflected by the pro-
gram of the festival relief scenes and the orientation of a his build-
ings. Apparently, these changes were connected with the first or
the second royal jubilee, i. e. to the 30th or 33th year of Thutmose
III: This is the time when the buildings that indicated the new
route of the procession – the alabaster chapel and the obelisks
before the VIIth pylon65 – were erected.
Speaking generally, the return journey of the Opet Festival
under Thutmose III seems to be the following. On its arrival at
Karnak the festive procession passed through the VIIIth pylon66
and entered the court of the VIIth pylon, where the priests placed
the bark of Amun-Re in the alabaster chapel of Thutmose III. Af-
terwards the Sed Festival ceremonies were held inside the chapel;
then the procession moved to the main temple of Amun-Re, and
entered the court of the IVth pylon with another chapel of Thut-
mose III. The priests brought the god’s bark there and conducted
before it different festive rituals, also related to the Sed Festival.67
The path of the procession had been already laid on the tem-
ple’s main west-east axis. Reaching the VIth pylon, the festive pro-
cession probably turned to the south, to the Chapel of Enthrone-
ment where the ceremonies of the renewal of the king’s power
were conducted. It may seem that after this the procession had to
go to the Akhmenu temple, which contained the images of the

placed facing the processional route; judging from the relief

scenes, the Chapel was used when the procession left Karnak and
when it returned there.
65 According to the inscriptions, the obelisks were erected by

Thutmose III after his campaign in Naharin in year 33 of his reign

(Urk. IV, 586–587).
66 The VIIIth pylon was erected by Hatshepsut: PORTER –

MOSS (1972) 174–178, plan XIV.

67 ARNAUDIÈS-MONTÉLIMARD (2003) 203–205.

Opet Festival scenes. However, the unusual detachment of the

temple from the rest of the Karnak temple complex casts doubts
about that.
Here another problem has to arise: Could the festival have
been hold in buildings, which already depicted its performance? It
turns out that the presence of festive scenes does not indicate that
the real celebrations of the festival were held there. This is true for
the tombs, in which some festivals represented on their walls surely
could not be celebrated there. For instance, the tomb of Kheruef
decorated with the scenes of Amenhotep III’s jubilees was certainly
not a place for even a part of their celebration.68 Perhaps by depict-
ing the festive scenes the master of the tomb wished to demon-
strate his special position at the court of pharaoh, who allowed him
to take part in the festival, and the feeling of pride granted by this
participation. This is also true about the scenes of the Opet Festival
from Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahari. It is known
that the festival was not celebrated in this temple, and the festive
scenes had purely informative and symbolic meaning, demonstrat-
ing the relationship between the festive program and the posthu-
mous fate of the king. Could we say the same about the scenes
from Akhmenu – the temple, which was strangely detached from
the rest of the Karnak temple area?
As it has been said earlier, moving from the west to the east,
along the sun’s path, the procession reached the VIth pylon and
then turned to the south, to the Akhmenu temple. Only after enter-
ing the Festival Hall it could go on moving to the east, to the Sanc-
tuary of Thutmose III.69 It turns out that within his temple Thut-
mose III made a separate path for the sun-god, thus proclaiming
his exclusive right to accompany the god and accept his energy at
the sunrise.
On the other hand, the detached character of Akhmenu
means that the temple had no direct connection with the rites con-
ducted outside. If so, the scenes of the Opet Festival from Akh-
menu had mostly informative meaning and no relationship with the

68 PORTER – MOSS (1960) 298–299; THE TOMB OF KHERUEF

69 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 120, plan XII (2), room XXX;

BARGUET (1962) 197–198.


festival celebration inside the temple. As shown by the present

research, the Festival Hall was probably associated with the
nighttime and the afterworld, to which the first half of the Opet
Festival responded (i. e. the travel from Karnak to Luxor and
backwards). The second half of the festive ceremonies was held in
the Karnak temple, where the sun, after emerging from the Un-
derworld, made its daily journey. Taking this into account, it would
be strange to assume that by the end of its return journey to Kar-
nak the festive procession could, figuratively speaking, enter the
Underworld (= the Festival Hall) once again and make another trip
through it. Thus, the scenes of the Opet Festival from Akhmenu
only demonstrated the correlation between the festive program and
the myth of the journey of the sun-god and the pharaoh in the


The previous discussion shows the importance of understanding
the role of the temple premises decorated with the relief images of
rituals in their performance. Continuing the study of the Opet Fes-
tival, we have to say a few words on the function of the Bark Sanc-
tuary – the final point of the procession. We will focus on the so-
called Granite Sanctuary built by Thutmose III in place of the Red
Chapel (figs. 4 [Nr. 2]. 8).
G. Legrain showed that the Granite Sanctuary, as the present
Bark Shrine built by Philip Arrhidaeus on the place of Thutmose
III`s building, had a window (instead of doors!) in its eastern wall,
to which a small stepped platform led (fig. 8).70 It is significant that
such construction was similar in its plan to the “solar altar” built by
Thutmose III in the northern part of Akhmenu (fig. 4 [Nr. 7]).71
The “solar altar” was established on the special dais, to which the
staircase led (fig. 9); in the eastern wall there was a window. This
type of building resembles the New Year’s chapel where the effi-
gies of the gods (Hathor in Dendera, Horus in Edfou) were

70 LEGRAIN (1917) 14–15. 19–20.

71 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 122, room XXXV.

brought in the New Year’s Eve.72 At the dawn of New Year sun
rays penetrated into the sanctuary and illuminated the effigies: This
was the so-called rite Xnm Itn (“union with the solar disk”) intend-
ed to restore the gods’ energy and power.73 Since the monuments
of Thutmose III were directly connected with the cult of Amun-
Re, it can be assumed that the effigy of this god took part in the
rite Xnm Itn held on the “solar altar”.
These semantic parallels between the “solar altar” of
Akhmenu and the Granite Sanctuary lead to the conclusion that the
rite Xnm Itn was held in the latter building during various Theban
festivals, such as the Opet Festival and the Feast of the Valley.
Besides, it can be seen that the Granite Sanctuary was placed along
the temple`s east-west axis and was oriented to the sunrise at the
winter solstice.74 According to R. Wells, this time was named by the
Egyptians mswt-Ra (“Birth of Re”).75 Perhaps the term mswt-Ra
was also applied to I Axt 1, i. e. the beginning of New Year, which
would thus have a solar character76. And indeed, the New Year
Festival commemorated the myth of Nut giving birth to Re at
dawn when the sun completed its overnight journey in the body of
the sky-goddess (fig. 10).77 This event – the rebirth of the sun-god
– was the final point of the New Year Festival celebrations, as well
as probably the Amun-Re’s Festivals, e. g. the Opet Festival and
the Feast of the Valley.
Quite possibly, the final ceremonies of the Opet Festival in-
volved, inter alia, the rite Xnm Itn during which the effigy of the
main temple god (in this case Amun-Re) received the energy of
sunlight and then passed it to the world. This idea has another
proof. As we said above, at the end of the Opet Festival the priests
carried Amun-Re’s bark inside the Granite Sanctuary. The relief
scenes from Akhmenu, which depict participants of the festival

72 KEES (1949) 427–442; DAUMAS (1982) 471.

73 DAUMAS (1982). The visual presentation of the rite Xnm
Itn, see the scene from the Dendera temple which depicts the
morning sun throwing rays on the Hathor-head: PORTER – MOSS
(1939) 61, chapel XIII. fig. 10.
74 GABOLDE (1998) 163.
75 WELLS (1994) 5–23.
76 PARKER (1950) 47; GARDINER (1906) 142.
77 DAUMAS (1982) 468–469; CAUVILLE (1995) 61.

walking from Luxor to Karnak, are located in the northern part of

the Festival Hall and oriented towards the “solar altar”.78 It follows
from the general layout of the Karnak temple that in reality the
festive procession entered the Granite Sanctuary which was thus
neatly correlated to the “solar altar” of Akhmenu. Taking into con-
sideration the fitness of the Granite Sanctuary for the ceremony
Xnm Itn, we can assume that this building had been a sort of se-
mantic link between the Festivals of the New Year and the Opet
According to the relief scenes of the Red Chapel, the final part
of the Opet Festival included the offerings to the gods of Karnak
and the ritual repetition of the coronation rites, with Amun-Re
crowning the king.79 Perhaps the latter ritual was conducted after
the rite of Xnm Itn over the effigy of Amun-Re and was closely
connected with it, as the king crowned by Amun-Re came into
contact with the vitalizing sunlight emanated from the god’s body;
and this led to the renewal of the golden substance of pharaoh’s
The present study shows that the rite of Xnm Itn was held
both on the “solar altar” of the Akhmenu and the Granite Sanctu-
ary. These buildings, being the birthplaces of the sun-god, played a
key role in the festivities.
It is also necessary to remark that the Granite Sanctuary was
sandwiched between the so-called Halls of Offerings built by Hat-
shepsut (fig. 4 [Nr. 3]).81 In the mythological context these rooms
can be linked to the Fields of Offerings where the dead king ar-
rived82 and the Sun Bark stopped during its day travel.83 Besides,
the Fields of Offerings were associated with the northern part of
the sky84, i. e. with the place of the circumpolar stars; meanwhile,
the “solar altar” is located in the northern part of Akhmenu which
symbolized, in the theory of P. Barguet, the northern region of the

78 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 110 (335–336).

79 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 67 (97–121).
80 (1979) 53.
81 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 102–107, plan XI. XII (1).
82 Pyr. §1216a–e.
83 PIANKOFF (1942) 20–21.
84 Pyr. §749c–e.

sky. As a result, we can build the following semantic chain: “solar

altar” = Granite Sanctuary = Fields of Offerings. Therefore, the
buildings of Thutmose III were related both to a specific time
(New Year) and to the afterworld (Fields of Offerings).


After delineating the relationship between the Opet Festival and
the Karnak temple in general, we proceed to the analysis of a relief
scene depicted in the Festival Hall of Akhmenu. Its wall was deco-
rated on its south-eastern side with a scene of the bark navigation
(fig. 11).85 The scene is badly damaged, but one can recognize the
statue of a cow suckling and protecting the pharaoh. Although this
scene was a common topic represented in various New Kingdom
temples86, its symbolic meaning in the context of the Akhmenu
temple has not been studied properly.
It is known that the motif of the cow suckling the pharaoh
goes back to the myth of the Celestial Cow giving birth to the sun-
god Re87 and to the myth of the goddess Isis, which has nourished
the infant Horus in the marshes of Delta.88 Egyptian pharaohs,
assimilating themselves to Re or Horus, are presented in temple
and tomb scenes as the sons of the goddess Hathor/Isis.89 In prin-
ciple, the motif of the suckling had a mortuary character and em-
phasized the role of Hathor as a nurse and protector of the de-
ceased whom the goddess renovated to the afterlife.90

85 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 110 (333), plan XII (2); BARGUET

(1962) 174.
86 Cf. e. g. the relief scenes from Hathor chapels of the mor-

tuary temples of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III at Deir el-Bahari:

PORTER – MOSS (1972) 350 (28). 380.
87 Cf. the myth of the birth of Re out of MHt wrt: Urk. V, 36–

38; NAVILLE (1886) 17 (34–35).

88 Cf. the texts accompanying the scenes of Hathor-cow lick-

ing the hand of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari: Urk. IV, 237 (15–
17). 239 (10–13).
89 (1996) 155; cf. e. g. the tomb scene of Isis suckling
Thutmose III: PORTER – MOSS (1964) 553, pillar A (b).
90 Urk. IV, 239 (11–13); BARGUET (1962) 150. 286, n. 1.

It would seem that the Akhmenu temple contains the typical

New Kingdom motif. However, this is not the case. It should be
noticed that the boat of Hathor was part of the composition de-
picting a procession accompanied by the pharaoh, priests and mu-
sicians.91 Apparently it could be the depiction of some Festival of
Hathor. This is confirmed indirectly by the presence of the Feast
Calendar of Thutmose III on the south wall of the Akhmenu tem-
ple92 – it is quite possible to suggest that the festivals mentioned in
the calendar were represented in the reliefs of the same temple.
Unfortunately, the names of many festivals recorded in the
feast list are not preserved; however, the evidence of other Egyp-
tian calendars can provide the time interval and events pertaining
to the cult of Hathor: III Axt (Athyr) – IV Axt (Khoiak).93 This time
referred to the festival “Sailing of Hathor” (Xnt @wt-@r)94, also
called “Festival of Hathor” (Hb @wt-@r)95. Under the reign of
Thutmose III the festival was probably celebrated from the end of
III Axt to the beginning of IV Axt 496, and the date IV Axt 4 was
related to the “[day] of the Festival of Hathor” ([ra] n Hb @wt-@r)97
or to the festival “Procession of Hathor” (xa(w) nt @wt-@r)98.
It seems that the scenes from Akhmenu refer to the Festival
of Hathor called Xnt @wt-@r. In order to prove this idea, we
should study the role that Hathor played in the Karnak temple
complex during the first half of the XVIIIth dynasty, i. e. under
Hatshepsut and Thutmose III.
The oracular text inscribed on the south wall of Hatshepsut’s
Red Chapel denotes the goddess Hathor as “First in the Hall wAD-

91 see PÉCOIL (2000) 81–82; CARLOTTI (2001) pl. 17.

92 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 126 (462), plan XII (2).
93 EL-SABBAN (2000) 29–30.
94 pBerlin P 10282, rt. 2; pUC 32191, rt. 1, 2; Denderah III, pl.

30. 78.
95 KITCHEN (1983) 159; EL-SABBAN (2000) 30.
96 The date IV Axt 4 is mentioned in the inscriptions of Thut-

mose III’s temple at Deir el-Bahari: SADEK (1984) 71–73; The

dates of the festival from other Egyptian calendars range from III
Axt 26 to IV Axt 8: cf. GRIMM (1994) 379–382; DAUMAS (1977)
97 Urk. IV, 1273 (F. 2).
98 O.Michaelides 33, rt. 9.

yt” (xntit st m wADyt)99 – i. e. in the hypostyle hall between the IVth

and the Vth pylons of the Karnak temple.100 As we said earlier, this
room has another name – “Hall of Crowns”, as the coronation of
Thutmose III and the purification of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III
were conducted there.101 Thus, in the hypostyle hall the kings Hat-
shepsut and Thutmose III were purified before entering the tem-
ple’s interior where the coronation ceremonies were performed.
From this evidence we can explain the symbolic presence of Hath-
or in the hall – the goddess was considered to be the giver of water
who performed the purification of the pharaoh, as depicted, for
example, in the relief scenes of the VIIIth pylon at Karnak.102
Besides, Hathor was worshipped as a patroness of the dead,
emerging from a papyrus thicket to meet the deceased.103 This ob-
servation allows us to trace another connection of Hathor with the
hypostyle hall, that symbolized the primeval marsh overgrown with
reeds, the border between the dark waters of Nun and the primor-
dial hill (= the temple sanctuary).104 In this room the god Amun-Re
appeared on coming out of the sanctuary, hence another name of
the room was “Hall of appearance” (wsxt xayt)105. Furthermore, the
fact that the hall contained the Osiride statues of Thutmose I leads
to the conclusion that this space was associated both with the royal
tomb and the afterworld. Thus, the Hall wADyt symbolically repre-
sented the district of the West where Hathor as “Mistress of the
West” accompanied the sun-god and the deceased pharaoh, pro-
tecting them throughout their journey in the Underworld.
It is also necessary to have in mind that the Hall wADyt was
connected to the Akhmenu temple through a long passage. This
probably meant that there was a relationship between the images of
Hathor in Hall wADyt and Akhmenu. In this case, the scene of the
Hathoric procession from Akhmenu definitely refers to the cult of
the goddess emerging from a papyrus thicket and escorting the

99LACAU – CHEVRIER (1977–1979) 100–101.

100BARGUET (1962) 311.
101 Urk. IV, 573.
102 The pylon was constructed by Hatshepsut cf: PORTER –

MOSS (1972) 174 (517).

103 pAni, cf. FAULKNER – GOELET (2008) pl. 37.
104 SHAFER (1997) 6.
105 BARGUET (1962) 314.

deceased pharaoh in the afterlife. Most likely, this aspect of Hathor

played a key role in the Festival of Xnt @wt-@r (or Hb @wt-@r). H.
Altenmüller suggests that this festival was linked to the beginning
of the Nile’s flood, the renewal of the nature and the ruling phar-
aoh.106 It seems that the festival involved ancient rites of the pluck-
ing of the papyrus (zSS wAD) and “making green” the nature
(swAD)107 represented in the reliefs of some Old Kingdom tombs.108
The rite zSS wAD referred to the manifestation of Hathor as a cow
emerging from a papyrus thicket.109 Hence one may suggest that
during the Xnt @wt-@r Festival, which was probably related to the
ritual zSS wAD, the statue of Hathor in the form of a cow played a
key role.
The evidence reviewed above reveals that the Hathoric scene
from the Festival Hall of Akhmenu appears to be a reference to the
Festival of Hathor called Xnt @wt-@r and celebrated in the second
half of inundation. Here are some other arguments confirming this
The part of the wall preserving scenes of the Xnt @wt-@r Fes-
tival is at the same time the outer wall of the rooms of the chthonic
god Sokar.110 Perhaps this evidence emphasizes the relationship
between the cults of Hathor and Sokar. It is known that the Festi-
val of Sokar was a part of the Khoiak Festival; a celebration of
Osiris’ renewal that took place on IV Axt 20–30 (the month Khoi-
ak).111 The festival celebrated the triple aspect of Osiris as dead,
dismembered (by the god Seth), and finally restored through piec-
ing together his disjointed body; in the first state Osiris was called
Khenty-imentiu, in the second – Osiris-Sep and in the third – So-
kar.112 According to the calendar of Thutmose III, the actual Feast
of Sokar took place on IV Axt 20113, and the calendar at Medinet

106 ALTENMÜLLER (1977) 175.

107 ALTENMÜLLER (1977) 175.
108 Beni Hasan I, Tf. 24; Meir I, Tf. 2; BALCZ (1939) 32–38.
109 see DITTMAR (1983) 67–82; WETTENGEL (1992) 323–338;

ALTENMÜLLER (2002) 1–42.

110 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 115–118, rooms XVI–XXII.
111 SCHOTT (1950) 89–90; GABALLA – KITCHEN (1969) 35–

112 DAUMAS (1975) 958–959; MIKHAIL (1984) 32–33.
113 SCHOTT (1950) Nr. 63; EL-SABBAN (2000) 29–30.

Habu refers to a specific date – IV Axt 26.114 According to the in-

scriptions of the great temple of Hathor at Dendera, on IV Axt 26
was also conducted the ritual Xnm Itn of Hathor.115 Thus, Hathor
and Sokar had a common festival day. This evidence suggests that
the Xnt @wt-@r Festival did not end at the beginning of the month
Khoiak, but was celebrated throughout the month. Perhaps under
the reign of Thutmose III the Xnt @wt-@r Festival covered the
period III Axt–IV Axt 30, while the main Festival of Hathor, xa(w)
nt @wt-@r (or ra n Hb @wt-@r), fell on IV Axt 4. This idea is sup-
ported by the inscription of the so-called Small Calendar of Hathor
at the same Dendera temple where the festival “Sailing of Hathor”
is said to have taken place on III Axt 1–I prt.116 Surprisingly, the list
of Hathoric feasts mentions at its end the building activities of
Thutmose III at Dendera: “Men-kheper-Re…made his monument
for his mother Hathor of Dendera” (Mn-xpr-Ra… ir.n.f m mnw.f
n mwt.f Hwt-Hr n Jwnt).117 Could this mean that the dates of the
Hathoric feasts recorded in this list reflected those of the time of
Thutmose III? If so, then our supposition about the length of the
Xnt @wt-@r Festival under Thutmose III seems to be quite possi-
The previous discussion brings us to the following conclu-
sions: 1. the Xnt @wt-@r Festival preceded the Festival of Sokar,
and this found reflection in the orientation of the Hathoric scene
from the Festival Hall of Akhmenu to the entrance to the Rooms
of Sokar; and 2. Hathor played a prominent role in the Festival of
Sokar. The latter print follows from the abundance of Hathoric
motifs in the reliefs of the Sokarian rooms, which included the
offerings of milk, cows, bulls118 and the suckling of pharaoh by
Hathor.119 These observations go well with the idea of Hathor as
the patroness of the dead accompanying him in the afterworld, i. e.
in the region of Sokar.

SCHOTT (1950) Nr. 74.


Dendera I, pl. 62 j; DAUMAS (1977) 1036.

116 Dendera III, pl. 78, col. 30; EL-SABBAN (2000) 181.
117 Dendera III, pl. 78, col. 35–36.
118 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 116 (374), room XX; PORTER –

MOSS (1972) 117 (378), room XXI.

119 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 117 (380), room XXII.

According to the images of Amduat from the tomb of Thut-

mose III, the region of Sokar was located in the fourth and fifth
valleys of the Underworld.120 These valleys, unlike other valleys of
Duat, were a desert where darkness dwells and where the solar boat
was being dragged by the gods. The scene of the fourth hour de-
picts the god Thoth giving the Udjat Eye to Horus/Sokar. C. J.
Bleeker asserts that here the god Sokar is represented receiving his
own life and energy in the form of the Eye, which he then gives to
the dead Osiris.121 Further, in the scene of the 5th hour the figure of
Sokar appears in the lower register, inside the oval protected by the
earth-god Aker (fig. 12). The oval is covered with the pyramid-
shaped hill crowned with a female head and labeled “the flesh of
Isis, who is over the Land of Sokar” (iwf %t Hrt Say %kr). This image
resembles the roles of the deceased Osiris and of Isis, as she hovers
over him in the form of a hawk, intercourses with him and con-
ceives the child Horus. Regarding the scene of Amduat, the hill
with a female head over it could be understood as the image of Isis
who spreads her wings (= hill-slopes) and hovers over Sokar – the
personification of the potential life implicit in the dead body of
This life is embodied in the form of a scarab represented in
the upper register of the same scene. One see him coming out of
the hill (the sign of the night) and holding the rope of the Sun
Bark, “in order to help Re (lit. “his hand is the hand for Re”), to
straighten the secret paths of Re-Horakhty” (af a n Ra mAa.f wAwt
StAwt n Ra-@r-Axty).123 Thus, the scarab plays a prominent role in
the process of the sun-god’s rebirth, and at the same time appears
to be the personification of the final form of Re, i. e. the morning
manifestation of the sun-god. Furthermore, the hill, from which
the scarab emerges, symbolizes the sarcophagus which contained
the dead body of Osiris and mourned by Isis and Nephthys (= two
birds on the hill-slopes).124 In such a case, the scene of the fifth
hour of Amduat bears another meaning: The conception of the

120 HORNUNG (1963) pl. 4–5.

121 BLEEKER (1967) 66.
122 BLEEKER (1967) 75.
123 HORNUNG (1963–1967) 85, pl. V.
124 HORNUNG (1963–1967) 80.

new life of Re-Osiris who finally, after completing the night jour-
ney, rises with the help of Sokar on the eastern horizon.
The evidence discussed above allows us to suggest that in the
abode of Sokar a sort of conception of Re and Horus (and hence
the pharaoh) occurred, both of them receiving the new life before
the battle with the god Apophis occurred in the seventh valley of
the Duat. The god Sokar himself was, on the one hand, a mediator
between death and rebirth, and on the other – the final form of the
deceased who underwent mummification and the “Opening of the
Mouth” ritual. These ceremonies appeared to be a part of the Fes-
tival of Sokar and of the Khoiak Festival. The Festival of Sokar was
given an abbreviated presentation in the Sokarian rooms at
Akhmenu. Here one can see the Sokar Bark carried by priests, with
four additional priests leading the procession and carrying symbolic
towing ropes.125 The procession moved towards the “Tent of Puri-
fication”, where the ceremonies of the funerary character supposed
to be held.126
As P. Barguet suggested, the Rooms of Sokar were the place
where the pharaoh underwent the resurrection ritual, during which
he symbolically died and resurged, like Osiris.127 In the context of
the funeral ritual this could mean that at the end of the ceremonies
in the Rooms of Sokar the deceased pharaoh became Sokar, i. e.
the final form of Osiris, and was able to make a journey with the
sun, resurrecting daily at the dawn.
With these criteria in mind, we return to the question of the
relationship between the Xnt @wt-@r Festival and the Festival of
Sokar. As it was noted earlier, the former emphasized the cult of
the deceased pharaoh whom Hathor met and accompanied to the
Underworld. The appearance of the goddess was probably stimu-
lated by the ritual zSS wAD. This rite was similar to the rustling of
the papyrus which imitated shaking a sistrum (musical instrument
of Hathor) and urged to appease the fierce temper of the god-

125 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 116; BARGUET (1962) 184.

126 BARGUET (1962) 184 (n. 4). 285.
127 BARGUET (1962) 284–285.
128 BLEEKER (1973) 88–89.

The scene of zSS wAD was carved under Thutmose III on a

wall of the Karnak temple, in the northern court situated near the
VIth pylon (fig. 13).129 Here one finds a fragmentary scene depicting
the boat navigation in a papyrus thicket and the pharaoh, standing
on this boat. At the stern and at the prow of the boat there are the
statues of the ithyphallic god Amun-Min, to whom in this case the
ritual was devoted. At the same time, the whole scene was directed
to Hathor, as the wall adjacent to the discussed scene contains the
image of Hathor holding mnit and greeting the ritual run of the
It seems that in the area of Karnak the rite of the plucking of
the papyrus and then, the Xnt @wt-@r Festival referred both to
Hathor and Amun-Min. Perhaps this evidence may explain the
presence of Amun-Min’s image in the reliefs of the Sokarian rooms
at Akhmenu131, where the Xnt @wt-@r could be held. Hathor
brought the deceased pharaoh into these rooms (figuratively speak-
ing, into the afterworld) and protected him there during various
ceremonies. Moreover, drawing the analogy between the Sokarian
rooms and the 5th hour of Amduat, one may suggest that the for-
mer appeared to be the place where the goddess Hathor/Isis con-
ceived a new Horus-pharaoh.
It is quite possible to suppose that the leading role in the dis-
cussed process was played by the ithyphallic god Amun-Min, or
Amun-Kamutef (“Amun, Bull of his mother”) who personified the
male sexual procreativity and fertility.132 From this point of view,
the ritual Xnm jtn (“union with the solar disc”) of Hathor during
the Khoiak Festival can be understood as the sexual intercourse of
Hathor with the sun-god Amun-Re in his ithyphallic form. Here,
one can recall the ancient Greek myth of Danae who conceived
Perseus, after being powdered with Golden Rain into which the
god Zeus transformed himself. A visual expression of this interpre-
tation can be clearly seen in the tripartite composition in a scene of
the fifth hour of Amduat (fig. 12): There one can see a scarab (=

129 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 92–93 (267), plan XI; DITTMAR

(1983) Nr. 14.
130 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 93 (268).
131 PORTER – MOSS (1972) 115 (366); BARGUET (1962) 183.
132 (1984) 71–72; ROMANOFSKY (2001) 413–415.

the morning sun), a hill with a head of Isis (= the body of Isis), and
an oval with the figure of Sokar (= the womb of Isis containing the
semen of Horus or Re). In other words, Isis was illuminated by the
morning sun and then conceived Horus or Re.
That the rite Xnm jtn of Hathor in the context of the Festival
of Sokar and then, of the Xnt @wt-@r Festival had sexual connota-
tions is confirmed by the relief scenes and texts of the Red Chapel.
As we know, the chapel’s south wall (the third register) depicts the
images of six way-stations used by Hatshepsut during the Opet
Festival. On its way to Luxor the bark of Amun-Re stopped in each
chapel, and the pharaoh (Hatshepsut or Thutmose III) performed
offering rituals before it. All of the chapels, except the first and the
sixth, bore the names, which were apparently related to various
ritual acts of Hatshepsut.133 Of particular interest are the third and
the fifth chapels labeled respectively “Maat-ka-Re (i. e. Hatshepsut)
who is unified with the beauties of Amun” ([Mat-kA-Ra] Xnmt nfrw
Imn)134 and “Maat-ka-Re who receives the beauties of Amun”
(MAat-kA-Ra Sspt nfrw Imn).135
The word “beauties” can denote both, the light of the sun-
god136 and the phallus of Amun-Min137 (perhaps the image of this
god took part in the Opet Festival138). So the word Xnm on the one
hand denotes the union of the statue with the sun-rays139 and on
the other means the physical unity.140 Therefore, the ritual actions
reflected in the names of the third and the fifth chapel seem to
refer to the symbolic intercourse of Hatshepsut with Amun. Since
the path of the Opet Festival procession from Karnak to Luxor
and backwards was probably related to the night journey of Re in
the Duat, the god Amun appeared in this festival as Osiris passing
the stages of the revival. Thus, performing certain rituals before the
chapels of Amun, Hatshepsut assumed the role of Isis (= Hathor)

133 CABROL (2001) 537.

134 Red Chapel, block 305.
135 Red Chapel, block 169.
136 Wb II 260 (11).
137 Wb II 260 (7); GAUTHIER (1931) 112.
138 CABROL (2001) 515–516.
139 Wb III 377 (16–17).
140 Wb III 377 (8–11).

as a consort of Osiris, conceiving from him the young Horus, who

was probably Hatshepsut herself.
It is important to point out that the ritual zSS wAD also had
sexual character, for it commemorated the unity of the deceased
pharaoh with his mother, a wild cow.141 Perhaps it is this aspect of
the ceremony that Thutmose III emphasized in the Karnak temple
reliefs when placing the ithyphallic statue of the god on the royal
bark in a scene neighbouring to that with Hathor holding mnit.
To sum up what was said above, we can assert that the scene
of Hathor’s voyage carved on the wall of the Akhmenu temple has
a dual semantic content. On the one hand, it reflects the idea of
Hathor as a guide of the deceased in the afterworld (= the Rooms
of Sokar). On the other hand, this scene itself is of a mortuary
character and represents the motif of the pilgrimage of the dead
pharaoh in the Underworld. The night journey in the Duat, a dan-
gerous sphere, was guarded by the goddess Hathor, who directed
the deceased into the fourth and fifth valleys of the Duat (= the
Rooms of Sokar) conceiving a new Horus in the latter valley.


Having defined a possible nature of the Xnt @wt-@r Festival, we
proceed to the question of its venue. First of all, let us examine the
orientation of the Hathoric scene from the Festival Hall of the
Akhmenu temple.
It is noteworthy that these scenes face north, towards the cult
chapels of the pharaoh and the royal ancestors. On the one hand,
this evidence seems to force a connection between the Xnt @wt-@r
Festival, the kingship and the royal mortuary cult. On the other
hand, this orientation of the scenes could reflect the real route of
the procession which moved from north to south. This brings us to
the question: What part of the Hathoric festival is represented in
Akhmenu? From the alleged relationship between the Xnt @wt-@r
Festival and the Festival of Sokar, one may suggest that there are
scenes depicting the second part of the festival, which included the
arrival of Hathor’s procession from some northern district. In or-

141 Pyr. §388; HERMANN (1959) 14–18; BARTA (1981) 139.


der to prove this, we need to find out the possible time and venue
of the ritual zSS wAD, which was probably incorporated in the Xnt
@wt-@r Festival.
It is significant that the Karnak scenes of zSS wAD are outside
the Akhmenu temple, where we can find the scenes of Hathor’s
navigation. This evidence lead us to suggest that the ritual of the
plucking of the papyrus preceded the journey to the south during
the Xnt @wt-@r Festival. To clarify this issue, we will turn to the
reliefs from the Saqqara tomb of Fetekti (fifth dynasty), where the
scenes and events pertaining to the rite zSS wAD are represented
(fig. 14).142 These compositions are placed on the west wall of the
tomb and consist of two parts: One shows the deceased sailing to
the north – “departure to the north, in order to conduct zSS wAD
for Hathor, the Beauty, the Mistress of sycamore” ([s]DAT m xd(t) r
zSS wAD [n] @wt-@r nfrt nbt nht), and the other pictures the boat-
ing “journey to the south, after zSS wAD for Hathor, the Beauty, the
Mistress of sycamore” (xsft m-xt zSS wAD n @wt-@r nfrt nbt nht.)143
It seems that the first scene was related to the beginning of zSS
wAD, and the second one – to its end. From these inscriptions H.
Altenmüller has suggested that the rite zSS wAD belonged to the
interval between the day and night journeys of the deceased in the
afterworld (probably closer to the night) – these travels corre-
sponded to the south and north voyages respectively.144 Thus, the
south navigation was conducted late at night, after the ceremony
zSS wAD.
With these observations in mind, we should recall that the
Festival Hall of Akhmenu, housing the scene of the Hathoric south
navigation, symbolized apparently the afterworld and the nighttime.
This will bring us to the conclusion that the scenes of the Festival
Hall show the second part of the Xnt @wt-@r Festival, which allud-
ed to the night voyage towards the south. Perhaps this travel took
place after the ritual of the plucking of the papyrus intended to
deliver the deceased safely in the afterworld (= the Rooms of So-

142 LD II, Tf. 96; LD Ergänzungsband, Tf. 40 d.

143 ALTENMÜLLER (2002) 26–27.
144 ALTENMÜLLER (2002) 26–27.

One further point might be relevant. The scenes of the ritual

zSS wAD carved on the wall of the tomb of Fetekti resemble the
later pictorial motif of the pilgrimage of the deceased from the
necropolis to Abydos (the place of Osiris’ burial) and backwards.145
This semantic parallel is supported by the suggestion of H. Al-
tenmüller that the Old Kingdom versions of the Abydos pilgrimage
refer to the ideas of the conception of the deceased and his rebirth
in the afterlife; the texts and subjects of the voyage scenes are rem-
iniscent of the myth of Isis conceiving Horus from Osiris, and the
scenes of navigation thus bear a sexual character146, as the scenes of
zSS wAD.
It is quite possible that the motif of the Abydos pilgrimage
was a metaphor for the navigation of the deceased in the afterworld
and his final arrival in the Field of Reeds (sxt Htp) or the Fields of
Offerings (sxt iArw).147 These fields took place in the abode of Osi-
ris and probably located in the northern or the western part of the
afterworld.148 There the deceased, on passing the judgment by Osi-
ris, hoped to find peace and reunite with his dead relatives.149
As for the scene of zSS wAD from the Karnak temple, it is lo-
cated in the area adjacent to the VIth pylon and the Bark Sanctuary.
As noted earlier, on the gate of the pylon there is a relief image of
Thutmose III worshipping Amun-Re at “the ninth hour of the
day”. According to the Book of the Day and Night, this hour refers
to the arrival of the Sun Boat into the Fields of Offerings150 – per-
haps that is why the Bark Sanctuary was built among the so-called
Halls of Offerings decorated with the scenes of offerings to various
gods of Karnak. Thus the rite zSS wAD pictured in the area of the
VIth pylon clearly had symbolic links both with the daylight hours
and the Fields of Offerings. It seems that the scene of the sailing in
the thicket of reeds during zSS wAD mirrored in someway the sailing
of the sun-god and the deceased to the Fields of Offerings or the
Field of Reeds. If we draw a parallel between the ritual zSS wAD and

145 On this motif see BRÖCKELMANN (2004).

146 ALTENMÜLLER (1998) 761–764.
147 ALTENMÜLLER (1975) 46.
148 Cf. FRANKFORT (1958) 120.
149 Book of the Dead, Chapter 110.
150 PIANKOFF (1942) 20–21.

the motif of the Abydos pilgrimage, the sailing northwards during

zSS wAD could be understood as an analogue of the journey to Aby-
dos which, in fact, was located to the north of Thebes.
Further evidence that the ritual zSS wAD had a symbolic rela-
tion with the Fields of Offerings comes from Utterance 317 of the
Pyramid Texts. It describes the arrival of the deceased pharaoh “at
the head of the inundation of the flood […] to the places of satis-
faction, with green fields, which are in the horizon” (mHt Agbi…r st
Htpw wADt sxtw imyw Axt).151 In these fields the pharaoh could
“make green (swAD) the herbs in both lands of the horizon” (swAD
smw Hr idby Axt).152 Obviously, the text quoted refers to the Fields
of Offerings or the Field of Reeds where the deceased could “make
green” the nature. Could this act resemble the rite swAD which took
place along with the rite zSS wAD and probably also belonged to the
part of the Xnt @wt-@r Festival? As shown by the passage just
quoted, the act “making green” was linked to the “head of the in-
undation”, i. e. to the second half of inundation. Therefore, the
events of the ritual swAD really coincided with the Xnt @wt-@r Fes-
tival. It is also clear that the venue of the swAD and zSS wAD rituals
was related to the Fields of Offerings or the Field of Reeds.
Let us now assume that the rites swAD and zSS wAD intended to
bring Hathor to the deceased, took place before the main festival
of the goddess celebrated on IV Axt 4 during the reign of Thut-
mose III. In other words, the result of these ceremonies was, ap-
proximately, the arrival of the goddess Hathor who delivered the
deceased to his tomb (here, one may recall the sequence of relief
scenes from the northern court of the Karnak temple: the sailing of
Thutmose III to the goddess Hathor greeting the ritual run of
pharaoh). In the context of the Xnt @wt-@r Festival this conclusion
is clearly supported by the scene that showed the navigation of
Hathor protecting the pharaoh in the guise of a cow-nurse.
If we continue drawing a parallel between the Xnt @wt-@r
Festival and the motif of Abydos pilgrimage, another question will
arise: Did the journey to the north and south of Egypt took place
in reality during this feast? It is known that the pilgrimage to Aby-

151 Pyr. §507a. 508b.

152 Pyr. §509a.

dos did not take place as a real event.153 According to K. My liwiec,

Abydos was a metaphoric name of a sacred place within the ne-
cropolis, where only statues of the deceased might have journeyed
to, symbolize his actual pilgrimage to Abydos.154 Can we say some-
thing similar about the Xnt @wt-@r Festival which was probably
involved in the Osirian festivities?
J. Dittmar suggests that the scene depicting the zSS wAD rite
had purely symbolic character, and in reality consisted of offerings
to the gods, such as birds and flowers of papyrus.155 Without deny-
ing this possibility, it seems rather unlikely, to consider the scene
from the Akhmenu temple as solely symbolic, as it pictures a real
procession. At the same time, given this, one should believe that
the boat navigation to the north and south was not a travel of the
actual procession to the north and south of Egypt and might have
taken place within the area of Karnak.
It is likely that under Thutmose III the navigation of Hathor
took place near the Akhmenu temple, probably on the Sacred Lake
dug during the reign of Thutmose III to the south of the main
temple of Amun-Re.156 The reason for such assumption is the sym-
bolic meaning of the lake, associated probably with the waters of
the underworld, which were a way the night journey of Re ended
with his rise at the dawn in the form of scarab.157 Thus, the lake
could well be the venue for the Xnt @wt-@r Festival which, as
shown in the present research, commemorated the journey of the
deceased pharaoh in the hereafter.
To sum up, we will now try to restore the course of the Xnt
@wt-@r Festival under Thutmose III. In general, this festive event
can be divided into four stages: 1. III Axt-beginning of IV Axt–the
navigation northwards on the Sacred Lake at Karnak; the offering

153 ALTENMÜLLER (1975) 46–47.

154 MY LIWIEC (1985) 25.
155 DITTMAR (1983) 80–81.
156 PORTER – MOSS (1972) plan VI; BARGUET (1962) 54, n. 2.

128, n. 3; NIMS (1969) 70. 73.

157 This idea has two proofs: 1. the relief compositions in

Taharqa’s temple, adjacent to the lake, including, the scenes of the

night journey of Re: PORTER – MOSS (1972) 220 (12), and 2. the
presence of the Scarab statue of Amenhotep III at the northern
edge of the lake: PORTER – MOSS (1972) 221.

rituals to the gods Hathor and Amun-Min of birds and flowers of

papyrus (the rite zSS wAD?), probably performed in the Halls of
Offerings; 2. IV Axt 4 – “the day of the Festival of Hathor” or the
festival “Procession of Hathor”, which involved the southwards
navigation of Hathor’s statue on the Sacred Lake; 3. IV Axt 4–IV
Axt 30 – ceremonies in the Akhmenu temple with the participation
of Hathor, Amun-Min and Osiris-Sokar, such as the offerings of
cows, bulls, milk, the “Opening of the Mouth” ritual in the Rooms
of Sokar, etc.; IV Axt 20-IV Axt 30 – the Khoiak Festival; IV Axt
26 – the Festival of Sokar, the rite Xnm jtn (“union with the sun
disc”) of Hathor; 4. IV Axt 30-I prt 1 – performing the rites
dedicated to the cults of the pharaoh and royal ancestors in the
southern chapels of the Akhmenu temple.

This article is as an attempt to provide a new approach to the study
of an Egyptian festival. It has been shown that the examination of
the temple decoration offers rich information both on the symbolic
meaning of the temple premises during some festivals and on their
symbolic program, as shown in the scenes on the temple walls. We
undertook an analysis of the orientation of the festive scenes within
the temple space (east-west, north-south), their location with re-
spect to the main temple axis (along, across, beyond the axis),
which could have a symbolic correlation with the daily journey of
the sun-god. As a result it became possible to create a kind of spa-
tial-semantic model reflecting the principles of the relationship
between the festive program in the temples of Karnak and Deir el-
Bahari and a number of ancient Egyptian religious notions (such as
the myth of sun-god’s west-east journey in the Underworld and the
idea of pharaoh’s wandering to the north). Such study allows one
to reconstruct the route and ritual program of the festival, especial-
ly in the cases where the festive scenes are badly damaged.
Besides, the reconstructed model shows the emphasis on the
role of pharaoh in the forming of the festive program, as the tem-
ple was laid out and decorated on his will. For example, Hatshepsut
stressed the east-west of the temple axis associated with the day

travel of the sun-god158, while Thutmose III gave more importance

to the temple’s south-north axis and probably changed the return
route of the procession, reinforcing the role of the royal cult in the
Theban festivals.

Russian State University for the Humanities
Liotchyka Baboushkina st. 42-209, Moscow 129281

158 Hatshepsut marked the main east-west axis of the Karnak

Temple with two pairs of obelisks, which were erected before the
Vth pylon: PORTER – MOSS (1972) plan X (E–F) and in the eastern
part of the temple, behind its central area: PORTER – MOSS (1972)
plan XVII (32–33).


Fig. 1: Scheme of the location

lo of Thebann temples.

Fig. 2:
2 Scheme of thee Opet Festival route. 1 – the ffirst way-

Fig. 33: Plan of the uppper terrace of Hattshepsut’s mortuaary temple

at Deiir el-Bahari. H – chapel of Hatshhepsut.

Fig. 4:
4 The schematicc plan of the Kaarnak temple undder Thut-
mose IIII. 1 – obelisks;
s; 2 – granite sannctuary; 3 – hallls of offer-
ings; 4,
4 5 – chapels of Thutmose III; 6 – chapel of enthhronement,
7– “soolar altar”.

Fig. 55: Scene depicting the fourth way-sstation of Hatshep

epsut. Red
Chapeel, block 135.

Fig. 66: Scene depictingg the Sed Festivaal run of Hatsheepsut per-
formedd before the barkk of Amun-Re during the Opett Festival.
Red CChapel, block 1022.

Fig. 77: Scene depictingg the running couurse of soldiers dduring the
Opet Festival.
F The uppper terrace of Haatshepsut’s templle at Deir

Fig. 88: The Bark Shriine of Amun-Re built by Philip A Arrhidae-

us on tthe place of the G
Granite Sanctuary
ry of Thutmose IIII.

Fig. 99: The “solar altaar” of the Akhmeenu temple, Karnnak.

Fig. 110: The goddess Nut depicted ass a women swalllowing the
sun inn the evening, annd giving birth tto it in the mornning. The
Dendeera temple.

Fig. 111: Scene of the nnavigation of Haathor. The Akhm

menu tem-
ple, Feestival Hall.

Fig. 12: Scene of the 5th hour of Amduuat.

Fig. 113: Scene of boatt navigation. Karrnak temple, thee northern

court of Thutmose III.

Fig. 14: Tomb of Fetek

kti. Saqqara.

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Fig. 1 FITZENREITER (2003) Abb. 14.
Fig. 2 WILKINSON (2000) 95.
Fig. 3 PAWLICKI (1999) 154.
Fig. 4 CARLOTTI (2001) pl. I.
Fig. 5 Photo by K. Leser:
red_chap/sw/block_135.htm (30th July 2010).
Fig. 6 Photo by K. Leser:
red_chap/sw/block_102.htm (30th July 2010).
Fig. 7 Photo by K. Leser:
red_chap/ hat_redc.htm (30th July 2010).
Fig. 8 Photo from
Egypt2007/Karnak075.html (30th July 2010).
Fig. 9 Photo from
Karnak/ressource/Akhmenu/28 (30th July 2010).
Fig. 10 CAUVILLE (1995) 61.
Fig. 11 PÉCOIL (2000) pl. 82.
Fig. 12 HORNUNG (1963) pl. V.
Fig. 13 DITTMAR (1983) Abb. 1.