In Ancient Egyptian Religion, a temple complex in the northern part of the ancient city of Thebes, Egypt. The Karnak complex is the largest temple complex in human history.
Karnak: Overlooking the Great Temple of Amon.
The Hypostyle Hall in the Great Temple of Amon.
One of the lesser adjoing temples, the Temple of Ramses 3, here in its courtyard.
Temple of Khonsu.
Precinct of Mentu.
Its ancient name meant "The most hallowed of places," indicating the belief that it was the center of the universe, being the place where Amon had created himself and all living beings. Its modern name is from the local village here, and does not relate to ancient times.
Karnak houses at least 13 temples, divided between 3 precincts (religious areas fenced off by mud-brick walls), and two temples right on the outside of temple walls. Excavations in the area is still going on, and may reveal more in the future. The largest temple was dedicated to Amon (later Amon-Re), so large that it often is confusingly simply called Karnak.
The two largest important precincts had large sacred lakes, which could serve all temples within the precinct as well as to connect them.
None of the temples are aligned correctly to any north-south or east-west axis. All temples conclude with its holiest chamber(s) in any direction but west, which was the direction of the Nile. From the Nile, canals led up to the temples, meaning that this side always represented the beginning of any ritual, since participants and prominent spectators arrived by this way.
The popularity, hence construction phase, of Karnak stretches almost 2,300 years. It began in the Middle Kingdom, ending with the Roman era. Throughout, both additions and extensions were built as well as reconstruction being performed to fight decay and natural destruction of the temples. Still, most of the surviving structures date back to the New Kingdom, in the second half of the 2nd millennium BCE.
Precinct of Amon
This is by far the largest temple precinct, containing 6 temples. Into the superstructure of the Temple of Amon, 2 more temples are built in; the Jubilee Temple by Amenophis 2 and the Temple by Ramses 3. A shrine built by Seti 2, is only an addition to the temple, built to house the sacred boats of the gods of the Theban Triad.
Temple of Amon
This temple dominates Karnak to the extent that it often is referred to as Karnak Temple. It runs along two axes. The main axis, west-east, is attached to a series of courtyards behind pylons running in southern direction. This latter axis, attaches the temple structure with the Temple of Mut.
See article on Temple of Amon for more information.
Temple by Ramses 3
The temple of Ramses is in fine condition, dominated by a large open courtyard, concluded in an abrupt inner section.
Jubilee Temple by Amenophis 2
What presently remains of Amenophis 2's temple is crude and unimpressive. This temple is noted for its square columns.
Temple of Khonsu
Knonsu belonged to the Theban Triad, being the son. His temple is actually quite impressive, consisting of 4 rooms.
It was built by the command of Ramses 3, and is noted for being the best preserved temple at Karnak altogether. The temple is entered through an excellent southern pylon. Its most sacred chambers are still intact, while those of the Temple of Amon are in ruins.
Temple of Opet
Opet's temple is since long locked for visitors. It is a small sanctuary with rich reliefs on all walls. The exterior decorations were never completed. This temple served healing purposes, containing a statue of Sekhmet in the interior, together with an altar and a pool.
Temple of Ptah
Ptah's temple is both very small, yet divided into several sections, concluded by a dual chamber. It even allows entry to its roof.
Ptah was the head god of Memphis, this temple was merely a shrine, not serving any central religious purposes.
Precinct of Mut
The precinct of Mut contains 3 temples, of which the Temple of Mut is the most important, Mut belonging to the Theban Triad. This area is linked with the Precinct of Amon by a processional avenue, that is bent to continue on the western side of the walls continuing onwards the Temple of Luxor, some 3 kilometre further south.
Temple of Mut
Mut's temple is dominated by Sekhmet statues, possible as many as 200 originally, all from granite and with the same size and design. Yet, this Sekhmet representation was thought of as a representation of Mut. Mut, herself, is found in one instance only (see her article).
The Temple of Mut was built by the command of Amenophis 3 (14th century BCE). It was made up of several rooms, beginning with a huge hypostyle hall, concluded by a inner shrine.
Presently, the Temple of Mut is in poor condition, but is in a slow process of being reconstructed.
Temple of Khonsupakherod
This temple, being built to a secondary emanation of Khonsu, is rather large to be a secondary temple. It even ends in numerous shrines, which actually may be considered the reason for its size. Like the Temple of Mut, it was also built by the command of Amenophis 3.
Temple of Ramses 3
The temple built by the command of Ramses 3 (12th century BCE), is about the size of Khonsupakherod, resting on the western side of the bean shaped sacred lake. It was made from a standard temple pattern, but is noted for having two large statues protecting its facade. Just that this time it is not a Ramses 2, but a successor, Ramses 3.
Precinct of Mentu
Mentu, not belonging to the Theban Triad, dominates the least important of the 3 precincts. Within his smaller walled area, there are 3 temples, all representing one superstructure.
Temple of Mentu
This temple is the dominant at this precinct. Mentu was the dominant god of Thebes prior to the Theban Triad, and the rise of Amon to the foremost position. Though being an older god, the temple is from the times of the triad. Its size and quality is clearly inferior to many of the other temples.
Presently, this temple is in a poor state, and closed to the public.
Temple of Maat
The Temple of Maat is intertwined with the Temple of Mentu, rests in its front, and little of importance can be said about this structure.
Temple of Harpare
As is the case with Maat's temple, this temple presently appear as an integrated part of the temple strucutre of Mentu's.
Outside the precincts
The two temples outside the precincts and walled off area are either of inferior importance, or they are simply yet to be given the attention that will prove their importance. For the time being, the first of these explanations appear most correct.
One temple, right outside the entrance to the Mut precinct, was dedicated to a variation of Amon, known as Amon-Kamutef. Next to nothing has yet been unearthed from this structure.
The other temple, the Temple by Tuthmosis 1 rests right north of Amon Precinct, and right east of Mentu's.
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