'Creation of the cosmos in Dendera.'
Some of the most famous images from the Hathor Temple at Dendera can be found in the crypt beneath its southern wall. The reliefs here portray human figures next to bulb-like objects reminiscent of oversized light bulbs.
What we witness here is the creation of the cosmos, in the from of an elongated bulb. It springs from a lotus-flower on a boat, the lotus being the first object that floated on the primordial sea, according to Egyptian cosmology. From the flower also appears a snake, which is equated to the rising sun and the god Harsomptus and which is enveloped by the cosmos. Harsomptus is also present in human form, standing behind the bulb.
The top of the cosmos-bulb is supported by the God of Infinity, Heh, kneeling on a square base, while the sun-snake is supported by a Djed pillar with arms, symbol of stability and continuity.
Sitting beneath the bulb are the goddess Hathor (on the right) and, facing each other, two representations of the ka (living essence) of Harsomptus.
Upu, the frog-headed baboon on the right holding two knives in his hands, is a protective genie.
It is in this crypt below the southern wall that the golden statue of the ba (soul) of Hathor (mother of Harsomptus) was kept. And it was probably here that the sacred procession started on the eve of the first day of the New Year, bringing the statue of the goddess to the roof of the temple, just as the newly created sun rose from the abyss on the First Day.
This part of the Dendera Temple was built during the later Ptolemaic period (first century BC). Photo Mick Palarczyk.