The small Ptolemaic temple-chapel of Qasr (or Kasr) el-Aguz (lit. the castle of the old lady), even named the chapel of Thoth-Ibis, is located about 200m. to the south-west of the temple of Medinet Habu, between Medinet Habu and the remains of the sacred lake which belonged to the temple of Amenhotep III at Malkatta.
In spite of it being very interesting, it is potentially unknown to visitors, even those who have returned several times to Luxor.
It therefore seems of interest to provide up-to-date colour photographic coverage, which is almost complete thanks to the invaluable assistance of Christian Mariais, whose photographs supplement my own
If the temple is architecturally nearly intact, inside this is not the same, the state of its decoration has suffered a lot. This makes any correlation to be made with the drawings, from the principle descriptive article by Dominique Mallet, sometimes difficult.
This temple-chapel had been constructed by Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II.
The names Thoth and Djehuty relate to the same god, Thoth is the Greek name for Djehuty.
The temple is dedicated to Thoth-ibis, a special form of Thoth referred to in the liturgies of the cult of Djeme
Two other variants are:
Dje-hr- (pa) -hb , Djehuty-Horus, (the) ibis
and Djhwty-stm , Djehuty-Setem, the setem or sem-priest.
Besides this specific title to the temple, he also carries the usual epithets of Lord of Khmun (Hermopolis), Lord of the Divine Words, … In the temple, the god is always represented with a human body and the head of an ibis, sometimes crowned with the lunar disk, sometimes with a crown similar to the atef crown. The major difference is that that this variation does not cover the top of head, but rests on it, and usually resting on the horns of a ram.
It is possible that a sacred ibis cult took place here.
The mentioned of two mortal divinities from ancient times can also be found: Imhotep son-of-ptah, in his role of godly healer and Amenhotep son-of-Hapu. Their representations are confined to the second room, and they are not found in the sanctuary at the rear.
Finally the Ptolemaic dynastic cult itself is even represented here extensively, including the forebears of Ptolemy (but without mentioning the first Ptolemy, son of Lagos, who was a commoner, general of Alexander the Great) and their queens. By the subtly of providing the kings and queens with the attributes and crowns of the gods and goddesses, the popular effect of assimilating of one with the other is accentuated.
Goddesses accompany Thoth and the other gods, while in the royal scenes, it is queen Cleopatra who accompanies Ptolemy and plays the role of a goddess.
The principle goddess mentioned is Nehemauait, she is at times the consort of the snake divinity Nehebu-kau, but also of Thoth, as is the case here. It also seems that she was venerated in all sanctuaries of Thoth, notably in his city of origin, Hermopolis. Usually, but not here, she is represented as a goddess to the child. She wears on her head an architectural sistrum which allows us to differentiate her from Mut and Hathor.
The monument is in Thebes, and the model of the Theban triad, that associates with Thoth a "god's son", in the person of Khonsu, who holds the same role in the classic Theban triad (Amon - Mut - Khonsu).
After Pharaonic times, the temple was transformed into a stable.
One of its original aspects is the inclusion of numerous non sculpted (but solely painted) scenes, which is very rare. This translates into an incompleteness of the building. This is apparent on the outside walls, which are also undecorated.
It was reported that the wall representations are variably preserved, and the comparison between the present photos and the descriptions of Mallet shows that the state of the temple has deteriorated distinctly over one century.
Jean-Baptiste Prosper JOLLOIS wrote in the "Description de l'Égypte":
This small temple, if judged by the area which it covers, is of little importance.
It was not finished, which its partially roughly-hewn portico and the undecorated outside of the walls evidently announce; but it deserves to be seen, because, containing entirely finished sculptures and others which are only drawn, it represents the different stages of work of the Egyptian artists in the execution of the bas-reliefs.
This can be seen from the figures drawn in red with a purity of line and a boldness of drawing, which supposes a great knowledge of form and a lot of skill in those who executed them. These drawings are superior to the sculptures. The proportions, to which the draftsmen were limited, were determined by squares which still remain. Such was the high standard of the work, which was probably executed by a same class of artists.
Very close to these figures constructed in simple lines, can be seen an outlined bas-relief. The sculptor's chisel followed all the contours of the drawing, and made the material which surrounded the space, circumscribed by the draftsman's features, disappear. This operation detached the figure from the base: but it was still unrefined; all shapes were angular, and all parts of the relief were in the same plane: it therefore required the work of a second class of workers. Then a more skilful sculptor came to put the finishing touches to the sketched work, and to give the soft and rounded forms which can be noticed in the entirely finished sculptures. Figures which were not painted, and the others which are quite brilliant with the deepest colours, allows for conjecture of the work of the painter who immediately followed that of the sculptor.
At the centre of its front (east) wall still survives an impressive entrance, which is directly in line with the main axis of the chapel doorways (see ). This gives way to an oblong courtyard 13.0 x 3.7m and which must have been 7m high. It stood in place of a pronaos, or hypostyle hall, but which didn't include any true columns.
Behind is the actual chapel, measuring 13 x 8m. Its axis is perpendicular to the courtyard. The first two rooms are considered as vestibules, the third being the sanctuary.
The whole main structure, including the courtyard is further surrounded, on three of its sides, by an additional wall; the front being open.
Located at the centre of the west wall is the large entry to room 1. Two more (smaller) doorways are located one each side of the main chapel building, giving access to the areas at the side of the chapel. Another, even smaller exit doorway is located at the upper (west) end of the south wall.
This first room measures 7.40m north-south, 3.75m east-west and 3.6m high.
It is entered through another impressive doorway, at the top of which is the remains of a cavetto cornice. This almost certainly had as its decoration a winged sun-disc. At the centre, the disc had on either side a ureaus serpent, all produced in raised relief; the wings being originally painted in red. Nothing of the colour remains, but the raised central portion is still visible. This design appears to have been used on the Egyptian cornice (and under the lintels) of the other doors on the main axis of the chapel.
This was the symbol of Ra, the sun god, under his epithet of
"Sun Of Righteousness with healing in his wings".
A variation of this symbol (the cadeceus, see left) is still used today in association with healing. The temple, with its relationship with Thoth, in his role as healer and magician, would appear to have been a possible place visited by people in search of recovery (or at least somewhere to pray for it).
None of the surfaces of the uprights of the doorway have retained any decoration or colour.
The room was originally illuminated from small windows (see ) which were wider on the inside. A large part of its roof (on the right) is missing and is therefore now partially open to the sky.
At the centre of the west wall is the entry to room 2 (discussed in full later). At the western end of the south wall is a much smaller doorway to the outside of the building.
The walls and ceiling of this room are completely uninscribed and of little interest.
The room 1 entry side of the doorway is surmounted with an Egyptian cavetto cornice, which again was decorated with the winged sun-disc. Nothing of its original design has been retained, other than the remains of the disc at its centre.
There is no cavetto cornice on the room 2 side of the doorway.
The outer faces, those facing into room 1, project only minimally beyond the normal surface of the west wall. The inner faces, those facing into room 2, do however project beyond the normal surface of the east wall of that room. The surfaces facing into room 2 show faint remains of some hieroglyphs, in two vertical columns. The room surfaces have virtually nothing.
The inner thicknesses have still retained some of their original decoration, in .
On the right (north) thickness are four scenes, which show, starting at the top:
an image of a mummified Khonsu, wearing a lunar disk on his head and a Menat-necklace, of which the counterweight can be seen hanging down his back. He has the sidelock of youth and, at the same time, the false beard of the god of the dead. He holds in his hands several sceptres. His identifying texts are missing, but he was probably named Khonsu-Thoth, like the one below.
a now almost invisible image of a god with the head of falcon. According to the text above him, however, he is identified as Khonsu-Thoth .
the upper remains of the sistrum which surmounted the head of Nehemauait and also the tops of two cartouches belonging to the king. The figures of both characters been eroded by time.
the scene which would have represented the king in front of Amon-Ra, nothing now exists.
On the left (south) thickness, in the position of the similar image on the opposite side, is the figure of the hawk-headed Khonsu, his actual name is lost. Again the king, who must have been worship in front of him, is erased.
Both above and below, had to have been scenes analogous to those facing, all of which have now disappeared.
On both sides, the images of the gods (or goddess) would have had the king in front and facing them, none of which have survived. In each case, the king would have been approaching from outside the chapel.
At the time of Mallet, the designs on this surface were still (just) identifiable; however, today, they have almost disappeared. Mallet quotes a note made by Champollion:
"On the banner, one sees bas-reliefs drawn in red, representing Euergetes II adoring the god Thoth.".
All that remains of this scene is the seated character with a lunar disc on his head. This is certainly one of the two male divinities (Imhotep and Amenhotep) found in room 2; this one probably being Amenhotep. Facing him would have been the figure of the king, and probably the queen, bearing gifts.
Here can be seen three characters: king Euergetes II, a god and a goddess. Euergetes, coming from the left (south) part of the temple, presents to the god the
"wine of the south". The god is Thoth, with the head of an ibis; he says to the king:
"I grant that you inherit the Two Lands, on the throne of Shu". Behind Thoth (only her arm now survives) is probably Nehemauait, his regular companion.
The king, coming this time from the north, again presents vases of wine to a god (who is now lost), probably Thoth, as in the symmetrical scene of the south.
The king, wearing the atef-like crown on the klaft head covering, is followed by queen Cleopatra, who wears the Hathoric crown. Arms raised, she pays homage to a now destroyed god, who can be only Imhotep, since he is counterpart of the one in the first scene (if that one was Amenhotep). Ptolemy is thus under the protection of these two extremely popular divinities at this time; besides, their main cult centres were respectively at Thebes, therefore in the south, and in Memphis, therefore in the north.
Having two surfaces due to the inner (room 2 side) being designed to take a door, it has two separate images. They are both painted in red and both contain a design with open wings.
The surface closest to room 1 (the shortest of the two) has, at its centre, a sun-disk, on either side of which is a uraeus. The top of the design is at the room 1 edge.
On the one nearest to room 2, the design is that of a vulture, its head towards room 2. In its claws it holds two long standards with a large feather emblem and at its upper edge is a line of hieroglyphic text, which ends with the cartouche of Ptolemy.
These two images are better preserved than those under the lintel of the next doorway, which connects rooms 2 and 3.