Egypt: The Temple of Ain el-Muftella in the Bahariya Oasis

The Temple of Ain el-Muftella in the Bahariya Oasis

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Brian Rosewood

The Temple of Ain el-Muftella may have once served as the city center of El Qasr which is today the modern town of Bawiti in the Bahariya Oasis. It was most likely built around the time of the 26th Dynasty, though some sections of the temple may date from earlier in the New Kingdom. The temple was probably added to by both the Greeks, and later the Romans.

We know that parts of the temple were built by a high priest named Zed-Khonsu-efankh who's brother, Sheben-Khonsu was governor of the district during the reign of Ahmose II. After the death of Sheben-Khonsu, Zed-Khonsu-efankh also took on his brother's role as governor.

Fakhry investigated the site in 1939 leading to his mistaken opinion that the structures were four separate chapels. However, when the site was again examined in 1977, it was determined that the these structures were in fact one temple.

The Temple of Ain el-Muftella in the Bahariya Oasis

The temple center does in fact consist of four chapels that are decorated with painted, sunk relief and are of a style similar to what might be found in other Egyptian temples of this period. The first chapel, which has two large halls, once had vaulted ceilings painted with geometrical designs. Each of the halls were adjoined by small storage rooms.

The Temple of Ain el-Muftella in the Bahariya Oasis

Rural temples such as this one in Egypt may have been required to be serve as a general purpose place of worship for a number of different gods. Scenes in the first hall depict Zed-Khonsu-efankh, and sometimes his brother Sheben-Khonsu, along with Ahmose II, who wears the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, standing side by side making offerings to thirteen gods, who include Mahesa, Bastet, Amun, Mut, Khonsu, Harsaphis (Herishef or Arshaphes), Hathor, Thoth, Nehem-awa (the consort of Thoth), Amun (ram headed), Anubis and Isis. Occasionally, the god Ha (a god of the Western Desert) is also included in the procession.

Another set of reliefs in the side entrance depict Ahmose II standing with an ankh in his right hand along side the hippopotamus goddess, Taweret, Horus and the cow goddess, Hathor. Behind them is another scene depicting a child, several unrecognizable gods and goddesses, and the goddess Ma'at with her feather, who are all facing the gods Montu, Horus and Sekhmet.

In the second chapel, which was also probably built by Zed-Khonsu-efankh, we find a scene portraying the high priest with a shaved head worshipping Osiris. Another scene shows Zed-Khonsu-efankh, Sheben-Khonsu And Ahmose II before a similar procession of gods as in the first chapel, but with the addition of Seshat, the goddess of writing. Other scenes in this chapel show the sisters of Osiris mourning his death, along with a list of the names of various deities.

The Temple of Ain el-Muftella in the Bahariya Oasis

The wall to the right of the entrance to the second chapel displays a scene depicting an unknown priest making offerings to Osiris, and then the king standing before Thoth. On the west wall we find a mummified Osiris.

The third chapel was probably dedicated almost exclusively to the goddess Bes. It has two entrances at either end of the chapel that are built of dolerite and sandstone, and one wall within this chapel id devoted exclusively to a large figure of that deity, though only the bottom half remains.

The fourth chapel, probably also built by Zed-Khonsu-efankh, is perhaps more simple, made of brick and stone, but probably never painted. The only notable scene in this chapel depicts Ahmose II in the presence of Khnum and Horus.

A number of artifacts have been recovered from this temple over the years. Discoveries in the first chapel consist of a statue of the goddess Bastet, a stone emblem of a head of Hathor, a statuette of an unknown king, another statuette of Thoth, and fragments of a bronze vase.

More recent discoveries include a three inch high faience statuettes of Isis holding Horus in her lap and Sekhmet with the sun disk behind her for protection. Several small scarabs were also unearthed, including one with a small depiction of a man holding a stick on the bottom. Other artifacts include a statuette of Seth with a donkey's head and a Wedjat-eye amulet.






Reference Number

Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The

Shaw, Ian


Oxford University Press

ISBN 0-19-815034-2

Valley of the Golden Mummies

Hawass, Zahi


American University in Cairo Press

ISBN 977 424 585 7


Last Updated: Aug 4th, 2011

Last Updated: June 12th, 2011