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Medinet Habu: Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III

What is it? 
This project is a microscale model of the famous mortuary temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu (Djamet in Ancient Egyptian, meaning “males and mothers”), on the West Bank of Nile, near the ancient New Kingdom capital city of Thebes (Waset - “City of the Scepter”). It has a piece count on Studio of exactly 2,991 pieces. The buildings included in this model are a reconstruction of the main funerary cult temple of Ramses III, the mudbrick Royal Palace connected to the temple’s side, a sea of surrounding granary storehouses, workshops, administrative offices, officials’ and priests’ residences, 3 Nilometers (one built in the time of Nectanebo I), sacred lakes, and tree gardens. In medieval times, a Coptic town with a church was built within and around Medinet Habu. 

The main, white temple in the center has 2 monumental pylons, 2 courtyards with elegant statues and columns, and an inner hypostyle sanctum with a chrome-gold statue of Amun. Minor temples included in the front of this model are the “Small Temple of Amun”, which was dramatically expanded in grandeur from the 18th Dynasty to the Roman period by virtue of its venerated primeval location, and the 2 chapels of the Divine Adoratrices of Amun (akin to “royal-status priestesses”). In the centuries after the death of Ramses III, the Divine Adoratrices and other priestesses began placing their own burials within different sections of Ramses III’s complex. The mudbrick Royal Palace also has interior halls marked out by 1 x 2 wall panels. For defenses, the model has 3 rings of mudbrick walls, and 2 Syrian-styled migdol fortified gates as its front and back entrances. The western gate was destroyed during a siege and civil conflict in the time of Ramesses XI, but the eastern gate is much better preserved. 

Why did you build it? 
I am deeply in awe of the amazing archaeological reconstruction drawings of Professor Jean-Claude Golvin. His work has inspired many to look at ancient ruins with wonder, both in academia, and cultural products such as Assassin’s Creed. I was simply baffled by how Egyptian pharaohs so casually commissioned the equivalent of entire cities like Medinet Habu for their funerary temples. The economic, political, and cultural implications of this power cement the absolutism of Egyptian pharaohs in my mind more than the Pyramids at Giza. 
This model started by putting together 2 tiny likenesses, in order to begin building the plainest but most vital building on the site. A 1 x 1 plate with a black stripe printed down the middle resembles a tiny doorway. The 1 x 1 or 1 x 4 curved slope placed on top of it forms a microscale Ancient Egyptian arched temple granary. These are depicted as such by Jean-Claude Golvin, but they’re architecture is also known from remaining ruins at other famous temples, such as the Ramesseum (for Ramses II). As far as the rules of empire go, once the granaries got started, and began multiplying, the main temple and other monuments in this model of Medinet Habu could be built. 

My own interest in Medinet Habu comes from my passion for studying how space was used in ancient monuments. It’s why I also built the Parthenon. I was intrigued by the Ancient Egyptian obsession for standardized architecture, which included monumental pylons, grand courtyards with Osirian statues, and the cathedral-like sanctum in the back. I wanted to model this design for myself to “get my hands on it”, and recreate the amazing effect of having to squint through 6 gateways to see if I could still catch a glimpse of the statue of Amun in the far back of the temple. It reminds me of the Egyptian exhibit in the MET, where many buildings are in the dark, and one has to look hard to see the artifacts kept out of “common” sight and reach. 

While rendering this model, it was also fun to set the brightness greater than I normally would, in order to mimic the hot Egyptian sun that was so important to the Ancient Egyptian religion and way of life. 

Why do you believe this would make a great LEGO set?
While the temple is orthodox in design for the Ramessid period, I’m also fascinated by the rather high variety of micro-environments to be found in the temple grounds, as they may have been in the time of Ramses III. All over this model, a viewer will see lush garden forests in the southeast (front left) portion that recall the Nile at its lushest, most fertile, and agriculturally secure. Meanwhile, the northeast (front right) corner has more arid, but still productive land. 

The rest of the temple grounds offer a virtual city of tightly-packed mudbrick granaries that stored grain and other produce, the lifeline of Egyptian civilization. There are still small courtyards and pathways for goods transport and bureaucratic management. The Nilometer (actually built later by Nectanebo) shows that the Nile was never far at all in any aspect of Egyptian society and culture. Finally, the pure white temple in the center itself represented both Egypt’s most uniquely esoteric, but also obtusely monumental royal outlook, to the point where Ramses III decided to build his enormous mudbrick palace right on the side of his own mortuary temple.

LEGO fans are deeply interested in seeing more Egyptian architectural history come to LEGO’s shelves. The Old Kingdom-based Pyramid of Giza set proved that this interest was realistic and tangible. I think a model of one of the famous New Kingdom mortuary temples on the West Bank Theban Hills provides a natural follow up. The West Bank includes a whole host of sites such as: Deir-el-Bahari (Hatshepsut’s temple), Montuhotep II’s temple, the Ramesseum, the Amenophium (with the Colossi of Memnon), and Medinet Habu, which has the ruins of the temple to Ramses III and the last pharaoh of the preceding dynasty, Horemheb. With this model, LEGO fans will acquire a model of another manifestation of Ancient Egyptian monument culture. 

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