The term "mortuary temple" as currently used in Egyptology is too much influenced by modern Western attitudes. Today the rites performed for a dead person center chiefly on burial, deposition in a tomb, but Egyptian mortuary temples were built to sustain the life of the deceased in the hereafter. In Egypt's earliest times, the dead were believed to need a material supply of food and drink, the victuals called k3. Such provisions gradually changed into merely symbolic offerings to the k3- spirit thought to be embodied in the k3-statue that at first was set up in the tomb and later in the vicinity of divine temples as well. Such statues were frequently sheltered in k3-houses. The term "k3-house" was still occasionally used for the huge establishments created by New Kingdom pharaohs in the domain of a god, their "royal mansions," where they expected to spend "millions of years" in a mystic union with the deity.
The arguments I present have been outlined in other contexts. Here I aim to develop them through a chronologically arranged survey of the main sources. Space does not permit me to discuss all the aspects involved.
The New Kingdom royal cult complexes in the necropolis of Western Thebes are usually called "mortuary temples." However, the term's prevalent use conceals a widespread disagreement among scholars about the meaning of the word, the criteria for assigning it to particular structures,