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Model of a Temple Gateway

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

On View: 19th Dynasty to Roman Period, Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Gallery, 3rd Floor

Although this model was found at Tell el Yahudiya in the Nile Delta, the inscriptions along its base suggest that King Seti I donated it to a now-lost temple at Heliopolis, the center of the solar cult, just outside modern Cairo. Why it was deposited at Tell el Yahudiya is a mystery.

As seen in the photograph here, the model was once replete with a pylon (or gateway), flagpoles, statues of Seti I in the guise of Osiris (ruler of the underworld), and four sphinxes flanking the entrance staircase. The reliefs around the base show the king nearly prostrate, making offerings to three forms of the sun: Khepri (the sun rising in the morning), Re-Horakhty (the sun at its zenith at noon), and Atum (the sun setting in the evening).

The purpose of the model is unclear. Although it is generally regarded as a foundation deposit or offering given by the king at the groundbreaking for the temple it represents, it may have served a magical purpose.

A reconstruction of this model can be seen in the installation Temples, Tombs, and the Egyptian Universe.

MEDIUM Quartzite
DATES ca. 1290-1279 B.C.E.
DYNASTY Dynasty 19
PERIOD New Kingdom
DIMENSIONS 9 1/2 x 44 x 34 in., 1025 lb. (24.1 x 111.8 x 86.4 cm, 464.9kg)
CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Brown quartzite base for a votive model of the temple of Heliopolis dedicated by Seti I. Sides and front of base decorated in sunk relief with figures of Seti I, kneeling and presenting offerings. Long inscription incised in lines and columns on two sides and front of base. On top surface, double staircase leads to platform on which model of temple was placed. Depressions for walls, pylons, etc. on temple platform and for sphinxes and obelisks on each side of lower level of staircase.
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