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Temple Complex at Karnak


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The Temple Complex at Karnak, located on the East Bank, is the largest and best-preserved temple complex of the New Kingdom. The main temples were continually extended and embellished by the rulers of Egypt from at least the Middle Kingdom (2055 - 1650 BCE) until the Roman period (30 BCE - CE 395), but most of the surviving remains date to the New Kingdom (1550 - 1069 BCE). The principal temple at Karnak is dedicated to Amun-Re, the pre-eminent god of the New Kingdom. The other two major temples are dedicated to Mut (Amun-Re's wife) and Monthu. Several smaller temples are dedicated to Ptah, Oper and Khonsu. Since the Arab conquest, it became known as 'al-Karnak': the Fort.

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Pylon Gateway at KarnakThe main pylon of the Principle Temple at Karnak was built during the 30th-Dynasty of the late kingdom. The pylon was not finished but it illustrates the construction phases in ancient Egyptian engineering.

Avenue of SphinxesA long row of cult statues called the Avenue of Sphinxes leads to the main pylon. In ancient times there were three avenues of sphinxes, one of which linked with the avenue of human-headed sphinxes at the temple of Luxor for a combined length of two miles.

Ram-headed SphinxEach statue along the avenue is a seated sphinx with the pharaoh standing between its paws and beneath its chin. The sphinxes represent a form of the sun god, Amun-Re: The ram of the god Amun assimilated to the solar symbol of the lion.

Ramesses IIThe first courtyard is dominated by a massive statue of Ramesses II, one of the most powerful pharaohs in Egyptian history. The diminutive figure of a graceful queen standing between the legs of the colossal statue may be his daughter Bint-Anath, whose mother was Istnofret.  Alternatively the figure may represent Nefertari.  Some doubt exists because the statue was later usurped by the 21st Dynasty pharaoh Pinedjem I.

Hypostyle Hall ColumnsThe columns of the side naves of the Hypostyle Hall, some forty-three feet tall, are completely covered with bas-reliefs. The Great Hypostyle Hall was begun during the reign of Seti I (c.1290-1279 BCE) and was completed by his son, Ramesses II. The north-south axis of the hall provides views which reveal not only the immensity but also the practicality of the architecture. The central row of 12 columns on the east-west axis are 69 feet (21 meters) in height, about 33 feet (10 meters) in circumference, and have open papyrus capitals. The 122 columns in the side aisles are 43 feet(13 meters) in height, 27.5 feet (8.4 meters) in circumference, and have closed papyrus-bud capitals (as seen in this picture). The whole of this hall was roofed with stone slabs and the interior was quite dark. The difference in height between the central and the side aisle columns was used to provide natural light through windows which had vertical stone slats.

Hypostyle Hall ArchitraveThe top of some of the massive columns in the Hypostyle Hall. There is still some paint surviving on the under side of the capitals.

Lotus Pillar Just to the east of the sixth pylon of the temple is the vestibule to the sanctuary, where the priests kept the portable shrine used by the god’s statue in processions. In the vestibule, built by Thutmose III (c.1479-1425 BCE), are these two granite columns, elegant reminders of the importance of the concept of a unified Upper (Nile valley) and Lower (Nile delta) Egypt. These columns are decorated in raised relief with the papyrus (pictured right)  and the lotus (pictured left). The lotus was the emblem of Upper Egypt in contrast to the Lower Egypt papyrus plant. Papyrus Pillar

Fallen Hatshepsut ObeliskOne of the two obelisks of Hatshepsut in the Karnak complex. Her other obelisk is still standing. 

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All pictures are Copyright 1998 - 2001 Grisel Gonzalez

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