The Approach to the Temple of Amun at Karnak in ancient Thebes (Modern Luxor), Egypt

The Approach to the Temple of Amun at Karnak in Egypt

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Jim Fox

Entrance to the Temple of Amun at Karnak in ancient Thebes (modern Luxor)

The Temple of Amun, which actually houses a number of integrated temples and chapels, is both the central and principal construct at Karnak. It's primary modern entrance is on the west (northwest), and consists of a number of structures and statues leading up and through the first Pylon. In the approach to the Temple of Amun at Karnak in ancient Thebes (modern Luxor), a canal was originally dug out to the Nile terminating at a quay built by Ramesses II located on the western extremity of an avenue bordered with two rows of ram-headed sphinxes. The avenue comes to a holt about twenty meters before the first pylon on the northeast of the main structure which faces the Nile River. The avenue is cut into by the royal highway which went from Coptos to Syrene (Aswan) by way of Thebes, passing between the seventh and eighth sphinxes.

A modern view of the avenue of Sphinxes

A modern view of the avenue of Sphinxes showing the Quay

Branching off from the royal highway, a slight ramp climbs toward the quay. Where the ramp begins, there were two human headed sphinxes holding a ram-headed urn in their hands, of which nothing remains but their pedestals, which are 1.5 meters in height.

The various heights of the annual Nile floods that were marked during the time between the 22nd Dynasty reign of Shoshenq I and the 26th Dynasty reign of Psamtik III can be seen on the western side of the quay. For example:

"Year 3, first month of the third season, day 5 under the majesty of King Shabata. When his majesty was crowned as king in the House of Amun, he granted him that he should splendidly appear as favorite of the Two Goddesses, like Horus upon the throne of Ra. [The Nile] which his father Amun the great, Hapi the great, great in Niles, granted him in his time: twenty (cubits), 2 palms."

Plan of the approach to the Temple of Amun

These measurements are believed to be marked with regard to a horizontal line that must have formerly served as a reference for the augmentation of the average level of the flood over the course of the seasons. It should be noted that the quay does not bear measurements from the first five years of Taharqa's reign, which is known to have been a period of drought. Once the flood finally did occur, Tahraqa had two stela carved, one in Coptos and the other at Mataanah, to commemorate the event.

On the northeast and southwest corners of the quay, Seti II had two small obelisks erected. Today, nothing remains of the northern one except the pedestal, but the southern obelisk, which is almost intact, is interesting because it presents Seti II's complete titles, which reading from top to bottom, include his Horus name, his "Two Crowns" name, his Golden Horus name, his throne name as the king of the South and the North, and his "Son of Ra" name, repeated in four vertical columns. Also, a small barque chapel of Hakoris stands to the right of the quay, which once acted as a resting station on the gods' processional journeys to and from the river.

Small obelisk of Seti II

The avenue of sphinxes consist of statues with lions' bodies and the heads of rams, symbolizing Amun, each of which protect between their front paws a royal effigy of Ramesses II in the form of Osiris. Around each of their pedestals is an extra inscription added during the 21st Dynasty by the high priest Pinedjem, son of Piankh.

One of the sphinxes showing Ramesses II

The first pylon, which is the current entranceway to the great Temple of Amun, is composed of two massive blocks framing a large portal. On the west face of each block, for vertical grooves served to house the poles, made from Lebanon cedar and stitched with copper. These poles were adorned with banners (flags) at their tops. The pylon may have been built by Nectanebo I, who raised the temenos walls to which the pylon is attached, though this is by no means certain. Hence, it would have been a relatively late addition built during Egypt's 30th Dynasty. However, it is also possible that an earlier pylon may have stood on this same spot. While the pylon is undecorated, high up on its thickness is an inscription left by Napoleon's Expedition, which remains visible today.

The pylon remains unfinished. The north wing has only thirty-two courses and measures 21.70 meters high, while the southern wing has fort-five courses and measures 31.65 meters high. Its thickness at the base is bout 14.5 meters. Though the pylon's four faces remain unfinished, an examination of its construction reveals the extreme care taken in the precision with which the slope of the monument is drawn on each of the blocks. As an example, the ten lower courses and the upper courses marking he projection of the torus in the southwest corner bear a groove indicating its exact slant. the doorway of the pylon is rather odd. All of the blocks that constitute its jambs are very carefully jointed, not only on the west facade and the interior of the passageway, but also on their faces joined to the pylon, while the entire eastern facade has remained in a state of construction. The doorway has an interior width of 7.4 meters and a height of 19.36 meters. On the inside of the doorway, to the upper right, the French scholars of the Bonaparte expedition carved the latitudes and longitudes of the principal monuments they surveyed.

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Individual Sections of the Great Temple of Amun:






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