Doorways – Ancient Egyptian Temple Elements 10


Perhaps more symbolic then one might first think the doorways within the temple were useful for ceiling the inner sanctum from the eyes of the common Egyptian.

But they were also thresholds that acted as liminal points necessary in the enactment of ritual processions. The doors themselves were usually made of wood, but often covered in metal and it is possible that some smaller door leaves (awy) may have been cast entirely of metal. However, wooden doors were usually covered in copper, but in some cased might be plated in bronze, electrum or gold. They were mounted on wooden pivots set into sockets in the threshold and lintel of the doorway (seba). Like most elements in a temple complex, each had its own name, and they were decorated with texts and inscriptions consistent with the adjacent walls. For example, one doorway at Karnak build during the reign of Tuthmosis III was called “[The doorway] Menkheperre, Amun-great-of-strength, whom-the-people-praise”.

It was made of Lebanon cedar with its name written in electrum. In many doorways were images of the king symbolically cleansing all who might enter into the sanctity of the inner temple. These doorways, along with providing protection, also acted as symbolic gateways that were thresholds of other worlds or states of being. They were often depicted in the representations of the shrines of gods, and the ritual act of opening them was symbolic of the opening of the doors of heaven, or for that matter exactly the reverse. For example, the false doors found in some temple were not for mankind’s use, but for the gods themselves who might use them to enter our physical realm.


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