Egyptian art, chapel of Goddess Hathor

Egypt art, chapel of Hathor

Here in this article, you can find some important facts about ancient Egyptian art. We are going to talk about one of the most beautiful artifacts, which is the Chapel of Goddess Hathor.

Chapel of Goddess Hathor

Egypt art, chapel of Hathor
The chapel of Hathor

Both the chapel and the statue inside it date back to the new kingdom, 18th dynasty, end of the reign of Thutmose III, beginning with the reign of Amenhotep II.

They were discovered at the site of Deir el-Bahari in 1906 during the excavation of the Egypt exploration fund. They were hidden under stone debris between the temples of Mentuhotep and Hatshepsut.

During the clearance of the area, Neville asked his foremen to stop work for fear of causing an avalanche.

Nevertheless, the avalanche did occur, and when the dust disappeared, the excavator found himself facing the opening which housed the sacred cow.

Both the chapel and statue are made of painted sandstone and were found in an excellent state of preservation, as can be seen by their extremely fresh color.

Facts about goddess Hathor

The chapel was dedicated by Thutmose III to the cow goddess Hathor, who was an important bovine goddess worshiped in three forms:

  • As a cow wearing the sun disk between her horns.
  • As a woman with the ears of a cow crowned by the sun disc between cow horns.
  • As a woman crowned by the sun disc between cow horns.

Her name Ht-Hr means the house of Horus and was written in the form of a falcon contained within a rectangular building. This name certainly hints at her being the mother who suckled the falcon deity Horus.

Since the pharaoh was identified with Horus, Hathor was correspondingly regarded as the divine mother of each reigning king.

Generally, Hathor was worshiped as a goddess of joy, beauty, music and love. However, in her revengeful aspect, she shared the leonine form with Sekhmet and was regarded as one of the ‘eyes’ of Ra.

In her funerary aspect, Hathor was worshiped at western Thebes as the lady of the west’ or the ‘lady of the western mountain’.

Each evening Hathor was believed to receive the setting sun, which she then protected until the morning.

Accordingly, the dead desired to be ‘in the following of Hathor’ so that they would enjoy similar protection in the netherworld.

The description of the masterpiece

Egyptian art, the chapel of Hathor
The scene inside the chapel

Thutmose III is shown upon the walls of the chapel presenting offerings to Hathor.

To the left, he is accompanied by his wife Meritra while consecrating a high pile of offerings before the divine cow onside her chapel.

Following this is another beautiful scene of Egypt art, showing him before Hathor, this time depicted as a woman crowned by the sun disc between cow horns.

To the right, the same scenes repeat, although the king is followed by two princesses in place of his wife Meritra. The scenes on both sides are surmounted by a frieze of Kheker signs, which originally represent a plant motif.

At the back wall of the chapel is a real evidence of the beauty of art in ancient Egypt, Thutmose III is shown pouring a libation and burning what seems to be incense before Amun-Ra.

Amun (Amun-Ra) was one of the most important deities in the ancient Egyptian pantheon. The scene on the back wall is surmounted with a frieze of stars, while the round top of the wall has a representation of the winged solar disc.

The vaulted ceiling of the chapel is painted in dark blue and decorated with shining stars in an imitation to the night sky, Nut.

Chapel of Hathor
Egyptian art, the ceiling of the chapel

According to the Heliopolitan legend, Nut was the daughter of Shu and Tefnut and the wife of Geb, the earth god.

The stars are usually shown making their way along her body as well as the sun which is swallowed by her daily before being born again the next morning.

The statue of the sacred cow itself bears the name of Thutmose III’s successor, Amenhotep II whose cartouche is inscribed on the back of her neck.

Egyptian art, chapel of Hathor
The statue of the cow “Hathor”

The statue represents the sacred cow protecting the king, most probably the now aging Thutmose III, who stands under her head so that he would enjoy her protection in the netherworld as the goddess of the west.

At the same time, a man is shown crouching on the left side of the cow as he suckles from her.

This is most probably the young pharaoh Amenhotep II whose name appears in a cartouche at the back of the cow’s neck and who suckles the divine milk of the sacred cow in order to legitimize his recent accession to the throne as his father’s co-regent.

The same representations of the two pharaohs (i.e. one standing under her head and the other suckling from her) appear on the side walls of the chapel.

The statue of the cow is surrounded by papyrus as if she is coming out of the marshes (symbolizing the primeval ocean).

She is depicted with a speckled body, which probably refers to her identification with the celestial cow Mehet-Weret, and crowned by the sun disc and tall feathers enclosed by her two horns with a front Uraeus as a great representation of ancient Egyptian arts.

Hathor chapel
An old photo of the chapel
The Chapel of Goddess Hathor considers one of the most beautiful facts about ancient Egyptian art.