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The East-West Axis of Karnak Temples

– The Port of Karnak Temple

The Port of Karnak Temple was erected by King Ramses II and is located in front of the temple. It is a rectangular base built with blocks of sandstone. There are Hieroglyphic texts on the west face of this port recording the height of the Nile inundation from the 22nd to the 26th dynasties. King Seti II erected two obelisks from red sandstone on the east side of this port: The first one was in the northeast corner (now destroyed), the second obelisk is still standing in the southeast corner, its height is 2.5 meters, the sides are inscribed with the names of Seti II and a dedication text. This port was connected with the Nile by a canal dug in the shape of inverted T letter. We knew that from a scene in the tomb of Neferhotep at El-Qurna, showing the port and the canal of the Karnak temples. This port was built to receive barque processions of the Opet festival and also the barques of the visitors, which were loaded with gifts for the temple of god Amun.

– The Ram-Headed Sphinxes Avenue within the Karnak Complex

The Ram-Headed Sphinxes Avenue is located before the first pylon and measures 52 m long and 12 m wide. It was erected by King Ramses II (19th dynasty) and later on usurped by King Pa-ndjm (21st dynasty). These statues have a lion body and a ram’s head under their chins standing a royal statue in Osiris form. There are 40 ram-headed sphinx statues before the first pylon; 20 on each side, while in the Open Court there are 33 ram-headed statues on the southern side and 19 statues on the northern side. Barguet suggested that this avenue might be erected by King Amenhotep III and was extended to the third pylon of Amenhotep III. The purpose of this avenue was to protect the procession of the Opet festival when coming out and back in to the temple.

– The First Pylon of Karnak Temple

The First Pylon of Karnak Temple is an unfinished pylon and is considered the largest pylon in ancient Egypt. King Nht-nb.f I (30th dynasty) erected this pylon. It is built of sandstone and measures 133m in length, 40m high and 5m wide. It is consisting of two towers; the southern tower has 4 vertical recesses over them are 8 windows for inserting the flags and the standards of the festivals, while the unfinished northern tower has also 4 vertical recesses but over them are only 4 windows. There is a staircase in the northern tower leads up to the roof of the pylon. The two towers were surrounded by mud-brick ramps, which were used in its building process, and the left part of this ramp is behind the southern tower of the pylon. The pylon is the symbol of the 3ht sign as the two towers of the pylon are representing the west and the east mountains in this sign, while the sanctuary replaced the sun desk indicating the birth of the statue of god Amun every day like the sun.

– The Great Open Court of Karnak Temple

The Great Open Court of Karnak Temple was built during the XXII Dynasty, it has a rectangular shape and measures 80m from north to south and 100m from west to east. On the south and northern-sides of this court, there are two rows of columns with bud-close papyrus capitals, which were erected by King Sheshonq I (XXII Dynasty). The last two columns in the southwest corner of this court show how the ancient Egyptians constructed their works. Because they were never completed, they show that the roughly-shaped stones, heaved into position on ramps, were shaped after erection and the polishing and decoration were performed from the top downwards as the brick ramps were removed layer by layer. On each side of the court, there is a row of ram-headed sphinx statues. These flanked the doorway when the second pylon was forming the entrance to the temple in the reign of King Ramses II. They were removed and placed near the side walls by kings of the 22nd dynasty when they were erecting the open court.

– The Triple Chapels of Seti II in Karnak Temple

There are three chapels made from grey sandstone that were erected by King Seti II and situated in the northwest corner of the open court. They are dedicated to the triad of Thebes and used as resting chapels for the barques during the Opet festivals. I- The middle chapel is dedicated to Amun-Re. The upper lintel of the facade is carved with the winged sun-disk, under it, inscribed one row of cartouches with the name of King Seti, which were erased later on because they were written with the figure of god Seth. The western wall is showing the king burning incense before the barque of Amun-Re, then the king standing before the holy triad of Amun, Mut and Khonsu offering perfume pots. The eastern wall is representing King Seti II offering flowers and M3ct to the gods. The rear wall (the north side) has three niches for placing royal or divine statues. II- The left chapel is dedicated for goddess Mut. The western wall is decorated with a scene showing Seti I making offering to Amun and Mut. The scene on the eastern wall, badly damaged, is showing King Seti II, standing and behind him his son as a Sem-priest. The rear wall has two niches for housing royal or divine statues. III- The right chapel is dedicated for Khonsu. The Western wall carved with a scene showing the king burning incense before the barque of Khonsu and in front of the barque carved two obelisks, that may have been originally erected in front of the chapel. The northern wall has two niches while the eastern wall has three niches one of them for god Thoth.

– Temple of Ramses III in Karnak Complex

On the south side of the great open court, is a small temple, built by Ramses III (20th dynasty). It is extended from north to south and measures 52m in length.

 The Pylon of the Temple of Ramses III in Karnak Temples

The pylon of the Temple of Ramses III in Karnak Temples consists of two towers, between them the entrance, which flanked in each side by a standing royal statue of King Ramses III, advanced with his left leg, wearing the double crowns. On the west tower is carved a traditional scene, showing Ramses III smiting the enemies with his mace, in the presence of Amun, who is giving him a sward of victory. God Amun delivering to the king three rows of the foreign lands’ enemies, represented as oval enclosure wall, inside it written the name of the city, each one surmounted by the upper part of an enemy, whose necks are tied with a rope, held by god Amun. On the east tower, the same scene was repeated with the king wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt.

– The Open Court of the Temple of Ramses III in Karnak Temples

The east and west sides of the Open Court of the Temple of Ramses III in Karnak Temples are surrounded by 8 square-pillars, having against their front side’s royal standing osirid statues representing Ramses III. On the back of the east tower, there is a scene showing Ramses III receiving the h.b-sd signs from Amun, indicating that the god will grant the king a long reign. On the east wall, there is a scene representing the king leading a procession of priests, who carry to the temple the sacred barques of Amun, Mut and Khonsu upon their shoulders. On the west wall, there is a scene representing the king burning incense before the statue of Imn-K3-Mwt.F, which is carried to the temple on the shoulders of the priests, wearing long white garment inscribed with the names of the King.

– The Portico of the Temple of Ramses III in Karnak Complex

We enter the Portico of the Temple of Ramses III in Karnak Complex through an ascending ramp at the south end of the open court. The roof of the portico is supported by a row of four columns with bud close papyrus capitals. All the scenes of this portico are showing the king making offerings to the triad of Thebes and other gods. In the portico, there are two lower parts of black granite statues for goddess Sekhmet, that date back to the reign of Ramses III. The figures of the king on the two jambs of the doorway leading to the Hypostyle hall were inlaid with gold and bronze and still showing the marks of the pins which held the metal.

– The Hypostyle Hall of the Temple of Ramses III in Karnak Temples

The Hypostyle Hall of the Temple of Ramses III in Karnak Temples has 8 columns with bud close papyrus capitals supporting its roof. At the south end of this hall, there are three sanctuary of the triad of Thebes. The reliefs here show the king in the presence of various gods

– The Sanctuaries of the Temple of Ramses III in Karnak Temples

The middle sanctuary of the Temple of Ramses III in Karnak Temples is dedicated to Amun-Re. There are two windows at the top of the eastern and western walls to illuminate the shrine. The east sanctuary is for goddess Mut and the west sanctuary for their son god Khonsu. In each shrine, the king is seen making offerings before the sacred barques of the triad of Thebes.

– The Bubastite Gate in the Karnak Temple

This gate was erected by the kings of the 22nd dynasty. It is located to the east side of the temple of Ramses III. It has two columns before the gate. It is called Sheshonq’s Gate. The scene of the facade on the gate shows King Sheshonq I, Teklot and Osorkon of the 22nd dynasty, making offerings to the gods and goddesses. On the outside of the southern tower of the second pylon, there is the famous scene and inscription of Sheshonq I, the Sheshonq of the Bible, which commemorate his victory over Rehoboam, son of Solomon, the King of Judah. The scene shows Sheshonq grasping a group of captives by the hair and smiting them by his mace. Behind and below him, there are the names of the Palestinian towns in several rows. Many of these are now lost, but originally there were 156 names and one of the most interesting names which were mentioned is ‘The Field of Abram’. The inscriptions give no details for this expedition and mentioned only the victory over the Asiatics. The Bible refers to this war in the following terms (I Kings XIV. 25-26): “And it came to pass in the fifth year of King Rehoboam, that Sheshonq, king of Egypt, came up against Jerusalem, and he took away the treasures of the House of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house; he even took away all; and he took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made.”.

 

– The Kiosk of Taharqa in the Temple of Karnak

This Kiosk was erected by King Taharqa (25th dynasty) for resting the barque of god Amun in the Opet festival. It is situated in the middle of the great open court and originally had 5 columns on each side, all the columns are in ruins except one column in the south east corner of the building that measures 21 m. high. The capital of this column is in the form of open papyrus flower and inscribed with the names of Taharqa, Psimatic II and Ptolomy II. This kiosk has four entrances in the north, south, east and west sides. The inner walls are decorated with a scene that shows god Hapi in a standing attitude with bent arms carrying offerings. In the middle of the kiosk, there is an alabaster pedestal for resting the sacred barque of Amun.

– The Three Statues of Ramses II in the Temple of Karnak

There are three standing statues of Ramses II on the sides of the entrance of the second pylon. The southern statue is in good condition representing the king advanced with his left leg, wearing the double crown and the royal kilt, ‘Shndit’. Dr. Hamad discovered in front of this statue, the Stele of Kames, which is now in Luxor Museum. It mentions how Kames defeated the Hyksos and expelled them from El-Ashmonein. The northern statue is in bad condition and what remains only from it are the pedestal and the legs. The third statue of Ramses II was usurped by P3y-ndm. It represents the king in a standing attitude, wearing the headdress ‘Nms’ and the double crown. The arms are crossed over his chest holding crook and flail, between his legs there is the standing figure of his daughter Pnt-cn3t.

– The Second Pylon of Karnak Temple

The Second Pylon of Karnak Temple was erected by King Horemheb, the last king of the 18th dynasty, and Ramses I, the founder of the 19th dynasty. King Ramses II inscribed his names on the walls of this pylon (This pylon was restored by the Egyptian Antiquities department after being damaged by the French Egyptologist Legrain, in 1887, who allowed the Nile flood to enter the temple in order to wash the salt crystal and dust from the walls and columns). It consists of two towers of about 98 m. in length, 14 m. in width and 30 m. high. In the core of this pylon, there were discovered the El-Talatat blocks from the Temple of God Aton, which was erected by King Akhenaten in the east side of Karnak temples. These blocks were used as filling for the core of this pylon, during the time of King Horemheb. The entrance of the pylon was decorated and painted by King Ptolemy VIII, showing him making offerings to the triad of Thebes and other gods. Just before the entrance, there was a small vestibule erected by King Taharqa (25th dynasty) and usurped by King Psimatic II (26th dynasty).

– The Hypostyle Hall of Karnak Temple

The Hypostyle Hall of Karnak Temple is the largest Hypostyle hall in the world, It has no equal anywhere. The size of this hall is 600 sq. meters. It measures 52 m. from west to east and 103 meters from north to south. It has 134 columns, arranged in 16 rows. The central area has 12 columns in 2 rows. They are about 23 m. high and have open papyrus capitals. On each side of the central columns exist 61 columns, arranged in 7 rows 13 m. high, with closed papyrus capitals. The difference in the height between the center columns and the other side columns has given space for making windows, which allow light and air to enter the hall. Most probably, the double rows of the central columns were erected by King Amenhotep III (18th dynasty), leading from the doorway of the second pylon eastwards the entrance of the 3rd pylon. The columns of both sides were planed and started by Seti I and continued by his son Ramses II. King Seti I decorated the north side of the Hypostyle hall in delicate raised relief, while King Ramses II decorated the south side. On the south side of the north wall is a delicate scene of God Thoth writing Seti’s name on the sacred Ished Tree, while the king kneels inside the tree ,and in front of the tree standing god Ptah behind him goddess Sekhmet. On the back of the south tower of the 2nd pylon, there are scenes showing Ramses II performing the ritual ceremony of the temple foundation. On the south wall, there are scenes showing the coronation festivals of Ramses II. The columns of this hall are inscribed by the names of the kings Ramses I (only one single column, the first in the 16th row), Seti I, Ramses II, III, IV, VI and XII. The outer wall of the north side is carved with scenes of military campaigns of Seti I against the Asiatics, while the scenes of Kadesh Battle is carved on the outer south wall

– The Third Pylon of Karnak Temple

The Third Pylon of Karnak Temple was built by Amenhotep III. This pylon was restored in 1930 and during the restoration, they found in the core of this pylon several earlier monuments rebuilt again, in the Open-Air Museum at Karnak temples, such as: the White Chapel of Senusert I; the Red Shrine of Queen Hatshepsut and the Alabaster Chapel of Amenhotep I. These monuments were rebuilt and exhibited, now in the Open-Air Museum, in the northwest corner at Karnak temples. The names and the titles of Amenhotep III were inscribed on this pylon, but later on, they were erased by Akhenaton. The facade of the southern tower, carved with scenes showing Amenhotep III making offerings in front of Amun, Mut and Khonsu. There is also another scene showing Ramses III presenting offerings to Amun-Re. The facade of the northern tower is carved with a scene representing the journey of the Opet festival to Luxor temple. There is an important scene, on the back of the northern tower, showing Amenhotep III, standing in the barque of Amun and in front of him, in a small scale, his son Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten), whose name was erased and inscribed over it the name of Horemheb.

– The Fourth Pylon and the Obelisks Court of Karnak Temple

The Fourth Pylon of Karnak Temple was constructed by King Tuthmosis I. the inner core made of sandstone and dressed by white limestone. Between the 3rd and 4th pylons is a small court that originally contained 4 obelisks, but only one is now standing. The two bases, nearest the 3rd pylon, hold obelisks of Tuthmosis III. Behind these are the bases of the two obelisks of Tuthmosis I, of which the southern obelisk is still standing and measures 23 m. high and inscribed by the names of Kings: Tuthmosis I, Ramses II and IV. In this court, there is the famous statues of Amenhotep, son of Hapi, which are now in Cairo Museum, representing him in the scribe attitude.

– The Transverse Hall and the Two Obelisks of Hatshepsut in Karnak Temple

This transverse hall was built by King Tuthmosis I and located between the 4th and 5th pylons. It has 14 papyrus columns and 37 Osiris statues of Tuthmosis I. This hall was roofed with cedar wood. Queen Hatshepsut erected 2 obelisks for god Amun, in the court of her father Tuthmosis I, one on each side of the passage of this hall. Only the northern one is still standing, and the blocks of the southern obelisk are lying near the Sacred Lake. The scenes of the transportation of the 2 obelisks of Queen Hatshepsut from Aswan to Karnak are depicted on the wall of the lower southern terrace in her temple at Deir el-Bahari.

– The Fifth Pylon and the Transverse Hall of Tuthmosis III in Karnak temple

The Fifth Pylon in Karnak temple was erected by King Tuthmosis I. The facade of the northern tower of this pylon is decorated with a traditional scene showing Tuthmosis I smiting his enemy with his mace in the presence of Amun. At the bottom of this scene were inscribed the names of the foreign lands. To the north of this pylon, there is a small chapel for King Amenhotep dedicated to god Amun. Between the 5th and the 6th, there is a small transverse hall erected by King Tuthmosis III. This hall is divided into two parts, known as the Northern and Southern Courts.

– The Sixth Pylon and the Records Hall of Tuthmosis III in Karnak Temple

The Sixth Pylon was built by Tuthmosis III. The facade of the northern tower is carved with scenes of the famous Megeddo Battle, together with the names of 23 fortresses of the Asiatic land. Behind the 6th pylon is the Records Hall of Tuthmosis III. It has a pair of red granite pillars, one carved with the lotus flower, the symbol of Lower Egypt, while the second one is carved with the papyrus, symbol of Upper Egypt. These 2 pillars are also carved with scenes showing Tuthmosis III, embraced by Amun and Hathor. This hall contains also an interesting text, including a list of gifts from foreign countries.

– The Sanctuary of Philip Arhadeaus in Karnak Temple

Philip Arhadeaus is the half-brother of Alexander the Great. His sanctuary replaced an earlier sanctuary of Queen Hatshepsut or Tuthmosis III. This sanctuary consists of 2 shrines. The inner shrine is made out of dark pink granite while the exterior shrine of red granite. The sanctuary has 2 ceilings in order to reduce the heat of the sun over the statue of the god in his sacred barque. The southern wall of the exterior shrine is carved with scenes showing Philip in the presence of Amun and performing the running ceremony of Sed festival in front of Amun. It has also scenes of the procession of the Opet festival, which depict the priests carrying the barques of the triad of Thebes. On the north side of the sanctuary, there is a doorway leading to a series of rooms built by Hatshepsut, one of which is carved with a beautiful scene that shows Hatshepsut being purified by Thoth and Horus. On the south of the sanctuary are another rooms built by Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III.

– The Middle Kingdom Court in Karnak Temple

The earliest part of the Temple of Amen, a large open court, can be found in east of the shrine of Philip Arrhidaeus. Senusret I, of the Twelfth Dynasty, built a shrine here. Recent excavations have revealed traces of its foundation walls and trenches. In the fourth and fifth centuries, attempts were made to rebuild this Middle Kingdom temple, but it was never finished. This court is now covered over with gravel and stones. Most of the constructions surrounding the court are the works of Thutmes I and Thutmes II.

– The Akh-Menou (or The Festivals Hall) of Thutmes III in Karnak Temple

East of the Middle Kingdom Court, we find Thutmes III’s Akh¬Menou or Festival Hall, which served to celebrate the Heb-sed ceremony or the Jubilee of the Pharaoh. The axis and entrance of this hall are from south to north, behind two sixteen-sided columns and a pair of Osirid statues. Another sixteen-sided column stands in the small foyer, just beyond the door. The king with various gods is represented on the columns and the pillars. Most of these reliefs were destroyed by Akhenaten followers and by the Christian priests who used the Festival Hall as a church, as we can find traces of a Christian saint at the top of the fourth column from the southern end, in the second row. It seems that after finishing the hall, the priests had to cut the bases of the columns so that a major celebration boat can pass through. To the right, we find a corridor that leads to nine small chambers used as storerooms for ritual equipment and priestly costumes. We can learn the contents of each chamber from the reliefs carved on the walls of each one of them: one for bread, another for vases, etc. To the left, one enters the Festival Hall. Rows of ten unique Columns in Egyptian architecture support the roof of the central aisle . It is thought that the columns imitate tent poles, like those used in the king’s battlefield tents, or more likely, in tents used during the celebration of Sed festivals. 32 shorter pillars surround the columns. This permits clerestory lighting. The Chapels at the north end of the hall include scenes of the Pharaoh’s offerings to various gods. In the northeast corner of the hall, a stone staircase leads to a room that held a pot with a hole, called Clepsydra, through which water drained at a constant rate to measure the passage of time as this information was important for determining celebrations and feasts.

– Karnak Kings List

During the 19th century, the Karnak Kings List was found in the southwest corner of the Akh-Menu Hall. It was written in the reign of Thutmes III, and it lists sixty-one kings starting with Snefru of the Old Kingdom. In these Stella, Thutmes III’s tries to demonstrate his lineage and his legitimacy. We are sure that this is not a complete list of the Egyptian Pharaohs, as we know about others from other lists, but it includes the most important ones. The blocks inscribed with the Kings List were dismantled in 1843 by Emile, Prisse d’Avennes, who robbed it and sold it to the Musée Du Louvre in Paris.

 

– The Botanical Garden in The Akh-Menou (The Festivals Hall) of Thutmes III in Karnak Temple

One of the most interesting rooms in the Ahh-Menou (The Festivals Hall of Thutmes III) is the so-called the Botanical Garden which lies at the east of the hall at the end of the Building. The walls of the Botanical Garden display remarkable drawings of plants and animals that the King claims he collected on military campaigns in foreign countries, especially in Syria, during the 25 years of his reign. The drawings represent rare birds, animals, flowers, trees, internal organs of animals, exotic flowers, strange seeds, deformed creatures, from Asia and East Africa that had never been seen before in Egypt.

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