Page from the Book of the Dead of HuneferBritish Museum
A World of Gods
Ancient Egyptians worshipped many different deities. Gods and goddesses were a part of every aspect of Egyptian life.
Stela of the Sculptor Qen worshipping Amenhotep I and Ahmose-Nefertari Stela of the Sculptor Qen worshipping Amenhotep I and Ahmose-Nefertari (ca. 1279–1213 B.C.)The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Royals were representatives of the divine on earth and acted as intermediaries between the gods and humans. Some royals, like Amenhotep I and Ahmose-Nefertari, were not just divine rulers, but actually venerated as gods in their own right after their deaths.
However, this was not only for royalty. Sometimes important individuals who were revered during their life were also deified and raised to the status of gods after they died.
Two architects from two different periods of pharaonic Egypt were worshipped as gods; Imhotep, from the Old Kingdom, and Amenhotep, Son of Hapu, from the New Kingdom. Why were these two men idolized after their deaths?
Votive Statue of Imhotep (ca. mid-7th century B.C.)Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
Imhotep was a high-ranking official and priest long ago during Egypt’s 3rd Dynasty under King Djoser (2667–2648 BCE).
By Frank ScherschelLIFE Photo Collection
He was likely the architect of the massive Step Pyramid, a precursor to the great pyramids of Giza.
Veneration sites in Egypt by Mostafa ZohdyAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)
This pyramid has survived more than 4,600 years and you can still visit it in Saqqara, near modern-day Cairo.
Collection of Figures of Imhotep by Wellcome Library, LondonAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)
Not many details are known about Imhotep’s life, but his legacy was so significant that thousands of years after his death, Imhotep had risen to the status of a god.
An Ancient Sage
Several later texts were attributed to Imhotep and he was considered one of the great wise men of the past and a learned physician.
During the New Kingdom, Imhotep was venerated as the patron of scribes and the god of medicine and healing. By the Late Period (664-332 BCE), he was elevated even further as the son of the god Ptah, the patron of craftsmen and architects.
Statue of Amenhotep, son of Hapu in the Egyptian Museum (2007-12)American Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)
Amenhotep, Son of Hapu
Like Imhotep, Amenhotep, son of Hapu (1425-1356 BCE), was an architect, official, priest, and scribe. He worked under Amenhotep III during the 18th Dynasty.
Monumental Statues of Amenhotep III (2015-05) by MusikAnimalAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)
The King's Builder
He was favored by King Amenhotep III and trusted with his most impressive building projects at Luxor and Karnak Temples, as well as the king’s funerary temple, of which only these two statues of the king have survived.
Statue of Amenhotep Son of Hapu in the Luxor Museum (2019-10) by Olaf TauschAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)
Man of Honor
Amenhotep, son of Hapu was permitted to build a funerary temple next to the king during his lifetime, a privilege usually reserved only for other royals.
He was honored after his death for his great achievements during his life and worshipped as a god for centuries, especially in the area of Thebes (modern Luxor).
Statue of Amenhotep Son of Hapu as Scribe (2019-10) by Olaf TauschAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)
Like Imhotep, he was worshipped as a god of healing and revered for his teachings and wisdom.
Here he is shown as a scribe and wise man, indicated by the writing palette over his left shoulder...
...and a scroll with text on his lap.
By Eliot ElisofonLIFE Photo Collection
Why were the two men so venerated in the afterlife?
Perhaps because of their contributions to building the country's most impressive monuments: the immense pyramids of the Old Kingdom...
Karnak Temple, Luxor and the Tomb of Ramesses III, Valley of the Kings
...and the great temples of the New Kingdom, which people still visit and admire today.
Statuette of Imhotep Statuette of Imhotep (664–30 B.C.)The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Achievements so significant that it followed them into the afterlife and etched their names into history forever.
Story by Tessa Litecky
This story was created in association with a museum exhibition and academic conference titled Exalted Spirits: The Veneration of the Dead in Egypt through the Ages, jointly organized by The American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE), The American University in Cairo (AUC), and the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA) in Egypt.