Karnak is the modern-day name for the ancient website of the Temple of Amun at Thebes, Egypt. The Egyptians called the site Nesut-Towi, "Throne of the Two Lands", Ipet-Icollection, "The Finest of Seats" as well as Ipt-Swt, "Schosen Spot" additionally provided as Ipetsut, "The Many Select of Places".

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The original name hregarding execute through the ancient Egyptian belief that Thebes was the initially city established on the primordial mound which climbed from the waters of chaos at the beginning of the people. At that time, the creator-god Atum (occasionally Ptah or Ra) stood on the mound to start the work of production. The site of the temple was thmust be this original ground and also the temple was increased at this spot for that reason. Karnak is believed to have been an old observatory as well as a location of worship where the god Amun would certainly connect directly with the human being of earth.

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Historical Overview

The Temple of Amun is the biggest spiritual structure in the world (though some insurance claim Angkor Wat in Cambodia is larger) and also honors not only Amun yet other gods such as Osiris, Montu, Isis, Ptah and also the Egyptian rulers that wiburned to be remembered for their contributions to the site. It was constructed slowly over the centuries, through each new leader including to it, from the beginning of the Center Kingdom (2040 - 1782 BCE) via the New Kingdom (1570 - 1069 BCE) and also throughout the Ptolemaic Empire (323 - 30 BCE).

It has actually even been argued that the rulers of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613 - c. 2181 BCE) initially developed tbelow owing to the style of some of the ruins and also the king"s list of Old Kingdom kings inscribed by Tuthmose III (1458 - 1425 BCE) of the New Kingdom in his Festival Hall there. His option of emperors suggests that he may have actually removed their monuments to construct his hall however still wanted them to be remembered. Structures were frequently rerelocated, renovated, or expanded throughout the temple"s long history. The complicated ongoing to prosper via each succeeding leader and the ruins today cover over 200 acres of land also. It has actually been estimated that one could fit 3 structures the dimension of Notre Dame Cathedral in the primary temple alone.

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The Temple of Amun was in consistent use via perpetual expansion for over 2,000 years and thought about among the many sacred sites in Egypt. The priests of Amun who managed the administration of the holy place ended up being significantly affluent and also effective to the allude that they were able to take regulate of the government of Thebes toward the end of the New Kingdom once rule of the country came to be split between theirs at Thebes in Upper Egypt and that of the pharaoh in the city of Per-Ramesses in Lower Egypt.

The rise of the power of the priests, and the resulting weakness of the position of the pharaoh, is thought about the significant contributing element in the decrease of the New Kingdom and the beginning of the Third Intermediate Period (1069 - 525 BCE). The holy place complicated was damaged in the Assyrian intrusion of 666 BCE and also aobtain by the Persian invasion of 525 BCE but, both times, was repaired and also renovated.

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By the 4th century CE Egypt was a component of the Romale Realm and Christianity was being supported as the one true confidence. The emperor Constantius II (r. 337 - 361 CE) ordered pagan holy places to be closed in 336 CE and also the Temple of Amun was deserted. Coptic Christians made use of the building for church services, as shown by Christian art and engravings on the walls, yet then the website was abandoned.

It was refound in the time of the 7th century CE Arab Invasion of Egypt at which time it was called "Ka-ranak" which means "strengthened village" bereason of the huge amount of style amassed in one area. When European explorers first began traveling in Egypt in the 17th century CE they were told the grand damages at Thebes were those of Karnak and also the name has been in use for the site because then.

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Amun & the Early Temple

Amun (likewise recognized as Amun-Ra) was a minor Theban deity who, after Mentuhotep II merged Egypt in c. 2040 BCE, climbed in prestige. The powers of 2 older gods, Atum and also Ra (the creator god and sunlight god, respectively) were unified in Amun, making him the supreme king of the gods, both creator and also preserver of life. The area of Karnak might have currently been spiritual to Amun before any kind of frameworks were built there or could have been spiritual to Atum or Osiris, both of whom were likewise venerated at Thebes.

The site was already collection acomponent as holy ground in that no evidence of domestic houses or of sectors has actually been discovered tright here, just religiously-themed buildings or imperial apartments created lengthy after the initially temple was constructed. As tright here was no separation of one"s religious ideas from one"s daily life in primitive Egypt one could think that it would certainly be hard to tell a purely secular building from a spiritual website but this is not so, or not always so. At Karnak the engravings left on the columns and wall surfaces, and the artwork-related, clearly recognize the website as spiritual in nature from the earliest times.


Joanna Penn (CC BY)

The initially monument thought to be elevated at the website is that of Wahankh Intef II (c. 2112 - 2063 BCE) that put up a column to the honor of Amun-Ra. This insurance claim has actually been contested by those scholars who allude to the king"s list of Thutmose III in his Festival Hall who insurance claim the site was initially arisen for religious purposes in the Old Kingdom. They also occasionally suggest out Old Kingdom formats in some of the style of the damages.

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The architectural attach has no bearing on the case, however, bereason the style of the Old Kingdom (the age of the great pyramid builders) was often emulated by later on eras to invoke the grandeur of the previous. If any kind of Old Kingdom rulers developed tright here then their monuments were rerelocated by later queens and this is what some scholars case Thutmose III"s king list points to.

Wahankh Intef II was one of the Theban rulers that waged war versus the ineffectual central federal government at Herakleopolis and paved the way for Mentuhotep II (c. 2061-2010 BCE) to overthrow the monarchs of the north and also reunite Egypt under Theban rule. When Mentuhotep II came to power he built his mortuary complex directly across the river from Karnak at Deir el-Bahri and this has actually said to some scholars that a far-reaching temple to Amun already existed tright here at this time; not simply the monument of Wahankh Intef II.

Mentuhotep II might have actually constructed a temple at the site to honor Amun for helping him attain victory, and also then built his facility across from it, but this case is speculative and also no evidence suggests it. Many likely he made a decision the site of his mortuary facility bereason of its proximity to the holy site across the river; tbelow would certainly not have had to be a temple on the spot at the moment to motivate him.

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The initially well-known builder at Karnak is the king Senusret I (r. c. 1971-1926 BCE) of the Center Kingdom who built a temple to Amun via a courtyard which might have actually been intended to honor, and also mirror, Mentuhotep II"s mortuary facility across the river. Senusret I, then, would certainly have been the original architect of Karnak in response to the excellent hero Mentuhotep II"s tomb. Any claims alengthy these lines remain speculative, but, and all that is plainly recognized is that the area was taken into consideration sacred before any kind of temple was built there.

The Center Kingdom rulers that adhered to Senusret I all included their own touches to the temple and increased on the website but the rulers of the New Kingdom would certainly transcreate the modest holy place grounds and structures right into a colossal complicated of enormous scope and detail. Nothing choose Karnak had been attempted since the fourth Empire king Khufu (r. c. 2589-2566 BCE) built his Great Pyramid at Giza.


Temple of Amun, Karnak
Dennis Jarvis (CC BY-SA)

The New Kingdom Developments

The pharaohs of the New Kingdom lavished attention on the Temple of Amun. Seti I (r. 1290-1279 BCE) and, specifically, his follower Ramesses II (The Great, r. 1279-1213 BCE), added decorations and also columns to the Hypostyle Hall which had been constructed to expensive prosections previously in the New Kingdom. This was done to honor the god and encertain the pharaoh"s place in the eternal remembrance of the world. Scholar Corinna Rossi, citing Egyptologist Elizabeth Blyth"s occupational, writes:

The importance of Karnak lived in its being the contact point in between Amun, the supreme ruler of the universe, and also the pharaoh, the supreme leader on Planet who stood for all Egyptian human being. Thus, particularly from the New Kingdom onwards, every king that wiburned to be remembered forever before was practically compelresulted in add to the splendor of this most necessary holy place. (41)

All of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom, before and also after Seti I and Ramesses II, added to Karnak. Actual labor on the site was achieved by forced labor of inmates from the Great Prikid at Thebes, people perdeveloping neighborhood organization, or paid employees, masons, and also artists. The New Kingdom started via the power of Ahmose I (r. c. 1570 - 1544 BCE) that unified Egypt after expelling the foreign rulers well-known as the Hyksos. Ahmose I, a Theban prince, thanked the god Amun for his victory by contributing to the temple at Karnak. Amenhotep III (r. 1386 - 1353 BCE), who had actually one of the most luxuriant reigns in Egyptian history and whose many kind of building jobs guaranteed he would be remembered, still made sure to add to the Temple of Amun at Thebes.

His follower, Akhenaten (r. 1353 - 1336 BCE), banned the worship of Amun and also the various other gods of Egypt, closed all the temples, and also elevated his individual god, Aten, to the level of the one supreme god of the world. Even so, he still added to Karnak though his contribution was a holy place to Aten, not Amun, which was destroyed by the later on pharaoh Horemheb (r. 1320 - 1295 BCE) as soon as he recovered the gods of Egypt and tried to wipe the memory of Akhenaten"s regime from background. The result of these additions, renovations, and also advances throughout the New Kingdom was an ever-raising facility of enormous dimension and also scope. Historian Margaret Bunson writes:

Karnak continues to be the many exceptional spiritual complex ever before built on earth. Its 250 acres of temples and chapels, obelisks, columns and statues developed over 2,000 years incorpoprice the best aspects of Egyptian art and also style right into a good historical monument of stone. It was designed in three sections. The initially one extended from the northwest to the southwest, through the second part at best angles to the original shrine. The 3rd area was added by later monarchs. The setup of the Temple of Amun, noticeable even in its damaged state, included a collection of well-coordinated frameworks and also architectural developments, all designed to maximize the stamina of the rock and the monumental facets of the facility. Karnak, as via all various other major holy places of Egypt, was graced via a ramp and a canal bring about the Nile and also this shrine additionally boasted rows of ram-headed sphinxes at its entrance. At one time the sphinxes joined Karnak and also an additional holy place of the god at Luxor, to the south. (133)

This huge facility, dedicated to Amun and also a variety of honorary gods and also goddesses, had actually at its center the inner sanctum of the god"s home which was perfectly aligned with sunset at the summer solstice. All of Karnak, in reality, is aligned via celestial events which would have actually been taken by the clergymans there to understand also the will of the god and also his wishes for humankind.


The Structure & Operation of the Site

Karnak is consisted of of a collection of pylons (monumental gatemethods which taper in the direction of the height to cornices), leading into courtyards, halls, and also holy places. The first pylon opens up onto a broad court which invites the visitor even more. The second pylon opens onto the Hypostyle Court which steps 337 feet (103 m) by 170 feet (52 m). The hall is supported by 134 columns 72 feet (22 m) tall and also 11 feet (3.5 m) around in diameter.

The god to whom the ground was originally dedicated may have actually been Montu, a Theban battle god, and tbelow was a precinct dedicated to him even after the climb of the cult of Amun. As the temple thrived, yet, it came to be divided right into the three sections Bunchild mentions over and dedicated to Amun, his conkind Mut who symbolized the life-providing rays of the sun, and also their boy Khonsu, the moon god. These three gods ended up being recognized as the Theban Triad and would be the most well-known gods until the cult of Osiris with its triad of Osiris, Isis, and also Horus overtook it (inevitably becoming the Cult of Isis, the the majority of renowned in Egyptian history).

The temple complex grew from the original holy place to Amun of the Center Kingdom to an honorary website for many gods consisting of Osiris, Ptah, Horus, Hathor, Isis and also any kind of other deity of note to whom the pharaohs of the New Kingdom felt they owed a debt of gratitude. The clergymans of the gods administered the site, accumulated tithes and gifts, dispensed food and counsel, and construed the gods" will for the civilization. Tbelow were over 80,000 priests employed at Karnak by the end of the New Kingdom and also the high priests there were more well-off than the pharaoh.


The cult of Amun brought about difficulties for the kings of the New Kingdom from the power of Amenhotep III onwards, most likely previously. Except for the half-hearted attempts of Amenhotep III and also the dramatic reformation of Akhenaten, yet, no leader ever tried to perform anything to considerably curb the priest"s power and also, as noted, eexceptionally king contributed to Amun"s temple and the wealth of the Theban priests without pausage.

Even in the time of the disunity of the Third Intermediate Period (c. 1069 - 525 BCE), Karnak still commanded respect and the rulers of Egypt ongoing to include to it what they can. Toward the finish of the Third Intermediate Period Egypt was got into first by the Assyrians in 671 BCE under Esarhaddon and also then in 666 BCE by Ashurbanipal and also Thebes was destroyed, yet not the Temple of Amun at Karnak. This same paradigm repeated itself in 525 BCE when the Persians invaded the country. The Assyrians, in truth, were so impressed by Thebes and its good temple they ordered the Egyptians to rebuild the city after they had actually damaged it.

The Persians were driven from Egypt by the pharaoh Amyrtaeus (r. 404 - 398 BCE) and Egyptian ascendancy resumed; as did building at Karnak. The pharaoh Nectanebo I (r. 380 - 362 BCE) included an obelisk and a pylon (unfinished) to the holy place and also constructed a wall surface around the website, perhaps to protect it from any type of future invasions. Nectanebo I was among the good monument building contractors of primitive Egypt that was likewise responsible for the Temple of Isis at Philae. He was one of the last aboriginal Egyptian kings of the country. When the Persians went back in 343 BCE Egypt lost its autonomy.


The Ptolemies & the Coming of Rome

In 331 BCE Alexander the Great took Egypt from the Persians and, after his fatality, his basic Ptolemy asserted the nation as his share of Alexander"s empire. Ptolemy I (r. 323 - 283 BCE) tried to blend Egyptian and Greek society to produce a harmonious, multi-national state but concentrated the majority of of his attention on Alexandria. His later on successor Ptolemy IV (r. 221 - 204 BCE), however, turned his attention to Karnak and built a hypogeum tbelow, an underground interment chamber, dedicated to the god Osiris. The Ptolemaic Empire started to unravel under his regime and also no various other rulers of this period made additions to the Karnak site. The dynasty finished via the death of Cleopatra VII (l. 69 - 30 BCE) after which Egypt was taken by Rome.

The Romans likewise focused their attention on Alexandria and ignored Thebes and also its holy place. They sacked Thebes in the 1st century CE in the time of or after a fight via the Nubians to the southern and also left the city in ruins. After this day, fewer and fewer world visited either the city or the holy place.

In the 4th century CE, Christianity was adopted by the Romale Empire under Constantine the Great (r. 306 - 337 CE) and also the new confidence, no much longer persecuted, started to acquire more power and broader acceptance. The emperor Constantius II (r. 337 - 361 CE) closed all pagan temples in the empire which of course had Karnak however, by now, Thebes was a ghost town via some few citizens living in the ruins. The Coptic Christians of the area provided the Temple of Amun as a church in the fourth century CE however then abandoned it. The city and the holy place complicated were then left to degeneration.


In the 7th century CE the Arabs attacked Egypt and also were the initially to contact the excellent structure "Karnak" bereason they believed it to be a fortified village ("el-Ka-ranak"). This was the name the local occupants gave to the beforehand European explorers of the 17th century CE and also the name the website has been well-known by because. Today Karnak is a good open air museum drawing thousands of tourists from approximately the civilization. It is among the many popular tourist attractions in Egypt and also among the most superior damages in the human being.

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Just like prehistoric sites favor Baalbek, Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid, Nemrut Dag, Angkor Wat, and also others, Karnak continues to fascinate visitors by its size, scope, and also the possibilities of how the holy place was constructed in a time without cranes, without trucks, without any of the contemporary technology which one considers so necessary in the contemporary day. The background of Egypt from the Middle Kingdom through the fourth century CE is told on the wall surfaces and columns of Karnak and also, as world this day visit the website and also watch the engravings, they fulfill the hope of the queens of primitive Egypt that they would live forever before via their good deeds recorded through their contributions to the Temple of Amun at Thebes.