Karnak is the contemporary name for the ancient website of the Temple of Amun at Thebes, Egypt. The Egyptians called the website Nesut-Towi, "Thramong the Two Lands", Ipet-Iset, "The Fiswarm of Seats" and Ipt-Swt, "Selected Spot" additionally provided as Ipetsut, "The Many Select of Places".

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The original name hregarding do with the prehistoric Egyptian idea that Thebes was the first city founded on the primordial mound which rose from the waters of chaos at the start of the civilization. At that time, the creator-god Atum (occasionally Ptah or Ra) stood on the mound to begin the work of production. The site of the temple was thmust be this original ground and the holy place was elevated at this spot for that reason. Karnak is believed to have actually been an old observatory and also a place of worship wbelow the god Amun would certainly interact straight through the world of earth.


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Historical Overview

The Temple of Amun is the largest religious structure in the world (though some insurance claim Angkor Wat in Cambodia is larger) and also honors not just Amun yet various other gods such as Osiris, Montu, Isis, Ptah and also the Egyptian rulers who wiburned to be remembered for their contributions to the website. It was constructed progressively over the centuries, through each brand-new leader including to it, from the start of the Center Kingdom (2040 - 1782 BCE) with the New Kingdom (1570 - 1069 BCE) and throughout the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323 - 30 BCE).

It has even been suggested that the rulers of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613 - c. 2181 BCE) initially constructed there owing to the style of some of the ruins and the king"s list of Old Kingdom majesties inscribed by Tuthmose III (1458 - 1425 BCE) of the New Kingdom in his Festival Hall there. His option of majesties says that he might have rerelocated their monuments to build his hall but still wanted them to be remembered. Structures were consistently removed, renovated, or expanded during the temple"s long background. The complicated ongoing to prosper with each being successful ruler and the ruins today cover over 200 acres of land also. It has actually been estimated that one could fit 3 frameworks the dimension of Notre Dame Cathedral in the major temple alone.


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The Temple of Amun remained in constant usage with perpetual development for over 2,000 years and thought about one of the a lot of spiritual sites in Egypt. The priests of Amun that looked after the administration of the temple came to be significantly affluent and also powerful to the point that they were able to take manage of the government of Thebes toward the finish of the New Kingdom as soon as dominion of the nation became separated between theirs at Thebes in Upper Egypt and also that of the pharaoh in the city of Per-Ramesses in Lower Egypt.

The climb of the power of the clergymans, and also the resulting weakness of the place of the pharaoh, is considered the major contributing variable in the decline of the New Kingdom and the beginning of the Third Intermediate Period (1069 - 525 BCE). The temple complicated was damaged in the Assyrian invasion of 666 BCE and also aacquire by the Persian intrusion of 525 BCE but, both times, was repaired and also renovated.


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By the fourth century CE Egypt was a part of the Roguy Realm and also Christianity was being advocated as the one true confidence. The emperor Constantius II (r. 337 - 361 CE) ordered pagan temples to be closed in 336 CE and also the Temple of Amun was deserted. Coptic Christians made use of the building for church solutions, as evidenced by Christian art and also inscriptions on the walls, however then the website was abandoned.

It was reuncovered throughout the 7th century CE Arab Invasion of Egypt at which time it was dubbed "Ka-ranak" which suggests "fortified village" because of the huge amount of design amassed in one area. When European explorers first started traveling in Egypt in the 17th century CE they were told the grand also damages at Thebes were those of Karnak and also the name has actually remained in usage for the site since then.


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Amun & the Early Temple

Amun (likewise well-known as Amun-Ra) was a minor Theban deity who, after Mentuhotep II linked Egypt in c. 2040 BCE, climbed in prestige. The powers of two older gods, Atum and Ra (the creator god and sunlight god, respectively) were merged in Amun, making him the supreme king of the gods, both creator and preserver of life. The area of Karnak may have currently been sacred to Amun before any kind of structures were constructed there or could have actually been sacred to Atum or Osiris, both of whom were additionally venerated at Thebes.

The site was already set apart as holy ground in that no evidence of domestic residences or of industries has actually been uncovered there, only religiously-themed structures or imperial apartments constructed long after the initially temple was created. As there was no separation of one"s spiritual beliefs from one"s everyday life in ancient Egypt one can think that it would be difficult to tell a pucount secular building from a religious website but this is not so, or not constantly so. At Karnak the engravings left on the columns and wall surfaces, and the artwork, plainly recognize the website as religious in nature from the earliest times.

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Amun
Joanna Penn (CC BY)

The initially monument thshould be raised at the site is that of Wahankh Intef II (c. 2112 - 2063 BCE) that erected a column to the honor of Amun-Ra. This claim has actually been disputed by those scholars that suggest to the king"s list of Thutmose III in his Festival Hall that case the website was first emerged for religious purposes in the Old Kingdom. They additionally sometimes allude out Old Kingdom styles in some of the design of the ruins.


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The architectural link has actually no bearing on the claim, however, because the style of the Old Kingdom (the age of the excellent pyramid builders) was frequently emulated by later eras to invoke the grandeur of the past. If any type of Old Kingdom rulers built there then their monuments were removed by later monarchs and this is what some scholars claim Thutmose III"s king list points to.

Wahankh Intef II was one of the Theban rulers who waged war versus the ineffectual central government at Herakleopolis and paved the means for Mentuhotep II (c. 2061-2010 BCE) to overthrow the emperors of the north and reunite Egypt under Theban rule. When Mentuhotep II pertained to power he developed his mortuary complicated directly across the river from Karnak at Deir el-Bahri and also this has actually suggested to some scholars that a significant temple to Amun currently existed tright here at this time; not just the monument of Wahankh Intef II.

Mentuhotep II might have developed a temple at the site to honor Amun for helping him achieve victory, and also then built his complicated throughout from it, however this claim is speculative and no proof argues it. Most most likely he chose the website of his mortuary complex because of its proximity to the holy site throughout the river; tright here would certainly not have had to be a holy place on the spot at the time to motivate him.


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The initially known builder at Karnak is the king Senusret I (r. c. 1971-1926 BCE) of the Middle Kingdom that built a temple to Amun with a courtyard which may have been intfinished to honor, and also mirror, Mentuhotep II"s mortuary complex across the river. Senusret I, then, would certainly have actually been the original architect of Karnak in response to the great hero Mentuhotep II"s tomb. Any clintends alengthy these lines remajor speculative, yet, and also all that is clearly known is that the location was considered spiritual prior to any type of holy place was constructed tbelow.

The Center Kingdom rulers who adhered to Senusret I all added their very own touches to the holy place and also increased on the site however the rulers of the New Kingdom would transcreate the modest temple grounds and also structures into a colossal complicated of tremendous scope and information. Nopoint prefer Karnak had been attempted considering that the 4th Empire king Khufu (r. c. 2589-2566 BCE) constructed his Great Pyramid at Giza.

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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 also, especially, his follower Ramesses II (The Great, r. 1279-1213 BCE), added decorations and columns to the Hypostyle Hall which had been built to huge prosections previously in the New Kingdom. This was done to honor the god and also encertain the pharaoh"s place in the eternal remembrance of the people. Scholar Corinna Rossi, citing Egyptologist Elizabeth Blyth"s occupational, writes:

The importance of Karnak lived in its being the call allude between Amun, the supreme leader of the world, and the pharaoh, the supreme ruler on Planet who represented all Egyptian world. Thus, especially from the New Kingdom onwards, eexceptionally king that wiburned to be remembered forever was basically compelled to add to the splendor of this a lot of crucial holy place. (41)

All of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom, before and also after Seti I and Ramesses II, contributed to Karnak. Actual labor on the site was completed by compelled labor of inmates from the Great Prikid at Thebes, people percreating area business, or phelp workers, masons, and also artists. The New Kingdom began with the power of Ahmose I (r. c. 1570 - 1544 BCE) that joined Egypt after expelling the international rulers recognized 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 among the a lot of luxuriant reigns in Egyptian history and whose many structure projects guaranteed he would be remembered, still made certain to add to the Temple of Amun at Thebes.

His follower, Akhenaten (r. 1353 - 1336 BCE), banned the worship of Amun and also the other gods of Egypt, closed all the temples, and elevated his individual god, Aten, to the level of the one supreme god of the universe. Even so, he still added to Karnak though his contribution was a temple 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 also tried to wipe the memory of Akhenaten"s reign from background. The result of these enhancements, renovations, and advances throughout the New Kingdom was an ever-increasing complex of tremendous dimension and scope. Historian Margaret Bunkid writes:

Karnak remains the many impressive spiritual facility ever before built on earth. Its 250 acres of holy places and also chapels, obelisks, columns and statues built over 2,000 years incorpoprice the best aspects of Egyptian art and architecture into a great historical monument of rock. It was designed in 3 sections. The initially one extended from the northwest to the southwest, via the second component at best angles to the original shrine. The third area was added by later majesties. The arrangement of the Temple of Amun, apparent also in its damaged state, included a series of well-coordinated frameworks and architectural developments, all designed to maximize the strength of the stone and the monumental elements of the facility. Karnak, as through all other significant temples of Egypt, was graced via a ramp and a canal bring about the Nile and this shrine likewise boasted rows of ram-headed sphinxes at its entrance. At one time the sphinxes joined Karnak and also another temple of the god at Luxor, to the southern. (133)

This huge complicated, dedicated to Amun and a number of honorary gods and goddesses, had at its facility the inner sanctum of the god"s home which was perfectly aligned through suncollection at the summer solstice. All of Karnak, in fact, is aligned via celestial events which would certainly have been taken by the priests tright here to understand also the will certainly of the god and also his wishes for humankind.

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The Structure & Operation of the Site

Karnak is consisted of of a collection of pylons (monupsychological gateways which taper towards the optimal to cornices), leading right into courtyards, halls, and also temples. The first pylon opens onto a wide court which invites the visitor additionally. The second pylon opens up 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 11 feet (3.5 m) roughly in diameter.

The god to whom the ground was originally dedicated might have been Montu, a Theban war god, and also there was a precinct dedicated to him also after the rise of the cult of Amun. As the holy place prospered, yet, it ended up being split right into the three sections Bunson mentions over and dedicated to Amun, his consort Mut that symbolized the life-providing rays of the sunlight, and also their child Khonsu, the moon god. These 3 gods became known as the Theban Triad and would be the a lot of popular gods till the cult of Osiris via its triad of Osiris, Isis, and Horus overtook it (inevitably becoming the Cult of Isis, the many famous in Egyptian history).

The holy place complicated prospered from the original holy place to Amun of the Center Kingdom to an honorary website for many type of 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 priests of the gods administered the website, built up tithes and also presents, dispensed food and counsel, and also construed the gods" will for the civilization. There were over 80,000 priests employed at Karnak by the end of the New Kingdom and also the high priests there were more rich than the pharaoh.

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The cult of Amun resulted in problems for the kings of the New Kingdom from the reign of Amenhotep III onwards, probably earlier. Except for the half-hearted attempts of Amenhotep III and also the dramatic reformation of Akhenaten, yet, no leader ever before tried to carry out anything to considerably curb the priest"s power and, as listed, eexceptionally king contributed to Amun"s temple and also the riches 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 could. Toward the finish of the Third Intermediate Period Egypt was attacked initially by the Assyrians in 671 BCE under Esarhaddon and then in 666 BCE by Ashurbanipal and also Thebes was damaged, yet not the Temple of Amun at Karnak. This same paradigm repetitive itself in 525 BCE as soon as the Persians got into the nation. The Assyrians, in truth, were so impressed by Thebes and its excellent temple they ordered the Egyptians to reconstruct the city after they had damaged it.

The Persians were driven from Egypt by the pharaoh Amyrtaeus (r. 404 - 398 BCE) and also Egyptian rule resumed; as did construction at Karnak. The pharaoh Nectanebo I (r. 380 - 362 BCE) added an obelisk and also a pylon (unfinished) to the temple and also built a wall surface roughly the site, maybe to protect it from any kind of future invasions. Nectanebo I was one of the great monument builders of ancient Egypt that was likewise responsible for the Temple of Isis at Philae. He was one of the last native Egyptian majesties of the nation. When the Persians reverted in 343 BCE Egypt lost its autonomy.

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The Ptolemies & the Coming of Rome

In 331 BCE Alexander the Great took Egypt from the Persians and, after his fatality, his general Ptolemy claimed the nation as his share of Alexander"s empire. Ptolemy I (r. 323 - 283 BCE) tried to blend Egyptian and Greek culture to produce a harmonious, multi-nationwide state but concentrated a lot of of his attention on Alexandria. His later successor Ptolemy IV (r. 221 - 204 BCE), yet, turned his attention to Karnak and developed a hypogeum there, an underground interment chamber, dedicated to the god Osiris. The Ptolemaic Dynasty started to unravel under his power and no various other rulers of this duration made additions to the Karnak website. The dynasty ended via the fatality of Cleopatra VII (l. 69 - 30 BCE) after which Egypt was taken by Rome.

The Romans additionally concentrated their attention on Alexandria and also ignored Thebes and its holy place. They sacked Thebes in the first century CE throughout or after a fight via the Nubians to the south and also left the city in ruins. After this day, fewer and also fewer world checked out either the city or the temple.

In the 4th century CE, Christianity was adopted by the Roguy Empire under Constantine the Great (r. 306 - 337 CE) and the new faith, no much longer persecuted, started to acquire even more power and also broader acceptance. The emperor Constantius II (r. 337 - 361 CE) closed all pagan holy places in the empire which of course had Karnak but, by this time, Thebes was a ghold tvery own 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 yet then abandoned it. The city and the temple facility were then left to degeneration.

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In the 7th century CE the Arabs invaded Egypt and were the initially to speak to the good framework "Karnak" because they thought it to be a strengthened village ("el-Ka-ranak"). This was the name the regional inhabitants offered to the early on European explorers of the 17th century CE and also the name the website has actually been recognized by because. Today Karnak is an excellent open up air museum drawing hundreds of visitors from about the world. It is just one of the the majority of well-known tourist attractions in Egypt and also among the many exceptional ruins in the human being.

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Similar to primitive sites like Baalbek, Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid, Nemrut Dag, Angkor Wat, and others, Karnak proceeds to fascinate visitors by its dimension, scope, and also the possibilities of how the temple was constructed in a time without cranes, without trucks, without any of the contemporary modern technology which one considers so necessary in the contemporary day. The background of Egypt from the Middle Kingdom with the 4th century CE is told on the wall surfaces and also columns of Karnak and also, as human being this day visit the website and also see the inscriptions, they meet the hope of the majesties of primitive Egypt that they would certainly live forever before via their excellent deeds videotaped via their contributions to the Temple of Amun at Thebes.