KARNAK 


Also called AL-KARNAK, village in Qina "muhafazah" (governorate), Upper 
Egypt, which has given its name to the northern half of the ruins of Thebes 
on the east bank of the Nile, with the ruins of the great temple of Amon.
Recent excavations have pushed the history of the site back to the Gerzean 
period c. 3200 BC. when a small settlement was founded on the wide eastern 
bank of the Nile floodplain. The northern part of the large ancient city of 
Nowe, it contains the northern group of city temples, called in ancient 
times Ipet-isut, or Eptesowe, "Chosen of Places." The ruins of Karnak cover a 
considerable area and are still impressive, though nothing remains of the 
houses, palaces, and gardens that must have surrounded the temple precinct 
in ancient times. The temples are enclosed within three walls. The most 
northerly is that of the temple of Mont, the war god, of which little now 
remains but the foundations. The southern temple, which has a 
horseshoe-shaped sacred lake, was devoted to the goddess Mut, wife of Amon; 
this also is much ruined. It was built largely by Amenhotep III, whose 
architect was commemorated by statues in the temple.


Between these two precincts lay the largest of all Egyptian temples, and one 
of the largest in the world, the great metropolitan temple of the state god, 
Amon-Re. It is in fact not one temple but a complex of temples, added to and 
altered at many periods and lacking, on consequence, a coherent plan. It has 
been called a great historical document in stone. In it are reflected the 
fluctuating fortunes of the Egyptian Empire. There are no fewer than 10 
pylons, separated by courts and halls and nowadays numbered for convenience 
from west to east, number one being the latest. The seventh and eighth 
pylons were erected by Thutmose 111 and Queen Hatshepsut; the ninth and 
tenth, of Horemheb's reign, formed a series of processional gateways at 
right angles to the main axis, linking the temple with that of Mut to the 
south, and further, by way of the avenue of sphinxes, with the temple of 
Luxor two miles away.


The history of the temple must be briefly sketched. The original Middle 
Kingdom temple has left no trace save a small jubilee shrine of Sesostris 
(Senusret) I, now reconstructed from fragments found inside the third pylon. 
At the beginning of the 18th dynasty, Thutmos I enclosed the 12th- dynasty 
temple and fronted it with two pylons, the fifth and fourth, with a pillared 
hall of gilded cedar wood between. Hatshepsut pierced the roof with two tall 
obelisks, one of which still stands. In the reign of Thutmos III the temple 
was greatly enlarged; not only did he add to the existing structures, and 
add a pylon and pillared courts containing halls in which he inscribed the 
annals of his campaigns, but he also built to the east of the Middle Kingdom 
area a transverse temple in the form of a jubilee pavilion. On the walls of 
one of the rear rooms of this temple is carved a kind of pictorial catalogue 
of the strange animals and plants he had brought home from Asia in the 25th 
year of his reign. He was probably also the builder of the wall that runs 
round the temple from the fourth pylon eastward and of the sacred lake to 
the south of it, on which the bark of Amon floated. Small additions were 
made by his successors, and Amenhoteb III added a pylon (number three) to 
the west and greatly embellished the temple.


The most striking feature of the temple of Karnak is the hypostyle 
(pillared) hall that occupies space between the third pylon and the second, 
built by Ramses I. the area of this vast hall. one of the wonders of 
antiquity, is 5,800 square yards. It was decorated by Seti 1 and Ramses II , 
to whom much of the construction must be due, though it may have been 
planned and begun earlier. Fourteen enormous columns, 78 feet high, raised 
the roofing slabs of the central nave above the level of the rest so that 
light and air could enter through a clerestory. Seven lateral aisles on 
either side brought the number of pillars to 140. Historical relief on the 
outer walls show the victories of Seti in Palestine and Ramses II defeating 
the Hittites at the battle of Kadesh.


Ramses III built a small temple to Amon outside the Ramesside pylon and at 
right angles to it, confronting a triple shrine erected by Seti II. The 
Bubastite kings of the 22nd dynasty, in adding a vast court to the front of 
the temple, incorporated both these small temples. The Bubastite Gate at the 
southeast corner of this court commemorates the victories won by Sheshonk I, 
the biblical Shishak, in Palestine in the reign of Rehoboam. The Napatan 
pharaoh Taharqa planned a tall colonnade, of which one pillar still stands, 
and perhaps began the giant first pylon, 370 feet wide and 143 feet high, 
which continued by King Nectanebos (Nekhtnebef) in the 4th century BC but 
never completed. Beyond it an avenue of sphinxes dating from Ramses II's 
reign leads to the quayside.


Within the enclosure of the great temple of Amon-Re are included a number of 
other small shrines and temples. A temple to Ptah and Hathor, in the north 
side of the enclosure, was built by Hatshepsut and Thutmose III and added to 
by the Ptolemies, who also embellished the great temple by the addition of 
granite shrines and gateways. To the south, Ramses III dedicated a temple 
to Khons, the moon god, which merits attention. A small late temple to Opt, 
the hippopotamus goddess, Adjoins it.
Karnak presents a continual problem to the architects who seek to preserve 
it, for the foundations are inadequate and moisture from the Nile's annual 
flood has disintegrated the sandstone at the base of walls and columns. The 
work of repairing and strengthening goes on continuously, and in carrying 
out this work new discoveries are constantly being made. In one of the 
pylons, thousands of fragments were found from a temple built at Thebes by 
Akhenaton to his god Aton; this temple was destroyed when the cult of Amon 
was restored.


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