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Lehrstuhl für Ägyptologie

Barque sanctuary and Mesenit

Ritual Practice in the Sanctuary and 'Axial Chapel' (Mesenit) of the Temple of Horus at Edfu: Theological Traditions and Cult Procedure in the Innermost Core of an Egyptian Temple

For the first time, the barque sanctuary and the axial chapel ('Mesenit') of the Horus temple at Edfu and their wall reliefs are subjected to a detailed and comparative study in order to create a basis for future systematic studies of the entire temple, its theology, and its cult activity. To this end, the DFG has granted Würzburg Egyptology some € 350,000 for an initial period of three years and some further € 420,000 for a second phase.

With its wall decoration, the huge and completely preserved temple of Horus at Edfu (Upper Egypt, 237–57 B.C.) contains information on the rituals performed and on the inventory of the temple, as well as on regional and supraregional cult topography, mythology, iconography, and theological concepts in a level of detail that is beyond compare. It thus offers a unique potential for understanding the cultic process and religious conception of Egyptian sanctuaries that has been insufficiently exploited to date.

The barque sanctuary and the Mesenit, situated axially behind the former, form the inner core of the temple. Their architectural layout as well as their wall decoration underline their central cultic significance. Accordingly, there was a close, complementary relationship between the two rooms, for the labeling of which the terms "front (or open) sanctuary" and "rear (or secret) sanctuary" are proposed as a working hypothesis.

However, the exact cultic function and conception of the two rooms and their concrete interrelation have not been systematically investigated so far. The project aims to address this desideratum. It will address the two temple rooms with a methodologically holistic approach and with the inclusion of current research on Egyptian rituals as well as new editions of papyri and temple inscriptions.

The project is planned for two phases of three years each: Phase I aims at the philological analysis of the sources. Phase II will be devoted to textual and religious-historical analysis, interpretation and contextualization, as well as iconographic investigation.

The basis for the careful analysis of the wall decoration is formed by annual epigraphic campaigns in Egypt, in the course of which the entire reliefs of the two rooms are newly documented photographically and by drawings and finally collated. On the basis of these photographs and drawings, a new and for the first time complete transliteration, translation, and philological commentary of the ritual scenes will take place in Phase I. The final publication at the end of Phase II will be a redrawing together with a detailed content analysis of the scenes and inscriptions presented in print.