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.

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