Temple of Dendur

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Temple of Dendur
The Temple of Dendur MET DT563.jpg
Completion date10 B.C.
MediumAeolian sandstone
SubjectEgyptian religion and mythology
Dimensions21 ft × 21 ft × 41 ft (6.4 m × 6.4 m × 12.5 m)
LocationGallery 131, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fifth Avenue, New York

The Temple of Dendur (Dendoor in nineteenth-century sources) is an ancient Egyptian temple built by the Roman governor of Egypt, Petronius, around 15 B.C., as one of many Egyptian temples commissioned by the emperor Augustus. The temple is in dedication to Isis and Osiris. It is also in dedication to two deified sons of Nubia. Their names are Pediese, which means "he whom Isis has given," and Pihor ("he who belongs to Horus").[1][2] Agustus himself is a figure in many scenes as a pharaoh. There are scenes of offerings and Egyptian deities.[3] The documentation of graffiti on the temple from 10 B.C.[2] The temple went through disasters from the weather and damages made over time. Lastly, in the 1960s, the temple was removed from its original location and given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, U.S., where it has been an open exhibit since 1978.[4]



The temple was commissioned by the Egyptian emperor Augustus. Augustus' first name was Octavian, but he later changed his name to Augustus. He won against Mark Antony and Cleopatra and became emperor of Rome. He was then known as Augustus or Caesar Augustus.[3] He became the first emperor of Rome. He began to build Egyptian-style temples dedicated to Egyptian gods and goddesses.[5]

A patron that financially supported most of the relocation of the Egyptian galleries in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is Lila Acheson Wallace.[4]

The Sackler family was one of the most current patrons of the wing containing the Temple, which the MET no longer accepts contributions from since 2019.[6] This decision resulted from the Sackler family's association with the opioid crisis, resulting in a statement to change the name of the temple's wing. Other museums also do not wish to continue their ties with this family.[6]


The temple's first use was by the Roman Emperor Augustus.[3] To maintain his monarchy, he gave offerings to the deified sons known as traditional gifts, incense, wine, cold water, milk, and land. This act corresponds to the idea that he will receive support from these deities and state his trust in this local cult of Pediese and Pihor.[3] During his reign over the land, Agustus limited the number of temples built in Nubia. In those small numbers, the Temple of Dendur was built.[1]

Later on, a different use the temple had was the structure was used by a Christian church in the sixth century.[3]


The Temple of Dendur in the MET

The Temple of Dendur is now and permanently in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.[4] To make this possible, the Metropolitan Museum of Art went under reconstruction and added new wings, which included the wing that the Temple of Dendur resides in.[4] It had been initially proposed that the new wing would be devoted to the Temple during September 1978 and was completed in the late Autumn.[4]

The structure is located explicitly inside the new wing.[4] Since this wing is in dedication to Egyptian artworks, it is alongside six other installments of Egyptian galleries and nearby the entrance to the Temple of Dendur.[4]


Subject matter[edit]

Some recurring scenes depicted in the temple are offerings with their matching engravings.[7]

The temple is in parts decorated with reliefs: the temple base is decorated with carvings of papyrus and lotus plants growing out of the water of the Nile, which symbolizes by depictions of the god Hapy.[1] Over the temple's gate and above the entrance to the Temple proper depicts the Winged sun disk of the sky god Horus representing the sky. This motif is repeated by the vultures depicted on the ceiling of the entrance porch.[1]

The middle room is also known as the place of the sanctuary, which was used for offerings.[1] The sanctuary of Isis at the rear of the temple is undecorated. However, there are four reliefs on the door frame and the back walls of the sanctuary. The latter shows Pihor and Pedesi as young gods worshiping Isis and Osiris, respectively.[1]

A crypt was built into the rear wall, while a rock chamber in the nearby cliffs may have represented the tombs of Pediese and Pihor, who were said to have drowned in the Nile river.[1]

Emperor Augustus is depicted as a pharaoh making offerings to the deities Isis, Osiris, and their son Horus on the outer walls.[1] The subject is repeated in the first room of the temple, where Augustus is shown praying and making offerings. Augustus identified as "Caesar" (actually, "Qysrs," which is based on "Kaisaros," the Greek version of Caesar).[1] He is also called "Autotrator," an alteration of Autokrator, or autocrat, the Greek equivalent of imperator, one of the emperor's titles.[1] This misspelling seems deliberate to achieve more symmetry in the hieroglyphs. However, in some other parts of the temple, the emperor is called "Pharaoh."[1]

Doors and doorways are heavily decorated both inside and out.[3] There was almost no sight of empty spaces on the stonework.[7] The exterior south doorway is decorated with cobras wearing crowns from upper and lower Egypt. To the left is a white crown a symbol of upper Egypt and a red crown for lower Egypt.[3]

On the left side a depiction of Isis standing and is wearing a close-fitting sheath, a headpiece horn from a cow, and a disk that is winged to represent the sun god.[3] Meanwhile, she is holding in an ankh sign in one hand which represents life.[3]

One scene being depicted in the inner south wall of the pronaos is of a Pharaoh and the two brothers Pihor and Phedesi being gifted incense and water.[2] The act of gifting incense to the gods was believed to ensure that the Pharaoh could endlessly live.[2] The two brothers were both arranged sitting and holding in one hand a staff called a scepter which was a symbol for authority and the symbol of life.[2]

Also, the pronaos north wall that was destroyed depicted Isis, a goddess where her arm went with the destruction and was restored by making the extended arm angled up from the elbow on top of the new doorway they had created and destroyed part of the piece in doing so.[3]

The pylon has a relief from the east side depicts Agustus with a linen bag in hand to the right in front of the brothers Pediese and Pihor.[3]

The south jamp's relief is also making is a depiction of the emperor Agustus making an offering to the god Harnedotes as the form of a cobra which represents the cobra of truth cobra that represents the cobra of truth.[2] Here, Agustus is depicted with Egyptian attire that is a kilt with a bull's tail and a white crown that indicates Upper Egypt.[3]

Identity of figures[edit]

The reasoning behind the creation was to honor these two heroic brothers named Pihor and Pediese.[3] The scene depicts the tragic story of what led to their death that happened to take place by the Nile river where the structure initially resided. The two brothers drowned here.[3] The figures being depicted often include Agustus as a pharaoh, goddesses, and gods interacting.[2] Some of those divine beings are Horus, Isis, Osiris, Harpocrates, Satis, Nephthys, Bigga, and more.[2]


19th century graffiti

It has been documented that graffiti was very commonly done to the structure from the early age of 10 BC.[2] An unknown pledge was carved near one of the brothers Phiro on the pronaos north wall.[2]

In the 19th century, graffiti was left on the temple walls by visitors from Europe. British naval officer and later Rear Admiral Armar Lowry Corry left one prominent pieces of graffiti "A L Corry RN 1817", at eye level to the left as one enters the temple. Another inscription was left by the Italian Egyptologist Girolamo Segato.


Egyptian artists usually leave little to no empty spaces when decorating stone works.[3]

The stones used to make the temple of dendur were from its original origins in Egypt.[2] It is formed by windstorms which eventually turned into pink stone material.[8]

The Temple of Dendur is noted to be one of the most miniature temples from Nubia. It originally resided in Egypt, the West Bank of the Nile River, specifically the west-east. The temple was very near the river.[7] The temple of Dendur is a Nubian Monument that carries characteristics from this region, like being a large-scale structure.[7] The building was made and designed by Egyptian architects.[3] Other people involved in the process were receiving input from Agustus representatives, who came up with the narrative and writings alongside each other.[3] Methods used by architects were the millennia-old Egyptian architectural methods.[3]


The structure included the temple, pylon, sanctuary, altar, and pronaos.[3]

The structure weighed 640 tons and was made with 661 blocks.[3] The distance between the separate structures was 30 feet away from the pylon and temple.[3] The temple was 41 ft in Length, and 21 ft Width and 21 ft Height.[3] Other dimensions in met were taken in its original location that was 6.55 by 13 meters (21.5 by 42.7 feet) temple house is modest but well-executed in design with two front columns, an offering hall, and a sanctuary with a statue niche.[1]

The temple is constructed from sandstone and measures 25 meters (82 feet) from the front stone gate to its rear as well as 8 meters (26 feet) from its lowest to its highest point. A 30-meter (98-foot) cult terrace overlooks the Nile.[1] From the gate, two flanking walls ran around the temple and isolated the structure from the cult terrace and the Nile river.[1]


Many parts of the structure have disappeared or are majorly damaged.[3] The court had many entrances from all directions, north, south, east, and west.[3] The court’s brick walls surrounding the entire court have vanished, only leaving remains to identify the material is the same as the pylon (tower), which was located to the eastside.[3] Some damage was caused in the sixth century when the temple was used as a church.[3] The Christians ruined part of the north wall in the pronaos and rebuilt it.[3]

In 1961, before it was relocated, the whole structure had previously been underwater due to floods.[2] This happened for a total of 30 years, and for a total of about nine months in a year, the structure was underwater.[2]


The Temple of Dendur is in its original location. It is a drawing by Henry Salt.

The temple was dismantled and removed from its original location (modern name: Dendur, ancient name: Tuzis, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Aswan) in 1963. This was accomplished as part of a more comprehensive UNESCO project, to save significant sites from being submerged by Lake Nasser following the construction of the Aswan High Dam. On April 27, 1967, the temple was awarded to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and subsequently installed in a new wing in 1978.

In the United States, several institutions made bids for housing the temple in a competition nicknamed the "Dendur Derby" competition by the press. Alternative plans proposed re-erecting the temple on the banks of the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., or the Charles River in Boston. However, these suggestions were dismissed because it was feared that the temple's sandstone would suffer from the outdoor conditions.The structure was awarded to The Metropolitan Museum, in which they won a contest with it being the best new home for the instillation.[8] It was won by having a clear plan in which the structure was going and is protected from the weather, different environment and pollutants in the U.S. They had to replicate Egypt’s high temperature and dry climate and the extreme environment of high winds of sand that preserved the structure.[8] A median temperature was accomplished with the use of tech and a chamber to recreate the climate.[8] The wing was designed by the architects Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo, and associates; a reflecting pool in front of the temple and a sloping wall behind it represent the Nile and the cliffs of the original location. The glass on the ceiling and north wall of the wing is stippled in order to diffuse the light and mimic the lighting in Nubia.

In recognition of the American assistance in saving various other monuments threatened by the dam's construction, Egypt presented the temple and its gate as a gift to the United States of America, represented by Jacqueline Kennedy, in 1965. The temple’s stone blocks weighed more than 800 tons in total, with the most prominent pieces weighing more than 6.5 tons. They were packed in 661 crates and transported to the United States by the freighter m/v Concordia Star

Relocations of other temples[edit]

The other three temples donated to countries assisting the relocation are:



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Arnold, Dieter (1999). Temples of the Last Pharaohs. Oxford University Press. pp. 244. ISBN 978-0-19-512633-4.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Aldred, Cyril (1978). "The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, The Temple of Dendur". The Temple of Dendur. 36 (1): 1–80. JSTOR 3269059 – via JSTOR.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Bianchi, Robert (1978). "AUGUSTUS IN EGYPT: The Temple of Dendur is Rebuilt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art". Archaeology. 31 (5): 7. JSTOR 41726575 – via JSTOR.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Dillon, Douglas (1977–1978). "Report of the President". Annual Report of the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (108): 4–9. JSTOR 40304791 – via JSTOR.
  5. ^ "The Temple of Dendur". www.metmuseum.org. Retrieved 2021-12-15.
  6. ^ a b Pogrebin, Robin (2021-12-09). "Met Museum Removes Sackler Name From Wing Over Opioid Ties". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-12-17.
  7. ^ a b c d author., Murray, Margaret Alice (31 October 2013). Egyptian temples. ISBN 978-0-415-64919-3. OCLC 922020361.
  8. ^ a b c d Gissen, David (2009). "The Architectural Production of Nature, Dendur/New York". Bibliography. No. 34 (34): 58–79. JSTOR 20627756 – via JSTOR.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 23°22′59″N 32°57′00″E / 23.38306°N 32.95000°E / 23.38306; 32.95000