Standing Hatsheput Obelisk Egyptianholiday

  Statue of Pinudjem

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entrance to Karnak where visitors are greeted by ram headed sphinxes

Welcome to the Temple of Karnak

Dedicated to the God Amun-Ra, Karnak is the largest temple city ever built , one of the greatest sites in Egypt, it was built over 2000 years ago. Karnak was known to ancient Egyptians as Ipet-isut ; "The Most Select (or Sacred) of Places".As the largest temple complex ever built by man, it comprises three main temples(Mut, Montu and Amun), smaller enclosed temples, a sacred lake and a variety of outer temples which are located approximately three kilometers north of Luxor. The sheer size of the complex around 100 hectares took around thirteen hundred years to develop and construct. Each pharaoh that commissioned work at Karnak left their mark through statues, architecture and reliefs even if this resulted deconstruction and disorder. Over the course of time the site at Karnak has been expanded outwards from just behind the sanctuary of Amun, this means that the middle of the complex is the oldest part of the site.Mut, Montu and Amun Temples, surrounded by enormous brick walls are situated as follows; The Temple of Amun, is in the center of the complex, The Temple of Montu is to the north of the Temple of Amun, and Temple of Mut is to the south. The main entrance to the temple is that on the west side. This entrance used to be a quay built by Rameses II. This quay was used to access the river Nile (via a canal) to unload/load boats carrying statues of the gods during festivals, this is where the cult statue of Amun would leave on its weekly tour of the west bank temples. There are names of kings on the quay each recording the levels of inundations during their reigns.FIRST PYLON As can be seen from the photograph above, ram-headed sphinxes line the path leading towards the towering front of the entrance.In their paws, the sphinxes house a statue of Rameses II. Furthermore the sphinxes have a body of a lion and the head of a ram (a symbol of the god Amun). The pylons were built by different pharaohs, each attempting to overshadow its predecessor. The first pylon is unfinished but the Second Pylon is that of the temple of Amun (built by Ramesses II but restored and enlarged by the Ptolemies).

  Hatshepsut Obelisk


The Second pylon leads into a Hypostyle Hall, initiated by Amenhotep III, continued by Seti I and completed by his son Ramesses II.This is reflected in the varying reliefs contained within the hall. In its full splendour the hall was painted with natural earth tones, had an impressive 82 feet high ceiling supported by 12 central papyrus columns and contained 122 smaller outer columns. Even the outer walls of the hall are of interest and contain reliefs showing battle scenes, of which the hieroglyphic texts showing the Hittite king and Ramesses II signing a peace treaty in the twenty-first year of Ramesses reign is historically significant as it is the first evidence found for a formal diplomatic agreement.


Behind the rear wall of the Hypostyle Hall is the Transverse Hall which has the earliest remains of the site at Karnak.The Transverse Hall is located next to a partially reconstructed Third Pylon (built by Amenhotep III) which leads into a narrow court that used to contain obelisks. One of the remaining obelisks is that erected by Tuthmosis I, at is 70 feet (21.3m) in height it weighs around 143 tons. With the exception of two Pharaoh who added their own inscriptions, on either side of the original, this obelisk was left in its original state. HATSHEPSUT OBELISK Nearby is the only remaining Obelisk of Hatshepsut; 97 feet (29.6m) tall and weighing around 320 tons. Interestingly with the exception of the Lateran obelisk (101 feet (30.7m) high) in Rome, Hatshepsut's obelisk is the tallest standing obelisk. This obelisk is one of 2 red granite obelisks built by Hatshepsut; the remains of the other lie near the sacred lake. Hatshepsut's obelisks were built from a single piece of granite and lined with gold. As stated on the page about Hatshepsut and her temple the obelisks are dedicated to her father Amun; an inherent part of her claim to the throne.The inscription on the obelisk reads,

O ye people who see this monument in years to come and speak of that which I have made,
beware lest you say, 'I know not why it was done'. I did it because I wished to make a gift for my father Amun,
and to gild them with electrum."

Tuthmosis III was Hatshepsut's successor and bitter (find out why by clicking on the Hatshepsut link at the top of the page)nephew/stepson. In vengeance Tuthmosis III built a high wall around Hatshepsut's obelisk so that only the top third of the obelisk was visible. His motive for doing this rather than destroying the obelisk is unclear as is the cause of Hatshepsut's death.
FOURTH, FIFTH AND SIXTH PYLON including their landmarks

  • The pylons get smaller and closer together. This means that the fourth and fifth pylons, (built by Tuthmose I) are smaller than those previously encountered. This area is believed to have been a pillared hall housing wide papyrus columns and Osirid statues of Tuthmose I.

  • The sixth pylon built by Tuthmose III is in ruins with the exception of its lower walls containing text detailing captured prisoners.

  • Beyond the sixth pylon are the only remaining parts of the Hall of Records two granite pillars. This hall was used by Pharaohs to record their tributes

  Hatsheput Goat


Further down lies the site of many sanctuaries "Holy of Holies" or "sanctuary". The first shrine built here by Hatshepsut was replaced by Tuthmose III, with the exception of the rooms surrounding the shrine. The present day sanctuary was built by the brother of Alexander the Great, Philip Arrhidaeus (323-316 BC) who was the King of Macedonia but even this contains blocks from the Tuthmosis sanctuary and still has inscriptions from the sanctuary constructed by Tuthmose III. The present pillars contained in the area in front of the sanctuary (called pillars of the north and south) were also erected by Tuthmose III. The northern pillar displays the emblem of Lower Egypt, the papyrus, and the southern one is the lily (or Lotus) of Upper Egypt. The sanctuary even has a contribution from Tutankhamen (the boy-king) placed in the passageway; a statue pair representing Amun and Amunet, and many believe that is shows the face of Tutankhamen.



OTHER SITES OF INTERESTAs the site at Karnak extends over a mile or so, there are many things to explore including the following:

  • A paved path along the south side of the central court leads to the Festival Temple of Tuthmose III, known to ancient Egyptians 'Most splendid of Monuments' and
    built as a memorial temple to Tuthmose and his ancestral cult. There are pillars unique to Egyptian architecture, inside the hall known as ancient tent poles of a pavilion. The table of kings, listing 62 kings has been removed from the Festival Temple and placed in the Louvre in Paris

    A suite of rooms devoted to the God Amun and a Botanical/Zoological garden containing plant and animal carvings brought back to Egypt by Tuthmose ? from Syria

    'Temple of the Hearing Ear', built by Rameses II (towards the east gate of Karnak) where ancient egyptians would bring their petitions for the gods of Karnak.
    shrines built against the back of the Tuthmose complex.

    The outside of the main temple walls where Amenhotep IV's (Akhenaten) Karnak temple buildings and statues which are now in Luxor and Cairo were discovered.

  • Temple of Ptah; dedicated to the Memphite god, Ptah, originally constructed by Tuthmose III. Restored by the Nubian king Shabaqo and extended by the Ptolemies and Romans. The north and centre sanctuaries were dedicated to Ptah and the southern one to Hathor. The southern shrine now contains a statue of the lioness goddess Sekhmet.

    Precinct of Montu, the falcon-headed god worshipped in ancient Luxor and Karnak before Amun gained popularity. This temple was originally built by Amenhotep III but other kings have made their contribution to the temple including Ptolemy III who built a large propylon gate in the quay area to the north.

    Open Air Museum is located to the north of the first courtyard, across from the Sacred Lake and contains various blocks and reconstructed shrines found in other parts of Karnak. Most of the fragments here were found inside the second and third pylons or in the floor of the court of the seventh pylon. The open-air museum also contains the 'Red Chapel' of Hatshepsut which (as mentioned above) was the original Sanctuary of Amun at Karnak. Not only was it dismantled and reinvented by Tuthmose III but Amenhotep III also used the red chapel's blocks as part of the filling of his third pylon.

    Barque shrine of Senwosret I, built as a 'way-station' for the king's jubilee.The carved square pillars show scenes of the king making offerings to the God Amun.

  • Various temples/chapels including Khonsu ('son' of Amun and Mut) Temple, Temple of Opet, Temple of Osiris Hek-Djet (Heqadjet), and a temple dedicated to hippopotamus Goddess Apet, or Opet.

  • Sacred Lake, domesticated birds belonging to Amun were driven from the fowl yard through a stone tunnel into the lake each day.


    Pinudjem was a High Priest who held the title 'Great Commander of the Army'. For the first 15 years of Siamun's rule Pinudjem I ruled at Thebes as the High Priest of Amun. He was primarily involved in the reburial of the previous kings of Egypt in the Valley of the Kings. In addition to his role as High Priest, Pinudjem also fulfilled the position of Military commander of his King's armies. In the 15th year of Siamun's he began to be undertake the role of king. By year 16 Pinudjem had appointed a new High Priest to Amun and then became pharaoh for the final years of the reign of Smendes I.

Above Left: The statue of Pinudjem priest of Amun-Ra housed at Karnak


The fallen Hatsheput Obelisk

SEVENTH THROUGH TO TENTH PYLON including some of their landmarks:

  • Cairo and Luxor museums now contain a large proportion of stone statues, stelae and bronzes found when excavating the court in front of the seventh pylon. It is thought that the treasures were buried in the Ptolemaic Period, but the reason behind the burial is not yet known.
  • To the east of the ninth pylon is a chapel which commemorates the jubilee of Amenhotep II's jubilee. This chapel was restored after the Amarna Period by Seti.

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