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Temple Restoration Uncovers Colorful Egyptian Goddess Art that Looks Like a Vulture

posted on: Jul 27, 2022

Temple Restoration Uncovers Colorful Egyptian Goddess Art that Looks Like a Vulture
(Photo Credit: www.smithsonianmag.com)

By: Kimothy Wong / Arab America Contributing Writer

Colorful Drawings and Inscriptions In Temple of Esna

For many years, scholars knew that the Egyptian Temple of Esna was covered in inscriptions. The walls were covered in millennia’s worth of filth, yet one could see that something was there, even if it was challenging to understand precisely what was being shown.

According to Hagar Hosny of Al-Monitor, the interior of the old temple has just undergone restoration and now displays the same beautiful rainbow of color that its builders would have observed thousands of years ago.

The paintings and inscriptions are now fully colored in addition to being easily visible. According to Christian Leitz, chair of the department of Egyptology at the University of Tübingen, that is typical.

According to Google Translate, he writes, “Temples and images of the gods of antiquity were frequently painted in vibrant hues, but they have mostly faded or disappeared due to external factors.”

46 Paintings of God

The significant repair project was coordinated by the University of Tübingen and the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of Egypt.

The temple’s walls and ceilings are covered in hieroglyphic writing, a few Greek inscriptions, and 46 images of the goddesses Nekhbet and Wadjet.

The 49-foot-tall vestibule, which according to Live Science’s Owen Jarus, is the sole portion of the temple left intact, was cleaned using alcohol to remove layers of soot, dust, grime, and bird excrement, and cobwebs. It is situated about 30 miles south of Luxor. It was initially utilized as a haven where early Christian Copts could escape Roman persecution.

Temple Restoration Uncovers Colorful Egyptian Goddess Art that Looks Like a Vulture
Workers cleaned the temple’s centuries-old filth using toothbrushes and alcohol. (Photo Credit: www.smithsonianmag.com)

According to Al-Monitor, the candles and lamps they burned added to the buildup of filth on the temple’s walls and roof. But the artwork was able to survive because of the accumulating dirt that covered it.

Temple Was Dedicated to the God Khnum

According to researchers, the temple was erected in honor of the god Khnum, his consorts Menhit and Nebtu, his son Heka, and the goddess Neith. Khnum was an Egyptian fertility deity connected to water and pictured as a man with a ram’s head. Heka was the god of healing and magic, Menhit was a lion goddess linked with war, and Neith was the protector of Sais.

According to Live Science, several representations of the Nekhbet and Wadjet, also known as the “two ladies” by the ancient Egyptians. Wadjet was a snake goddess who guarded Lower Egypt, and Nekhbet was a vulture goddess who was seen as a defender of Upper Egypt.

The goddesses are seen in 46 paintings as vulture-like creatures with wings spread. Wadjet is shown wearing the crimson crown of Lower Egypt with a cobra’s head, whereas Nekhbet is wearing the bowling-pin-like crown of Upper Egypt with a vulture’s head.

Greek inscriptions were also discovered on the temple’s western wall, according to a statement from Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Temple Restoration Uncovers Colorful Egyptian Goddess Art that Looks Like a Vulture
(Photo Credit: www.smithsonianmag.com)

The dates on the inscriptions, which were written in red ink, probably refer to the year the temple was finished. The temple was most likely in use between 180 B.C.E. and 250 C.E., according to its hieroglyphs.

Those times span portions of the Ptolemaic and Roman eras in Egypt. According to Egyptology researcher and tour guide Bassam el-Shammaa, the Temple of Esna is one of many temples the Greeks erected in homage to Egyptian gods to build good ties with the people they oversaw.

Shammaa speculates that hidden portions of the Temple of Esna may have yet to be found. According to Live Science, restoration work is still ongoing, with little less than half of the temple still needing to be completely cleansed.

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