October 4, 2013

The Great Temple of Amon at Karnak

The Great Temple of Amon at Karnak
This great national monument of Egypt has no equal. It is not a single temple, but temple within temple, shrine within shrine, where almost all the pharaohs, particularly of the New Kingdom, wished to record their names and deeds for posterity. Though most of the structures were built in honour of Amon-Ra, his consort Mut and son Khonsu, there were numerous shrines within the complex dedicated to what might be called ‘guest deities’, like Ptah of Memphis and Osiris of Abydos.

Temple of Amon at Karnak
As successive pharaohs replanned entrance pylons, erected colonnades and constructed temples, they often reused valuable blocks from earlier periods. In the core of the Third Pylon built by Amenhotep III, for example, there were blocks of no less than ten temples and shrines from earlier periods. In cases where it was found necessary to remove a construction completely (either for purposes of design, for political reasons, or in times of threat of war), the temple or shrine was carefully dismantled and buried.

Temple of Amon at Karnak
The Sun Temples of Akhenaten suffered this fate. Thousands of distinctly uniform, decorated sandstone blocks, known as talataat, were buried beneath the Hypostyle Hall and the Second Pylon, as well as within the core of the Ninth and Tenth Pylons. One of the most challenging problems facing Egyptologists today is to trace the history of the temple of Amon at Karnak through such reused or buried evidence.

The Entrance Pylon (P. i) was possibly constructed during the Kushite Dynasty and it was never completed. It is approached from a landing stage where there are two small obelisks erected by Seti II, down a flight of stairs, and between a double row of ram-headed sphinxes. Between the forepaws of each sphinx is a statue of Ramses II.

Temple of Amon at Karnak
Passing through the first pylon, we enter the Great Court (i), which spreads over an enormous area of 8,919 square metres and contains monuments spanning many Dynasties. The single smooth- shafted column with lotus capital near the centre of the court was one of ten raised by the Kushite pharaoh T aharka. T o the rear is the Second Pylon (P. 2) built at the beginning of the 19th Dynasty. To the left is a shrine (2) built by Seti II in honour of the three gods of Thebes. To the right is the Temple of Ramses III (3), which is a fine example of a traditional temple.

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