Chicago: The Memphis Hathor Temple: Recent Work and New Discoveries

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Presented by: Dr. Michelle Marlar; Director of Egyptian Archaeological Missions at the Houston Museum of Natural Science

  • 5:00 PM CT
  • Zoom/ In-PersonISAC, 1155 East 58th Street, Chicago
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Lecture Abstract

While digging underground air-raid shelters in 1969, the Egyptian military happened upon a previously unknown temple located to the south of the main Ptah temple precinct in Memphis, Egypt. Subsequent excavation by three different Egyptian missions between 1970–1984 uncovered the top of a small limestone temple consisting of a pylon, an open forecourt and an enclosed pronaos, with (presumably) three chapels across the back. Excavations in both the forecourt and pronaos revealed in situ walls and columns, some of which are topped with beautifully carved Hathor capitals. The high-water table prevented all three excavators from excavating very deeply, thus only the in situ Hathor-headed capitals, the tops of columns, walls, and the western pylon were uncovered. Since that time, the temple has been the subject of sporadic conservation and survey work but has not been thoroughly examined or excavated.

In 2022, a joint mission between the Houston Museum of Natural Science and The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, co-directed by Dr. Michelle Marlar and Mr. Mohamed El Seaidy, started work at the Memphis Hathor temple (MHT). The mission concentrates on conservation, imaging, and documentation (photography, photogrammetry, and epigraphy) of artifacts and exposed temple architecture, and beginning last year, excavation of the later occupation phases overlying the back of the temple.

As will be detailed in my talk, our work is revealing a complicated history for the temple, which evidence indicates was built during the 18th Dynasty, re-carved at least twice (during both the 18th and 19th Dynasties), fell out of use by the Third Intermediate Period and was subsequently partially dismantled and then covered by faience and textile workshops during the Late Period. This is an ongoing project and we expect to uncover the rest of the temple in future seasons.

Speaker’s Bio

Dr. Michelle Marlar is an Egyptologist who works as the Director of Egyptian Archaeological Missions at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. In this role, Michelle serves as a co-director of a joint American-Egyptian mission at the Memphis Hathor temple in Memphis (Mit Rahina), Egypt where she works to conserve, document, and excavate the temple.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in Archaeology from Baylor University, a master’s degree in Ancient Egyptian Art & Archaeology from The University of Memphis, and a PhD in Ancient Egyptian Archaeology and Art History from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University under the direction of Dr. David O’Connor. She has been working in Egypt since 2001, initially with a focus on the Osiris Temple in Abydos, Egypt which involved the documentation and conservation of artifacts recovered during her excavations at the temple site. She has taught and lectured about various aspects of ancient Egyptian civilization and material culture at several schools and colleges in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas.