The Speos Of Horemheb
Horemheb was the last king of Dynasty XVIII and he carved a much larger rock-chapel, or Speos, out of the hillside at the northern end of the site. The chapel was dedicated to Amun-Re as well as other deities that were connected to the River Nile.
The monument consists of a façade of five doorways separated by pillars of differing widths, behind which is a long transverse hall with a vaulted roof and a smaller oblong chamber, the sanctuary, to the rear. All the walls are covered in reliefs and inscriptions, in some places quite damaged, but in others, there are some very fine high-quality reliefs.
Horemheb himself never finished the Speos, and the decoration was later completed by subsequent kings and nobles who carved their own stelae and inscriptions on the walls.
The deities depicted on the walls, besides Amun-re, are Sobek in the form of a crocodile, the ram-headed god Khnum of the First Cataract, Satet of Elephantine, Anuket, goddess of Sehel, Tauret as a hippopotamus and Hapi, god of the Nile. As well as those of Horemheb, cartouches of Rameses II, Merenptah, Amenemesse, Seti II, Siptah and Rameses III appear in the reliefs.
On the southern end wall, the benevolent goddess Tauret is seen in rare human form, suckling the young King Horemheb. Behind her is a damaged figure of Khnum and to her left, Amun-Re and Sobek of Kennui.
The western wall depicts one of the most noted reliefs of Horemheb, the king’s ‘Triumphal Procession’ after his victory in Nubia. Horemheb is shown seated on a portable lion-chair which is carried by twelve soldiers wearing plumes of feathers. At the front and back of the king are his fan-bearers, protecting Pharaoh from the sun.
His entourage includes rows of priests, soldiers, a trumpeter and several groups of captured prisoners, all depicted in a very natural style, almost echoing some of the Amarna Period reliefs. The inscription above the king extols his victory over the people of Kush.
Another important relief here depicts a list of four Heb-sed festivals of Rameses II in the 30th, 34th, 37th and 40th years of his reign, which were supervised by his eldest son, Prince Khaemwaset. This prince, renowned for his priestly wisdom as well as his restoration works, appears in several places in the chapel, along with his mother Queen Asetnefert and Princess Bentanta, as well as other favoured officials of the reign.
Khaemwaset presumably died before the 42nd Jubilee of Rameses II was celebrated at Gebel Silsila as this was conducted by the Vizier Khay, who also has a presence in the Speos. Merenptah, the son and successor of Rameses II is depicted on a stele with his wife Asetnefert and his Vizier Panehesy adoring Amun-Re and Mut.
On the northern end wall there is a niche with six figures cut in high relief, depicting (from west to east) the Vizier Panehesy, the goddess Ma’at, a male relation Amennakht, a female relation ‘Songstress of Hathor’, the god Ptah and finally Ra’y, a female relation with the title ‘Songstress of Re’. This is a rare relief where a private family is seen in the presence of the gods. Many other stelae and reliefs line the walls of the hall, giving the names of Dynasty XIX kings and their officials.
The sanctuary to the rear of the vaulted hall contains seven very damaged figures which are said to depict Sobek, Tauret, Mut, Amen-Re, Khons, Horemheb and Thoth. The side walls show a wide variety of gods and demi-gods, while the walls inside the doorway have reliefs of the Elephantine Triad, Khnum, Satet and Anuket as well as Osiris and the scorpion goddess Selkhet. Tauret presides over a symbolical representation of the union of Upper and Lower Egypt.