Birth house, mammisi

Birth house, mammisi.jpg

For and after the birth of her child, the mother withdrew to a special location outside the house for a ritual purification period of (at least) two weeks. This was often placed on the roof of the house and, according to depictions on ostraca and wall paintings from Deir el-Medinah and the workman's village at El-`Amarna, was often shaped like a tabernacle: a construction of poles with convolvulus and vines growing up them. Egyptologists disagree about whether these birth huts were the predecessors of the so-called birth houses (also called by the modern designation mammisi), known from a number of temples from the Ptolemaic period. The best known are those from Dendera, Edfu and Philae. They are always chapels situated in front of the main temple, to one side of the main axis and perpendicular to it. It is very probable that there were examples dating back to the New Kingdom, such as the (badly damaged) temple that lies at an angle to the temple of Mut at Karnak. According to the texts and illustrations in these birth houses, this was where the divine child was born and brought up. Another series shows the child being conceived, then being shaped by Khnum on his potter's wheel, and then being presented to his father. These motifs are virtually identical to the scenes in the so-called birth rooms in the temple of Luxor (with scenes showing the birth of Amenhotep III) and Deir el-Bahari (showing the birth of Hatshepsut). Gods commonly connected with the protection of mother and child, such as Bes and Taweret, are also often depicted in the birth houses.