Dendera (also Denderah) was the site of a settlement, cemetery and several religious sanctuaries in antiquity. Recognised as one of the foremost temple sites in Egypt, Dendera is located some 50 km north of Luxor on the west bank of the Nile, in the vicinity of modern Qena (the centre of the modern population on the east bank).
The remains of the ancient town are dominated today by the great Graeco-Roman temple of the goddess Hathor, one of best known and preserved temples of that or any other period in Egyptian history – this, despite the destruction of the nearby sanctuaries of Horus, the husband of Hathor, and that of their child Ihy / Harsomptus.
Dendera is located on the site of ancient Iunet, known also as Tantere (Greek Tentyris). A town of no little importance, Dendera formed the ancient capital of the 6th nome of Upper Egypt.
The preserved Hathor temple structure stands in the place of several earlier buildings of the Old, Middle and New Kingdom periods and of the Saite ruler Nectabeo I, having been erected in 54 BCE, very late in the Ptolemaic period, in the reign of Ptolemy XII Auletes. Later substantial additions to the existing temple were completed in the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius (14 – 29 CE). The enclosure surrounding the temple buildings dates either from the reign of Shabaka or the Roman period.
The temple of Hathor stands within a brick enclosure wall (10 metres thick) enclosing the sacred temenos, an area of some 280 square metres. The final temple structure measures 35 x 81 metres (largely filling a modern football field) and is essentially completely preserved.
The temple is oriented towards the Nile river, as was customary, and so is unusually broadly aligned north-south as a result of the east-west course of the river in this short stretch of the valley (in this case, true north was symbolically thought of as “east” by the ancient Egyptians).
Description de l’Égypte, volume IV, plates 2-34.
Mariette, Auguste Edouard
1875 Dendérah – Description générale du Grand Temple de cette ville, 4 volumes, Paris-Cairo, 1875.
Chassinat, Émile and Daumas, F.
1934-72 Le temple de Dendera, 6 volumes, Cairo, 1934-1972.
1990 Le temple de Dendera, Cairo, 1990.
1992 “Le temple d’Isis à Dendera”, BSFE 123 (1992), pp.31-48.
1917 “Chapelle de Mentouhotep à Denderah”, ASAE 17 (1917), pp.226-234.
1956 “Le sanatorium de Dendera”, BIFAO 56 (1956), pp.33-57.
1969 Dendera et le temple d’Hathor, Cairo, 1969.
1968 Dendera in the Third Millennium B.C., New York, 1968.
Kemp, Barry J.
1985 “The Location of the Early Town at Dendera”, MDAIK 41 (1985), pp.89-98.
Petrie, W.M. Flinders
1900a Dendereh [EEF 17], London, 1900.
1900a Dendereh. Extra Plates [EEF Special Publication], London, 1900.
1989 “A Reconsideration of the Newly Discovered Building Inscription on the Temple of Denderah”,GM 108 (1989), pp.75-85.