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el Derr Temple, Nubia



Derr temple in Nubia, on the East bank of the Nile, was constructed in honor of the 30th anniversary of the reign of Rameses II (Ramesses II). Originaly it was unusually constructed - partly of cut stone and partly excavated into the hillside. Various sources give its dedication to Pitah, Amon or Ra, but Derr temple, as were so many others, was certainly built to the glory of Pharaoh Rameses.

In the mid 1960's the construction of the Aswan High Dam would have flooded the temple at Derr so the entire remaining portion of the temple was moved to higher ground, about seven miles from its original location.


Excerpt from: Travels in Nubia by John Lewis Burckhardt

A Journey along the Banks of the Nile
Published in 1819. Adapted for AscendingPassage.com, 2006.


Chapter V - the ancient temple of Derr.
The neighborhood of Derr (Derri) is interesting on account of a temple situated on the declivity of a rocky hill, just behind the village. Its structure denotes remote antiquity. The gods of Egypt appear to have been worshipped here long before they were lodged in the gigantic temples of Karnac and Gorne.

the temple at Derr.
The entrance of the Temple at Derr,
by François Chrétien Gau, 1819


The temple of Derr is entirely hewn out of the sand-stone rock, with its pronaos, sekos or cella, and adyton. The pronaos consists of three rows of square pillars, four in each row. The row of pillars nearest the cella, which were originally joined by the roof to the main temple, are of larger dimensions than the rest; they are nearly four feet square, and about fourteen feet high, and are still entire, while fragments of the shafts only remain of the two outer rows. In front of each of the four pillars are the legs of a colossal figure, similar to those of the temple of Gorne, at Thebes.

A line of priestesses at the temple at Derr.
Art from the Temple at Derr, by Ernst Weidenbach, 1842-45


A portion of the excavated rock which had formed one of the walls of the pronaos, has fallen down; on the fragments of it, a battle is represented: the hero, in his chariot, is pursuing his vanquished foe, who retires to a marshy and woody country, carrying the wounded along with him. In a lower compartment of the same wall, the prisoners, with their arms tied behind their backs, are brought before the executioner, who is represented in the act of slaying one of them. All these figures are much defaced.

On the opposite wall is their battle, but in a state more mutilated: in this, prisoners are brought before the hawk-headed Osiris. On the front wall of the cella, on each side of the principal entrance, prisoners are represented in the act of being slain, and Osiris, with uplifted arm, arresting the intended blow. On the four pillars in front of the cella, variously dressed figures are sculptured, two generally together, taking each other by the hand. The Egyptian Mendes, or Priapus, is also repeatedly seen.

the temple at Derr.
Cutaway view of the Temple at Derr,
by François Chrétien Gau, 1819


The cella of the temple consists of an apartment thirteen paces square, which receives its light only through the principal gate, and a smaller one, on the side of it. Two rows of square pillars, three in each row, extend from the gate of the cella to the adytum: these pillars show the infancy of architecture, being mere square blocks, hewn out of the rock, without either base or capital; they are somewhat larger at the bottom than at the top.

The inside walls of the cella, and its six pillars, are covered with mystic figures, in the usual style. Some remains of color prove that all these figures were originally painted. On one of the side walls of the cella, are five figures, in long robes, with shaven heads, carrying a boat upon their shoulders, the middle of which is also supported by a man with a lion's skin upon his shoulder. In the posterior wall of the cella, is a door, with the winged globe over it, which leads into the small adytum, where the seats of four figures remain, cut out of the back wall. On both sides of the adytum are small chambers, with private entrances into the cella; in one of which a deep excavation makes it probable that it was used as a sepulchre.

the temple entrance at Derr - worn square columns without carving make this place look very old.
Photograph of the entrance to Derr Temple
by F. Frith, 1860 - 1865.



wings of the Sun.

Derr Temple, Nubia
excerpt from: Travels in Nubia

by John Lewis Burckhardt, published in 1819



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Pharaoh presents incense to Thoth at the temple at Derr.
Art from the Temple at Derr,
by Ernst Weidenbach, 1842-45

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