Browsing Tag

Hatshepsut

temple-of-seti

Temple of Seti I

The mythical Temple of Seti I in Abydos – The Mortuary Temple of Seti I is the memorial temple (or mortuary temple) of the New Kingdom Pharaoh Seti I. It is located in the Theban Necropolis in Upper Egypt, across the River Nile from the modern city of Luxor (Thebes). The edifice is situated near the town of Qurna.

Carving of Seti I in the Temple of Seti, Abydos ( Wikipedia)

Seti I was probably one of the least well-known pharaohs of the New Kingdom period of ancient Egypt. However, his temple in Abydos is among the most famous, cited by many as the most impressive religious structure still standing in Egypt.

Seti’s place in history was overshadowed by that of his son, Ramesses II , arguably one of the greatest pharaohs in Egyptian history. Yet, Seti was an important character in his own right, as he was one of the pharaohs who had to bring order back to Egypt and re-establish Egyptian sovereignty over its eastern neighbors (Syria and the Levant) following the social disruption caused of Akhenaten’s religious reforms. Seti was also responsible for commissioning the construction of a grand temple in Abydos.

Abydos has a special place in the sacred landscape of ancient Egypt, as it was believed to be the place where Osiris was buried. Thus, Abydos was an important cult center for Osiris. A number of temples dedicated to Osiris, all of which were located in one area, were built prior to the reign of Seti. The Temple of Seti, however, was built on new ground to the south of the said temples.

Seti’s temple was built mainly of limestone, though parts of it were built in sandstone. Although work began under Seti, the temple was only completed during the reign of his son, Ramesses II. This is visible in some of the temple’s reliefs depicting Ramesses slaying Asiatics and worshipping Osiris. Like the temples of his predecessors, Seti’s temple was dedicated to Osiris, and consisted of a pylon, two open courts, two hypostyle halls, seven shrines, each to an important Egyptian deity (Horus, Isis, Osiris, Amun-Ra, Ra-Horakhty and Ptah) and one to Seti himself, a chapel dedicated to the different forms of the god Osiris, and several chambers to the south. In addition to the main temple, there was also an Osireion at the back of it. Various additions to the temple were made by later pharaohs, including those from the Late, Ptolemaic and Roman periods.

The Osireion at the back of the Temple of Seti I. Credit: Hannah Pethen / flickr

The Temple of Seti played an important role in his family’s claim as a legitimate royal household. Prior to the ascension to the throne by Seti’s father, Ramesses I, Seti’s ancestors were merely warriors, generals at most. Without royal blood in his veins, Seti had to consolidate his position, and one of the ways to do so was to build temples. As Akhenaten’s religious reforms did away will the old gods, Seti’s dedication of his temple to Osiris and other important Egyptian deities symbolized a return to the traditional way of life, thus allowing himself to be seen as a restorer of order.

Seti I Temple Reliefs at Abydos. Seti I offering a menat up to a deity and receiving the djed and ankh in return. Credit: Kyera Giannini / flickr

In addition to the worship of Egypt’s traditional gods, Seti’s temple had another feature that made his rule legitimate. This was the Abydos King List, which was found carved on a wall of the temple. The Abydos King List contains the names of 76 kings of ancient Egypt, predecessors whom Seti acknowledged to be legitimate pharaohs. On the other hand, earlier rulers who were considered illegitimate, such as Hatshepsut and Akhenaten were conveniently omitted from the List. The Abydos King List was arranged in three rows, each containing 38 cartouches. Whilst the first two rows consisted of the names of his predecessors, the third row is just a repetition of Seti’s throne name and praenomen.

The Abydos King List

Apart from being an important legitimising tool for Seti’s dynasty, the Abydos King List was also an incredibly important document for our understanding of the kings of ancient Egypt, especially those from the Old Kingdom and the First Intermediate Period. Although the List provides the order of the Old Kingdom rulers, it is far more valuable for the fact that it is the only known source for the names of many of the kings from the first two dynasties of the First Intermediate Period (Dynasties 7 and 8).

The Temple of Seti at Abydos was a strategic building project on the part of Seti I in order to bolster his family’s claim to the Egyptian throne. This desire for legitimacy has also indirectly benefitted us today, as Seti left behind a list of kings that helped patched some holes in the history of Egyptian kingship, as well as a spectacular monument that continues to be visited by thousands of people every year.

Sources: Wikipedia, ancient-origins.net.



temple-nefertari

Temple of Nefertari

Nefertari, also known as Nefertari Meritmut, was an Egyptian queen and the first of the Great Royal Wives (or principal wives) of Ramesses the Great. Nefertari means ‘beautiful companion’ and Meritmut means ‘Beloved of [the goddess] Mut’. She is one of the best known Egyptian queens, next to Cleopatra, Nefertiti, and Hatshepsut. She was highly educated and able to both read and write hieroglyphs, a very rare skill at the time. She used these skills in her diplomatic work, corresponding with other prominent royals of the time. Her lavishly decorated tomb, QV66, is one of the largest and most spectacular in the Valley of the Queens. Ramesses also constructed a temple for her at Abu Simbel next to his colossal monument there.

Nefertari

Nefertari held many different titles, including: Great of Praises (wrt-hzwt), Sweet of Love (bnrt-mrwt), Lady of Grace (nbt-im3t), Great King’s Wife (hmt-niswt-wrt), his beloved (hmt-niswt-wrt meryt.f), Lady of The Two Lands (nbt-t3wy), Lady of all Lands (hnwt-t3w-nbw), Wife of the Strong Bull (hmt-k3-nxt), god’s Wife (hmt-ntr), Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt (hnwt-Shm’w-mhw). Ramesses II also named her ‘The one for whom the sun shines’.

Outside of Temple of Queen Nefertari

Outside of Temple of Queen Nefertari

Nefertari, or Beautiful Companion, was the first and most beloved of the wives of Ramses 11. Indeed, her form is slim and graceful, and she is extremely fair. Since her magnificent tomb in the Valley of the Queens at Luxor is closed to the general public, we are fortunate that we can see her depicted in her temple at Abu Simbel. It lies to the north of the great temple of Ramses II and is dedicated to Nefertari and to the goddess Hathor.

Temple of Nefertari – Nefertari & goddess Hathor

The terrace (1) leads to the sloping facade that provides the frame for six recesses, three on each side of the central doorway. Within each there are standing figures: four of the king and two of the queen. They appear to be walking forward with spirited strides. Ramses wears an elaborate crown of plumes and horns. On Nefertari’s head are plumes and the sun disc. At their sides are small figures of their children – the princesses beside Nefertari and the princes beside Ramses.

The legend of the love of Ramses for his wife is enumerated along with his titles: ‘Ramses, strong in Maat (Truth), beloved of Amon, made this divine abode for his royal wife, Nefertari, whom he loves’.

Throughout the temple, on pillar and wall, and even in the sanctuary, the names of the royal couple are linked in their shared dedication to the goddess Hathor.

The buttressed sloping projections between the figures on the facade bear hieroglyphic votive inscriptions. At the centre of the broadest, central section is the doorway leading to the Hypostyle Hall (2), a traverse chamber (3) and the sanctuary (4). The thickness of the doorway shows Ramses before Hathor, to the south, and Nefertari before Isis, to the north; Isis makes a gesture as though to crown her.

The Hypostyle Hall (2) has six pillars decorated on the front with sistra-the musical instrument associated with the goddess Hathor and with the heads of Hathor. Behind are representations of Ramses, Nefertari and various deities. The reliefs on the entrance walls (a) and (b) have fine representations of Ramses, accompanied by Nefertari, smiting a Libyan in the presence of Ra-Harakhte, and a Nubian in the presence of Amon-Ra respectively. The side walls have similar offering scenes. At (c) Ramses offers food to Ptah and also stands in front of the ram-headed Harshef. Nefertari makes offerings to Hathor. And Ramses offers wine to Ra-Harakhte. At (d) Ramses stands before Hathor. Ramses is blessed by Horus and Set of Nubt. Nefertari stands before Anukis. And Ramses presents an image of Maat to Amon. On the rear walls are Nefertari and Hathor (to the right) and Nefertari and Mut (to the left). Mut was the wife of Amon-Ra and, like Hathor, a mother figure.

Interior of Temple of Nefertari

The traverse chamber (3) is adjoined by two unfinished chambers, to the right and left. Over the doorways, however, are reliefs of Hathor the sacred cow in a marsh, which are worth noting. In one case, Hathor is being worshipped by Ramses and in the other by Nefertari.

The sanctuary (4) has a recess to the rear, and the roof is supported by sistra. A representation of Hathor in the form of a cow protecting the king (who appears below her head) is a fine relief. On the right-hand wall Nefertari offers incense to Mut and Hathor. On the left the king pours a libation over his own image and also that of his wife.

hatshepsut-temple

The Temple of Hatshepsut

The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, also known as the Djeser-Djeseru (“Holy of Holies”), is an ancient funerary shrine in Upper Egypt. Built for the Eighteenth dynasty Pharaoh Hatshepsut, it is located beneath the cliffs at Deir el Bahari, on the west bank of the Nile near the Valley of the Kings. The mortuary temple is dedicated to the sun deity Amun and is situated next to the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II, which served both as an inspiration, and later, a quarry. It is considered one of the “incomparable monuments of ancient Egypt.”

There are many examples of these great monuments and temples throughout Egypt from the pyramid complex at Giza in the north to the temple at Karnak in the south. Among these, the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BCE) at Deir el-Bahri stands out as one of the most impressive.

The building was modeled after the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II (c. 2061-2010 BCE), the great Theban prince who founded the 11th Dynasty and initiated the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (2040-1782 BCE). Mentuhotep II was considered a ‘second Menes’ by his contemporaries, a reference to the legendary king of the First Dynasty of Egypt, and he continued to be venerated highly throughout the rest of Egypt’s history. The temple of Mentuhotep II was built during his reign across the river from Thebes at Deir el-Bahri, the first structure to be raised there. It was a completely innovative concept in that it would serve as both tomb and temple.

The king would not actually be buried in the complex but in a tomb cut into the rock of the cliffs behind it. The entire structure was designed to blend organically with the surrounding landscape and the towering cliffs and was the most striking tomb complex raised in Upper Egypt and the most elaborate created since the Old Kingdom.

Hatshepsut, an admirer of Mentuhotep II’s temple had her own designed to mirror it but on a much grander scale and, just in case anyone should miss the comparison, ordered it built right next to the older temple. Hatshepsut was always keenly aware of ways in which to elevate her public image and immortalize her name; the mortuary temple achieved both ends.

It would be an homage to the ‘second Menes’ but, more importantly, link Hatshepsut to the grandeur of the past while, at the same time, surpassing previous monumental works in every respect. As a woman in a traditionally male position of power, Hatshepsut understood she needed to establish her authority and the legitimacy of her reign in much more obvious ways that her predecessors and the scale and elegance of her temple is evidence of this.

The Temple Design

She commissioned her mortuary temple at some point soon after coming to power in 1479 BCE and had it designed to tell the story of her life and reign and surpass any other in elegance and grandeur. The temple was designed by Hatshepsut’s steward and confidante Senenmut, who was also tutor to Neferu-Ra and, possibly, Hatshepsut’s lover. Senenmut modeled it carefully on that of Mentuhotep II but took every aspect of the earlier building and made it larger, longer, and more elaborate. Mentuhotep II’s temple featured a large stone ramp from the first courtyard to the second level; Hatshepsut’s second level was reached by a much longer and even more elaborate ramp one reached by passing through lush gardens and an elaborate entrance pylon flanked by towering obelisks.

Walking through the first courtyard (ground level), one could go directly through the archways on either side (which led down alleys to small ramps up to the second level) or stroll up the central ramp, whose entrance was flanked by statues of lions. On the second level, there were two reflecting pools and sphinxes lining the pathway to another ramp which brought a visitor up to the third level.

The first, second, and third levels of the temple all featured colonnade and elaborate reliefs, paintings, and statuary. The second courtyard would house the tomb of Senenmut to the right of the ramp leading up to the third level; an appropriately opulent tomb placed beneath the second courtyard with no outward features in order to preserve symmetry. All three levels exemplified the traditional Egyptian value of symmetry and, as there was no structure to the left of the ramp, there could be no apparent tomb on its right.

On the right side of the ramp leading to the third level was the Birth Colonnade, and on the left the Punt Colonnade. The Birth Colonnade told the story of Hatshepsut’s divine creation with Amun as her true father. Hatshepsut had the night of her conception inscribed on the walls relating how the god came to mate with her mother:

He [Amun] in the incarnation of the Majesty of her husband, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt [Thutmose I] found her sleeping in the beauty of her palace. She awoke at the divine fragrance and turned towards his Majesty. He went to her immediately, he was aroused by her, and he imposed his desire upon her. He allowed her to see him in his form of a god and she rejoiced at the sight of his beauty after he had come before her. His love passed into her body. The palace was flooded with divine fragrance. (van de Mieroop, 173)

As the daughter of the most powerful and popular god in Egypt at the time, Hatshepsut was claiming for herself special privilege to rule the country as a man would. She established her special relationship with Amun early on, possibly before taking the throne, in order to neutralize criticism of her reign on account of her gender.

Birth Colonnade – Hatshepsut’s Temple

The Punt Colonnade related her glorious expedition to the mysterious ‘land of the gods’ which the Egyptians had not visited in centuries. Her ability to launch such an expedition is a testimony to the wealth of the country under her rule and also her ambition in reviving the traditions and glory of the past. Punt was known to the Egyptians since the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150 – c. 2613 BCE) but either the route had been forgotten or Hatshepsut’s more recent predecessors did not consider an expedition worth their time.

At either end of the second level colonnade were two temples: The Temple of Anubis to the north and The Temple of Hathor to the south. As a woman in a position of power, Hatshepsut had a special relationship with the goddess Hathor and invoked her often. A temple to Anubis, the guardian, and guide to the dead, was a common feature of any mortuary complex; one would not wish to slight the god who was responsible for leading one’s soul from the tomb to the afterlife.

The ramp to the third level, centered perfectly between the Birth and Punt colonnades, brought a visitor up to another colonnade, lined with statues, and the three most significant structures: the Royal Cult Chapel, Solar Cult Chapel, and the Sanctuary of Amun. The whole temple complex was built into the cliffs of Deir el-Bahri and the Sanctuary of Amun – the most sacred area of the site – was cut from the cliff itself. The Royal Cult Chapel and Solar Cult Chapel both depicted scenes of the royal family making offerings to the gods. Amun-Ra, the composite creator/sun god, is featured prominently in the Solar Cult Chapel with Hatshepsut and her immediate family kneeling before him in honor.

Hatshepsut’s Reign

Hatshepsut was the daughter of Thutmose I (1520-1492 BCE) by his Great Wife Ahmose. Thutmose I also fathered Thutmose II (1492-1479 BCE) by his secondary wife Mutnofret. In keeping with Egyptian royal tradition, Thutmose II was married to Hatshepsut at some point before she was 20 years old. During this same time, Hatshepsut was elevated to the position of God’s Wife of Amun, the highest honor a woman could attain in Egypt after the position of queen and one which would become increasingly political and important.

Hatshepsut and Thutmose II had a daughter, Neferu-Ra, while Thutmose II fathered a son with his lesser wife Isis. This son was Thutmose III (1458-1425 BCE) who was named his father’s successor. Thutmose II died while Thutmose III was still a child and so Hatshepsut became regent, controlling the affairs of state until he came of age. In the seventh year of her regency, though, she broke with tradition and had herself crowned pharaoh of Egypt.

Painting of Queen Hatshepsut

Her reign was one of the most prosperous and peaceful in Egypt’s history. There is evidence that she commissioned military expeditions early on and she certainly kept the army at peak efficiency but, for the most part, her time as pharaoh is characterized by successful trade, a booming economy, and her many public works projects which employed laborers from across the nation.

Her expedition to Punt seems to have been legendary and was certainly the accomplishment she was most proud of, but it also seems that all of her trade initiatives were equally successful and she was able to employ an entire nation in building her monuments. These works were so beautiful and so finely crafted that they would be claimed by later kings as their own.

Hatshepsut’s Rediscovery

Hatshepsut’s name remained unknown for the rest of Egypt’s history and up until the mid-19th century CE. When Thutmose III had her public monuments destroyed, he disposed of the wreckage near her temple at Deir el-Bahri. Excavations in the 19th century CE brought these broken monuments and statues to light but, at that time, no one understood how to read hieroglyphics – many still believed them to be simple decorations – and so her name was lost to history.

The English polymath and scholar Thomas Young (1773-1829 CE), however, was convinced that these ancient symbols represented words and that hieroglyphics were closely related to demotic and later Coptic scripts. His work was built upon by his sometimes-colleague-sometimes-rival, the French philologist and scholar Jean-Francois Champollion (1790-1832 CE). In 1824 CE Champollion published his translation of the Rosetta Stone, proving that the symbols were a written language and this opened up ancient Egypt to a modern world.

Champollion, visiting Hatshepsut’s temple, was mystified by the obvious references to a female pharaoh during the New Kingdom of Egypt who was unknown in history. His observations were the first in the modern age to inspire an interest in the queen who, today, is regarded as one of the greatest monarchs of the ancient world.

Tomb of Queen Hatshepsut

How and when Hatshepsut died was unknown until quite recently. She was not buried in her mortuary temple but in a tomb in the nearby Valley of the Kings (KV60). Egyptologist Zahi Hawass located her mummy in the Cairo museum’s holdings in 2006 CE and proved her identity by matching a loose tooth from a box of hers to the mummy. An examination of that mummy shows that she died in her fifties from an abscess following this tooth’s extraction.

Although later Egyptian rulers did not know her name, her mortuary temple and other monuments preserved her legacy. Her temple at Deir el-Bahri was considered so magnificent that later kings had their own built in the same vicinity and, as noted, were so impressed with this temple and her other works that they claimed them as their own. There is, in fact, no other Egyptian monarch except Ramesses II (1279-1213 BCE) who erected as many impressive monuments as Hatshepsut. Although unknown for most of history, in the past 100 years her accomplishments have achieved global recognition. In the present day, she is a commanding presence in Egyptian – and world – history and stands as the very role model for women that Thutmose III may have tried so hard to erase from time and memory.

Source: Ancient History (www.ancient.eu), Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org).

temple_of_seti_i

Temple of Seti I

The temple that the Greeks called the Memnonium in Abydos, actually dedicated to Seti I, Osiris and Isis along with Ptah, Ptah-Sokar, Nefertem, Re-Horakhty, Amun, and Horus, is one of the major archaeological sites in that region. It was begun by Seti I and finished by his son, the great Ramesses II. In fact, this structure built of fine white limestone is actually one of the most impressive religious structures in Egypt.

The present facade of the Temple was once the backdrop to the second of the two courtyards, the first of which, along with its entrance pylon, have long since fallen into ruin.

The temple, in the shape of an L, once had a landing quay, a ramp, a front terrace, two pylons, though the outer one is mostly lost, with two courts and pillared porticoes, followed by two hypostyle halls and seven chapels, with additional chambers to the south making up the short leg of the L. Storage chambers fill the area from the southern wing to the front of the temple. The main body of the temple was symmetrical back to the seven chapels. While the L shaped floor plan of this temple is unusual, analysis seems to show that the southern wing was no afterthought, but the result of a well thought out alternative to the usual axial temple plan.

Ground Plan of the Main Seti I Temple (L Shaped)

One approaches the temple through its outer courts, now ruined but with the huge tanks for the absolution of the temple’s priest still visible. This was the first temple we know of in Egypt that incorporated these structures. Along the way there are also row upon row of mud brick storage annexes grouped around a stone entrance hall.The access to the temple proper is up a long flight of 42 shallow stairs

The outer pylons and courts, as well as the first hypostyle hall which is relatively shallow and has two rows of twelve columns with lotus bud capitals, were hastily completed and decorated by Ramesses II. In fact, an image of him worshipping his father, along with Osiris and Isis is incorporated into the initial decorations. Most of the decorations completed by Ramesses II are inferior to those done during his father’s reign, but some are interesting and noteworthy, including the depiction of him as a young boy roping a bull with his father (elsewhere in the temple). Here, we also find a number of military scenes (second courtyard). Within the first hypostyle hall, it is interesting that Ramesses II placed decorations over those of his father. Within the portico that leads to the hypostyle halls, there was once seven doors that gave way to seven processional paths through the towering clustered columns to seven chapels at the rear of the temple.

Even though Seti’s place in history was overshadowed by his son, Ramesses II , arguably one of the greatest pharaohs in Egyptian history. Yet, Seti was an important character in his own right, as he was one of the pharaohs who had to bring order back to Egypt and re-establish Egyptian sovereignty over its eastern neighbours (Syria and the Levant) following the social disruption caused of Akhenaten’s religious reforms . Seti was also responsible for commissioning the construction of a grand temple in Abydos.

rving of Seti I in the Temple of Seti, Abydos (Image: Wikipedia)

Abydos has a special place in the sacred landscape of ancient Egypt, as it was believed to be the place where Osiris was buried. Thus, Abydos was an important cult centre for Osiris. A number of temples dedicated to Osiris, all of which were located in one area, were built prior to the reign of Seti. The Temple of Seti, however, was built on new ground to the south of the said temples.

Seti’s temple was built mainly of limestone, though parts of it were built in sandstone. Although work began under Seti, the temple was only completed during the reign of his son, Ramesses II. This is visible in some of the temple’s reliefs depicting Ramesses slaying Asiatics and worshipping Osiris. Like the temples of his predecessors, Seti’s temple was dedicated to Osiris, and consisted of a pylon, two open courts, two hypostyle halls, seven shrines, each to an important Egyptian deity (Horus, Isis, Osiris, Amun-Ra, Ra-Horakhty and Ptah) and one to Seti himself, a chapel dedicated to the different forms of the god Osiris, and several chambers to the south. In addition to the main temple, there was also an Osireion at the back of it. Various additions to the temple were made by later pharaohs, including those from the Late, Ptolemaic and Roman periods.

The Temple of Seti played an important role in his family’s claim as a legitimate royal household. Prior to the ascension to the throne by Seti’s father, Ramesses I, Seti’s ancestors were merely warriors, generals at most. Without royal blood in his veins, Seti had to consolidate his position, and one of the ways to do so was to build temples. As Akhenaten’s religious reforms did away will the old gods, Seti’s dedication of his temple to Osiris and other important Egyptian deities symbolised a return to the traditional way of life, thus allowing himself to be seen as a restorer of order.

Seti I offering a menat up to a deity and receiving the djed and ankh in return. (Credit: Kyera Giannini / flickr)

In addition to the worship of Egypt’s traditional gods, Seti’s temple had another feature that made his rule legitimate. This was the Abydos King List, which was found carved on a wall of the temple. The Abydos King List contains the names of 76 kings of ancient Egypt, predecessors whom Seti acknowledged to be legitimate pharaohs. On the other hand, earlier rulers who were considered illegitimate, such as Hatshepsut and Akhenaten were conveniently omitted from the List. The Abydos King List was arranged in three rows, each containing 38 cartouches. Whilst the first two rows consisted of the names of his predecessors, the third row is just a repetition of Seti’s throne name and praenomen.

Apart from being an important legitimising tool for Seti’s dynasty, the Abydos King List was also an incredibly important document for our understanding of the kings of ancient Egypt, especially those from the Old Kingdom and the First Intermediate Period. Although the List provides the order of the Old Kingdom rulers, it is far more valuable for the fact that it is the only known source for the names of many of the kings from the first two dynasties of the First Intermediate Period (Dynasties 7 and 8).

The Temple of Seti at Abydos was a strategic building project on the part of Seti I in order to bolster his family’s claim to the Egyptian throne. This desire for legitimacy has also indirectly benefitted us today, as Seti left behind a list of kings that helped patched some holes in the history of Egyptian kingship, as well as a spectacular monument that continues to be visited by thousands of people every year.

Sources: Tour Egypt (touregypt.net), Ancient Origins. (ancient-origins.net).

kernak-luxor-columns

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple – Luxor East Bank, Upper Egypt. Thebes was the capital of New Kingdom Egypt. It had grown in importance throughout the Middle Kingdom, when it was a sanctuary of the god, Montu. Karnak and Luxor Temples together were known as Waset, Thebes was the later Greek name for the town. The history of Karnak Temple and its gods is told in three performances in different languages each evening in a spectacular Sound and Light Show.

Karnak is the biggest temple complex in the world, covering an area of 100 hectares and there is nowhere more impressive to the first-time visitor. Much of it has been restored during the last century and our knowledge of the buildings here in different periods of Egyptian history is still increasing each year. In ancient times, Karnak was known as Ipet-isut, ‘The most select of places’.

The temples are built along two axes (east-west and north-south) with the original Middle Kingdom shrines built on a mound in the centre of what is now called the Temple of Amun.

On the west side is the entrance to the temple used by visitors which was once a quay built by Rameses II to give access via a canal to the river Nile. This is where boats carrying statues of the gods would have arrived and departed from the temple during festivals, such as Opet, and from where the cult statue of Amun would leave on its weekly tour of the west bank temples such as Deir el-Bahri and Medinet Habu. There are many names of kings on the quay each recording the levels of inundations during their reigns.

On the right, in front of the first pylon, is a small barque shrine built by Hakor in Dynasty XXIX, which was used as a resting place during the gods’ professional journey to and from the river.

An avenue of ram-headed sphinxes leads the visitor towards the massive front of the first pylon, each one holding a statue of the king, Rameses II, in its paws (later usurped by Pinudjem of Dynasty XXI). The sphinxes were fantastic beasts with the body of a lion and the head of a ram, a symbol of the god Amun.

The first pylon is unfinished and its height, originally of 43m, is still pretty impressive. There is no certainty as to who built it, but it’s thought that it may have been the Dynasty XXV king Taharqo whose buildings are in the forecourt. Alternatively, it may have been constructed by Nectanebo I of Dynasty XXX who built the temenos walls which link to the pylon and surround the temple complex. The remains of a mudbrick ramp can still be seen on the inner side of the pylon, the only example we have, and which shows how the pylon was constructed.

The forecourt is now inside the entrance pylon but would have originally been outside the main temple. In the centre are the remains of the giant Kiosk of the Nubian pharaoh, Taharqo, with its one complete papyrus column still standing. It is worth remembering that Karnak Temple was built to expand outwards from a central core, the oldest part being in the middle of the main axis, behind the sanctuary of Amun.

To the north of the forecourt and adjoining the first pylon, is the triple barque shrine of Seti II, with three rooms built to contain the barques of Mut, Amun and Khonsu, the gods of the Theban triad.

On the south side of the forecourt is the entrance to a temple of Rameses III, who was not satisfied with the simple way-stations of his ancestors and built an elaborate barque shrine designed as a mini-version of his mortuary temple at Medinet Habu on the west bank. Its first court is lined with Osirid statues of Rameses and its walls show festival scenes and texts. Next to this is the ‘Bubastite gate’, built by Sheshonq of Dynasty XXII, the biblical king ‘Shishak’.

The second pylon was built by Horemheb but not completed until the reign of Seti I. Seti’s son Rameses II built two colossal statues of himself which stood in front of the pylon gate. A third statue of Rameses II still stands in situ and has a tiny statue of his daughter Bent’anta between its feet. This statue was later usurped by Rameses VI then the High Priest Pinudjem I. Inside the walls of this pylon many of the sandstone talatat blocks from the Akhenaten temple were found which had been reused as infill in the construction of the walls.

Through the entrance of the second pylon is the famous hypostyle hall. Standing amongst its 134 gigantic columns the visitor can’t help but be awe inspired by the grandeur of the place. The centre 12 columns are larger (21m tall) and have open papyrus capitals, which may have been intended to symbolise the original ‘mound of creation’. The other 122 columns are smaller (15m) and have closed capitals, perhaps representing the swamp which surrounded the mound.

The hypostyle hall was begun by Amenhotep III who built the side walls which close off the space between the second and third pylons. It was not completed until the reign of Seti I who carved his beautiful raised reliefs around the walls of the northern half. His son Rameses II completed the decoration of the southern half of the walls and pillars, often overcarving his father’s reliefs with his own crude sunk relief carvings including temple foundation rituals. ‘Rameses the Great’ was not going to be forgotten.

Both Seti and Rameses have left us fine examples of temple ritual and the relationship of the pharaohs with their gods. Accounts of their battle exploits are carved around the outer walls. It was Rameses who added a roof of stone slabs to the hall and we can imagine the dim, mysterious atmosphere it would have had, lit only by the high clerestory windows. The pillars are very close together and it’s difficult to get an overview of the hypostyle hall. When it was in use the spaces between the columns would have been filled with statues of gods and kings. Looking back at the hypostyle hall from beyond the third pylon we can see just how high it must once have been.

The third pylon was built by Amenhotep III and beyond this to the east, we move towards the older part of the temple, built in early Dynasty XVIII. Many reused blocks have also been found inside the third pylon from buildings which are now being reconstructed in the open-air museum. One of a pair of obelisks of Tuthmose I is still standing in the area between the third and fourth pylon and the bases of a pair belonging to Tuthmose III can also be seen. The north-south axis of the temple branches off from this court.

It seems that each successive pharaoh was compelled to build bigger and better than his forebears. As we get closer to the sanctuary area, the original Temple of Amun, the pylons get smaller and closer together. The fourth and fifth pylons, built by Tuthmose I are much smaller than the third and the area between them is the oldest extant part of the temple. This area was once a pillared hall containing wide papyrus columns – perhaps the prototype of the hypostyle hall and had huge Osirid statues of Tuthmose I lining its walls. It was later restored and added to by various pharaohs, including his daughter Hatshepsut who built two red granite obelisks here, one of which still remains, and the pyramidion of the other lies on its side near the sacred lake. The texts on Hatshepsut’s obelisk give important details of the building of the monument from a single piece of granite and gilded with the finest gold. It is dedicated to her father Amun and it attempts to legitimise her claim to the throne.

Not much remains of the sixth pylon which was built by Hatshepsut’s successor, Tuthmose III, apart from texts giving details of captured prisoners on its lower walls. The area before the sanctuary contains two beautiful pillars, sometimes called the pillars of the north and south, erected by Tuthmose III. The northern pillar shows the emblem of Lower Egypt, the papyrus, and the southern one is the lily (or Lotus) of Upper Egypt.

The sanctuary now standing is a granite barque shrine which was built by the Greek Philip Arrhidaeus and replaces an earlier shrine of Tuthmose III. The rooms surrounding the shrine were built by Hatshepsut, who had constructed an even earlier shrine here. If we walk around the passage we can see a statue pair representing Amun and Amunet, dedicated by Tutankhamun and thought to show the face of the boy-king.

The open area behind the granite sanctuary is the oldest part of Karnak Temple where the earliest sanctuary once stood, right at the heart of the Temple. In the Middle Kingdom a shrine of Senwosret I stood here but the area was robbed for its stone and all that remains is a large alabaster slab which would have had a shrine built on it. The central court is surrounded by various semi-ruined chambers which contain a wealth of fragmentary but interesting reliefs if you have time to explore them.

Following a paved path along the south side of the central court, the visitor will come to a building known as the Festival Temple of Tuthmose III, anciently called ‘Most splendid of Monuments’ and built as a memorial temple to Tuthmose and his ancestral cult. The pillars inside the hall are said to imitate the ancient tent poles of a pavilion, unique in Egyptian architecture, and still show good remains of the coloured decoration. One of the rooms to the southwest of the pillared hall once contained a table of kings which listed the names of 62 kings and is now in the Louvre in Paris. There are several ruined statues to the north of the hall, in an area which was used as a church in the Coptic era. Behind the columned hall is a suite of rooms dedicated to Amun. A larger room to the north is sometimes known as the Zoological Garden, or Botanical Garden because it contains superb delicate carvings representing plants and animals which Tuthmose encountered on his Syrian campaigns.

A flight of wooden stairs lead over the wall behind the festival temple. In the area leading towards Karnak’s east gate is a small ‘Temple of the Hearing Ear’, built by Rameses II. Here local inhabitants of Thebes would bring their petitions to the gods of Karnak, or rather to the priests who would intercede. This was a tradition suggested by earlier niche shrines built against the back of the Tuthmose complex.

Also just inside the crumbling eastern walls are various remains of later temple structures such as a Colonnade built by Taharqo. The Eastern gate must have been once imposing but is now in quite a ruinous state. Beyond this gate and outside the main temple walls, the scant remains of Amenhotep IV’s (Akhenaten) Karnak temple buildings were discovered. These were excavated in the 1970s and many of the colossal statues of Akhenaten now in the Luxor and Cairo museums came from here.

Following the walls round to the north, we come to the Temple of Ptah. The original three sanctuaries were constructed by Tuthmose III and dedicated to the Memphite god, Ptah. It was restored by the Nubian king Shabaqo and later much added to by the Ptolemies and Romans. There are Ptolemaic screen walls and flowered columns in front of the original sanctuary area. The north and centre sanctuaries were dedicated to Ptah and the southern one to Hathor. Today, in the southern shrine which is usually now kept locked, is a beautifully restored statue of the lioness goddess Sekhmet.

Beyond the temenos wall to the north is the derelict Precinct of Montu, who was the earlier falcon-headed god of the Theban area before Amun gained prominence. The temple was originally built by Amenhotep III and his cartouches can still be seen on some of the blocks in the compound. Several later kings added to the temple and a large propylon gate was built by Ptolemy III in the quay area to the north. There were many smaller adjoining chapels and shrines dedicated to various deities, as well as an avenue of human-headed sphinxes to the north.
Moving west, past the shrines of the ‘God’s Wives of Amun’, we come to the Open Air Museum which houses various blocks and reconstructed shrines found in other parts of Karnak. Most of the fragments here were found inside the second and third pylons or in the floor of the court of the seventh pylon.

The limestone barque shrine of Senwosret I is an airy structure, built as a ‘way-station’ for the king’s jubilee. On its beautifully carved square pillars, we see the king offering to Amun in his ithyphallic form. Next to this is a shining white alabaster shrine built by Amenhotep II, a much simpler construction, and also a similar shrine built by Tuthmose IV. Also here, archaeologists are reconstructing parts of a Temple of Tuthmose IV towards the back of the museum, which are showing some very fine reliefs. One of the most recent reconstructions in the open-air museum is the ‘Red Chapel’ of Hatshepsut which was the original Sanctuary of Amun at the heart of Karnak. It was dismantled by Tuthmose III who rebuilt his own sanctuary, reusing Hatshepsut’s door jambs. Later Amenhotep III made use of the red chapel’s blocks as part of the filling of his third pylon, which is why they have survived in such good condition. French archaeologists have spent the past few years rebuilding the chapel from the available blocks – a very difficult task due to the original construction techniques.
On the other side of the Temple of Amun, to the south, the visitor comes to the Sacred Lake. The area in the foreground was originally a fowl yard and the domesticated birds belonging to Amun were driven from here through a stone tunnel into the lake each day. The lake is overlooked by seating for the Sound and Light show today, but underneath here the remains of priests’ houses were found.

Pylons seven, eight, nine and ten run on a north-south axis to the main temple, called the transverse axis. When the court before the seventh pylon was excavated, a treasure store of 751 stone statues and stelae were found, along with over 17,000 bronzes which now form a large portion of the Cairo Museum collections. Some of the statues can now be seen in the Luxor Museum. They were probably buried in the Ptolemaic Period, but no-one knows exactly why.

The way through the eighth to tenth pylons is blocked due to work in progress. The ninth pylon at present is being painstakingly taken down and reconstructed. Blocks from local Aten temples were used as infill here and we can see some of these talatat blocks of Akhenaten now in the Luxor Museum. To the east of the ninth pylon is a chapel commemorating Amenhotep II’s jubilee, restored after the Amarna Period by Seti I.

In the south-west corner of the Amun precinct, we come to the Temple of Khonsu – ‘son’ of Amun and Mut, a well-preserved small temple from the late New Kingdom, built towards the end of the Ramesside Period. The temple has the feeling that it is built in miniature, with squat pillars and low ceilings, which seems appropriate for Khonsu, the child. Reliefs in the rooms to the back of the temple still have some good colour, including this unusual depiction of a lion-headed ithyphallic god.

A doorway from the Khonsu Temple leads through to a later structure adjacent to it. This is a temple dedicated to the hippopotamus goddess Apet, or Opet (not to be confused with the festival of Opet). She is said to have helped women in childbirth, possibly a later aspect of the goddess Tauret. Reliefs inside the temple, however, depict the funeral rites of Osiris, in the Graeco-Roman tradition.

Karnak can be a confusing place, its buildings spanning a long period in Egyptian history. Most visitors on guided tours have very little time to see much of the temple, and many visits are needed to get even a brief idea of the temple as a whole.

How to get there

Karnak Temple is on the northern edge of the town of Luxor. It is within walking distance from the Corniche, but visitors may prefer to take a taxi or a caleche (horse-drawn carriage) each way from the centre of town. Karnak temple is open from 6.00am to 4.30pm in winter and tickets cost EGP 65. To visit he open-air museum and extra ticket costing EGP 25 is required.

hatchepsut

Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut – Foremost of Noble Ladies. Hatshepsut was born in the 18th Dynasty. This Dynasty is also referred to as the New Kingdom. Hatshepsut entered this world as the daughter of royal parents. Her father was Tuthmosis I and ruled Egypt for approximately 12 to 14 years. Her mother was Ahmes. Ahmes was the sister of Amenophris I (Pharaoh who ruled Egypt for 21 years). In addition to Hatshepsut, Tuthmosis I and Ahmes had a son. They named him Anenemes. By birthright, Anenemes should have inherited the throne as the son of Tuthmosis I and Ahmes; however, he never became king.

Hatshepsut, on the other hand, went on to rule Egypt in later years for approximately 21 years. Hatshepsut ruled Egypt between 1479-1458/57. She ruled in a time when women were allowed to own property and to hold official positions. They were given rights to inherit from deceased family members and were allowed to present their cases in court. Women of Ancient Egypt had more freedom than other ancient cultures such as Greece where women were expected to stay home.

Hatshepsut Bust. Image: Dailymail

After the death of Hatshepsut’s father (Tuthmose I), her half-brother (Tuthmose II) succeeded the throne. As it was customary in royal families, the oldest daughter of the pharaoh would marry a brother to keep the royal bloodlines intact. Therefore, Hatshepsut married her half-brother. Tuthmose II was the son of one of her father’s lesser wives (Mutnofret); however, his reign would be short and his life short-lived. It may have been that Tuthmose II died of an illness and thus held the throne only for 14 years.

During their marriage, Hatshepsut and Tuthmose II were not able to produce a male heir but rather had a daughter whom they named Neferure. In later years, it appears that Neferure may have been married to her half-brother (Tuthmose III); much like her mother had married a half-brother in previous years. Tuthmose III was the son of Tuthmose II (Hatshepsut’s husband) and one of his royal concubines named Isis. This bloodline made Tuthmose III a stepson to Hatshepsut. Because Tuthmose III was very young when his father died, Hatshepsut became a co-regent and ruled right alongside the young stepson. It appears that within the second or third year of this co-regency reign, Hatshepsut proclaimed herself king with complete titles. She would be known as Maatkare (Matt is the ka of Ra) and also Khnemet-Amun-Hatshepsut (She who embraces Amun, the foremost of women). After this proclamation, Tuthmosis III would no longer reign as co-regent with Hatshepsut. In order to make Hatshepsut’s proclamation to king more official and more accepting to the Egyptian citizens, she invented a co-regency with her father Tuthmosis I. She even went as far as incorporating this fabricated co-regency into texts and representations. These were found decorating her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri. In addition, and also to make things still more official, Hatshepsut dedicated a chapel to her father in her mortuary temple. She hoped to acquire more acceptance as the new ruler of Egypt by changing the beliefs of her people.

Hatshepsut was a very unique and intelligent individual. She used various strategies to legitimize her position as pharaoh. Not only did she proclaim herself as pharaoh and fabricate a co-regency with her father (Tuthmose I), but she also tried to make herself more god-like by the invention of stories with the attachment to gods. She did this by making it appear as if the gods had spoken to her and her mother while in she was still in her mother’s womb. Hatshepsut misled her subjects and the uneducated public by indicating that Amon-Ra had visited her pregnant mother at the temple in Deir el-Bahri in the Valley of the Kings.

Hatshepsut was unique because she took on several male adornments while she ruled Egypt. Unlike most women of that time, she attached a false beard, wore male clothing, and was depicted in statutes as a pharaoh. She might have done this to make her transition to kingship and the acceptance of the priesthood more convincing. It may be that if she had ruled strictly with a more feminine-looking disposition she may not have been so readily accepted by the masses. Her strategy seemed to work and the priests supported her reign as pharaoh.

There were many prominent figures during her reign but there appears to be one person in particular who was probably foremost in her circle. This prominent person was Senenmut who was born of a humble family in Armant. He came to be known as Hatshepsut’s spokesman and steward of the royal family. In addition, he was known as superintendent of the buildings of the God Amun. During the later years, Hatshepsut had obelisks installed in the Temple of Amon-Re at Karnak. Senenmut supervised the transport and erection of these obelisks as well as the mortuary temple that was built for Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri. 

It appears that he must have been very well favored by the Queen as he had a separate tomb constructed close to Hatshepsut’s tomb for himself. He had this second tomb dugout in front of Queen Hatshepsut’s tomb in spite of owning another tomb at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna. During Hatshepsut’s reign, gossip followed the pair as it was suggested that his good fortune was due as a result of his intimate relations with the Queen. To add to this deduction, it was further fueled by the fact that he played a heavy role in the education of Hatshepsut’s only daughter Neferure. His brother, Senimen, also acted as nurse and steward to Neferure and this caused more gossip to run rampant. Several statues were found associating Senenmut with the Princess Neferure. History shows that Senenmut was a prominent figure during three-fourths of Hatshepsut’s reign and possibly after the death of Neferure (it appears that she died around the 11th year of Hatshepsut’s reign), that he fell out of graces with the queen for unknown reasons. Speculation has it that he may have had some kind of alliance with Tuthmosis III (Hatshepsut’s stepson) and this could have led to the demise of their relationship.

History also shows that the construction of the famous temple of Deir el-Bahri was most probably started by Tuthmose II and later finished by Queen Hatshepsut. The walls of the temple depict major achievements such as the expedition to Punt near the Red Sea. This trading expedition brought back many riches for the country.

To this day, the death of Hatshepsut remains a mystery. It appears that she reigned for fifteen years and her stepson took the throne after her disappearance. It’s also believed that the hatred for his stepmother pushed him to erase the memory, existence, and any depictions of Queen Hatshepsut by destroying any monuments erected during her reign. Although her temple still stands, neither her tomb nor her mummy has ever been found. She has now come to be known as having been the only female pharaoh to erect the most monuments during her reign.

thutmose2

Thutmose III

Thutmose III 1479 – 1425 BC. Thutmose III possessed all the qualities of a great ruler. A brilliant general who never lost a battle, he also excelled as an administrator and statesman. He was an accomplished horseman, archer, athlete and discriminating patron of the arts. His reign, with the exception of the uncharacteristic spite against the memory of Hatshepsut, was notable for its lack of bad taste and brutality. Thutmose had no time for pompous, self-indulgent bombast and his records show him to be a sincere and fair-minded man.

During Hatshepsut’s reign, there were no wars. Egypt’s neighbouring countries regularly paid tribute but as is often the case when a new king comes to the throne subject nations are inclined to test his resolve.

Thutmose found himself faced with a coalition of the princes of Kadesh and Megiddo, who had mobilised a large army. Also the Mesopotamians and their kinsmen living in Syria refused to pay tribute and declared themselves free of Egypt. Not daunted, Thutmose immediately set out with his army and crossing the Sinai desert he marched to the city of Gaza, which had remained loyal to Egypt. The events of the campaign are well documented because of Thutmose’s private secretary, Tjaneni, kept a record which was later copied and engraved onto the walls of the temple of Karnak.

This first campaign revealed Thutmose to be the military genius of his time. He understood the value of logistics and lines of supply, the necessity of rapid movement and sudden surprise attack. He lead by example and was also probably the first person in history to really utilise sea-power to support his campaigns.

Megiddo was his first objective because it was a key point and had to be taken at all costs. When he reached Aaruna Thutmose held a council with all his generals. There were two routes to Megiddo a long, easy and level road around the hills, which the enemy expected Thutmose to take, and a route which was narrow, difficult and cut through the hills. His generals advised him to take the easy road through the hills, saying “horse must follow behind horse and man behind man also, and our vanguard will be engaged while our rearguard is at Aaruna without fighting” But Thutmose’s reply to this was “As I live, as I am the beloved of Ra and praised by my father Amon, I will go on the narrow road. Let those who will go on the roads you have mentioned; and let anyone who will, follow my Majesty” Now, when the soldiers heard this bold speech they shouted with one accord We follow thy Majesty whithersoever thy Majesty goes”.

Thutmose led his men on foot through the hills “horse behind horse and man behind man, his Majesty showing the way by his own footsteps”. It took about twelve hours for the vanguard to reach the valley on the other side and another seven hours before the last troops emerged. Thutmose himself waited at the head of the pass till the last man was safely through.

The sudden and unexpected appearance of Egyptians in their rear forced the allies to make a hasty re-deployment of their troops. There are said to have been over 300 allied kings, each with his own army, an immense force. However, Thutmose was determined and when the allies saw him at the head of his men leading them forward, they lost heart for the fight and fled for the city of Megiddo “As if terrified by spirits: they left their horse and chariots of silver and gold”

The Egyptian army, being young and inexperienced fell upon the plunder of the battlefield and lost the opportunity of taking the city immediately. Thutmose was very angry, he said to them “If only the troops of his Majesty had not given their hearts to spoiling the things of the enemy, they would have taken Megiddo at that moment. For the ruler of every northern country is in Megiddo and it’s capture is as the capture of a thousand cities.”

Megiddo was besieged. A moat was dug around the city walls and this was completed by a strong wooden palisade. The king gave orders to let nobody through except those who signalled at the gate that they wished to give themselves up.

The siege lasted some seven months but eventually the vanquished kings sent out their sons and daughters to sue for peace. “All those things with which they had come to fight against my Majesty, now they brought them as tribute to my Majesty, while they themselves stood upon their walls giving praise to my Majesty, and begging that the Breath of Life be given to their nostrils”

They received good terms for surrender. An oath of allegiance was imposed upon them “We will not again do evil against Menkheper Ra our good Lord, in our lifetime, for we have seen his might, and he has designed to give us breath.”

Thutmose III is compared with Napoleon but unlike Napoleon he never lost a battle. He conducted sixteen campaigns in Palestine, Syria and Nubia and his treatment of the conquered was always humane. He established a sort of Pax Egyptiaca over his empire. Syria and Palestine were obliged to keep the peace and the region as a whole experience an unprecedented degree of prosperity.

Thutmose III’s impact upon Egyptian culture was profound. He was a national hero who was revered long after his time. Indeed his name was held in awe even to the last days of Egyptian history. Besides his military achievements he carried out many building works at Karnak. He also set up a number of obelisks in Egypt. One of which, mistakenly called Cleopatra’s Needle, now stands on the Embankment in London. It’s brother is in Central Park in New York. Another is near the Lateran in Rome and there is also one of his obelisks in Istanbul. Therefore, he has had an unwitting presence in some of the most powerful nations of the last two thousand years.