July 28, 2012

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.

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