Gournah (Egypte) : fragments of a lost temple... in a storage
Szymon Zdziebłowski (PAP)
The base of the statue, which allowed to identify the remains the building discovered by Dr. Abu el-Ayun Barakat. Photo by J. Iwaszczuk
Thousands of stone blocks lying for years in a storage near Luxor turned out to be the remains of the temple of Thutmose I, long sought after by archaeologists. Fragments of the temple were identified by a Polish Egyptologist, Jadwiga Iwaszczuk.
The Temple of Thutmose I (1504-1492 BC), in times of splendour, was comparable to the temples built by Hatshepsut in Deir el-Bahari or by Ramesses II - the Ramesseum.
Fragment of architrave with the name of the temple of Thutmose I - Khenemet-ankh. Photo by J. Iwaszczuk
Jadwiga Iwaszczuk, Egyptologist from the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures of the Polish Academy of Sciences, made an accidental discovery. Beautifully decorated fragments of blocks from which the temple was built, were located in the storage of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (now Egyptian Ministry of State for Antiquities), in a tomb adapted for this purpose in Theban Necropolis near Luxor.
A fragment of the blind gate of Thutmose I, made atypically of limestone, not granite. Photo by M. Jawornicki
Right next to this place is the house Polish archaeologists use during research at the temple of Hatshepsut under the supervision of Dr. Zbigniew E. Szafranski from the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology UW. Polish Egyptologists visited the storage in search of possible blocks from the pharaoh woman's temple.
The reliefs were removed from the decorated blocks and the remaining stones were processed into bowls. Photo by J. Iwaszczuk
Historical fragments in storage came from excavations conducted by one of the Egyptian scientists in the 1970s. Iwaszczuk explained that the archaeologist described his discovery as the temple of Cha-achet from the times of the reign of Hatshepsut. In fact, the remains of that temple were discovered only a few years ago by French archaeologists in the temple of Ramesses II - the Ramesseum.
"My research had unexpected results. It turned out that all of the discovered fragments came from the temple of Thutmose I. The location of the temple - in the vicinity of the temple Thutmose of Thutmose III - had been known for more than half a century. Until now researchers misidentified it" - she said.
The main proof of the new discovery is the name of the temple of Thutmose I - Khenemet-ankh (The one that unites with life), known from written sources, and preserved on architectural fragments deposited in the storage.
Reconstructed fragment of a battle scene with chariots. Fig. J. Iwaszczuk
Epigraphic analyses done in recent years by the Polish Egyptologist allowed to recognize further information. While the temple was erected for Thutmose I, it was commissioned by his daughter Hatshepsut. Two types of stone - limestone and sandstone - were used in construction. It is unusual, argues Jadwiga Iwaszczuk, because in the times of Hatshepsut limestone was mainly used. Her entire temple in Deir el-Bahari was built from this material. However, according to the Egyptologist, this was not a coincidence. Architects used sandstone because they knew its properties as a hard but easy to carve stone. All the supporting elements of the walls were made of sandstone, and the filling and walls were made of limestone, the researcher said.
Among the curiosities of the temple, according to its discoverer, is one of the first battle scenes with chariots known from the area of ancient Egypt.
On the basis of fine fragments, the researchers also determined that the temple had been renovated. The deceased ruler was worshiped in the temple for several hundred years after his death, certainly until the reign of Ramesses IX (XII BC), but it is possible that the temple existed until the turn of the era.
Until now, Iwaszczuk's team has drawn about 5 thousand stone blocks and photographed 7.5 thousand of them. Now, tedious work is being performed to recreate the entire scenes that adorned the huge temple.
"Finally, it reached its sad end: like many other Theban temples, it served as a quarry for the material for stone bowls. Only unused post-production waste was left, including the fragmented decorative reliefs, which today we use to try to recreate the full shape of the temple" - concluded Iwaszczuk.
Remains of the temple of Thutmose I in Gurna: Today a single column base is visible on the surface. Photo by J. Iwaszczuk