The Sirius Project

The Sirius Project
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Earlier blog on the Temple of Sankhkare

Written by Dr. John Ward 2008
It all started with Ahmed, a local guide, asking me for advice regarding the climb up to the temple of Sankhkare on Thoth hill. Now I was aware of the temple, but I had never even thought about climbing Thoth hill to see it for myself as it was such a distance to cover and I’m not exactly the best walker of climber (too many cigarettes). Anyway, after Ahmed had woken me yesterday from a beautiful Sunday sleep and turned up at my door looking for information on the temple and directions on how to get there. The day previous I had been at the tombs of the Noble on the West bank and had received a call from Ahmed asking for directions for the temple as he was lost in the Gebel (Arabic for mountain/hill), anyway, I tried to explain as best as I could for him, but when I asked how much water and food he had with him and how long he was intending on being out there in the midday heat, he informed me that he had not taken any water or food with him and was blindly walking around the Theban Hills without any provisions or back up. Not exactly the best idea. So after I had shouted a few choice words at him and told him to get off the hills and come to his senses, which he did, he said he would come and see me to gather more information on the temple and its whereabouts.

So Sunday morning, there I was, enjoying my lay in when Mohammed, one of my best friends, rang to say Ahmed was on his way to me wanting to ask as many questions as he could on the temple of Sankhkare. Ahmed duly turned up and began asking every question under the sun with regards to the temple and its location which I was able to furnish him with every scrap of information I had including a Google map so he couldn’t get lost this time. Then a stupid idea came over me , why not join him, now, really what I should of thought to myself was, enjoy have fun take some photos for me, but no, I go ahead and ask if I can join him. Idiot.

So at 11am Mahmoud our taxi driver drops us all off at the the beginning of the track on the road that leads to the Valley of the Kings. So Ahmed, Mahmoud (another Mahmoud), Maria and myself start off following the Google map as we go, and there in front of us we see Thoth hill, well, Thoth mountain would be a better way of describing it, so we take a few deep breaths and continue, after a few hours of the most gruelling time in my life I gave up and sat on my laurels overlooking the whole of Luxor from my newly found seating area on the gebel.

It is one of those moments in life where the challenge is presented to you; you know it’s that moment that will either be an uplifting moment in your life or a turning point. Do you take up the challenge or do you give into the pain and strain you feel in each and every bone in your body, the rest had go on ahead of me leaving me there to rest, the thoughts of just sitting there and not seeing and exploring the temple was eating me away, how much further could it be? So after a satisfying pie and gulp of water from my camel back I got up, mustered as much energy as I could from my cigarette that was giving me no satisfaction at all. Time to give up. anyway, I began to climb, baby steps , singing to myself , fare well a Spanish ladies when I could see the summit, oh what joy, relief, you cannot imagine the joy that overcame me to see the tops of the mud brick pylons emanating from the rough stone around me.

The temple itself dates from the 11th dynasty and Mentuhotep III, named after his throne name Sankhkare. It was dedicated to Horus and according to the Hungarian team that carried out some conservation work here back in the late nineties, it was aliened to the Sirius star. Petrie had excavated here in 1909 and had discovered earlier foundations to an Archaic temple also aliened to the Sirius star but differing by 2 degrees to that of the new temple. There is also a rectangular temple foundation close to the main temple which was possibly attributed to the Sed festival of Mentuhotep III.

The temples' alignments do raise certain questions. I do not believe that they were aligned just to the Sirius star constellations, but also in alignment with the rising of the sun and setting of the sun in the West, given he temples location on the highest point in Luxor: a simple mirror placed in the main holy of holies would of generated a reflection that could of been seen by the population of the then Thebes, thus creating a divine place of worship and given its obvious remote location would also been a place of pilgrimage. It would also serve as an outpost for Thebes as well. There are obvious tracks leading away from the temple grounds that can be tracked using the great technology of Google Earth. These tracks traverse the Western hills of Thebes and beyond towards Abydos and Dendera, the central point being Hu, Diospolis Parva , a destination that dates back to the Naqada period. And a settlement that served both communities of Abydos and Dendera. It would make sense to have a pathway cutting its way across the mountainous region. The Google maps do show other various structures along these route and holes which are indicative of water holes that can be found all over Egypt’s deserts and the trade routes that existed.

The remote location of the temple, however, was also its possible reason for its demise, it had not been added to or restored during the new, late and Ptolemaic periods, and was not probably used until the Roman period when it would of been used as an outpost, providing a great vantage point.

Petrie mentions remains of lime stone blocks and corner stone offerings, but at this present moment there are no remains of this present on site, only reference to mud brick and locally used undressed stone which has been placed in a protective manor around the temple walls. The mud brick structure has all but disappeared and given its state of repair will not last this century, the weather and the elements are quickly destroying what remains.

We do, however, aim to return in the next coming days to continue our exploration of the rest of the escarpment, there are various other structures that can be seen in the Google maps and these are placed along the routes leading away from the temple site. There are also the Wadis that run around the base of the mountain that need exploring as well, I do believe that these will yield yet more evidence of habitation in the area and the trades routes which would of needed to be fed and watered at various different intervals.

Will keep you posted on what transpires in the next journey.

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