Medinet Habu Egypt
Medinet Habu lies south of Deir el-Medina and the Valley of the Kings, on the west bank of the Nile across from Luxor and Thebes. To the right of this photo is the Greco-Roman facade of a temple to Amun (begun by Hatshepsut and enlarged over the next 1,500 years.) To the left, and extending behind the Amun temple, is the palace and mortuary temple of Ramesses III (ruled 1182-1151), the last great warrior pharaoh of Egypt. Ramesses' enclosure wall contains both his temple/palace and the temple of Amun, so that Ramesses is symbolically "united with eternity in the estate of Amun."
Ramesses III is best known for crushing an invasion of the Sea Peoples and for his victorious campaigns against invaders from Libya. He lived in Medinet Habu, in between campaigns, for thirty years but was eventually poisoned to death in a conspiracy. The conspirators did not escape punishment - the story is told in the Harem Conspiracy Papyrus but it was too late for Ramesses, who was buried nearby in the Valley of the Kings.
Migdol entrance to Medinet Habu
First Pylon of the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III
Ceiling decoration in the peristyle hall
The temple, some 150 m long, is of orthodox design, and resembles closely the nearby mortuary temple of Ramesses II (the Ramesseum). The temple precinct measures approximately 700 ft (210 m). by 1,000 ft (300 m) and contains more than 75,350 sq ft (7,000 m2) of decorated wall reliefs. Its walls are relatively well preserved and it is surrounded by a massive mudbrick enclosure, which may have been fortified. The original entrance is through a fortified gate-house, known as a migdol (a common architectural feature of Asiatic fortresses of the time).
Just inside the enclosure, to the south, are chapels of Amenirdis I, Shepenupet II and Nitiqret, all of whom had the title of Divine Adoratrice of Amun.
The first pylon leads into an open courtyard, lined with colossal statues of Ramesses III as Osiris on one side, and uncarved columns on the other. The second pylon leads into a peristyle hall, again featuring columns in the shape of Ramesses. This leads up a ramp that leads (through a columned portico) to the third pylon and then into the large hypostyle hall (which has lost its roof). Reliefs and actual heads of foreign captives were also found placed within the temple perhaps in an attempt to symbolise the king's control over Syria and Nubia.
In Coptic times, there was a church inside the temple structure, which has since been removed. Some of the carvings in the main wall of the temple have been altered by coptic carvings.
Initial excavation of the temple took place sporadically between 1859 and 1899, under the auspices of the Egyptian Antiquities Service. During these decades the main temple was cleared, a large number of Coptic period buildings removed and the site made accessible to visitors.
The further excavation, recording and conservation of the temple has been facilitated in chief part by the Architectural and Epigraphic Surveys of University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, almost continuously since 1924.