Mortuary Temple

Photograph of the mortuary temple at the time of Reisner’s excavations. He did not excavate the full extent of the structure.

In his diary, George Reisner noted the presence of rock-cut “temples” at El Kurru. In his notebook he stated that a large mortuary temple was situated directly between the large pyramid at the site (Ku. 1) and the Nile. A rectilinear feature was visible on Google Earth imagery, and was located in approximately the right place. People in the village confirmed the location of a structure there, which they called “kaneesa”, or church. The temple measures 15m x 15m in size with two outer rooms, one of which contained 26 columns, all of them preserved to over 2.5m in height.

The most surprising aspect of this temple is the existence of rock-cut doorways that lead into an entire network of underground chambers. The two outer chambers each had four columns supporting stone roof beams to prevent collapse of the poor quality sandstone, and each had two doorways leading to other rooms. One of these rooms had capitals with five volutes, an unusual configuration that finds its closest parallel in Ptolemaic Alexandria (McKenzie 2007). The second room had simpler lotus capitals.

Excavation of this structure was difficult. The subterraneans rooms were filled with a hard deposit, which had been washed into the building, probably in several flood events. The soft stone, and the cracks in the ceiling also made the work potentially dangerous.

Both the inner and outer rooms of this structure wee remarkably clean. A few complete pots dating to the Meroitic period were discovered in the outer courtyard. The courtyard also exhibits a range of graffiti, probably also of Meroitic date.

For further information, see the Publications page.

Mortuary Temple with Pyramid 1 in the background, 2014