, pub-5063766797865882, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 July 2012 ~ Ancient Egypt Facts

July 30, 2012

The Necropolis The Valley Of The Kings | Egyptian Luxor

The Necropolis The Valley Of The Kings
The Valley of the Kings, otherwise known as Biban el Muluk, is situated about two miles inland from the edge of the valley. A tarmac road makes the distance seem short. Before its construction a visitor had a sense of the arid remoteness of the site chosen by the Pharaohs of the 18th, 19th and 20th Dynasties for their tombs. There are over sixty in the valley.

Valley Of The Kings
The Pharaohs of the New Kingdom, as already explained, chose to separate their tombs from their mortuary temples as a safeguard against pillage, and to burrow through solid rock in an effort to ensure eternal seclusion. The actual tomb design was relatively uniform, differing only in length and in the number of chambers. There were usually three corridors, one following the other, leading to the inner chambers. High up on the walls of the second corridor were sometimes oblong recesses for the reception of the furniture and effects of the deceased. Alternatively other recesses or chambers were provided at the end of the third corridor for the same purpose. At the end of the third corridor was a door leading to an antechamber; the main hall or tomb chamber lay beyond. The roof of the tomb chamber was often supported by pillars and small chambers led off it. In the centre or to the rear was a crypt containing the sarcophagus, usually of red sandstone.

A shaft, sometimes dropping to a depth of over six metres, was a feature of several tombs. Whether this was designed to discourage possible grave-robbers from proceeding further is not sure, though there are positive indications that this was their purpose; for example, the representations on the upper walls of the pit shaft were usually left unfinished with the outer frame of decoration missing, whereas the chambers beyond the shaft were fully decorated. Another theory is that the shaft was for the drainage of rain water through rain is not common in Egypt the tomb designers may well have taken precautions against the possibility of seepage.

The concern of the Pharaoh was not with his death, which was inevitable, but that his journey to the hereafter should be as smooth as possible. There was no apprehension, no fear. Man continued life after death in much the same manner as he had lived on earth, so long as the necessities for his existence were provided, safeguards were taken to prevent his body from decay, and the religious formulae were scrupulously followed.

In the Middle Kingdom the religious formulae by which the dead were to triumph had been recorded both inside and outside the sarcophagus. Gradually the texts were elaborated and scrolls of papyrus were placed in the coffin as well. Enlarged over the years these gradually became uniform and the nucleus of what has become known as the Book of the Dead.

The rock-hewn passages and chambers represent stages in the journey to the underworld, which was supposedly divided into twelve hours or caverns. The deceased sailed through them at night in the boat of the Sun-god in fact actually absorbed by him and representations on the first corridors of the tombs often show the ram-headed Sun-god surrounded by his retinue who are standing in a boat and temporarily bringing light to the places he traverses. As they pass from one leg of the journey to another they have to go through massive gates, each guarded by huge serpents. These chapters of the formula are know as the Book of the Gates.

The forward corridors were generally devoted to Praises of Ra hymns to be sung and illustrations of the ceremonies to be performed before the statue of the deceased Pharaoh to imbue it with eternal life. And finally the deceased reached the judgment seat of Osiris, King of the Underworld.

Osiris, the creator of law and agriculture, had once ruled on earth. With his wife and sister Isis at his side he had been a just and much loved ruler who was slain by his jealous brother Set. Set, as the myth goes, conspired against Osiris and at a banquet persuaded him to enter a chest which was then sealed and thrown into the Nile. It was carried down to the sea. The broken-hearted Isis wrandered far and wide in tortured misery seeking the body of her loved one. Accompanied on her sad mission by the goddess Nephthys she eventually found the body entangled in a tamarisk bush in the marshes of the delta. She hid the body, but Set, out boar-hunting, found it and cu$ it into fourteen pieces, scattering it in all directions. Isis continued her mission, collected the pieces (at each spot a monument was erected, which accounts for the widespread myth) and sought the help of the jackal-god Anubis, who became god of embalmment, to prepare it for the netherworld. While he carried out her orders Isis wept and prayed and drew near her dead lord ‘making a shadow with her pinions and causing a wind with her wings ... raising the weary limbs of the silent-hearted (dead), receiving his seed, and bringing forth an heir ...”

Isis, the myth continues, raised her son Horus in the marshes until he was strong enough to avenge his father’s death by slaying Set. He then set out to seek his father and raise him from the dead. The risen Osiris, however, could no longer reign in the kingdom on earth and now became king of the underworld where, with Isis still at his side, he ruled below with the same justice as he had exercised above. Horus took over the throne of his father on earth.

On the walls of the tomb chamber, or in the rear corridors, are dramatic representations of the dangers carefully guarded against: enemies withdrawing the breath from the nostrils of the deceased; water bursting into flame as he drinks; foes robbing him of his throne, his organs and, worst of all, his very name, which would thus deprive him forever of his identity.

The tombs in the Valley of the Kings, which are guidebooks to the hereafter, give us an insight into the hopes, expectations and fears of the living Pharaoh. Very soon after his coronation he must have ordered the construction of these usually vast complexes. His artists made initial sketches on the walls. His artisans began to turn out the 403 Shawbti (little statues bearing the implements of labour and usually put in big wooden boxes in the tomb to save the Pharaoh from tedious work in the hereafter). Funerary furniture was designed and made. And since secrecy was vital, only the workers from the city at Deir el Medina (pages 70/71) toiled on the tombs and only the Pharaoh himself and the high priests knew the actual site.

It is probable that the priests actually possessed an architectural plan or blueprint for the construction of tombs in the valley. Though none has ever been found, one cannot believe that a people capable of placing an obelisk of solid granite upright on a small rectangular base, of planning irrigation canals, and, with their obsession for accuracy, of dividing the year nearly 4000 years B.C. into 365 days and thus forming the basis of the calendar we use / today, that such a people would hazard a guess about that most vital decision: where to dig a Pharaoh’s tomb. Admittedly the first corridor of the tomb of Ramses III actually breaks through into another tomb    that of Amenmesse, one of the pretenders to the throne at the end of the 19th Dynasty  and is consequently diverted and continued to the right. While this might indicate the absence of any blueprint it may equally be the exception that proves the rule.

What a sad turn of fate that, despite the remoteness of the site, enforced secrecy, complexity of structure and diversion shafts, the tombs were robbed from earliest times! In fact they were probably penetrated soon after they were sealed.

The Necropolis in Luxor

The Necropolis Introduction
It was to the West, where the Sun-god at the end of each day began his nocturnal journey through the underworld, that man also gained admittance to the hereafter. Life after death was a concept most deeply rooted in the minds of the ancient Egyptians. Since the earliest times they had seen the passing of the mortal body not as an end but as a beginning. Belief in the hereafter was the focal point of their outlook. It stimulated their thought, their moral principles and their art.

Necropolis in Luxor
Man, as they saw him, comprised the body, the spirit (or ba), and the ka, a sort of guardian double which, though born at the same time, did not share death with him. After the passing of his mortal body man could live again through his ka, provided that it was nourished and surrounded by all that was necessary for a continued existence. His ba or spirit ascended to higher spheres and could fly around the world and return to the tomb, provided that his body was properly preserved. Without the body, in fact, there could be no continued existence. So it can readily be seen that the repository for the dead and the manner in which they were to be interred were of the utmost importance.

Even in pre-dynastic times the dead, laid to rest in simple oval pits surmounted by a pile of rubble, were covered with a protective animal skin and surrounded by pots containing food and drink, a few primitive weapons and ornaments. Each slow development from these crude pit burials through the mastaba development to the pyramid proper, and its ultimate abandonment in favour of rock- hewn tombs, was a battle to preserve the body. When a stone superstructure was placed atop a tomb in place of the rubble, this was because it was a stronger safeguard against the elements. When, in place of skin, linen cloth was used to swathe the body, this was because it afforded better protection.

Mastabas, low rectangular bench-like brick structures, were tombs. The earliest comprised a single burial chamber hewn deep in the ground, in which the deceased, placed in a wooden sarcophagus, lay surrounded by pottery jars filled with food, drink and ointments, and chests of weapons and jewellery. In the funerary room built in the superstructure there was a false door through which the ka could join the world of the living. In front of it was an offering table where relatives and friends could place food and drink to sustain the deceased in the hereafter.

Since tombs were regarded as the places where the deceased would dwell, they closely resembled contemporary houses both inside and out. Naturally, increased prosperity meant a better life and, since a man’s good fortune led to an increased concern to take it all with him to the hereafter, the mastaba underwent transformation. It became larger and more complex, constructed to fit each individual’s special requirements. The sarcophagus, still laid in the central chamber of the substructure, stood on a platform. Other chambers were constructed for the funerary equipment. Abundant food and drink meant more sustenance for the body. Perfected furniture meant more eternal comfort. Ointments, weapons, games, clothing, all meant a better after-life. And since it was desirable to be surrounded by loved ones, chambers were sometimes constructed for the wife, sons and daughters of the deceased.

But larger tombs and richer funerary equipment led to increased risk of violation by robbers. It is somewhat ironical that, whereas mummification was to be perfected and art and architecture were to rise to a high degree of sophistication, no secure method of hindering the robber was ever found. During fifty centuries tombs were violated, their contents taken and the bodies exposed to the elements.

The burial chamber and adjoining rooms for the funerary equipment were originally constructed first and then, after the superstructure was raised, the deceased and his belongings were lowered through the roof of the mastaba, down the pit and straight into the burial chamber. With bigger and more elaborate tombs, however, an easier means of entry had to be devised. Access was thenceforth made via a stairway from a point outside the superstructure and leading directly underground to the tomb chamber. It was hoped that robbers would be deterred by an elaborate system of blockings.

In many mastabas dating from the latter part of the 4th Dynasty a special room was constructed in the superstructure, separated by a wall from the other rooms. This was the statue house, now known by the Arabic name of serdab or cellar, where a statue or statues of the tomb’s owner were placed. It was considered as the seat for his ka and there were slits in the intervening wall which enabled the ka to see the light of day, watch the offering ceremonies and enjoy the scent of the burning incense. The slits themselves were known as the eyes of the ka-house. In this way the deceased, lying underground in his tomb chamber, had his ka supervising the offering ceremonies on his behalf. But how could he be sure that future generations of his relatives would continue to bring him food and drink? To ensure continued nourishment he had himself represented on the tomb walls in the act of receiving sacrificial offerings. These representations of food and drink were believed to serve him in place of the real thing. Not surprisingly this was only one step away from believing that anything depicted on the walls of a tomb was as good as the real thing: a well-stocked farmyard, healthy cattle, a large house and garden, numerous servants.

Royal tombs were originally large brick mastabas. In fact the Step Pyramid of Sakkara, the first stone building in history, started as a mastaba and grew to its characteristic proportions as a result of successive additions. Thenceforth the tombs of the head of state steadily surpassed the tombs of the people in size and magnificence. In time the steps were filled in and the outer casing was made smooth until the full pyramid form developed. These vast stone structures, designed in geometrical simplicity, represent a great technical achievement. To the east of each pyramid was a mortuary temple where a priesthood conducted rituals and maintained the tomb complex. A covered causeway connected it with a valley temple which stood at the foot of the plateau.

The pyramids, of which the great 4th Dynasty Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) at Giza is the most famous, failed to safeguard the bodies of the Pharaohs. Though some of these vast structures stand as imperishable landmarks, they were probably robbed as early as the uncertain period following the fall of the monarchy at Memphis in the 6th Dynasty. Yet, surprisingly, for over six centuries, until Thutmose I came to the throne in the 18th Dynasty, the pyramid continued to be the tomb constructed for the royalty of Egypt-

Amenhotep I was the first Pharaoh to break with the ancient custom. He saw that the durable pyramids had failed to safeguard the bodies of his ancestors, that blind alleys and hidden chamber never fooled a robber. Now he attempted secrecy to give him eternal security he craved. For his tomb he chose a site high on the hills south of the Valley of the Kings and built his mortuary temple in the Valley. His successor, Thutmose I, followed his innovation of separating the burial chamber from the mortuary temple, being the first Pharaoh to construct his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. His architect Ineni excavated it through solid rock across a precipitous valley, and recorded for posterity on a stele in his tomb that he carried out his Pharaoh’s request ‘no one seeing and no one hearing’. His mortuary temple was built at the edge of the verdant valley on the west bank of the Nile. Thus, he believed, could his cult be continued while his actual resting place was unknown.

This precedent was followed. The Pharaohs that succeeded Thutmose I in the 18th, 19th and 20th Dynasties continued to dig their tombs deep in the sterile valley which is now known as the Valley of the Kings. Royal consorts and children from the 19th Dynasty were buried at a separate site, the Valley of the Queens. Noblemen had their tombs dug at various cemeteries among the foothills of the range.

This is the Theban necropolis, the City of the Dead. It was not always as lifeless as we see it today. At one time beside each mortuary temple there were dwellings for the priests and stables for the sacrificial animals. Nearby were the guardhouses and granaries each with its superintendent. Surrounding or in front of each temple were lakes, groves and beautifully laid-out gardens.

Beside the mortuary temples there were also large palaces where the pharaohs took up temporary residence, to supervise the progress on their monuments. Such palaces have been excavated beside the mortuary temples of Seti I at Kurna, the Ramasseum of Ramses II and the temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu. The largest and best preserved of these is the latter, which lies to the south; it comprises a complex of state chambers, living quarters and storerooms. While the pharaoh was in residence on the necropolis, he undoubtedly also watched the progress being made on the excavation and decoration of his tomb in the Valley of the Kings, and on his funerary furniture and equipment.

A large community of labourers and craftsmen, who resided near the temple of Deir el Medina, were engaged on this work. The French Institute of Oriental Archeology have completed a unique 50-year study of this village. From some 40,000 pieces of pottery and scraps of papyrus, they have been able to trace the family histories of each of the inhabitants throughout a span of nearly three centuries: their daily activities, religious ceremonies, marriages, pride in their work, and even their antagonisms and jealousies. The village comprised about eighty families, each possessing a small, uniform and sparsely furnished house. They worked under a strict system of administration and the people were classified according to their work. The designers and scribes were considered superior to the artists, painters and draughtsmen. The quarrymen and masons naturally came above the porters, diggers and mortar mixers. At the bottom of the scale were the watchmen and refreshment carriers. At the top, in charge of the whole community, were the Director of Works and the various foremen immediately under his control.

Attendance was strictly marked and an absent worker had to account for himself. The written excuses have survived the centuries. One had to ‘visit my mother-in-law’. Another had to get urgent supplies from the market. Illness was a frequent excuse. The scandals, quarrels and complaints of the workers were all recorded- On one occasion a complaint reached the authorities that a chair, a box and a mirror were missing from the tomb of a worker. He described them in detail. A check was made. Nothing was found. Rut when Bruyere, leading the French Egyptological Expedition, was excavating the area he found the three described pieces in one of the small tombs in the surrounding cliffs where the dead of the village were buried!

There were also complaints or a more serious nature, as for example the backlog of salaries which led to the famous Revolution of the 20thl2ist Dynasties, written on papyri and recording that the authorities failed to give allowances to the people of the village for two months. Payment normally came regularly each month in the form of charcoal, dried meat, fish, bandages and cloth, along with materials for their work. When the caravan failed to turn up the villagers staged a revolt and attempted to send representatives in protest to Thebes. They were stopped from crossing the river. However, they did finally send the Omdah (headman) of the village to speak on their behalf and were consequently promised their salaries within a week.

The men of the village were all skilled workers. Those that toiled in the Valley of the Kings for ten day stretches slept in make-shift shelters in a mountain pass above the village until their term of work was over. On their return they had ample time to enjoy sculpting at leisure, making jewellery, household objects and statues of their own guardian deity, Hathor, to whom they built a small shrine. One village resident, Kha, a draughtsman who rose to the position of architect, placed in his tomb a selection of furniture which appears unused. It is doubtful whether he actually enjoyed these luxuries in his home. They were evidently placed in his tomb that they might ensure him a better after-life.

It is strange to note that nowhere on the Theban necropolis have t e ruins of a mummification centre yet been found.

Temple of Osiris, Opet and Mut

Temple of Osiris and Opet: Plan 9
The Temple of Osiris and Opet adjoins that of Khonsu to the southwest. It comprises a rectangular hall which has a well-preserved ceiling resting on two Hathor-decorated columns, a second small hall which is flanked by two rooms, and a sanctuary. The sanctuary has representations of King Euergetes II before various deities.

Temple of Osiris and Opet
A flight of steps from the sanctuary leads to the lower chambers of the basement and the exit door, which once connected this temple with that of Khonsu.

Temple of Mut
Now completely in ruins, the Temple of Mut was surrounded on three sides by a horseshoe-shaped lake. It was dedicated to the consort of Amon and comprised a pair of open courts, one following the other, and a sanctuary surrounded by ante-chambers. The construction extended through many generations from Amenhotep III to Ptolemaic times.

Temple of Mut
Among its many statues and murals is a grotesque figure of the god Bes, and at least 600 statues of the war-goddess Sekhmet in black granite. These surrounded the entire court, in places packed closely in double rows. We know very little about the beginning of the adoration of the goddess in whose honour this temple was built, and the site is covered with centuries of rubble. It is being excavated by a team from the Brooklyn Museum in New York. (See Work in Progress No. 2).

July 29, 2012

Akhenaten’s Sun Temples at Karnak

Akhenaten’s Sun Temples at Karnak
The first scientific study of antiquities by computer was started in 1966 by the University Museum of Pennsylvania, subsidised in part by the then Egyptian Antiquities Organisation and in part by the Smithsonian Institution. It entailed a systematic study of the distinctive sandstone blocks, called Talatat, found at different sites at Karnak this century, but particularly from the 9th pylon of Haremhab. Painstaking work with scale photographs enabled the matching of decorations and representations into chains of scenes, from which it soon became clear that there was not one, but as many as half a dozen different Sun Temples.

Akhenaten’s Sun Temples at Karnak
In the 1975/76 archaeological season the site of one of the temples was found. Donald Redford, director of the archaeological team for the University of Pennsylvania, excavating an area east of Karnak, located the foundations of a long wall, together with fragments of relief which successfully identify the site as the Temple of Gem-pa-Aten.

Meanwhile, the Franco-Egyptian Centre at Karnak continue to extract Talatat from the core of the 9th pylon. The blocks were buried in the order in which the temple was dismantled; this enables immediate reconstruction and, in fact, an 18-metre wall has been reconstructed in the Luxor Museum (page 180).

The eastern avenue of sphinxes extends from the tenth pylon to the temple of Mut to the south. To the west is the temple of Khonsu and the temple of Osiris adjoins it.

July 28, 2012

Temple of Khonsu

Temple of Khonsu: Plan 9
The Temple of Khonsu, dedicated to the Moon-god Khonsu, son of Amon and Mut, is a classical example of a New Kingdom temple. Ramses III was responsible for building the original sanctuary and erecting the walls but it was only completed under his successors Ramses IV, who continued the near chambers and added a small hypostyle hall, Ramses XII, and Hrihor, the high priest who seized the throne at the close of the 20th Dynasty. Hrihor added a colonnaded court and the entrance pylon. In the 21st Dynasty the temple was continued under Pinedjem I.

Temple of Khonsu
The large pylon at the entrance (Plan 9 P.i) has representations of the high priest and his wife making sacrifices to various Theban deities. The high priest, Hrihor, stands in the position traditionally occupied by the Pharaohs of Egypt. The four vertical grooves with corresponding apertures in the masonry at the front of the pylon were used to fasten the flagstaffs.

Passing through the central portal of the pylon, decorated with reliefs of Alexander II, we enter the Court (A). This has four side- exits and is surrounded on three sides by colonnades of papyrus columns with bud capitals formed in double rows. Those at the rear of the court are on a raised terrace.

There is a representation on the right-hand wall (a) showing the main pylon of the temple with eight, not four, flag staff's. On the walls of the terrace Hrihor makes offerings to Amon, Mut and Khonsu (b). At (c) he receives gifts from Khonsu and there are also representations of the sacred barge. At (d) Hrihor offers flowers to an image of Min, the god of human fertility.

Through the doorway at the back of the court is the hypostyle hall (B) which spans the full breadth of the temple. The four papyrus columns in the central aisle have calyx capitals whilst the smaller side ones have bud capitals. The wall reliefs were added by Ramses XII and depict him sacrificing to the gods in the presence of Hrihor, who later dethroned him.

The central doorway in the rear wall leads to the boat-shrine (Q which occupies the centre of a larger room. The reliefs represent the Pharaohs Ramses IV, Ramses XII and various deities.

Behind the boat shrine there is a small door of the Ptolemaic period which leads to the sanctuary of Khonsu (D) which has four twenty-sided pillars. The reliefs mostly depict Ramses IV but there are also some representations of the Emperor Augustus which can be found on each side of the entrance. In total there are seven small chambers, decorated by Ramses III and his successors, surrounding this hall.

The temple of Khonsu is of special historical significance since it bears witness to the transmission of Pharaonic power, between the reigns of Ramses III and Ramses XII, from the royal line of Pharaohs to the priests of Amon. As already mentioned the high priests gradually acquired more political power after the close of the 18th Dynasty. With an ever-weakening line of Pharaohs after Ramses II they were at last able to usurp the throne. In this temple the name of the high priest appears in a royal cartouche for the first time.

Southern Buildings, Karnak Cachette and Seventh to Tenth Pylons

Southern Buildings, Karnak Cachette, Seventh to Tenth Pylons
The buildings extending southwards from the central court of the main temple of Karnak are mostly in ruin today. A brief survey will be made, however, to show the importance of the plan of reconstruction over the next few years. A group of French architects nre under contract with the Supreme Council of Antiquities for the complete reconstruction of the Karnak area, of which this is only one section, but perhaps the most important.

Karnak Cachette
Proceeding from the central court (lying between the third and fourth pylons) are the remains of a court where there is a good view of Ramses II’s famous treaty with the Hittites, mentioned on pages 6/47, followed by the seventh pylon (P.7). This court was the site of a temple of the Middle Kingdom and it was here that Legrain extracted a fantastic number of works of art from what became known as the Karnak Cachette. Buried in a pit were thousands of pieces including statues in stone and bronze, sphinxes and sacred animals. The bronze items alone numbered 17,000. It seems that one of the Pharaohs decided to have a spring clean in the temple and remove all the junk. Though most of the pieces are of little artistic merit, the find shows that the temple could well have housed the 86,486 statues mentioned in the Great Harris Papyrus.

The seventh pylon (P.7) was built by Thutmose III, and facing it to the south are the remains of two colossal statues of him in red granite. Between the walls uniting the seventh and eighth pylons, to the east, is a small shrine dating also from the reign of Thutmose III.

The eighth pylon (P.8) was the work of Queen Hatshepsut and is the most ancient part of the structure. In fact there is very little proof of her having built this pylon, for her name was removed from the reliefs by Thutmose III who, instead of inserting his own name, inscribed that of Thutmose II, his predecessor, the husband of Hatshepsut and his own father. Following Akhenaten’s removal of all illusions to Amon, Seti I restored them, often inserting his own name in place of those of the older rulers.

In the doorway at the rear left-hand of this court (Plan 3 v) is an important historical relief on the left. It is the first instance in Egypt’s long history where the high priest, in this case Amenhotep, is depicted in the same size as the Pharaoh. Standing with arms uplifted, Amenhotep offers flowers to Ramses IX. This relief indicates the growth of priestly power. Faithful traditionalists of the established religion, the priests of Amon had hitherto been righteous, just and devout. The power of leadership had been firmly vested in the throne and they had recognised and accepted this. Over the years however their simple piety had turned to mild interest in earthly matters, then acute interest, and finally to intrigue and a craving for political power. The high priest depicted in this mural makes offerings to the Pharaoh while being draped in linen by two servants. A reciprocal gesture of appreciation? Or a royal bribe?

Beyond the eighth pylon is a row of six royal personages. The best preserved are Amenhotep I (in limestone) and Thutmose II (in red granite) both to the west.

The ninth pylon (P.g) was built by Haremhab the one-time general. When repairs started it was found to be filled, like its companion the tenth pylon (P.10), with blocks from Akhenaten’s Temple to the Sun. Together with the 40,ooo-odd blocks from this same period found beneath the hypostyle hall and the second pylon, these number some 60,000 blocks and are valuable clues to a period about which there are many gaps in our knowledge. When the first small, distinctively uniform sandstone blocks were discovered in the pylon of Ramses II, it was at first erroneously assumed that they had been brought up-river from a dismantled temple in Tel el Amarna. Drainage operations subsequently led to the excavation of parts of no less than seventeen colossal statues of Akhenaten himself. Akhenaten in fact had sun temples erected before he changed his capital to Tel el Amarna and while Thebes was witnessing the slow introduction of a new religious concept.

July 27, 2012

Hall of Records and Sanctuary | Temple Of Amon At Karnak

Hall of Records, Sanctuary
The granite gateway of the sixth pylon was restored by Seti I and as we pass through it we enter what has become known as the Hall of Records of Thutmose III. These were the state records made by the priests of the temple to detail the sources of gifts and booty received by them. Of course, following Thutmose’s military victories, Karnak was now increasingly filled with gold and silver treasures from far a field, as well as with magnificent bronze weapons of war and furniture of ivory and ebony.

Hall of Records
The most characteristic feature of this Hall of Records are the two stately granite pillars («), one bearing the lotus of Upper Egypt and the other the papyrus of Lower Egypt in high relief. These rather unusual twin symbols emphasise that the unity of the two lands, formed and broken many times in their long history, was intact in the 18th Dynasty.

Beyond is the Boat Shrine (p) comprising two chambers. It is of pink granite and was constructed by the half-brother of Alexander the Great, Philip Arrhidaeus, on the site of an earlier chamber. The walls are finely carved and coloured; the reliefs on the upper reaches of the wall still retain their colour. On the outer wall of the shrine on the right-hand side (q) is a superb relief in excellent condition of Philip being crowned and presented to the gods (above) and of the festal barges of Amon being carried in priestly procession (below). On the left-hand outer wall of the shrine are the Annals of Thutmose III, depicting the cities and tribes subdued in his military campaigns.

The sanctuary that housed the sacred statue was in the large open space to the east where there are very scanty remains of Middle Kingdom structures. These include a huge alabaster base on which the sanctuary containing the gilded statue of Amon was placed.

Rear Section of Temple of Amon and Sacred Lake

Rear Section of Temple of Amon, Sacred Lake 
Plan 3 will show that the entire portion eastwards from the fifth pylon, or in other words the rear section of the temple of Karnak, was surrounded by a girdle-wall. What remains of this is embellished with reliefs of Ramses II sacrificing to the various deities. His colonnade at the far end just outside this girdle-wall is now a jumble of ruins and beyond this is a small temple also built by him, and an ancient gateway which dates from the time of the Ptolemies.

Temple of Amon and Sacred Lake
To the south of this section of Karnak is the Sacred Lake, the symbol of Nun the eternal ocean, where the priests of Amon purified themselves in the holy water. Unfortunately too few of the hewn rocks survived the years to allow of genuine restoration. The gigantic stone beetle or scarab that overlooks the lake was one of four placed there by Amenhotep III in honour of the Sun-god.

Great Festival Temple of Thutmose III Facts

Great Festival Temple of Thutmose III: Plan 8
Before describing this ‘Most Glorious of Monuments’ as it was called, let us first recall that Thutmose III was the creator of a vast Egyptian empire. He went regularly to war each summer and returned to Egypt around the end of September. Among the splendid treasures he brought back with him were golden vases, arms and armour, precious metals and countless jewels. During the balmy winter months he would remain in Egypt where he would receive foreign envoys; sometimes these were members of the royal or noble classes, and sometimes representatives accompanied by caravans of costly gifts. Then, when the summer sun shone hot and dry, he would recruit his forces and march to battle once again. In a series of annals he gave full details of his seventeen campaigns and records of the spoils of battle. He was the first Egyptian Pharaoh to introduce military tactics, his most successful battle technique being the blitzkrieg', some 3,000 chariots, hidden behind a hill, simultaneously dashing into action with lances flying, hooves whipping up the dust, soldiers yelling. The resulting confusion in the enemy ranks was designed to weaken their morale. It inevitably did.

Temple of Thutmose III
Thutmose III was no war-monger. He never appointed Egyptian governors over the conquered territories. Instead he gave power to the local chieftains and, moreover, started cultural relations by bringing the sons of the chieftains to Egypt to study and absorb Egyptian culture, ideology and religion before returning to their homelands.

Following the victories of Thutmose III Egypt was justifiably imbued with a feeling of national pride, while the victor himself humbly gave thanks to Amon to the rear of the national temple a Karnak.

The central hall of the Festival Temple of Thutmose III is 44 metres wide and 16 deep. The roof is supported by 20 columns in two rows and 32 square pillars on the sides. One immediately notices lack of conformity; Thutmose ordered his workers to taper the columns downwards and not upwards and to top them with peculiar inverted calyx capitals. The capital gives a sort of tent-like effect and may have been designed to assuage the Pharaoh’s thirst for outdoor living. It was never repeated. The effect is definitely clumsy. The reliefs on the pillars, which are shorter than the columns, show Thutmose III in the presence of the gods.

Grouped around the sanctuary, which comprises three chambers, were some fifty small halls and chambers. Most lie in ruin today. To the left of the sanctuary is a chamber with four clustered papyrus columns (r). The lower parts of the walls are decorated with exotic plants and animals brought to Egypt from Syria in the 25th year of the Pharaoh’s reign. It says a great deal for the character of Thutmose III that, despite his prowess as a warrior, his ability to topple the powerful Queen Hatshepsut from the throne and his vow to revenge his people for their conquest by the Hyksos, he should have found time and interest to import flowers and animals into his native land.

To the right of the sanctuary is what is now known as the Alexander Room (s). It was originally built by Thutmose III and was restored by Alexander the Great. The reliefs show Alexander, and in some instances Thutmose III, sacrificing to the gods.

To the south of the Alexander Room is a hall with eight sixteen-sided columns (/). The two small chambers with columns («), followed by seven other chambers, carry reliefs of Thutmose III.

July 25, 2012

Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Pylons | Temple Of Amon At Karnak

Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Pylons
We now proceed to a much ruined part of the temple. The fourth pylon {P.4), built by Thutmose I, is followed by a colonnade with a strange and interesting history. Within this enclosed area are clues to family feuds, petty jealousies and religious differences, to say nothing of Pharaonic vanity. The colonnade was originally designed by Thutmose I and it was planned to have a roof of cedar. In it stands an obelisk (Plan 6 m). This lofty spire was one of two erected by Queen Hatshepsut, who removed part of the roof of her father’s colonnade to place them there. Hatshepsut’s co-regent and successor, Thutmose III, at a later date in the family feud had a wall built to hide the obelisks of his predecessor, this being a simpler expedient than their removal and destruction. The wall covered most of the obelisk, masking it from people within the temple. The figure of Amon was obliterated by Akhenaten and restored by Seti I, thus putting an end to the vicissitudes suffered for two hundred years by the colonnade of Thutmose I.

Temple Of Amon At Karnak
The beautiful towering obelisk of Hatshepsut was erected in the 16th year of her reign. It was made of a single block of pink Aswan granite of the finest quality. The apex was once covered with a mixture of gold and silver. This lofty spire records the fact that it was made in seven months. It weighs something like 317,515 kilogrammes (700,000 lbs). One cannot but marvel at the tenacity required merely to quarry it, let alone to cart it to the Nile, transport it along its waters, disembark it and finally erect it with perfect accuracy on a pedestal.

Forming the rear wall of the colonnade is the fifth pylon (P.5), also erected by Thutmose I. Passing through it we enter Thutmose I’s second colonnade, which originally comprised twenty sixteen sided columns. It is now very much in ruin. On each side of the central passage Thutmose III constructed a pair of chambers and beyond this rises the last and smallest pylon, the sixth pylon (Plan 7 P.6) erected by Thutmose III. On each face of the pylon (n) are lists of tribes of the south which were subjugated by Thutmose Ill’s army, and also those of Syria, which alone number 119. The conquered territories are shown as an elliptical hieroglyph character surmounted by a human bust with arms bound behind the back. The Syrians are depicted with pointed beards and heavy robes. In long processions they bear their tributes to be recorded by the vizier.

July 22, 2012

Third Pylon, Pavilion of Sesostris I | Temple Of Amon At Karnak

Third Pylon, Pavilion of Sesostris I, Central Court
At the rear of the hypostyle hall is the reconstructed third pylon (P.3) built by Amenhotep III. It certainly needs more than a little imagination to reconstruct in the mind’s eye the gold and silver inlay, the flagstaffs and splendour of this one-time entrance to the temple. When Amenhotep III was constructing it he was simultaneously finalising plans for the colonnaded hall at the Luxor temple. Together they formed his most impressive architectural achievements.

Sesostris I
Some years ago when soil drainage was being checked to avoid the crumbling of columns from undermining, the pylon was found to contain in its core the ruins of temples and shrines of earlier periods. The task of extracting the inscribed or painted blocks deep in the pylon’s foundation, whilst propping up existing walls prior to reconstruction, was, and still is, an exacting one. And the matching of the extracted pieces with their partners in pattern and history has been extremely time-consuming. But with the successful removal and complete reconstruction of some of the lost masterpieces, these labours have received their supreme reward.

A shrine which can be traced to the reigns of Amenhotep I and Thutmose I was also found in the foundations of the third pylon and has been reconstructed immediately to the north of the Pavilion of Sesostris. It is made of alabaster. Since this was a medium used mainly for statues and offering-tables it is not often that we find a shrine or temple in alabaster. It is small, simple, of beautiful proportions and in nearly perfect condition. On the right-hand of the inner wall is a particularly lovely representation of the Pharaoh kneeling before a table of offerings.

Also extracted from Amenhotep’s third pylon are finely inscribed granite blocks that must once have been a dramatic structure in red and black, built by Queen Hatshepsut. Her figure, carved in low relief, has not been defaced.

One cannot help wondering why temples and shrines were dismantled and used for new constructions. Akhenaten’s temple to Aten is easily explained because with his passing the worship of Amon was reinstated and reference to sun-worship was obliterated. But why should the exquisite temple of Sesostris have been hidden in a pylon? And the temple of Hatshepsut? Because she was a woman and not recognised as a Pharaoh of Egypt, despite her beard, male dress and attempts to prove her divine origin? Then why should the small and exquisite alabaster shrine have been destined for the same fate? The illustrious Amenhotep the Magnificent could hardly have been short of raw material.

Only one thing is certain: but for the continuous efforts of Egyptologists, particularly in the last eighty years, many if not all of these hidden wonders would have been lost forever.

In the Central Court of the temple is the last survivor of four obelisks erected by Thutmose I and III, the former under the faithful guidance of his chief architect, Ineni, who brought them from the granite quarries of Aswan. There are three vertical inscriptions on each face of this obelisk: the central one dedicated -by Thutmose I himself, the other two additions by Ramses IV and VI.

July 21, 2012

The Great Temple of Amon At Karnak Facts

The Great Temple Of Amon At Karnak


The temple of Amon at Karnak, together with its outlying buildings is a natural museum of ancient Egyptian art, a blueprint of the power and glory of a golden era and a mine of historical information. Beneath its giant architraves and between bulky column and wall relief lie the records of its growth from a modest 12th Dynasty shrine to a local deity, to a temple of splendid and unimaginable proportions dedicated to the King of Gods, Amon-Ra. It owes a colonnade to one Pharaoh, a pylon to another; an inspiration here, a whim there. But each has the sole purpose of pleasing the god that would ensure them a life long, powerful and glorious.

Temple Of Amon
Unravelling the secrets of two thousand years has been a major feat of Egyptology, made the more difficult by the fact that architectural magnificence did not necessarily run parallel with military or civic excellence. Family rivalries and kingly jealousies were as often the incentive behind a construction as creative inspiration. One cannot help being amused for example at the oft-repeated tendency of the reigning Pharaoh to alter the royal cartouche of a predecessor and so take the credit for all the work he accomplished. To add to the confusion, some parts of the buildings were raised from dismantled shrines or the walls of other temples. In addition, Karnak had twice to endure the degradation of Amon, at the hands of Akhenaten and of the early Christians.

An idea of the complexity of the task may be gauged when we learn that in the core of Amenhotep Ill’s monumental third pylon "[®re buried blocks of ten structures of earlier periods; that a valuable historical inscription on how Kamose conquered the Hyksos a period about which very little is known was found text-downwards beneath a statue of Pinedjem which had been buried in the foundation of the second pylon of Ramses II; that both Ramses an Seti I used blocks from Akhenaten’s sun temple for their large-scale additions to the temple; and that Haremhab crammed his ninth pylon with thousands of inscribed sandstone blocks from this same heretical’ era.

Temple Of Amon
Thutmose I, who ascended the throne at the beginning of the 18th Dynast}', actually made the first major alterations to the original shrine. He had two colonnades and two pylons built (Plan 6 P.4 and P-5). Between the latter, Hatshepsut, his daughter and builder of the magnificent mortuary temple of Deir el Bahri (page 75), erected a pair of huge obelisks. She also made some alterations to the side of the sanctuary. These were continued by her co-regent and successor Thutmose III. Though Thutmose III showed less interest in perpetuating his memory in impressive monuments than in creating an Egyptian world empire, he did build a festival temple (page 54) to the rear of the sanctuary, surrounding it with a girdle- wall, on the inner side of which were a number of small chambers.

It was Amenhotep III, builder of the temple of Luxor, who altered the front of Karnak temple. He raised a new pylon (Plan 5 P.j) in front of that of Thutmose I, but, impressive though it must have been, it was to be eclipsed by the additions of the 19th Dynasty. Ramses I erected the second pylon during his one year in power. Then his son, Seti I, started the construction of a huge hypostyle hall between the pylons of Ramses I and Amenhotep III. This work was continued by his successor Ramses II. Always going one better than his ancestors, Ramses II also built a second girdle-wall outside that of Thutmose III and with it the Great Temple of Amon had almost received its final, magnificent form. It was now officially and justifiably styled ‘The Throne of the World’.

Seti II and Ramses III had two small separate temples built in front of the great complex. In the 22nd Dynasty under the Libyan kings of the Bubastides these were incorporated into a huge colonnaded court in front of the pylon of Ramses I. In the 25th Dynasty Taharka the Kushite also erected some gigantic columns in this court. The last addition to the temple, its entrance pylon (Plan 4 P.1), was erected in the Kushite Dynasty.

Triumphal Monument of Sheshonk I

Triumphal Monument of Sheshonk I
Retracing our steps to the Great Court via the exit to the east of Ramses Ill’s court, we find ourselves in the portico of the Bubastides (h) which is embellished with reliefs and inscriptions of the Pharaohs of the 22nd Dynasty. The rear door of this portico leads to the Triumphal Monument of Sheshonk I, which is situated on the outside of the southern tower of the second pylon (i). This scene commemorates the victory of Shishak of the Bible over Rehoboam, son of Solomon the King of Judah, when Solomon’s temple was robbed of its riches. Beneath Amon is the goddess Mut holding a club, bow and quiver, leading five rows of captives carved in perfect symmetry. To the right Sheshonk is grasping a group of captives by the hair and striking them with his raised club. The Biblical passages covering this campaign are:

Triumphal Monument of Sheshonk

‘And it came to pass in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, that Shishak 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.'1 (1 Kings 14:25-6)

‘ ... And it came to pass, that in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, because they had transgressed against the Lord, with twelve hundred chariots, and threescore thousand horsemen: and the people were without number that came with him out of Egypt ...’ (2nd Chro. 12:2-2)

Second Pylon and Great Hypostyle Hall | Temple Of Amon At Karnak

Second Pylon, Great Hypostyle Hall
We return to the great court of the temple and proceed towards the second pylon, the pylon of Ramses II (P.2). The centre section was originally restored by the Ptolemies. It is now being reconstructed after the removal of the blocks from Akhenaten’s Sun Temples to Aten which were used as filling for the core. Just before the pylon is a small vestibule flanked by two large statues. The one-on the left, in red granite, is of Ramses II, later usurped by Pinediem. This is the statue already mentioned (page 37) as having been found under the second pylon.

Temple Of Amon
The Great Hypostyle Hall, fruit of Egypt’s power and wealth and one of the most massive of human creations, covers an area of 4,983 square metres. To support the roof 134 columns were arranged in sixteen rows. The double row of central columns leading from the doorway of the second pylon eastwards towards the sanctuary is higher than the others. The smooth-shafted central columns are twenty-one metres high and are topped with calyx capitals large enough to hold one hundred standing men. The somewhat squat side columns have bud capitals and the discrepancy in height is made up by square pillars between the steps of the roof. The space between these pillars once held windows and served to light the entire hall, revealing that the walls, the shafts of the columns, the architrave and in fact every available space was covered with inscriptions and reliefs. It has been stated in almost every description of this hall to date, but must nevertheless be repeated here, that the whole of the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris could be comfortably accommodated within its walls.

The hypostyle hall was planned and begun by Ramses I and was continued by his son Seti I on a scale far surpassing Amenhotep III’s unfinished hypostyle hall at Luxor. It was finally completed by Seti’s son Ramses II. Although Seti I was responsible for the construction of the entire northern half of the hall and also the central aisle, and although Ramses II built only the southern portion, it is the latter who has secured credit for the greater part of the work.

The overall effect is awe-inspiring. Although some critics have commented on the less-than-elegant columns at the sides or on the fact that ‘you can’t see the trees for forest’, its magnificence is indisputable. When Napoleon’s learned entourage first saw it, the hall looked as though devastated by a hurricane. Leaning columns seemed on the verge of collapse, many were already prostrate and the flag-stones were littered with debris. French Egyptologists working for the Department of Antiquities devoted their energies to reconstruction. The work of Georges Legrain, followed by Maurice Pillet and finally Henri Chevrier, who completed a 25-year mission as Director of Works at Karnak in 1956, left the Great Hypostyle Hall erect and proud.

Only one single column (the first in the sixth row) bears the name of Ramses I, who started its construction in his brief two year reign. It may be noticed that the reliefs of Seti I (in the northern portion) are in flat relief and are somewhat more delicate than the deeper, more definite inscriptions of Ramses II (in the southern portion from the eleventh row). Most of the reliefs depict adoration of the Theban god. Ramses III, Ramses IV, Ramses VI and Ramses XII all recorded their names.

On the outside of the hypostyle hall are some important historical reliefs. These are accessible from the exit at the side or from the central court. They are portrayals of Seti I’s and Ramses II’s military campaigns in Asia, the like of which had not been seen for two generations since the expansion of the empire under Thutmose III. There are over sixty metres of representations from the spectacular charges into the foe with arrows and chariots to the ultimate presentation of prisoners of war to Amon, Mut and Khonsu.

Ramses II’s campaign was against the Hittites. It is depicted on the southern wall and contains the actual text of the treaty, the earliest surviving international non-aggression pact. According to the treaty each state, having equal, independent status, renounced all ideas of aggression against the other. It declared that peace should henceforth prevail between the two kings and all their dependents and reaffirmed earlier treaties existing between the two countries. A mutual defence alliance, co-operation in the humane treatment of disloyal subjects and also in the extradition of political refugees and immigrants, formed clauses of the pact.

It bore the title:
''The treaty which the great chief of Kheta, Khetasar, the valiant, the son of Merasar, the great chief of Kheta, the valiant, the grandson of Seplel, the great chief of Kheta, the valiant, made, upon a silver tablet for Usermare-Setepnere (Ramses II), the great ruler of Egypt, the valiant, the son of Seti I, the great ruler of Egypt, the valiant', the grandson of Ramses I, the great ruler of Egypt, the valiant', the good treaty of peace and of brotherhood, setting peace between them forever.

Witnesses to the treaty were a thousand gods and goddesses of the land of the Hittites and a thousand gods and goddesses from the land of Egypt.

The battle scenes are similar to those on the first pylon of the temple of Luxor already described (pages 26/27).

Seti I’s battles took place in Lebanon, southern Palestine, and Syria, and are depicted on the northern wall. The series begins on the eastern wall (Plan 5 j) where (in the upper row) Seti alights from his chariot in the wooded Lebanon. The Lebanese are obliged to cut down trees for the Pharaoh. In the lower row Seti is in battle with the bedouins of southern Palestine (to the right). He drives his chariot, drawn by two horses, whilst firing arrows at the enemy. Confused heaps of dead and wounded lie on the ground. The fortress of Canaan, above the battlefield, is used as a hideout and the inhabitants assist fugitives to escape into it.

On the left-hand section of the main wall (k) is the battle in Syria. In the upper row the Pharaoh advances to the front line of the attack, shooting arrows that send the enemy, both charioteers and cavalry, fleeing in confusion. In the fortress which is surrounded by a moat the inhabitants are surprisingly carved full face as they peer from behind trees. Seti is also depicted binding captives, leading or dragging them. Two rows of captured Syrians are presented to Amon, Mut and Khonsu along with valuable booty.

In the lower row is a triumphal march through Palestine (left), a battle with the bedouins of southern Palestine and (right) the victorious march from Syria. The border between Asia and Africa is marked by a crocodile-infested canal bordered by reeds and linked by a bridge. At each end of this bridge is a fortified guardhouse and on the home front, Seti is welcomed by groups of priests carrying garlanded flowers. Captives and booty are presented to Amon.

On the right-hand wall (/) is the battle of Kadesh (in the top row), the battle against the Libyans (in the middle row), and the battle against the Hittites in northern Syria (in the lower row). The defenders of Kadesh are pierced by arrows. The Libyans, distinguished by a single plaited braid and feathers, are smitten with the sword. The Hittites, shot at by the charioted Pharaoh, take flight on foot, on horseback and in chariot. In the lower row, when Seti hands his captives and the captured vessels over to Amon, Mut and Khonsu, the goddess of truth is present.

On each side of the doorway separating these two walls (k and /) are colossal representations of Amon holding several rows of captured nations and cities by cords and presenting the sword of victory to Seti I. Seti raises his club against a band of foes whom he dangles by the hair.

July 19, 2012

First Pylon and Shrine of Seti II | Temple Of Amon At Karnak

First Pylon, Great Court, Shrine of Seti II 
Seti II’s two small obelisks rise on a terrace facing the Nile. From this point we approach the temple of Amon between a double row of ram-headed sphinxes. These have sun-discs on the head and a statue of the Pharaoh between the forepaws, showing the Sun-god as strong as a lion, as docile as a ram, and protective of the Pharaoh Ramses II who placed them there. We must bear in mind that in approaching the temple from the front we actually reverse, apart from a few exceptions, the order of building.

Seti II Pylon
Before us rises the massive first pylon (Plan 4 P.1) which dates from the Kushite Dynasty and which was never completed. It is 113 metres wide, 43 metres high and 5 metres thick. On the doorway leading to the Great Court is an inscription (a) recording the latitude and longitude of the chief temples of the Pharaohs as calculated by the group of scholars accompanying the army of Napoleon to Egypt.

The Great Court, which was built during the 22nd Dynasty, covers the massive area of 8,919 square metres" On the right it incorporates a small temple built by Ramses III (page 41) and on the left a small shrine built by Seti II, comprising three chambers dedicated to Amon (in the centre) and to Mut and Khonsu respectively on either side. Towards the centre of the court is the base of what was once a pair of pedestals for statues and behind this is a double colonnade. The five columns to the left are being reconstructed and the single intact column to the right is inscribed by Psemmetikh II of the 26th Dynasty, who placed his name over that of the Kushite Taharka of the 25th Dynasty. It also records the name of Ptolemy IV.

On each side of the court is a row of sphinxes. These flanked the doorway when the pylon at the rear of the court (P.2) formed the entrance to the temple in the reign of Ramses II. They were removed and placed near the side walls when the entrance was extended towards the Nile.

Against the inner wall of the first pylon, at (b), are remnants of the crude brick ramps by which the stones were heaved into position. The last two columns on this same side of the court (c) provide another interesting clue as to how the ancient Egyptians conducted their work. Because they were never completed they show that the roughly-shaped stones, also heaved into position on ramps, were shaped after erection and that the polishing and decoration were performed from the top downwards as the brick ramps were removed layer by layer.

The grey sandstone Shrine of Seti II to the left of the court was dedicated to the Karnak triad; Amon, Mut and Khonsu. The centre section, to Amon, is the best preserved. On the walls are two different representations of the deity. Near the end of the right-hand wall Amon is seated in human form with his characteristic headgear and with Mut and Khonsu seated behind him. On the left-hand wall he is depicted as a ram with the sun-disc on his head and travelling the heavens in his sacred barge. The Holy Triad was a common feature of the gods of ancient Egypt. At Thebes, Amon had Mut and Khonsu. At Abydos, Osiris had his sister-wife Isis and their son Horus. At Memphis, Ptah had his wife Sekhmet and their son Nefertem.

Shrine of Ramses III

Shrine of Ramses III
Across the court stands the large shrine of Ramses III. It was a sort of Way-station for the barges of Amon, Mut and Khonsu when they were carried in procession by the priests.

Shrine of Ramses III
The pylon which forms the entrance has now been repaired and shows, on the left-hand tower (d), a relief of the Pharaoh wearing the double crown and holding a group of prisoners by the hair, whilst in his other hand he raises a club to smite them. Amon stands before him handing him the sword of victory and delivering to him three rows of vanquished cities each represented as a human figure rising out of a symbolic fort which bears the name of the city. On the right-hand tower (e) the theme is repeated but with the Pharaoh wearing the crown of Lower Egypt. Large statues of the Pharaoh flank the doorway over which Ramses III receives the symbol of life from Amon.

Passing through the entrance pylon we. come to an open court surrounded by covered passages on three sides, each supported by eight square pillars with statues of Osiris in front of them. On the terrace at the rear are four similar pillars and four columns which have bud capitals. The reliefs on the back wall of the pylon (/) show Ramses receiving the hieroglyph for ‘jubilee’ from the enthroned Amon. On the east wall (g) is a procession of standard-bearers and the Pharaoh leading the priests who bear the sacred barges of Amon, Mut and Khonsu.

The hypostyle hall of the shrine of Ramses III has eight columns with papyrus-bud capitals, adjoining which are three shrines respectively dedicated to Mut, Amon and Khonsu.

This shrine is a cameo. It is like a small temple, adhering to traditional temple layout. Its historical importance is its completion according to the unadulterated blueprint of Ramses III.

Shrine of Ramses III Inside
Ramses III ruled at the tail end of a long line of imperial Pharaohs and he was the last of the Ramessides to carve a place for himself in history. Though wealthy having reaped the fruits of his ancestors’ battles he was far from great, a fact that he seems himself to have recognised by placing his shrine across the axis of the main structure at Karnak as though to say ‘I do not wish to compete’. During his 32-year reign he fought three important battles, and his architectural activities included a temple at Medinet Habu (page 92) where he recorded his battles, and the initial construction of the temple of Khonsu (page 63), which was completed by his successors. He also enriched the temples of Memphis and Heliopolis but ended his days severely criticised by his contemporaries, who despised his weakened position under the priests of Amon.

July 17, 2012

The Temple Of Luxor and Traditionalism Of Egyptian Design

Traditionalism Of Egyptian Design
In order to appreciate mural design and execution it must be stressed that it was an age-old tradition, not an art form. The Egyptian painter or sculptor was not an independent or inspired creator. He was a craftsman who was part of a team which included masons, draughtsmen, jewellers and metal-workers. They all worked anonymously. Their creations were designed not for artistic appraisal nor, apart from a few exceptions, for aesthetic purposes. They formed a factory of artisans reproducing approved traditional themes with amazing accuracy. Statues for tomb or shrine were never to be seen, except by the Pharaoh or high priest, and these had a religious function. They were believed to be infused with the divine spirit of the one portrayed. Statues of the Pharaoh in open court or temple front were placed there so that the populace could gaze on the great Pharaoh who was under the protection of the gods. Praising him and praising God were one and the same thing.

Luxor Temple Egypt
Amon guided the Pharaoh and the Pharaoh guided the people. This is the reason why the Egyptian monarch was repeatedly and untiringly shown in consort with the various deities. With the help of Amon, his power was absolute. The people voiced no opinions on the one hand, while he showed no weakness on the other. He was always represented in the prime of life, in powerful, confident, unbending majesty. The Pharaoh was above hopes or pleasures, fears or sufferings. In all statues and mural portrayals he was indisputably idealised and stereotyped. The torso, legs, arms and position of the head of the Pharaohs of the passing dynasties differed little. But there were subtle differences in their physiognomies. Khafre of the 4th Dynasty for example had a decidedly more prominent lower jaw than his successor Menkaure. And the lips and dents by the side of Ramses II’s mouth are very different from those of Seti I, whose features are somehow finer.

It has already been noted that the distinctive characteristics of Amon, when he was not depicted as a ram with curled horns or as a man with a ram’s head, were his plaited beard, his two upright plumes, his sceptre and symbol of life. The Pharaoh in turn also has characteristics: a cobra (guardian against evil) which coiled around his forehead, and a special skirt falling into a triangle in front. The decorated belt that held this in position was sometimes covered with beads or embroidery and the tail of an ox (symbol of power) was attached to it. He carried his sceptre. Etiquette was apparently carefully observed. Religious ceremonies, jubilees and other rituals,

which grew more complex as time passed, conformed not only in general practice but in the most strict observance of rules and dress. Each detail has been brought down to us in the work of the relief sculptors.

Just as traditional ceremonies and rituals continued from generation to generation with very little basic change, so did the execution of mural records of the occasions become more and more stylized. The few realistic details which made their way into the representations, even as far back as the Old Kingdom, are seen repeated from dynasty to dynasty, even though they are somewhat irrelevant in terms of the symbolic and primitive purpose of the work.

Temple Of Luxor
Apart from the relatively short break with tradition under Akhenaten, only the efficiency and maturity of the work changed with the years. In the Luxor temple the divine immobility of the portrayals of Amenhotep III, particularly when shown in consort with the deities, are very little different from those of Ramses II some eight generations later. The same uniformity is found in the Karnak temple, which spans two thousand years.

Birth Room of Amenhotep III

Birth Room
Several small chambers surround the sanctuary, including what has become known as the Birth Room (E). Though in poor condition the murals are of special interest because they depict the birth of Amenhotep III.

Amenhotep III
The Egyptian Pharaoh was the embodiment of Horus, or the son of Ra or Amon. But he had, in addition, to be of direct royal lineage through his father and royal consort. If, as in the case of Amenhotep III, whose mother was not of royal Egyptian blood, his accession was not considered legitimate, he could overcome this difficulty by marrying a sister of royal lineage. Amenhotep did not do this. It was necessary for him therefore to consolidate his monarchy in other respects. Queen Hatshepsut had already shown him how. In her mortuary temple she depicted how she ruled by divine right of Amon and was, in fact, a direct descendant of the Sun-god Amon-Ra. In his temple at Luxor Amenhotep also showed that he was the son of the divine, begotten of Amon and born under the protection of the gods.

The story of the birth room is depicted in three rows on the left- hand wall (/). From right to left in the lower row the god Khnum moulds two infants, Amenhotep and his guardian spirit or ka, and fashions them on a potter’s wheel. The goddess Isis sits opposite. She watches Khnum, the ram-headed god of the cataract region, playing the role of a creator god. In the next scene Amenhotep’s mother is embraced by Isis in the presence of Amon. In the centre row Amon is led by the ibis-headed god of wisdom to the queen’s bedchamber where he approaches her to beget the child already moulded by Khnum. The pregnancy and confinement are attended by Bes and Thoueris, the patron deities of childbirth. After the delivery Amon stands with the child in his arms in the presence of Hathor and Mut. On the much-damaged top row are the suckling of the infant king, his guardian spirits, and his presentation to Amon by Horus who promises him ‘millions of years like Ra’. In the corner the grown Amenhotep stands as king.
In all other reliefs of this chamber Amenhotep is blessed by the various deities.

Sanctuary of Alexander the Great
We now come to what has become known as the Sanctuary of Alexander the Great (m), the area entirely rebuilt by him on the site where the sacred barge of the deity was originally housed. Both the inner and the outer walls have reliefs representing Alexander before Amon and other deities. He obligingly left unmolested some reliefs of Amenhotep III before various Theban deities.

The true sanctuary that housed the gold-plated statue of Amon was the square chamber with four pillars to the south (n). To imbue it with life each day the priests of Amon carried out a series of rituals. Those performed at dawn were the most elaborate. The statue was first carefully cleansed. Then it was clothed with garments and anointed with perfumes. The eyes were made up and prayers were chanted. Then, just as painstakingly, the clothing and makeup were removed and the priests humbly withdrew.

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  • Amenhotep III Statue
  • Pharaoh Amenhotep III

July 15, 2012

Court of Amenhotep III and Hypostyle Hall

Court of Amenhotep III (now known as the Solar Court)
In 1989, when the then Antiquities Organisation was supervising the restoration of this court, specifically to reinforce the columns to the east, they came upon what has become known as the Cache of Luxor Temple. It was a horde of treasures, twenty-two statues in all, buried beneath the flagstones. They included some of the most famous pharaohs, now on display in a new gallery in Luxor Museum (page 181).

Hypostyle Hall
Adjoining the court to the south is the Hypostyle Hall (D), comprising gigantic columns arranged in four rows of eight columns each. The hall stands today as a somewhat cheerless ruin, though the walls still have reliefs of Amenhotep III before the Theban deities. The columns bear the cartouches of Ramses IV, Ramses VI, Ramses II and Seti I, mentioning the repairs carried out in their respective reigns.

To the left of the hypostyle hall stands an altar bearing Latin inscriptions dedicated to the Emperor Augustus. Adjoining the rear wall (to left and right) are two small shrines, one to Mut and one to Khonsu. The section leading off the rear originally had eight columns, which were removed when the area was converted into an apse. The doorway to the sanctuary was walled into a curved recess flanked by two granite Corinthian columns, and the exquisite 18th Dynasty reliefs were plastered over and painted with Roman Emperors. In places where the stucco has fallen off, one can see the reliefs of Amenhotep beneath.

July 14, 2012

Court of Ramses II Luxor Temple

Court of Ramses II, Colonnade
Passing through the entrance pylon we enter the Court of Ramses II (A) , to the left of which the Fatimide Mosque of Abu el Hagag stands in contrast to the solemn ruins of Pharaonic Egypt. As recently as 1968 the local sheikhs, who claim that the tomb of the saint himself lies here, took advantage of a quiet tourist-free period, when many Egyptologists had escaped from the summer heat, to add an extension to the rear portion of the mosque, built, it will be seen, on ever weakening foundations. The height of the mosque above the stone courtyard indicates the height to which the temple was buried in sand.

Court of Ramses II
The court itself is surrounded by smooth-shafted papyrus- columns with lotus-bud capitals. Standing colossi of Ramses II were placed between the first row of columns in the southern half. On each side of the doorway are a further two statues of the Pharaoh wrought in red and black granite. The one on the left has a fine statue of Queen Nefertari, his wife, carved near the Pharaoh’s right leg. On the throne is a representation of the two Niles binding the symbols of Upper and Lower Egypt: the lotus and papyrus plants.

Adjoining the western tower of the entrance pylon (P.i) is a raised platform comprising three chambers. This was the granite shrine originally built by Hatshepsut and restored by Ramses II. The chambers were dedicated to Amon, Mut and the Moon-god Khonsu. Four papyrus columns form a colonnade on the side facing the court.

The reliefs and inscriptions which adorn the walls of the court date from the reign of Ramses II. They represent sacrifices and hymns to the gods, and all Ramses II’s family, his many wives and a horde of princes and princesses are depicted on the walls.

The Colonnade
The Colonnade (B) was built by Amenhotep III. In the early morning and towards sunset heavy shadows are cast between the seven pairs of columns and the interplay of light has long been exploited by photographers as it slants from heavy architrave to calyx capitals and down the slender shafts of the columns. Though Amenhotep III conceived the idea of this colonnade. Tutankhamun, Haremhab, Seti I, Ramses II and Seti II also recorded their names there. It was Tutankhamun however who had the walls embellished with the reliefs representing the august annual festival, the Opet, when the god Amon visited his southern harem. The sacred barges were brought in splendid procession from Karnak to the Luxor temple, borne on the shoulders of white-robed priests from the temple to the river, and then towed upstream in a splendid and majestic procession. The festival took place at the height of the Nile flood and continued for twenty-four days of merry-making. Unhappily much of the relief work has been destroyed.

On the right-hand wall starting at (c) are preparations for the occasion, which include a rehearsal by dancing girls. The procession begins at the gate of the Karnak temple (d), which is complete with flagstaffs and from whence white-robed priests bear the sacred barge of Amon down to the water’s edge. An enthusiastic audience (e) claps hands in unison and at (/) the boat in the water is being towed upstream by those on shore. A sacrifice of slaughtered animals (g) is followed by a group of acrobats, and finally offerings are made to Amon, Mut and Khonsu at the Luxor temple (h).

On the opposite wall are scenes of the return procession, including (i) sacrificial bulls being led to the scene accompanied by soldiers, standard-bearers, dancers and negro slaves who are roused to frenzy by the pomp, the barges floating downstream (j) and the final sacrifice and offerings of flowers to Amon and Mut at the Karnak temple (k).

It is interesting to learn that Haremhab, the general, took advantage of the Opet to introduce himself to the populace' as the next Pharaoh of Egypt at the beginning of the 19th Dynasty. Once he had been led through the streets by the priests and entered into the sacred precincts of Karnak, any question by the people as to why a man of non-royal lineage should become Pharaoh was stilled in advance. The occasion was too joyous to spoil with matters already decided by the high priests of Amon.

A fascinating cross-current in the tide of fate has led today’s Muslim Moulid, celebrated each year during the month of Shaaban, closely to resemble the Opet. Muslim sheikhs emerge from the Mosque of Abu el Hagag bearing three small sailing boats which they place on carriages to traverse the city. The city is bedecked with flowers, and dancing and clapping greet the procession.
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