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Aerial view of the Temple of Het-Hert at Dendera in 1992, from Marilyn Bridges' Egypt: Antiquities from Above

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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.

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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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