By the banks of the Nile, across the river from Thebes, a three-tiered temple was found beneath hundreds of tons of sand tens of centuries after its construction. The temple is a reflection of the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II, and was constructed alongside that eleventh-dynasty structure. However, the temple of Hatshepsut is far larger than that of Mentuhotep. The architect was Senmut, Hatshepsut’s lover and a member of her court with more than 20 titles. Senmut designed the temple with rows of colonnades that reflect the vertical patterns displayed by the cliff backdrop. In this way the temple is a successful example of architectural harmony between man and nature. The temple is dedicated to Amon and Hathor, Hatshepsut’s claimed parents, although there are chapels dedicated to other gods, like Anubis, the god of embalming. The sanctuary lies within the mountainside. Two ramps connect the three levels, and on either side of the lower incline were T-shaped papyrus pools. On the ground level were sphinxes and fragrant trees from Punt. The sphinxes had the heads of Hatshepsut, and she is also represented as a lion in some of the temple’s reliefs. Although she has no specific enemies, she is represented clawing at adversaries and capturing “birds of evil” with a clapnet.
Furthermore, the temple’s walls document Hatshepsut’s divine conception, her vote of confidence given by her father, her efforts to repair damage inflicted by the Hyksos invaders, the expeditions to Punt and the erection of the colossal obelisks at the temple of Karnak. Since the construction of the complex took about twenty years, the walls were like blank pages of a book, filled in as her reign progressed. By the time the temple was finished, Hatshepsut probably had little time to enjoy it as a pharaoh. Although Senmut originally planned to be buried at the temple, Hatshepsut’s tomb was destined to lie elsewhere. In the manner of her father, Tuthmose I, who realized a temple is too obvious a place to bury priceless artifacts, the tomb of Hatshepsut was constructed in secret. Ineni, the architect of the tomb and temple of Tuthmose I, prided himself that he was the only one who knew the tomb location of his master. The 100 “slaves” that built the tomb, according to Otto Neubert, were killed after the project to protect the secret. Whether this brutal technique was used in Hatshepsut’s case is not known, but it is rather moot. The biggest enemy Hatshepsut had were not grave-robbers, but her own nephew, who would have no problem finding her tomb, no matter how many slaves died.
For Senmut’s work, he was rewarded handsomely and was able to buy a temple for himself not far from Hatshepsut’s, in which were buried his minstrel and family, and even his favorite pet apes and horses. His mother Hatnofer was buried nearby as well. Around his mother’s neck was a scarab necklace, according to the prescription of the Book of the Dead. On the back of the pendant is written:
Although vandalized by Hatshepsut’s foes and buried in sand for centuries, the Senmut’s masterpiece loses no splendor. It is an incredible expression of the absolute power of a pharaoh, whether woman or man.