The temples of egypt are without doubt among the most impressive monuments to have survived from the ancient world , many of these structures still rank among the greatest architectural accomplishments of human history , hundreds of temples built throughout egyptian history including many of which we doubtless have no record , they offer a unique view into the lives and minds of the ancient egyptians , some temples served primarily as houses of the gods , built and expanded over the millennia to serve their deities , while others were mortuary monuments built to serve the spirit of deceased kings and to ensure their comfort and rule in the hereafter , still other temples served different purposes , some doubling as fortresses , administrative centres and even as concrete expressions of propaganda or royal retreats .
The great temple of amun at karnak the largest religious structure the world has ever known , the largest temple complex ever built by man , it reprersent the combined achievement of generations of ancient builders and covers a truly massive area of about 60 acres ,karnak requires half a day just to walk around its many precincts and years to come to know it well .
Karnak consider to be the great national monument which has no equal , its not a single temple but a construction within another , and a shrine within a shrine , almost all pharaohs in particular those of the new kingdom wished to record their names and deeds for posterity , most of the structure was built in honour of amon-re , his consort mut and his son khonsu had their own shrines , eithin the complex which is dedicated to other gods , like montu , ptah and hathor .
Karnak temples are considered to be a history book stating the history of egypt from the middle kingdom to the ptolemaic period , karnak was known as ipet –isut “the most select of places “ , and during the ptolemaic time it was known as pt hr s3 t3 “ the sky above the earth “ .
The modern name karnak has 3 theories adopted to it :
- The scholar bergait said it is an arabic word which is no longer used in upper egypt , but it still in use in sudan , and means the protected village .
- Dr ahmed badawi said that the word corrupted from the word khawarnak which was a place in iraq .
- Dr ahmed fakhry said that it is drived from a village nearby the temple which still has the same name .
The outer open courtyard consists of
- The harbour : located infront of the temple and it has a rectangular shape built with blocks of stone , and it was built for the boats of amon-re when it used to sail from the temple for different feasts , the harbour was used till the 26th dynasty .
- The obelisques : there there were 2 obelisques standing just before the sphinx avenue , one of each side , one of them remains now and its 2 mts high , made of red sandstone dating to king seti 2nd .
- The sphinx avenue : a slopping path leading to the sphinx avenue which is before the 1st pylon , their rams heads symbolizing the god amon and each holding a statue of the king between its lions paws , the sphinxes have the name of ramesses 2nd , there are already 20n sphinxes on each side of this outer court .
The 1st pylon
It is an unfinished pylon dating to the 22nd dynasty – 30th dynasties , every wing of this pylon has 4 recesses and 4 windows for the flags of the temple , there is as well some graffiti on this pylon dating back to the time of napoleon .
Behind this pylon to the rear on the southern side , there is a huge mud-brick ramp which was used in its building process .
The 1st open court
It has a lot of names like the front court or the festivals hall , consists of several buildings :
The triple shrines of king seti 2nd
Located to the left side of the open court , dedicated to the god amon-re , his consort mut and their son khonsu , the majority of the scenes representing religious activities by king seti 2nd before various gods .
The middle shrine which was dedicated to the god amon-re , while on the sides of its entrance we could see the names of king seti 2nd , the scenes on the walls of the shrine showing the king burning incense before the sacred boat of amon-re , the rear wall has 3 niches to house the statues of the gods .
The shrine to the left of amons shrine is belonging to his consort mut , the western side of the entrance has no reliefs at all , while the eastern side has a representations of king seti 2nd offerings to amon & mut , the rear wall also has a nich for the statue of the goddess .
The shrine to the right of amons shrine is belonging to the son khonsu , were on both sides of the entrance seti 2nd is shown offering flowers to the gods , the western wall is shown seti 2nd burning incense and pours water to the sacred boat of khonsu , and in front of the boat are 2 obelisques carved which may have been originally built infront of the shrines .
The temple of ramesses 3rd
It is situated to the right handside of the open court , an excellent example of the new kingdom cult temples .
It was dedicated to the god amon in the 2 forms in which he appears most frequently amon-re king of the gods and lord of karnak , and amon-re kamutef he who is before his harim , its not certain when it was built but it must have been between years 11 – 22 of the kings reign , when it was built it stood isolated in front of the pylon , was known as the house of ramesses ruler of heliopolis in the house of amun .
It consists like other state temples of a pylon shows the king ramesses smitting his enemies before the god amon-re who is giving him a dagger ,flanked each side by a colossus of the king , a court decorated by 8 square pillars with osiride figures of the king , leading to a portico with 4 columns , a hypostyle hall , and a series of sanctuaries dedicated to the triad of thebes ( amon-re ,mut and khonsu ).
The deeply incised relief work of the figures & inscriptions in the temple still shows traces of colour , but the workmanship is inferior to that of madinat habu built by the same king .
In the middle of the open court are the remains of the gigantic kiosk of taharka ( 25th dynasty ) originally consisting of 10 huge papyrus columns , all are in ruins except only one remains now after being restored by the department of antiquities in 1929 , it is 21 mts high , has inscriptions carrying the names of psimatic 2nd (26th dynasty ) and ptolomy 2nd , and in the middle of this court is a pedestal ( alabaster ) which was done for the sacred barque of amon-re .
Also in the open court there is a statue which was called by the egyptologists the unknown pharaoh , probably belongs to ramesses 2nd and was seized by panedjem and ramesses 4th , this statue was buried under the ground till it was found at the early 1950s .
It is representing ramesses 2nd with crossed arms holding the famous crook & flail and wearing the double crown of egypt , and between his legs a statue of his daughter benta-anta .
On both sides of the entrance of the 2nd pylon , there were 2 statues of ramesses 2nd only one of them remains .
The building was begun in the time of king hormoheb but not completed untill the reign of king ramesses 1st , as well as the names of ramesses 2nd which is inscribed there , however the entrance of the pylon was decorated and painted by ptolomy 2nd and the cartouch of pismatic 2nd was recorded as well ( 26th dynasty ) .
The hypostyle hall
It was erected by king seti 1st with additional decoration by ramesses 2nd , it is called the temple of seti is glorious in the domain of amon , in total the area covered is 6000 sq.m , its large enough contain both st.peters church in rome and st.pauls cathedral in london .
The hall contains 134 columns which are of 2 different capitals and 2 different heights as well , the 12 columns flanking the processional way higher to accommodate clerestory windows .
The sandstone slabs which roofed the hall have been dislodged by earthquakes , the remaining 122 columns have papyrus bud capitals and are set each side in 9 rows of 7 columns each , they provided a forest of columns intentionally representing it seems a papyrus marsh , there is quite a lot of colour still left on the upper part of the columns and on the roof slabs still in position .
The north side of the hall was decoratedc by seti 1st , and the south side by ramesses 2nd
Most of the scense in this hall shows offering scenes from seti 1st and ramesses 2nd to the god amon-re and his older consort amunet and different deities .
The 3rd pylon
It was built by amenophis 3rd who used blocks of stones from different buildings of the temple , this pylon was restored in 1930 , and during the restoration they found the chapel of snwsrt 1st , the shrine of queen hatshepsut and the alabater chapel of amenophis 1st as well , have all been moved to the open museum of karnak temples .
The 4th pylon
It is badly damaged , it was built by tuthmosis 1st and it was the façade of the temple during the 18th dynasty untill the reign of amenophis 3rd .
During that time there were originally 6 obelisques standing
2 for king tuthmosis 1st
2 for king tuthmosis 3rd
2 for king amenophis 2nd
Nowadays there is just 1 obelisque remaining in the site belonging to tuthmosis 1st , and it is 19 mts high and 130 tons in weight , however the rest of the obelisques were transferred to different places all overt the world .
The 2 Obelisques of Queen Hatshepsuit :
these 2 obelisques were ercted in the hypostyle hall of her father tuthmosis 1st , they were both cut out of red granite quarried from aswan and according to the text on which is covering the obelisques and their bases the whole process took 7 months .
these 2 obelisques were deliberately hidden by high walls built by tuthmosis 3rd , only one of them is preserved till now .
The 5th Pylon :
this pylon was built by tuthmosis 1st and is badly damaged as well , just behind it there was a colonnaded court which was decorated with osiron statues of tuthmosis 1st , but it was reused by tuthmosis 3rd for building the 6th pylon .
The 6th Pylon :
it was built by tuthmosis 3rd and had military scenes of his famous magedo battle together with names of 23 fortresses of the asiatic land .
behind this court there were 2 statues representing amon and his consort mut , whom originally belonged to tut ankh amon but were seized by hormoheb .
The sanctuary of Hatshepsuit & Philip Arhadeaus
this sanctuary originally belonged to queen hatshepsuit and it used to represent scenes of the hb-sd feasts together with offerings given to amon-re , but later on tuthmosis 3rd when he started to rule egypt , he had his own sanctuary built there then it was destroyed during the late period , then that sanctuary was rebuilt and restored by the brother of alexander the great , king philip arhadeaus which is standing there now , the sanctuary consists of 2 rooms inside each other with a pedestal for the sacred boat of amon-re , it also has 2 roofs in order to keep the rooms cool .
The chapel of Queen Hatshepsuit :
a dark granite doorway opens on a series of rooms built by queen hatshepsuit but altered considerably by tuthmosis 3rd with her cartouches replaced by his , the room of hatshepsuit was walled up by tuthmosis 3rd which protected the decoration , and the colours have remained very bright , hatshepsuit is seen purified by thoth & horus .
The annals of Tuthmosis 3rd :
the festival hall of tuthmosis 3rd , unlike any other egyptian building like so much 18th dynasty work it was erected transversely across the axis of the temple . called *men -khepheru - re *, blessed through his monuments , it is 44 m long and 17 m wide , consists of
- A colonnaded hall .
- An ancestors room , known as ( karnak table of kings ) which has the names of the kings of egypt , which is considered to be one of the main sources of the egyptian history and now it is in louvre museum in france .
The colonnaded hall is built out of sandstone , while its ceiling is painted in blue with yellow stars , it is resting on 32 pillars and 20 columns to the sides , the middle columns are of unique capitals imitating a tent poles used in the campaign tent of tuthmosis 3rd , they are higher than the square pillars in the side aisles and allowed for the use of clerestory windows .
The scenes in this court are all of bright colours and representing the king presenting offerings to the gods & celebrating the hb-sd feast .
On the walls & columns as well , there could be seen some coptic figures which were done when the early egyptian coptic monks and natives used to live in these temples during the roman persecution periods .
To the northern side of the court , there was a group complex which was representing the triad of thebes , amon-re ,mut and khonsu , now all what remains of it is the statue of amon in the middle , while the two other on either sides were partially removed to take the shape of the coptic cross .
The Botanical Garden of Amon-re :
The garden is rectangular in sgape and it has 4 papyrus columns , the walls are all covered with various scenes representing 175 different kinds of plants , some wild animals and some birds , which have never been seen in egypt but tuthmosis 3rd said he has spotted them in different countries which he had visited during his expeditions .
The outer enclosure wall surrounding the temple of amon-re :
This wall was built by tuthmosis 3rd to surround the buildings which existed during his period and which was dedicated to the god amon-re , it has a hyroglyphic text and 77 scenes showing some religious scenes , on the same wall there is another text which was written by ramesses 2nd .
The Sacred lake :
Covers an area of about 3200 sq mts , it was dug by tuthmosis 3rd surrounded by a mud-brick enclosure wall , it was used for the priests to purify themeselves in it 4 times a day , ,and at the same time it used to have some ducks & geese of the temple .
The Granite Scarab :
This scarab statue Belonged to king amenophis 3rd , it was believed by the historians that it was originally done for his temple in the west bank of luxor , where it was sculptured in the work-shops of karnak temples but the king died before transporting it to his temple in the west , so it was left beside the sacred lake .