Chapels within the enclosure wall of the
main Ptolemaic temple
The chapels within the enclosure walls of the Ptolemaic temple at Deir el-Medina consist of a group of four adjacent chapels situated on the southern side. During the Coptic period, when the temple area was used as a monastery, these chapels underwent numerous alterations, some of which affected the basic plan of the structure.
My aim was to compare Ann Bomanns plans and detailed descriptions using her text published in 1991 pp. 45-47 with the remains of the cult buildings at Deir el-Medina in February 2007.
The results together with the photographs can be found on the following pages.
Chapel no. 1 consisted of hall, pronaos and sanctuary, little of which today survives just south (left in the picture above) off the main temple building. Originally the hall had columns and benches. They are all gone today. The pronaos was joined to the southern wall of the main temple. Later, a door was set into this wall to connect the pronaos with the temple. The sanctuary was originally tripartite with vaulted ceilings. Today only two niches survive. The southern niche (in the picture below, right) contained a bench 57 cm wide x 110 cm long and 72 cm high.
View of the group of four chapels on the southern side of the main temple
Chapel no. 2 consisted of outer and inner halls, pronaos and sanctuary, and enclosure. The outer hall, no longer visible, had benches on the north and south walls and columns. A flight of steps led to the inner hall in which was a rectangular pit 2.37 x 1.03 m, containing a partition dividing it unequall. The pit, called crypt by Bruyère, was cut into the rock, and was brick lined and plastered. Today it is filled with debris. The pronaos was entered between 2 pillars abutting screen walls and was vaulted. The sanctuary underwent 3 phases, but appears to have always been tripartite. The wall decoration, bore painted cartouches of Tuthmoses III. There were benches in the central and southern niches. The 1st was 63 cm high. All the naoi were vaulted, and during the Coptic period the northern niche became a magazine. An enclosure abutted the southern wall of the inner and outer
halls. What appears to be a blocked door led from the enclosure into the inner hall. Another blocked entrance was contained in the southern wall of the enclosure leading into chapel no 3.
Chapel no. 3 consisted of an inner hall, pronaos and sanctuary. The building had 2 phases. Benches, of which little survives, were set against the north and south walls of the hall, which had 2 columns axially placed. 2 pillars joining screen walls defined the pronaos. A platform lay before the sanctuary inside the pronaos. In its first stage, it contained only 1 naos, which was vaulted. In its second phase, the sanctuary became tripartite, and had a flat ceiling.
It appears not to have had wall decorations, being only whitewashed. Benches were set against the back walls of each niche. These were 42 cm high
and between 42-50 cm deep. Slots were visible in the mudbrick thresholds to each shrine, indicating the presence of architraves. The sanctuary was cut
into the rock behind at an oblique angle. Behind it was a narrow corridor, which continued from the rear to the north side of the sanctuary. To the south of the pronaos was a flight of stairs leading to the rock terrace above. A narrow annexe abutting the south wall of the chapel was entered by a doorway in the wall of the inner hall.
Chapel no. 4 had an outer and inner hall, pronaos and sanctuary, and was on a northwest-southeast axis. Little remains of the outer hall, which had a bench against its southern wall. 2 piers set off the entrance to the inner hall and pronaos. The pronaos, into which the shrine projected, was of the same dimensions as the inner hall: 5.92 m wide x 2.31 m long. It was marked off from the latter area by 2 column bases joining partition walls. A platform, 58 cm high, projected from the shrine, which was set off by a whitewashed bench, now vanished. The sanctuary consisted of a single naos faced with limestone. It had an arched door 108 cm high x 107 cm wide. The back wall of the niche was of gypsum-plastered brick. Traces of 2 squatting figures with upraised arms were found on either side of the doorway. Abutting the north wall of the chapel was another annexe containing an oven.
In addition to these four adjacent chapels, lying south of the main temple, there was another chapel, situated within the northwest corner of the enclosure wall. The chapel was first excavated by Baraize, later by Bruyère, who labelled it Chapel E.
It is no longer visible. It was damaged by the temple enclosure wall, which was built through it. It consisted of a forecourt, inner hall, pronaos and sanctuary. Part of its northern wall was shared by chapels outside the northern enclosure wall.
More remains of small New Kingdom chapels, erected by the occupants of Deir el-Medina are scattered within the northern enclosure wall.
Photography © Lenka Peacock 2007
1. Bomann, Ann H.: The private chapel in ancient Egypt : a study of the chapels in the workmen's village at el Amarna with special reference to Deir el-Medina and other sites.
London : Kegan Paul International, 1991.