Karnak is a difficult site to understand, Jean-Francois Champollion, the Frenchman who first deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs, described it as “So vast and so grandiose” that the Egyptians must have designed it for “Men one hundred feet tall” Not only is Karnak huge- the complex covers over two square kilometers, but it is the result of almost constant building activity that began over 4700 years ago and continues even today. The temple of Amon-Ra, Karnak’s principal building, is the largest religious structure ever built. It was god’s home on earth, and around it lay the homes of his relatives-his wife, Mut and their son, khonsu .
Karnak Temple | Introduction
The earliest structures found at Karnak Temple date to the Middle Kingdom. In the New Kingdom, each king in turn seems to have vied with his predecessors to build a bigger monument here. New kingdom records show that the priests of the temple of Amen owned over 81.000 slaves and servants, 421.000 head of cattle.
In the reign of Rameses III alone, the temple received gifts that included 31.833 kilograms of gold,977.805 kilograms of silver,and 2.395.120 kilograms of copper and untold quantities of oils,wine, fruits and vegetables. For economic as well as religious reasons, Amen was” king of the gods “.
Over two hundred large structures have been found at Karnak Temple. Undoubtedly, there are hundreds more. Some are simple mud brick buildings that have nearly vanished; some are elegant structures built of fine alabaster; others are of sandstone and granite. By the late New Kingdom, Karnak Temple had become so crowded that new structures were built wherever space permitted and older buildings were often demolished to accommodate them. Clearly, there never was a master plan for the site.
Many of Karnak’s monuments are poorly preserved, wind and water erosion have taken their toll, and earthquakes, like that in 27 B.C, caused damage so great that engineers are still working to repair it. Many parts used as houses by early Christians, monasteries or damaged in local riots ware.
The ancient Egyptians called it Ipet sout. Karnak is the Arabic name of the adjacent modern village.
The enclosure wall like waves of water it was meant to mimic waves in the great primeval sea that Egyptians believed had covered the earth before the creation of life. Priests claimed that the land enclosed within this wall, the temple of Amen-Ra, was an island which the act of original creation took place.
Karnak Temple | The Quay
The quay of Amon-Ra is the landing stage where the great boats bearing statues of Amon-Ra and his entourage docked on festival occasions.mIt is sandstone platform, 13 by 15m, reached today by a wooden bridge. A granite pedestal in the center of the quay was used during ceremonies to hold a model bark bearing the god’s statue.
Musicians and dancers performed age-old rituals and offering bearers carried inlaid boxes filled with gold and jewels and finest linen .priests ,dignitaries and local villagers watched in awe as the statue of the god passed by .
Before the first pylon was built, these processions would have passed through an area in the front of the first pylon filled with gardens and ponds of papyrus and louts flowers.
On the east side of the quay, a ramp slopes down to an avenue of Sphinxes called the way of offerings, which leads to the first pylon the figures are crio sphinxes, bodies of lions with the heads of rams, symbols of the god Amen, small figures of king Ramses II in the pose of Osiris .
Karnak Temple | The First Pylon
In spite of its rough-cut stones and lack of decoration, the unfinished first pylon is an impressive introduction to the temple of A men. it was planned by Sheshonk l (Dynasty22) to be an exact Copy of the Second pylon, accrual building did not begin until the reign of NectaneboI (Dynasty 30). The pylon stands 113 m Long,15 m thick,40 m high. Eight Large windows were cut into each of its towers and below them, four niches held flagpoles. Wooden doors were fitted here, Covered with Sheets of gold or bronze with beaten relief decoration.
High up on the right Jamb, Scholars accompanying Napoleon’s expedition In 1799 in Scribed the latitude and longitude of ‘Carnac,’Luxor, and other Egyptian Sites .
The height of the inscription above the modern ground level shows how much debris covered the pylon when it was seen by those Europeans two Centuries ago.
Karnak Temple | The First Court
This was a large area Open with Several buildings. Two of them remain: A small Shrine of sety II and a Shrin of Ramses III. Our tour of the Court Starts at the Shrineof Seti II
The Shrine Called the August Temple of Millions of years. It was dedicated to the Theban Triad,used as rest stops during processions of sacred boats. Statues of Sety II Stood between the doors to the three corridor-like rooms.
In the Center of The first Court, two rows of five Columns built by Taharqain Dynast y 25. Only one of the Original Columns Still stands. These huge Columns with Open papyrus Capitals Stood 19 m high.
A large block of alabaster in the Center of the structure served as a resting- place for sacred barks during ceremonial processions.
One of the most interesting features in the first court is a huge mud brick construction ramp whose remains. It consisted of a series of mud brick walls built at right angles to the pylon, the spaces between them filled with rubble. (A ramp built against the north tower, now gone, was more carefully built entirely of well-laid brick)Blocks of stone for the pylon’s construction were dragged up these ramps using rollers or sledges and ropes.
When Napoleon’s expedition visited here, several sandstone blocks still sat on the ramp where they had been left by workmen 2600 years earlier. The ramp should have been removed when pylon was completed but, as the unfinished face of the pylons attests, it never was. The row of columns along the court’s southern wall offers further evidence of ancient building techniques. The drums of the columns nearest the first pylon were not dressed or decorated .Typically that work would have proceeded from the top down after the rough-cut drums had been set in place and as the construction ramp was removed.
The Shrine of Rameses III
The shrine in the southeastern corner of the first court is one of the best-preserved architectural features at Karnak . It was built before the first court was enclosed. Until 1896, shrine was almost completely buried under debris. Two statues of Rameses III stand before the shrine’s first pylon. The king wears the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. His pose is a typical one, standing before Amon with a mace in one hand, grasping foreign captives with the other. Amon holds forward a sword of victory. The names of towns and countries in Nubia and western Asia from which the captives came were written nearby, but they are now destroyed. Inside the temple a small peristyle court has a colonnade of eight pillars on its west and east sides. Mummified figures of the king as Osiris. On the left wall of the court, the bark of Amen is carried in procession by priests. At the southern end of the court a ramp leads to a vestibule with four Osirid pillars and four columns. Behind it stands an eight- columned hypostyle hall and beyond that,three doors ways lead into chambers for Amen,Mut and Khonsu . Rameses III shrine is an excellent example of traditional New Kingdom temple.
Karnak Temple | The Bubastite Portal
Between the shrine of Ramses III and the second pylon stands a gate known to Egyptologists as the Bubastite portal. It takes its name from the Delta town of Bubastis, capital city of the dynasty 22 kings who built it. The stones for the gate from a quarry south of Thebes at Jabal al Silila.
Through the Bubastite portal to the left, on the southern end of the second pylon, king Sheshonk I- the Pharaoh Shishak of the Bible- commemorates his victory over Rehoboam, son of Solomon, king of Judah, when Egypt attacked Solomon’s temple in Dynasty 22. The quality of carving is only fair but the sciences have historical interest. In one, Amen Ra stands with as word in his hand and announces the conquest of 156 villages in Judah and Palestine. The battle is described in 2 Chronicles (12:2-3)and in 1 Kings (14:25-26):’’In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem; he took away the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house; he took away everything .He also took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made…’’
To the right (east) on the southern outer wall of the Hypostyle hall , Rameses II carved military scenes in imitation of his father’s on the north side of the hall .
Karnak Temple | The Second Pylon
Begun by Horemheb , continued by Rameses I and RamesesII, and finally added by Ptolemaic Period.
Karnak Temple | The Hypostyle Hall
No part of the temple of Amen is more famous or impressive that this huge pillared hall, one of the largest religious structures ever built. Neither photographs nor row statistics give a true impression of its size and beauty- or in the eyes of some travelers, its clunkiness.
Ironically, this vast forest of columns, larger than any other such hall on earth, was intended to symbolize the most prosaic of features, a papyrus swamp like the thousands that lined the banks of the Nile.
Thanks to French archaeologistis and engineers who have been working here for nearly a century, this splendid monument is being restored to its original condition.
Its ceiling is supported by 134 sandstone columns. Six columns have open papyrus flower capital and stand 23 m tall. One hundred and twenty-two other columns stand in four groups. They have closed papyrus flower capitals and are 15 m tall.
The difference in height between two central rows of the columns and the others in the hall allowed clerestory lighting to be installed along the main axis. This design meant that the main axis of the hall was brightly lit, but away from the axis the hall became dark.
The Hypostyle Hall was apparently envisioned by RamesesI, but It was built by Seti I and Ramses II. Cartouches in the northern hall are SetiI, in the southern hall, Ramses II. the names of Ramses III, IV and VI are also present .
The scenes in the hall all have religious themes. They show the king offering to deities, the processions of the sacred barks, and various temple rituals. On the right side of the door, Thoth stands and writes the king’s names on the leaves of a perseatree. Sety I kneels beneath it, compare the workmanship here with that in a similar scene carved for Ramses II on the hall’s southern wall.
Karnak Temple | The Third Pylon and the Court
The Third Pylon, which now forms the rear wall of the hypostyle hall, was built by Amenhetep III in part from blocks taken from earlier buildings. Thutmose I created a small open court between the third and fourth pylons.
Four massive Obelisks, two each for Thutmose I and Thutmose III, only the bases of three obelisks remain, but the fourth, for Thutmose I , still remain stands
From the fourth pylon to the sixth
The granite Obelisk here is one of a pair erected by Queen Hatshepsut in the 16 year of her reign. The other was broken, the standing obelisk is 30 m tall 323 tons. The queen explained why she ordered such a massive project to be undertaken .
On the standing base she wrote ” I have done this with a loving heart for my father Amen there was no sleep for me because of his temple … I was sitting in the palace and I remembered the one who created me … My heart directed me to make for him two obelisks of electrum ” .
The sixth pylon was built by Thutmose III and its west face was inscribed with the name of 120 Syrian towns (on the left) and Nubian town (on the right) conquered by his Army .Two huge pillars stand one carved with a lotus flower, the other with a papyrus, symbol of lower Egypt . Remains of statues of the god Amen and the goddess Amenet, carved in the reign of Tutankhamen.
Shrine of Philip Arrhidaeus and Hatshepsut
The half brother of Alexander the Great ruled Egypt from 323 to 317 B.C .Philip adopted Egyptian costume titles, and religious beliefs Philip was chosen to lead Egypt by Greek military officers. Philip’s ritual purification, coronation .
The Middle kingdom court
East of the shrine of Philip is the earliest part of the temple of Amen yet known, a large open court Senusert I built a shrine here in dynasty 12
The Akhmenou Temple of Thutmose III
Most of the construction surrounding the Middle Kingdom court was the work of Thutmose rulers. Buildings Thutmose III the most elaborate of Thutmose III ‘s monuments is the large and unusual structure ancient time called Akh Menou brilliant of monuments and today called his festival hall two flows of ten columns support the high roof, these columns are unique in Egyptian architecture, the columns are painted red, the color of wood these are surrounded by 32 pillars. shorter than the central columns texts and figures on the columns depict the king with various gods, the festival hall used as a church. Traces of an elaborately painted Christian saint can be seen at the top of the column in the second row .
In the 19 century discovered an important stone inscription known as the Karnak King List in the south west center of the hall. Written in the reign of Thutmose III , it lists sixty one kings starting with Snefru of the old kingdom . It is not a complete table of Egypt’s rulers but a selection of those who had played especially important roles in the history of Egypt Thebes in pairs. The most interesting room in the Ahk Menou is the so called Botanical Garden at the end of the temple . The walls of the Botanical Garden are carved with plants and animals that Thutmose III claims he collected on military campaigns in foreign countries, especially in Syrian, there are representation of rare birds, animals flowers and trees from Asia and east Africa that had never before been seen in Egypt.
The eastern part of the complex and the Sacred Lake
Karnak sacred lake , from the work of taharqa (dynasty 26) it measures 200 by 117 meters. Atum-khepri a form of the sun god, is the only remaining Scarab of four that Amenhetep III in stalled in his memorial temple on the west bank , it was brought here in dynasty 25 by Taharqa . Ancient Egyptian women walked 7 times around this scarab to become pregnant. To the north lies one of the Hatshepsut obelisk that stood between the 4 and 5 pylons. The scenes on this show the queen’s coronation.
Karnak Temple | The court de la Cashette
17.000 bronze statuettes had been buried here by the temple priests around 300 B.C. It is one of the largest cashes of statuary even discovered in Egypt.