Shrine of Hathor

The shrine of Hathor and the cow’s statue were retrieved from under heaps of debris south of the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari. The shrine is from the reign of Thutmose III. Its roof is painted blue with yellow stars to imitate the Vault of Heaven.

The statue of Hathor as the divine cow, in the middle of the shrine. It is inscribed for Amenhotep II, Thutmose III’s son and successor.

Shrine of the Goddess Hathor
The shrine of the Goddess Hathor. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 38575

Hathor’s head is surmounted by a uraeus, a solar-disc, and two short plumes. Amenhotep can be seen twice in the statue. Once at the front beneath the cow’s head. The second time depicted as a young boy nursing beneath the cow’s right side.

This small Hathoric chapel originally was resided between the temple of Mentuhotep II and the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari. It was possibly intended as a replacement for the sanctuary dedicated to the Hathor located in the complex of the queen.

A particularly important aspect of Hathor’s maternal nature is the role she played as the mother of the king, which was often expressed by means of her identity as the nurturing bovine goddess. Infact in her bovine form Hathor protected the king and acted as a royal nurse, symbolically suckling the monarch even as an adult.

Amenhotep II nursing beneath Hathor
King Amenhotep II is depicted as a young boy nursing beneath the cow-goddess Hathor.

In the Theban area, Hathor was the protector of necropolises and was likened to the sycamore tree, whose task was to nourish the deceased.

As patroness of foreign lands and their products, the goddess was also considered to be the lady of music, joy and happiness, as evidenced by numerous sistrums bearing her effigy or the epithet ‘Lady of intoxication’.

Hathor Chapel in the Temple of Thutmose III. at Deir el-Bahari, Thebes, photo from the excavation by Henri Édouard Naville (1907).
Hathor Chapel in the Temple of Thutmose III. at Deir el-Bahari, Thebes, photo from the excavation by Henri Édouard Naville (1907).

New Kingdom, mid 18th Dynasty, reign of Thutmose III, ca. 1479-1425 BC. Painted limestone. Height 225 cm, width: 157 cm, depth: 404 cm. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 38575. Ground Floor, Room 12.