The Middle Kingdom-Mentuhotep II-Part 2
Taking up the previous article, Manetone begins the XI dynasty with Mentuhotep I and scholars place the same in the Middle Kingdom. In reality, as already mentioned, the Middle Kingdom begins with the reunification of the Two Lands, which happens only with Mentuhotep II.
We have already spoken of him and his kingdom extensively in the preceding article, where we cited his sepulchral complex, which he called “The places of worship of Mentuhotep shine”, which for the period constitutes an innovation.
According to the Egyptologist Herbert Winlock, the terraced complex was erected in three phases, while according to Arnold in four.
The temple downstream, of which nothing remains today because it is buried under the fields, the uncovered ceremonial ramp flanked by statues of the sovereign in Osiria style and the actual temple formed by overlapping terraces and an underground burial chamber.
The eastern façade of the lower terrace, with the so-called “lower pillar hall”, consisted of a portico with two rows of pillars divided in half by the access ramp to the first terracing whose walls were decorated with scenes of battle in relief.
A very wide ramp, bordered on both sides with rows of sycamores and tamarisks, gave access to the first terrace and then to the actual temple.
The terrace consisted of three parts, the central core in hardened clay was to represent the primitive hill formed by a cubic masonry body.
Around, on the four sides, there was a colonnaded ambulatory, in turn, delimited on the north, south and east sides by a pillared portico, the so-called “Upper pillared hall”, consisting of two rows of limestone pillars.
The front of the pillars was entirely covered with bas-reliefs that represented the sovereign with gods and numerous inscriptions.
The colonnaded ambulatory was accessed from the eastern wing of the hall at the main axis of the complex. The ambulatory was supported by one hundred and forty octagonal columns that stood on three rows, to the west only on two.
The poor lighting came only from the skylights in the outer wall. On the western side of the central terrace, six well-shaped tombs were found carved into the rocky bottom, surmounted by chapels built with limestone blocks with false doors and cult statues.
These are the tombs of the queens and princesses of the Mentuhotep II family. It seems to be women who died at a young age, it is estimated that the oldest could be about 22 years old while the youngest was 5.
The investigations lead to the presumption that they died more or less at the same time, perhaps due to misfortune or an epidemic. Four of them bore the name “Royal Bride”.
According to Arnold, they would all belong to the category of priestesses of Hathor, goddess protector of the Theban necropolis. Callender instead thinks they were part of the Hentm of Mentuhotep II as guarantors of the alliances that the sovereign tried to maintain in order to stabilize the political situation and keep the country united.
Mentuhotep II had additional wives that are indeed documented. Aasha, from whose brown complexion we deduce that she was Nubian, whose rank was revealed on her golden sarcophagus.
Another wife, Kauit, from whose tomb comes a limestone sarcophagus with stupendous reliefs that today can be admired at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Later, the complex of Mentuhotep II was extended westwards, to the level of the central terrace, forming the open colonnaded courtyard, the hypostyle hall, formed by eighty-two octagonal columns and the rupestrian temple, (speos).
The Speos was located in the westernmost part of the complex and was formed by a narrow and long room with a vaulted ceiling in limestone blocks and a sandstone floor.
Here was discovered a statue of the seated god Amon and other instruments for the worship of the various deities, Amon, Month, Osiris and Hathor.
In the third part, I will talk about the hypogean part and the various suppositions put forward by Egyptologists both on the form and on the meaning, especially religious, of the funerary monument of Mentuhotep II.
By :Piero Cargnino
Fonti e bibliografia:
Miroslav Verner, “Il mistero delle piramidi” Newton & Compton editori, 2002)