Karnak
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Karnak, located on the East Bank at Thebes, is one of Egypt’s largest surviving temple precincts. Founded in the Middle Kingdom, it had become Egypt’s principal religious center by the New Kingdom. It was devoted primarily to the god Amun, a local Theban god joined with the sun god Re to become king of the Egyptian pantheon. Kings from the Middle Kingdom through the Roman era dedicated architectural elements such as pylons (monumental gateways), courts, temples, and shrines to the precincts of the Theban triad: Amun, his consort Mut, their son Khonsu, and the war god Montu, creating the sprawling zone we see today.

The Amun precinct at Karnak is approached from the Nile along an avenue lined with ram-headed sphinxes. The first pylon, built in the Late Period or Ptolemaic era, protects a courtyard containing a triple shrine dedicated to the Theban triad by Seti II and a small temple of Ramses III. Beyond the second pylon is the Great Hypostlye Hall, which holds 134 colossal columns in the shape of papyrus bundles. The third and fourth pylons lead to the principal temple area. From the area of the third pylon, a second axis, oriented north-south, leads through a series of pylons and along another avenue of ram-headed sphinxes to the Mut precinct. Inside the enclosure wall of the Amun precinct are also several smaller temples and a large sacred lake. The Montu precinct lies to the north.

The walls of the pylons, courts, and temples were extensively decorated; the reliefs here include depictions of cult activities, religious festivals, coronation ceremonies, and military campaigns.

Excavations at Karnak have yielded numerous examples of both royal and private statuary, the remains of votive images set up here in honor of the gods. Some of the most magnificent of these come from the Court of the Cachette, where salvage work in the early 20th century uncovered over 700 statues and statue fragments and more than 17,000 bronzes.

HOURS OF OPERATION:
Daily, 6 AM – 5:30 PM

TICKET COST:
Egyptian: 2 LE
Foreign: 50 LE
50% reduction for bearers of International Student ID Card

LOCATION:
The site is 2.5 km north of central Luxor.

DIRECTIONS:
BY PLANE: Luxor has an international airport serviced by EgyptAir and many other airlines.

BY BUS: Buses run regularly into Luxor.

BY TAXI: From within Luxor, ask for maabd el karnak.

Overview of the precinct of Amun (SCA Archives)

 

Divine triad of Amun, Mut, and Khonsu, from the Court of the Cachette (Kenneth Garrett)