October 7, 2012

Luxor (Ancient Thebes)

Luxor (Ancient Thebes)
After the war of liberation from the Hyksos, Egyptian People entered a new phase of development, the New Kingdom. At first the culture differed only slightly from that of the Middle Kingdom, but following the military successes of Thutmose III Pharaoh, who extended Egyptian influence in Western Asia, the political, social and artistic life underwent radical changes. Magnificent treasures poured into Thebes, which became a reservoir of tributes and booty. Since a large share of the wealth was bestowed on the national god, Amon-Ra, enormous temples, elaborately embellished and adorned, were raised in his honour by successive pharaohs. This was a period in which Egypt enjoyed untold power and prestige; when the classical authors Homer, Diodorus, Strabo and Pliny referred to the magnificence of Thebes.
Ancient Thebes
On the eastern bank of the Nile are two great Egyptian temples, Luxor and Karnak. The Temple of Luxor, built by the 18th dynasty pharaoh Amenhotep III is one of the most beautiful monuments of the New Kingdom. The clustered papyrus-bud columns of the main court represent a fine example of its architecture. In the main court, surrounded by smooth- shafted papyrus columns with lotus-bud capitals, a Fatimide mosque which was raised to Abu el Hagag still stands. The most important reliefs in this temple are those in the colonnade which depict the great ‘Opet’ festival when the god Amon was borne in splendid procession from the Temple of Karnak to that of Luxor, and the murals in the Birth Room which show that Amenhotep III ruled by the divine right of the god Amon under the protection of the gods.

Temple of Karnak is a huge complex which owes its building to the efforts of successive pharaohs from the Middle Kingdom to the Ptolemaic period (some 2,000 years). Some of its most impressive features are the Great Court, which covers an area of 49,755sq yd and contains a small temple (a perfect example of traditional design) built by Ramses III and a shrine built by Seti II; the Great Hypostyle Hall, its roof supported by 135 columns arranged in sixteen rows, with those of the nave rising to a height of 79ft, and the capitals large enough to hold a hundred men; valuable historical reliefs of the military campaigns of Seti I and Ramses II in Asia (with the actual text of the first non-aggression pact in history, between Ramses II and the Hittite kings); the beautiful obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut made of pink Aswan granite, weighing some 700,0001b and, as recorded in the text, quarried and erected in seven months; two granite pillars (in the Hall of Records), one bearing the lotus of Upper Egypt and the other the papyrus of Lower Egypt, and together representing the unity between the ‘Two Lands’.

Ancient Thebes
On the western bank of the Nile at Luxor is the necropolis, or city of the dead. Here are a number of mortuary temples including that of Seti I at Kurna (which, like his temple at Abydos, is executed in fine relief), the terraced temple of Queen Hatshepsut who is famed, among other things, for her expedition to the Land of Punt to import myrrh and incense trees to be planted in the Great Court, the historically important mortuary temple of Ramses II Pharaoh (the Ramesseum) which contains fragments of his colossus (calculated to have weighed over 2 million pounds) and the complex of Medinet Habu which contains the ruins of temples begun in the 18th dynasty and continuing to Roman periods.

The two enormous seated statues known as the Colossi of Memnon are all that remain of the mortuary temple of Amen-hotep III pharaoh. A recent study with nuclear-age technique (neotron activation analysis) has revealed that the quartzite stone for these giant monoliths (each weighing nearly 1 -5 million pounds) came from the Gebel El Ahmar quarry near Cairo nearly 421 miles downstream.

The Valley of the Kings is the burial ground of the 18th-, 19th- and 20th-dynasty pharaohs. Their tombs are hewn out of solid rock and inscribed with sacred texts from the Book of the Dead (developed from the Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom in ancient Egypt which were appropriated and revised selections of the Egyptian Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom). The smallest tomb is that of Tutankhamun which was found intact and contained the priceless treasures with which the world is now familiar. The largest belongs to Seti I. It is 100 yards in length and contains fine sculptured wall paintings in perfect preservation. The tomb of Amenhotep II, was found to contain nine royal mummies which had been placed there in sealed chambers for protection. They are now in Cairo Museum along with those recovered from the Shaft at Der el Bahri.

The Valley of the Queens in Egypt contains the magnificent tomb of Nefertari Queen, beloved wife of Ramses II, the tomb of Queen Titi, which has murals in startlingly fresh colour, and the tomb of Ramses Ill’s nine-year-old son who, being under age, is depicted being introduced to the gods of the underworld by his father.
Ancient Thebes
The tombs of the nobles on the Theban necropolis portray the life and times of the New Kingdom. A catalogue of activities may be found in such famous tombs as that of Nakht, Scribe of the Granaries under Thutmose IV, Ramose, Vizier under Amenhotep III and IV, Rekhmire, Vizier under Thutmose III and Amenhotep II, Sennefer, Overseer of the Gardens of Amon under Amenhotep II pharaoh, Mena, Scribe of the Fields under Thutmose IV and many more. There are well over 301 tombs of New Kingdom noblemen, almost all of which were painted on specially prepared limestone surfaces. In contrast to the massive, stylised portrayals of pharaohs and deities on the sculpted walls of the national temples, these paintings are naturalistic.

Der el Medina is not large, graceful Ptolemaic temple on the Theban necropolis.

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