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Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Karnak TempleThe Karnak temple complex is dedicated to god Amon and was spiritual center of the Ancient Egyptians. It now amaze us with its really impressive architectural achievements and the atmosphere it stills holds.

This vast temple complex is dedicated to god Amon and was spiritual center of the Ancient Egyptians. It now amaze us with its really impressive architectural achievements and the atmosphere it still holds.

Karnak is the biggest temple complex in the world, covering an area of 100 hectares and there is nowhere more impressive to the first-time visitor. In ancient times, Karnak was known as Ipet-isut (the most select of places). It is a vast open-air museum and the largest ancient religious site in the world, and is probably the second most visited ancient site in Egypt, second only to the Giza Pyramids near Cairo.

It took millennia to build and enhance the massive Karnak Temple, though most of the work was done by the pharaohs of the New Kingdom (1570-1100 BC). Approximately 30 pharaohs contributed to the buildings, enabling it to reach a size, complexity and diversity not seen elsewhere. Few of the individual features of Karnak are unique, but the size and number of features is overwhelming.

Some Highlights about Temple of Karnak in Luxor:

Temple Facade
Ancient temples were considered to be the residence of the god. The Karnak temple was the dwelling place of Amon-Re, his wife Mut and their son Khonsu, the moon god. Construction continued on this temple for more than two millennia under the belief that once building ceased, the temple “died.” The temple was a closed compound, open only to the priests and the pharaoh. The common people could only enter the courtyard.

Entrance Court
Just beyond the first pylon, the first courtyard now encloses an area that would have originally been outside of the temple. The Avenue of Ram-headed sphinxes would have continued within this area, now bordered on two sides by a colonnaded portico wit closed bud capitals, attributed to the 22nd Dynasty ruler Shoshenq I. To the left of the first courtyard stands a barque chapel with a small sphinx opposite, and in the centre of the first courtyard stand the remains of the Kiosk of Tarharqa. On the right-hand side of the forecourt, in front of the second pylon, stands a small temple built by Ramesses III. Just in front of the second pylon would have stood two colossal statues of Ramesses II.

Bubastis Portal
This portal gate is located between the temple of Ramesses III and the second pylon. It records the conquests and military campaigns in Syria-Palestine of the 22nd Dynasty pharaoh Shoshenq I.

Hippostyle Hall
Through the second pylon stands probably the most famous area of the temple – the hypostyle hall. Consisting of 134 columns, the Hippostyle Hall was started by Seti I, but the majority of the construction was done by Ramses II. The center columns are taller than the others, and the windows would allow light to come in. This hall may have been similar to Solomon’s “House of the Forest of Lebanon” (1 Kings 7).

Thutmose’s Canaanite City List
In Thutmose III’s city lists, hundreds of princes are depicted with hands tied behind their backs and their cartouches on their shields. This is a depiction of the rulers of the cities of Canaan that Thutmose III captured when Megiddo fell. All the rulers, except the king of Kadesh, were trapped in Megiddo, and so by the capture of Megiddo, Thutmose could say that it was as the capture of a thousand cities. At Thutmose’s death the Egyptian empire stretched from the Euphrates to the Fourth Cataract, the greatest extent of Egypt’s territory ever.

Ramses’ Treaty
Ramses II’s treaty with the Hittites is one of the most important treaties in history. Originally written on silver tablets in Heliopolis and Hattusus, a copy was found here on this wall in the Karnak Temple. After years of inconclusive battles between the Hittites and the Egyptians, Ramses II and the Hittite ruler concluded an agreement by which Syria and Canaan would be divided between them. On either side of this text are depictions of Merneptah’s battles in Canaan, including those against Ashkelon and Israel.

Shishak’s City List
Pharaoh Shishak (945-924 B.C.) invaded Israel and Judah in 925 B.C. and carried off the treasures of Jerusalem’s temple. The Bible records the attack from Judah’s perspective (2 Chron 12), but Shishak’s list gives much greater detail including the names of 150 cities, most of which cannot be located today. Scholars debate how to read this inscription, but most agree that the following cities are mentioned: Taanach, Beth-Shean, Rehob, Mahanaim, Gibeon, Beth-Horon, Megiddo, and Arad.

Sacred Lake
Every Egyptian temple had a sacred lake, and the one at Karnak Temple was the largest. Used daily by the priests for purification, the sacred lake was also used in festivals during which images of the gods would travel across the lake in boats. The lake measures 130 x 77 meters and was surrounded by storerooms and homes of the priests.

Precinct of Amun-Re
This is the largest of the precincts of the temple complex, and is dedicated to Amun-Re, the chief god of the Theban Triad. Construction of temples started in the Middle Kingdom, and continued through to Ptolemaic times.

Precinct of Montu
Dedicated to the son of Amun-Re and Mut, Montu, the war-god of the Theban Triad. It is located to the north of the Amun-Re complex, and is much smaller in size. It is not open to the public.

Precinct of Mut
Located to the south of the Amen-Re complex, this precinct was dedicated to the mother goddess of the Theban Triad, Mut. It has several smaller temples associated with it, and has it own sacred lake. It is not open to the public.

Temple of Amenhotep IV (dismantled)
The temple that Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) constructed on site was located to the east of the main complex, outside the walls of the Amun-Re precinct. It was destroyed after the death of its builder, and its full extent and lay-out is currently unknown

Entrance Court
Just beyond the first pylon, the first courtyard now encloses an area that would have originally been outside of the temple. The Avenue of Ram-headed sphinxes would have continued within this area, now bordered on two sides by a colonnaded portico wit closed bud capitals, attributed to the 22nd Dynasty ruler Shoshenq I. To the left of the first courtyard stands a barque chapel with a small sphinx opposite, and in the centre of the first courtyard stand the remains of the Kiosk of Tarharqa. On the right-hand side of the forecourt, in front of the second pylon, stands a small temple built by Ramesses III. Just in front of the second pylon would have stood two colossal statues of Ramesses II.

Bubastis Portal
This portal gate is located between the temple of Ramesses III and the second pylon. It records the conquests and military campaigns in Syria-Palestine of the 22nd Dynasty pharaoh Shoshenq I.

Hippostyle Hall
Through the second pylon stands probably the most famous area of the temple – the hypostyle hall. Consisting of 134 columns, the Hippostyle Hall was started by Seti I, but the majority of the construction was done by Ramses II. The center columns are taller than the others, and the windows would allow light to come in. This hall may have been similar to Solomon’s “House of the Forest of Lebanon” (1 Kings 7).

Thutmose’s Canaanite City List
In Thutmose III’s city lists, hundreds of princes are depicted with hands tied behind their backs and their cartouches on their shields. This is a depiction of the rulers of the cities of Canaan that Thutmose III captured when Megiddo fell. All the rulers, except the king of Kadesh, were trapped in Megiddo, and so by the capture of Megiddo, Thutmose could say that it was as the capture of a thousand cities. At Thutmose’s death the Egyptian empire stretched from the Euphrates to the Fourth Cataract, the greatest extent of Egypt’s territory ever.

Ramses’ Treaty
Ramses II’s treaty with the Hittites is one of the most important treaties in history. Originally written on silver tablets in Heliopolis and Hattusus, a copy was found here on this wall in the Karnak Temple. After years of inconclusive battles between the Hittites and the Egyptians, Ramses II and the Hittite ruler concluded an agreement by which Syria and Canaan would be divided between them. On either side of this text are depictions of Merneptah’s battles in Canaan, including those against Ashkelon and Israel.

Shishak’s City List
Pharaoh Shishak (945-924 B.C.) invaded Israel and Judah in 925 B.C. and carried off the treasures of Jerusalem’s temple. The Bible records the attack from Judah’s perspective (2 Chron 12), but Shishak’s list gives much greater detail including the names of 150 cities, most of which cannot be located today. Scholars debate how to read this inscription, but most agree that the following cities are mentioned: Taanach, Beth-Shean, Rehob, Mahanaim, Gibeon, Beth-Horon, Megiddo, and Arad.

Sacred Lake
Every Egyptian temple had a sacred lake, and the one at Karnak Temple was the largest. Used daily by the priests for purification, the sacred lake was also used in festivals during which images of the gods would travel across the lake in boats. The lake measures 130 x 77 meters and was surrounded by storerooms and homes of the priests.

Precinct of Amun-Re
This is the largest of the precincts of the temple complex, and is dedicated to Amun-Re, the chief god of the Theban Triad. Construction of temples started in the Middle Kingdom, and continued through to Ptolemaic times.

Precinct of Montu
Dedicated to the son of Amun-Re and Mut, Montu, the war-god of the Theban Triad. It is located to the north of the Amun-Re complex, and is much smaller in size. It is not open to the public.

Precinct of Mut
Located to the south of the Amen-Re complex, this precinct was dedicated to the mother goddess of the Theban Triad, Mut. It has several smaller temples associated with it, and has it own sacred lake. It is not open to the public.

Temple of Amenhotep IV (dismantled)
The temple that Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) constructed on site was located to the east of the main complex, outside the walls of the Amun-Re precinct. It was destroyed after the death of its builder, and its full extent and lay-out is currently unknown.

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