Journey to Egypt: Temple at Kom Ombo

December 31, 2018

Kom Ombo Temple is probably my favorite of all the ancient Egyptian sites I saw on this trip. It has several interesting features that make it unique.
20181231_145553dAbout 30 miles north of the city of Aswan, Kom Ombo is located in a region that has a large Nubian community that was resettled here after the construction of the Aswan High Dam, which flooded the area they had come from originally. I will write more about the Nubians in a future post.
20181231_150507.jpgThe town of Kom Ombo has grown considerably in the last 35 years since its founding. It was an important town in ancient times because it was located at a convergence of trade routes to the Nile Valley, the Red Sea, and Nubia.20181231_145713The Temple of Kom Ombo is a double temple, to worship the gods Sobek (the crocodile god) and Horus (the falcon god). Both these gods were depicted, as Egyptian gods often were, as either an animal or a person with the animal’s head.

20181231_150240 (2)
Two images of Horus (with falcon heads) anoint the king (middle) by pouring water on his head; Sobek (with crocodile head) stands behind them on the left.

 

Kom Ombo Temple was built during the Ptolemaic era, between the 2nd century BCE and the 1st century CE. All the remains of the temple date to that period and later, although there has been evidence found of earlier structures, most notably an 18th Dynasty gateway.
20181231_150430d.jpgThe temple is called a “double temple” because it has two of almost everything, which allowed the priests to conduct equal worship rituals for two gods simultaneously. The southern part of the temple is dedicated to Sobek, the northern part to Horus. In addition, there is a small shrine dedicated to the goddess Hathor.
20181231_145656d

20181231_145732
Reliefs on outer walls

Crocodiles, sacred to Sobek, were worshipped here at Kom Ombo and were regarded as semi-divine. They were fed the finest foods, provided with golden earrings, and were even given manicures to gild their nails! Sacred crocodiles, when they were alive, were kept in the northwestern part of the temple. There is now a crocodile museum (included in the entrance ticket) adjacent to the temple where crocodile mummies and other artifacts are on display. We went there after our tour of the temple, but it was quite dark inside and we were not allowed to take photos anyway. However, here is one from a professional photographer.

Kom Ombo  (41)-crocodile museum.jpg
Crocodile mummies in the Crocodile Museum

 

The double entrance opens onto a large courtyard, the only shared space inside the temple’s boundaries. The entrance was oriented toward the river, facing roughly west.
20181231_150215d20181231_160024.jpg
There are two doorways from the courtyard to the outer hypostyle (columned) halls, inner hypostyle halls,

SONY DSCa series of offering halls, and twin sanctuaries, for Horus on the left and Sobek on the right.

Kom Ombo (10)-Sobek on pillar
Sobek with feathered headdress, holding a staff in his left hand and an ankh in his right hand.
20181231_155110
Sanctuary entrance

Mohamed showed us a calendar on the southwest wall of the Offering Hall, the first one we had seen.


20181231_155340

20181231_151138d
The goddess Hathor (with cow horns & a sun disk on her head) and the falcon god Horus (wearing the white crown)
20181231_151129d
Colorful paintings of the winged vulture on the bottom of the lintel over a doorway
DSC_0447
Over an adjacent doorway is the symbol of two cobras on either side of a sun disk, with spread wings, like this one.

 

20181231_151244
Detailed relief of Sobek
20181231_151342
Lovely dual relief, with the pharaoh offering jugs of water and lotus flowers. The confusing thing about this image is that the pharaoh is both female (with a breast) and a male (beard symbolic of the pharaoh). A female monarch perhaps? I don’t know…

20181231_151458.jpgAnother interesting feature is on the back wall of the outer enclosure – carvings of surgical instruments. Surgical tools found at archaeological sites match those in these carvings – quite amazing!
20181231_152026
SONY DSC
Another common theme was food, either being offered to the gods by the pharaoh or depicted upon a table.

20181231_152045
In this relief, water is being poured onto the food, representing the nourishment of food crops by rain and the river.
20181231_154050 (2)
On this column, the pharaoh of all Egypt (he is wearing the double crown) offers food to Horus.

Some of the reliefs show deep carving, especially the largest figures which cover an entire wall. This is the foot of Horus…
20181231_152638
…who is holding a staff and an ankh.
20181231_152652d
Behind him is a carving of Hathor, also holding a staff and an ankh.
20181231_152655d
Some of the feet show  details of the toes, such as this one of Hathor’s foot – she has very long toes!
20181231_152712
This temple was also known for being a place of healing. High up on a wall is a small doorway with a carved ear on either side. These “listening ears” are where people could go to tell the gods about their medical problems in hopes of healing.
20181231_152851
SONY DSC
Throughout the temple were reliefs amazing in their artistry and imagination.
20181231_154043
20181231_154838
20181231_154451.jpg
This bas relief is an interesting one, containing several figures. In the center stands the king, surrounded by familiar gods. To the left are Hathor and Thoth (ibis-headed god); to the right are a lion and two images of Horus. The lion was a symbol of strength and mastery of the natural world when depicted alongside the king. This shows that the lion/pharaoh is the guardian of order, or Ma’at, which was an important concept for the ancient Egyptians. Some gods also assimilated leonine aspects, such as Horus.
20181231_154330
Horus assimilated the god Tjel (a feline god), giving a lion image to a god almost always depicted as a falcon. That seems to be the symbolism of this remarkable image, which shows both the lion’s head and the falcon’s wings in motion. Right underneath the lion with wings is Horus in his true nature as a falcon.
SONY DSC
The lion is often depicted as female, such as in this relief. This female feline goddess was eventually incorporated into a domestic cat goddess, Bastet.
SONY DSC
Enjoy these additional photos of this fascinating and beautiful temple!!
20181231_155018
SONY DSC
Kom Ombo (16)
SONY DSC
SONY DSC20181231_155732
20181231_155215d

Sources: Symbolism of the Lion in Ancient Egypt by Michael Fassbender
The Temple of Kom Ombo on website Ancient Egypt Online.  In this article,
Horus and Sobek are said to be in conflict, which is why the temple had to
separate them. I had not found this idea of conflict in any other source.
Kom Ombo, Wikipedia.
Fodor’s Egypt, 2009 edition
My own notes from information given to us by our guide

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s