The Temple of Derr in Nubia

The Temple of Derr in Nubia

by Craig Hildreth

The Remains of the first Pillared Hall and entrance to the second

The Temple of Derr, like many others in Nubia, was dismantled in 1964 in order to save it from the waters of Lake Nasser. It was moved to a new location close to that of the temple of Amada from its original site on the Nile's east bank a few miles to the south. This is another example of Ramesses II's rock hewn temples, built during about the 30th year of his reign to celebrate his Sed festival. This temple is similar in many respects to his other speos style monuments in Nubia, including Abu Simbel. The ancient Egyptians named it "Temple of Ramses-in-the-House-of-Re". However, unlike many of his best known temples in Nubia, which were built, it would seem, primarily as a display of his power, often in remote areas where little actual priestly activity

Floor Plan for the Temple of Derr

took place, this one was built in apparently a much more populated region. In fact, on her journeys in Nubia, Amelia Edwards tells us that the town where it originally stood was the Nubian capital at the time of her visit. However, given the temples relatively small size and well known crude execution, it is difficult to believe that Derr was any type of real, thriving community when the temple was built. Also, like other rock hewn Nubian temples, some of the temple's decorations were lost due to its use as a church by early Christians. However, a number of scenes remain, including one depicting a procession of his children with girls on one side of the temple and boys on the other, a theme used often by Ramesses II. Where the reliefs are preserved, the paint is often vivid. Nothing has remained of the pylon that must have stood in front of the temple, or the forecourt from which the temple was probably approached. What remains of the temple that was cut into a cliff, and today it basically consists of two pillared halls and the rear sanctuaries, all oriented north-south. We do know that Both halls are mostly square. The first, cut into the rock, but possibly using masonry for roofing slabs, measures about fifteen by twelve meters and has three rows of four pillars. The third row consists of engaged Osiride Pillars of Ramesses II that are larger than the others. This is a typical theme in many of his Nubian temples, though here, the arrangement does not conform to the usual one, where the pillars and adjoining statues face the central axis of the temple, but instead face the

Ramesses before Re

entrance. In this first hall,. low relief scenes on the side walls cover topics of war, whereas on the rear wall there are scenes of triumph. The second hall follows the axis of the temple and measures twelve by thirteen meters and is five meters high. It contains six, tapered pillars mounted on projecting bases and surmounted by transverse architrave. Here, the process of laying out the plan and the low relief work was carried out very inaccurately. The ceiling is was covered with stucco and then painted with a series of vultures along the center axis. Along the upper part of the walls runs a frieze of uraei alternating with the royal cartouche of Ramesses II. Lower on the walls are scenes of a religious motif, including Ramesses II's jubilees, his purification and the reception of the bark. Other scenes depict Shu, Tefnut and Montu. On the sides of the pillars are depictions of Pharaoh and a deity, including Weret-hekau, Menhit, Ptah and Amun-Re.

Pillars in the second Pillared Hall

Pillars in the second Pillared Hall

Ramess makes offerings to Amun-Re in his orm of Kamutef,

Ramess makes offerings to Amun-Re in his orm of Kamutef, "Bull of His Mother"

Of the reliefs within, Amelia Edwards in her "A Thousand Miles Up the Nile" tells us: "But more interesting than all these - more interesting because more rare - is a sculptured palm-tree against which the king leans while making an offering to Amen-Ra. The trunk is given with elaborate truthfulness; and the branches, though formalised, are correct and graceful in curvature. The tree is but an accessory. It may have been introduced with reference to the date harvests which are the wealth of the district; but it has no kind of sacred significance, and is noticeable only for the naturalness of the treatment. Such naturalness is unusual in the art of this period, when the conventional persea, and the equally conventional lotus are almost the only vegetable forms which appear on the walls of the Temples."

Ramesses II Before Various Gods

Ramesses II Before Various Gods

The second pillared hall gives way to three chapels. The centermost of these sanctuaries, which was intended to contain the sacred bark as indicated by depictions of priests carrying the boat on the walls, contained a statuary group consisting of Ptah, Amun-Re, Ramesses II and Re-Horakhty.

The Second Pillared Hall looking back to the center sanctuary

The Second Pillared Hall looking back to the center sanctuary






Reference Number

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Baines, John; Malek, Jaromir


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None Stated

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Wilkinson, Richard H.


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ISBN 0-500-05100-3

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LCCC A5-4746

Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The

Shaw, Ian


Oxford University Press

ISBN 0-19-815034-2

Ramesses II

T. G. H. James



IBSN 1-58663-719-3