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. The priests of the Temple of Amun possess more than 81,000 slaves and servants and this is shown in the records of the New Kingdom, 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. Amn was” king of the gods “. and this for economic as well as religious reasons.
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 out. “KARNAK” and the Arabic name of the adjacent modern village is (Karnak).
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 in 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 lotus flowers.
On the east side of the pier is the “Rams Road”, slopes sloping down a road from the Sphinx ships called the offerings method. Small figures of King Ramesses II in the status 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 mon. 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 are installed here, covered with bronze or gold panels with embroidered 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 Sethy II and a Shrine of Ramses III. Our tour of the Court Starts at the Shrine of 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 the Taharqain Dynasty 25. Only one of the Original Columns Still stands. These huge Columns 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 sleds 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.
Additional evidence of ancient construction techniques such as the row of columns along the southern wall of the court appears. 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, the 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, which represents 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. there 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 a 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. The city of Popastes Delta is the city from which the name was taken, the capital city of the dynasty 22 kings who built it.
On the southern end of the second pylon, through the Bubastite portal to the left, King Shishonk I commemorates the Pharaoh Shishak Torah commemorating his victory over Rehoboam, son of Solomon, king of Judah when Egypt attacked the Temple of Solomon in the royal family. The quality of the 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 King (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 king’s house and the treasures of the house of the Lord; he took away everything . He also took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made…’’
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 the Ptolemaic Period.
Karnak Temple | The Hypostyle Hall
The huge column hall in the Temple of Amun is the most famous or most impressive part of it, 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 archaeologists 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 with a length of 23 m open papyrus-shaped head. 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 Rameses, but It was built by Seti I and Ramses II. Cartouches in the northern hall are Seti I, in the southern hall, Ramses II. the names of Ramses III, IV and VI are also present.
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 Persea tree.
Karnak Temple | The Third Pylon and the Court
The Third Pylon, which now forms the rear wall of the hypostyle hall, was built by Amenhotep 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 years 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 remembered the person who created me while I was sitting in the palace … my heart directed me to make him amusing my electrom”.
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
The first part of the Temple of Amun known so far is east of the tomb of Philip is, a large open court Senusert I built a shrine here in dynasty 12
The eastern part of the complex and the Sacred Lake
Karnak sacred lake, it measures 200 by 117 meters (dynasty 26)” from the work of Taharqa ” . Atum-Khepri a form of the sun god, is the only remaining Scarab of four that Amenhotep III installed 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 obelisks that stood between the 4 and 5 pylons. The scenes on this show the queen’s coronation.
Karnak Temple | The court de la Cachette
Since about 300 BC, 17,000 bronze statues have been buried by the temple priests. It is one of the largest statue banks discovered in Egypt.