The Peristyle Court of Tuthmosis III, The Naos of Philip Arrhidaeu and the Sanctuary of Hateshpsut Beyond the Sixth Pylon in the Temple of Amun At Karnak in Egypt

The Peristyle Court of Tuthmosis III,

The Naos of Philip Arrhidaeu and the

Sanctuary of Hateshpsut Beyond the Sixth Pylon

in the Temple of Amun At Karnak

by Jimmy Dunn

The two granite pillars constructed by Tuthmosis III in front of the naos of Philip Arrhidaeu

Beyond the Sixth Pylon in the Temple of Amun at Karnak in Thebes (modern Luxor) is an inverted T-shaped area where the top of the T is made up of the peristyle court of Tuthmosis III, and the leg of the T is a barque sanctuary filled by the granite naos of Philip Arrhidaeu, who was Alexander the Great's immediate successor for a brief period of time.

After building the Sixth Pylon, Tuthmosis III divided the peristyle court beyond the pylon into three sections, by two walls that formed a central chamber in front of the sanctuary built by Philip Arrhidaeu, which itself replaced an earlier repository build during the reign of Tuthmosis III. On the walls of this chamber, together with the east facade of the sixth pylon and the outer walls of the sanctuary, Tuthmosis III had inscribed a record of his twenty years of campaigns abroad, resulting in the name, "chamber of the Annals", being given to this section of the temple. At one time, the chamber was covered by a roof with architraves resting on so-called heraldic pillars.

Amun introducing the king

In the southern wing of this chamber, on the interior (east side) of the Sixth Pylon, to the right are the remains of the granite doorpost of the pylon's doorway. On the sandstone revetment to the left we find Amun introducing the king. Behind Amun there is a line of inscriptions recording Horemheb's restoration in this part of the temple, which is followed by the two last lines of the famous text of the Annals of Tuthmosis III on the walls of the sanctuary where he recounts the events related to the building of a fortress in Lebanon. His Majesty returned, disembarking at Thebes, and celebrated the victory feast for his first campaign of the year 23. Then, "while the majesty of that august neter [Amun] navigated his way toward Ipet of the South [Luxor]", the king deposited very large offerings of all kinds at the entrance to this temple.

In a long list of these gifts, which consisted of slaves, livestock, precious metals, gemstones as well as territories, there is a record of three cities, including Yanoam, from which he received "flocks of geese for the sacred pool", offerings for his new sed-festival temple, for his obelisks, for his statues and for the feast of Min's emergence. Tuthmosis III also tells us of the creation of a new garden "planted with all manner of pleasing trees" for the daily plant offerings.

"Thus, My Majesty has created all monuments, all laws, all regulations...To my father Amun...for great is my knowledge of his glory. I was instructed within his perfection, resting within his body..."

The final two lines here provide additional offerings, including 318 white breads, which were cakes in the shape of the pyramidian crowning an obelisk.

Statue of Amun Re

In the northwest corner of the chamber is a statue of Amun in profile in front of the inner wall of the north wing of the sixth pylon, and behind it is text recording the tributes received during the course of Tuthmosis III's final campaigns during the years 39 and 42 of his reign. It ends with a text that reads:

"Behold, His Majesty commanded the recounting of the victories he has won from the year 23 to the year 42, when this inscription was written upon his sanctuary..."

Legrain tells us that:

"There are two statues erected in front o the north doorway of the fore-sanctuary {Chamber of the Annals), on the east side one in the image of Amunet, on the west, Amun. These colossal statues measure around six meters in height. They are carved out of the deep-toned red sandstone."

The statue of Amun was found, but it was broken into many pieces. However, behind the feathers on his headdress an inscription provides the Horus name of Tutankhamun and over his cartouches those of Horemheb. The fragmentary body of Amunet was also discovered, but there was no head. Both statues were doubtless erected during the reign of Tutankhamun and usurped by Horemheb. They were probably destroyed during the Roman or Coptic period.

On the northern pillar, the king wears the red crown and is embraced first by hathor and then below by Amun

In front of his original naos that Philip Arrhidaeu built over in the sanctuary, Tuthmosis III erected two granite pillars that bear four scenes on their east and west sides and symbolic plants of the Two Lands on their north and south sides which show admirable detail. These are the only examples of their type known, and their architectural role has been the subject of some scholarly debate. On the southern pillar, the king wears the white crown and in the top register he is embraced by Amunet, while below by Amun. On the northern pillar, the king wears the red crown and is embraced by Hathor and then Amun. On the southeast corner of the southern pillar, above the plants is the cartouche of Tuthmosis Neferkhepru, and above this we see the king embraced by the Goddess, Mut. Mut once again embraces the king in the upper section on the east side of the northern pillar.

Left: The king embraced by Mut on the South Pillar; Middle: The king embraced by Mut on the North Pillar; Right: The King embraced by Amun

Left: The king embraced by Mut on the South Pillar;
Middle: The king embraced by Mut on the North Pillar;
Right: The King embraced by Amun

A fasciculate column in the peristyle court of Tuthmosis III at Karnak

To either side of the Chamber of the Annals is the peristyle court of Tuthmosis III, where he erected a portico of fasciculate columns with sixteen cusps each. Their bases were finely worked, and they front small chapels to the far north and far south of each wing, respectively. In the north wing, on the outer southern facing walls of the chapels, are several interesting depictions. On one, the king holds the akh bird, an Ibis, in one hand and four long stakes in the other, perhaps for holding the net for a bird hunt. He makes the "great stride" before Hathor who presents him with the menat. She also holds the palm of the years. Hathor's son, Ihy, who is completely nude, is in front of her, holding a sistrum toward the inscription that provide the name of the chapel, House of Horus.

A fasciculate column in the peristyle court of Tuthmosis III at Karnak

Above the lintel of one of the other northern chapels is a very curious depiction of a small individual standing in the back of a papyrus boat behind a person of larger proportions who is probably the king. The King in such a boat is not uncommon, and we find similar representations in the temple of Luxor and the tomb of Ay. However, what is so unusual about this depiction is that the legs and feet of the smaller individual are completely formed of duck heads. Thanks to an old photograph of a neighboring block which has now disappeared, we know that the smaller figure is actually that of an obscure god named Kheddw, an ancient fishing deity.

Beyond these pillars is the sanctuary and the granite barque naos of Philip Arrhidaeu that replaced the more ancient repository build during the reign of Tuthmosis III. It is divided into two halves, with an outer area where offerings were made to the gods, and the inner where the god's barque reposed. Originally, a structure stood before it with sandstone pillars that were bored with small holes at their bases, probably to hold either electrum or gold plating. P. Barquet suggests that within the structure was placed the two obelisks "of clear electrum" amounting to 2,500 talents that Ashurbanipal was said to have brought away from Thebes in 656 BC, "where they had been erected before the doorway of the sanctuary". Electrum is a blend of gold and silver, and their weight, which would have been equivalent to 37,875 kilograms, would have made their height an estimated 6.9 meters.

The beginning of the Annals of Tuthmosis III

It is on the northern wall of this sanctuary that the annals of Tuthmosis III begin, and it has been said that this wall has in fact caused more commentary among scholars than any other area in the entire temple of Karnak. Here, Tuthmosis III holds the makes cane and the white hedj club in one hand and the sekhem scepter in the other, consecrating the wealth of offering before him on behalf of Amun.

The offerings include coffers, gold bracelets with precious stones, alabaster jars "filled with pure unguent for the divine rituals, a vessel of precious stone that His Majesty made following the intention of his own heart", and all other manner of objects, all counted and specified. There are two large masts standing between the king and these offerings, each recording a different inscription. The one on the left records the two great obelisks that were in front of the fourth pylon of which nothing currently remains but their bases. The mast on the right refers to the erection of the "great granite obelisks with electrum pyramidions", which are probably the two placed in front of the seventh pylon. One of these is now in Istanbul.

Below this immense scene that covers the entire wall from the northeast corner to the granite doorway are sixty-seven columns of text, reading from east to west, that record the king's first campaign. It tells of Tuthmosis III crossing the frontier at Tharu, in his 22nd year on the throne, to repress the rebellion of the Asians. After a short stay in Gaza, it takes him three weeks to arrive at Yehem. There, he holds a council of war after learning that the chief of Kadesh was gathering all the princes of Palestine and Syria, with their troops and horses, at Megiddo to battle the pharaoh.

Here, he discusses with his generals the route that they will take to the battle. There were three routes open to them. The first was the most direct, but also the most dangerous because from Aruna this route weaved through a narrow gorge. The other two roads were perhaps safer, but led either to the north or south of Megiddo. The generals all implored the king to take one of these safer routes. The generals argued that:

"While they (come) and say that the enemy is there waiting, (holding) the way against a multitude. Will not horse come behind (horses and man behind) man likewise? Shall our (advanced guard) be fighting while our (rear guard) is yet standing yonder in Aruna not having fought?"

The king responds:

"I (swear) as Ra loves me, as my father Amun favors majesty will proceed upon this road of Aruna! Let him who will among you go upon those roads ye have mentioned, and let him who will among you come in the following of my majesty! Shall they think among those enemies whom Ra detests: 'Does his majesty proceed upon another road? He begins to be fearful of us,' so will they think"

To this, the generals submitted:

He [the king] went forth at the head of his army himself, showing (the way) by his (own) footsteps, horse behind (horse), (His Majesty) being at the head of his army.

As Tuthmosis, one of the most celebrated generals in ancient Egyptian history, hoped, the enemy was surprised by the route he took. The enemy was divided into two wings, each covering the "safer" routes. Hence, indeed as the fore guard filled the hollow of the valley pharaoh's rear guard was still in Aruna, but the enemy was unaware of this and Tuthmosis III's army was able to consolidate prior to their finding out. There, in the valley near Megiddo, the Egyptian camp was raised and orders were given for an attack on the morning of the next day, when:

"His majesty went forth in a chariot of electrum arrayed in his weapons of war like Horus the Smiter [in the center of his division], [and when those leagued against him] saw his majesty prevailing against them, they fear...".

Southern outside facade of the Naos

The granite naos of Philip Arrhidaeus, which was probably not actually build by him but on his behalf by Ptolemy I, is formed from two long chambers that correspond externally to two buildings of different heights placed end to end. The western half is taller than the eastern portion. The exterior north face of the western half is adorned with an immense tableau depicting Amun-Min Kamutef, sheathed in white. He stands on a bulwark surmounting an altar which in turn is supported by a staircase. Behind the deity is depicted a large, rectangular piece of red cloth, stretched between two falcon-headed stakes and surmounted by the words, "divine shadow". The god is preceded by twelve insignia, of which two bear his name. These are the bull ka (soul) and the vulture Mut perched on the viper. This scene evokes one of the most ancient religious feasts of Egypt, the emergence of Min, which we find from the very first dynasties.

The king consecrates the offerings

East of this scene on the lower portion of the naos, is a depiction of the king, wearing the Atef crown, consecrating offerings. He holds the sekhem scepter and above him is wadjet, the snake-headed vulture who is the guardian spirit of the North.

On the other, southern exterior side of the naos at the front of the structure (southwest corner), a jutting cornerstone forms the pedestal on which the naos rests. This is a reused granite block on which the Horus name of Tuthmosis II is carved. This is rather strange, for the stone is carved in a way that the framing of the name is sloped with respect to the pedestal's horizontal. An inscription in the naos provides five columns of hieroglyphs that contain the dedication of the sanctuary as a restoration by Philip Arrhidaeus of Tuthmosis III's original work. The later king tells us that the reconstruction was necessary because the structure was on the verge of falling into ruin. The granite terrace is obviously composed of blocks that came from Tuthmosis III's original structure. However this reused block probably comes from obelisks that were broken and then carved into slabs.

Tuthmosis III with his back to Amun and behind this, the king depicted as a child receiving divine milk

The southern facade of the naos is divided into four registers and topped by a torus and cornice. The lowest part contains only on register, on which are drawn the offering of four calves, of which, one is black, another red, the third white and the last spotted. Here also is the race of the "great stride" by the king, who wears the white crown carrying the oar and the rudder. To the left of this are three very interesting registers, They include, from left to right, the purification of the king by Thoth and Horus, who pour into a dome around the king water from two vessels. Repeated four times is the formula, "Your purification is my purification and reciprocally". Next, Hours and Thoth crown the king so that he can fulfill his sacred office, after which the king is received by Thoth. Here, the king kneels before Amun, who sits upon a throne, though the king has his back turned to the god, looking in the same direction. The king receives life and the confirmation of his royalty, and then, with the features of a child having curly locks, receives the divine milk.

On the naos of Philip Arrhidaeus, the scenes of purification, imposition of the crowns and the royal accent and enthronement

On the naos of Philip Arrhidaeus, the scenes of purification, imposition
of the crowns and the royal accent and enthronement

Depicted in the middle register is the sacred barque leaving the sanctuary on the shoulders of priests. It is then deposited in a chapel that marks one of the resting stations, before continuing on to the second repository. On the bottom register, the barque returns, first by water and towed by the king himself who stands in a skiff, and then on the shoulders of priests, as the king purified it with incense.

Hauling the Sacred Barque on the shoulders of the Priests

The final scene depicts a quadruple purification, with the white vessels, of the sacred barque which is now returned to its sanctuary.

In the interior of the naos, we find that the ceiling was painted with gold stars on a blue background. On the interior northwest wall are four registers on which the rituals of the Daily Divine Worship of Amun under two different forms are depicted in alternation. On the third register of the southern wall near the entrance, a hunting scene with nets can also be recognized.

Flanking the sanctuary and naos is an area known as Hatshepsut's temple. To the north, there are a few notable scenes in the southeastern most room. Here, on the interior north wall. The bas-reliefs here were once on the outside of the south wall of this same room, but were covered over by the "wall of the Annals" when Tuthmosis III made the central portion of the temple into a single room what four pillars. Legrain removed Hatshepsut's reliefs, block by bock, and remounted them in the location they are found today.

The purification of Hatshepsut

In these scenes, Hatshepsut is taking the "great stride" in front of Amun-Ra Kamutef. Actually, the queen and her cartouches were hammered out, presumably by Tuthmosis III, but with such care that the silhouette of her red crown, her two vessels and the hieroglyphics of her name can still be recognized. However, the face and name of Amun was spared by Akhenaten, because by his reign they were hidden by the wall of the Annals.

We also find Thoth and Horus, each standing on pedestals, purifying Hatshepsut, who has again been hammered out. Only the scarabs have been spared this destruction.

Statue of Amenhotep II

Within the southern wing of Hatshepsut's temple, notable, is a seated statue of Amenhotep II.

He holds a second figure, now completely destroyed, by the shoulder. Above the king's nemes headdress he wears the atef crown. Above the horizontal horns of Khnum rises a bouquet of long, finely carved feathers, bound at the top and framed by two ostrich plumes. This is a very fine sculpture in the round with excellent details. On the southern exterior wall of the south wing of Hatshepsut's temple, at the western end is recorded the "Texts of the Youth" of Tuthmosis III. The king is seated within a columned building on a terraced pedestal. Behind him, his Horus name, "Mighty Bull Shining in Thebes", is recorded. His throne is adorned with scales and plants of the North and South, bound together around the sign of union. On the pedestal, two Nile gods are linking the "Two Lands". Flanking them, looking in opposing directions, are two lions. The one on the left overlays an earlier depiction of Amun, recognizable by the vertical band behind his back, which dated from the first stages of this building prior to Tuthmosis III. This figure seems to have been intentionally left.

Tuthmosis III on his throne with the Nile Gods and lions below

In front of the "royal dais" are the first twelve lines of the "Text of the Youth", of which the entire upper portion has been destroyed. Here, the king, after making a recitation of his ascension to the throne, describes the monuments that he built. These included "A divine abode" of white sandstone for which he performed the laying of the foundation rituals himself. There was also a Holy of Holies named "His Great is like the Horizon of Heaven", which was built of sandstone from the "Red Mountain". We are told that its interior was "wrought with electrum". He also names three doorways that he named and of which one is still in place. Here he also speaks of the sixth pylon and of its great cedar door. Another monument that he mentions is a sandstone chapel with doors of cedar wood that he built for his fathers, the kings who were before him. There are other monuments included in this narration and finally, he talks of a "splendid harp wrought with silver, gold, lapis lazuli, malachite, and every splendid costly stone, for the praise of the beauty of his majesty (Amun) at his appearances". From a historical point of view, while perhaps not the most visually spectacular sections of the Temple of Amun, this area of the temple is very significant. We learn much about Tuthmosis III, and we also deduce some of the problems between him and his stepmother, Hatshepsut. It also contains one of the very few structures attributed to Philip Arrhidaeus in all of Egypt.

Ground Plan of this section of the Temple of Amun

Ground Plan of this section of the Temple of Amun

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See Also:






Reference Number

Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt, The

Wilkinson, Richard H.


Thames and Hudson, Ltd

ISBN 0-500-05100-3

History of Egyptian Architecture, A (The Empire (the New Kingdom) From the Eighteenth Dynasty to the End of the Twentieth Dynasty 1580-1085 B.C.

Badawy, Alexander


University of California Press

LCCC A5-4746

Luxor, Karnak and the Theban Temples

Siliotti, Alberto


American University In Cairo Press, The

ISBN 977 424 641 1

Temples of Karnak, The

de Lubicz, R. A. Schwaller


Inner Tradition

ISBN 0-89281-712-7

Thebes in Egypt: A Guide to the Tombs and Temples of Ancient Luxor

Strudwick, Nigel & Helen


Cornell University Press

ISBN 0 8014 8616 5