Aerial view of the Temple of Het-Hert at Dendera in 1992, from Marilyn
Bridges' Egypt: Antiquities from Above
Reconstruction of the Temple of Het-Hert at Dendera from Dietrich
Wildung's Egypt: From Prehistory to the Romans
The Temple of Het-Hert at Dendera, the capital of the 6th Nome of Upper
Egypt, was built between the 1st century BCE and the 1st century CE, although it was never
completely finished. It includes a forecourt leading to a pronaos (a vestibule with
columns), a large hypostyle hall, and many antechambers and sanctuaries. To the
right of the temple is the location of the sacred lake, in which trees presently grow.
There is a large cemetery from pharaonic times in the desert behind the temple.
Het-Hert's main temple at Dendera included a mud-brick sanatorium with
areas for healing and midwifery. Visitors came to be cured of illness with purified water
from the sacred lake, or to participate in "healing incubation," sleeping in the
temple in order to receive healing dreams from Het-Hert.
Steel engraving from 1867 of the Temple of Het-Hert at Dendera, by Grab
Artist: Grab; Engraver: French
The Wesir Chapels
There are two sets of roof chapels at Dendera that are devoted to the
Aset/Wesir/Heru (Isis/Osiris/Horus) myth and they were used for the celebration of the
Mysteries of Wesir during the end of the fourth month of the inundation, when the
inundation finally recedes and the growing season begins, and they served as images of the
Divine Tomb during the rest of the year. The chapels on the west side have scenes with
Aset (Isis) and NebetHet (Nephthys) mourning Wesir's death, plus other scenes showing the
divinities which guard the corpse of Wesir during night and day, and other dieties
carrying knives who are guardians of the Gates of the Duat (Netherworld). The ceiling has
a picture of Nut arched over Geb (the parents of Wesir according to one myth). In the
inner room is a scene showing the reconstituted Wesir laying on a bier. Aset is shown as a
kite (a kind of hawk) hovering over him, and she is impregnated by him with the seed of
Heru, the future King of the Living. The eastern Osiris chapel has an interesting
depiction of the ritual performed during the Mysteries of Wesir festival in which the
"Wesir bed" (an effigy of Wesir formed from linen) is filled with earth, sown
with grain, and watered until it sprouts, symbolizing eternal life in the cycle of nature.
[These "corn mummies" were also placed in tombs to symbolize Wesir's
power.] The next chapel has the famous circular zodiac (the original is in the
Louvre and there is a plaster replica in Dendera now). This particular zodiac is the only
circular one in Egypt, however it is not originally an Egyptian concept, but was developed
by the Babylonians and Greeks.
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