Thursday, June 14, 2018

Karnak Temple Egypt

Karnak Temple is actually a vast temple city, with many of its structures dating back 4,000 years. It is today the largest remaining religious site of the ancient world, and it is visited by thousands of tourists every year. 

Seeing this place makes you think/ question if at any time in the past the giants lived on the Earth.
Cult temple dedicated to Amun, Mut and Khonsu. The largest religious building ever constructed.

The temple of Karnak was known as Ipet-isu—or “most select of places”—by the ancient Egyptians. It is a city of temples built over 2,000 years and dedicated to the Theban triad of Amun, Mut, and Khonsu. This derelict place is still capable of overshadowing many wonders of the modern world and in its day must have been awe-inspiring.

For the Egyptian population, this could only have been the place of the gods. It is the largest religious building ever made, covering about 200 acres (1.5 km by 0.8 km), and was a place of pilgrimage for nearly 2,000 years.

The area of the sacred enclosure of Amun alone is sixty-one acres and could hold ten average European cathedrals. The great temple at the heart of Karnak is so big that St Peter’s, Milan, and Notre Dame Cathedrals would fit within its walls.

The Hypostyle hall, at 54,000 square feet (16,459 meters) and featuring 134 columns, is still the largest room of any religious building in the world. In addition to the main sanctuary there are several smaller temples and a vast sacred lake – 423 feet by 252 feet (129 by 77 meters).

The sacred barges of the Theban Triad once floated on the lake during the annual Opet festival. The lake was surrounded by storerooms and living quarters for the priests, along with an aviary for aquatic birds.

The Egyptians believed that towards the end of annual agricultural cycle the gods and the earth became exhausted and required a fresh input of energy from the chaotic energy of the cosmos.
To accomplish this magical regeneration the Opet festival was held yearly at Karnak and Luxor. It lasted for twenty-seven days and was also a celebration of the link between pharaoh and the god Amun. The procession began at Karnak and ended at Luxor Temple, one and a half miles (2.4 kilometres) to the south.

The statue of the god Amun was bathed with holy water, dressed in fine linen, and adorned in gold and silver jewellery. The priests then placed the god in a shrine and onto the ceremonial barque supported by poles for carrying. Pharaoh emerged from the temple, his priests carrying the barque on their shoulders, and together they moved into the crowded streets.

A troop of Nubian soldiers serving as guards beat their drums, and musicians accompanied the priests in song as incense filled the air.

At Luxor, (right) Pharaoh and his priests entered the temple and ceremonies were performed to regenerate Amun, recreate the cosmos and transfer Amun’s power to Pharaoh. When he finally emerged from the temple sanctuary, the vast crowds cheered him and celebrated the guaranteed fertility of the earth and the expectation of abundant harvests.

During the festival the people were given over 11000 loaves of bread and more than 385 jars of beer, and some were allowed into the temple to ask questions of the god. The priests spoke the answers through a concealed window high up in the wall, or from inside hollow statues.

Excavations in the 20th century pushed the history of the site back to the Gerzean period (c. 3400–c. 3100 bce), when a small settlement was founded on the wide eastern bank of the Nile floodplain. Karnak contains the northern group of the Theban city temples, called in ancient times Ipet-Isut, “Chosen of Places.”

The ruins cover a considerable area and are still impressive, though nothing remains of the houses, palaces, and gardens that must have surrounded the temple precinct in ancient times. The most northerly temple is the Temple of Mont, the war god, of which little now remains but the foundations.

The southern temple, which has a horseshoe-shaped sacred lake, was devoted to the goddess Mut, wife of Amon; this also is much ruined. Both temples were built during the reign of Amenhotep III (1390–53), whose architect was commemorated by statues in the Temple of Mut.

Between these two precincts lay the largest temple complex in Egypt, and one of the largest in the world, the great metropolitan temple of the state god, Amon-Re. The complex was added to and altered at many periods and, in consequence, lacks a systematic plan.

It has been called a great historical document in stone: in it are reflected the fluctuating fortunes of the Egyptian empire. There are no fewer than 10 pylons, separated by courts and halls and nowadays numbered for convenience, number one being the latest addition.

Pylons one through six form the main east-west axis leading toward the Nile. The seventh and eighth pylons were erected in the 15th century bce by Thutmose III and Queen Hatshepsut, respectively, and the ninth and tenth during Horemheb’s reign (1319–1292). These pylons formed a series of processional gateways at right angles to the main axis, linking the temple with that of Mut to the south and, farther, by way of the avenue of sphinxes, with the temple at Luxor 2 miles (3 km) away.

The most striking feature of the temple at Karnak is the hypostyle hall, which occupies the space between the third and second pylons. The area of this vast hall, one of the wonders of antiquity, is about 54,000 square feet (5,000 square metres). It was decorated by Seti I (reigned 1290–79) and Ramses II (reigned 1279–13), to whom much of the construction must be due.

Twelve enormous columns, nearly 80 feet (24 metres) high, supported the roofing slabs of the central nave above the level of the rest so that light and air could enter through a clerestory. Seven lateral aisles on either side brought the number of pillars to 134. Historical reliefs on the outer walls show the victories of Seti in Palestine and Ramses II defeating the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh.

Ramses III (reigned 1187–56) built a small temple to Amon outside the Ramesside pylon across from a triple shrine erected by Seti II (reigned 1204–1198). The Bubastite Gate at the southeast corner of this court commemorates the victories won by Sheshonk I (reigned 945–924), the biblical Shishak, in Palestine.

The Kushite (Nubian) pharaoh Taharqa (reigned 690–664) erected a tall colonnade, of which one pillar still stands. The smaller monuments were subsequently enclosed by the addition of a vast court, probably begun during the Late Period (664–332 bce), fronted by the massive first pylon, an ambitious project that was never completed. Beyond it an avenue of sphinxes—set in place largely by Amenhotep III and usurped by Ramses II—leads to the quayside.

Within the enclosure of the Great Temple of Amon are included a number of other notable small shrines and temples. A temple to Ptah, in the north side of the enclosure, was built by Hatshepsut and Thutmose III and added to by the Ptolemies, who also embellished the Great Temple of Amon by the addition of granite shrines and gateways.

To the south, Ramses III dedicated a temple to Khons, the moon god, which merits attention. A small late temple to Opet, the hippopotamus goddess, adjoins it.

Karnak Temple – A Long Legacy
Perhaps the most famous element of the Karnak Temple is the Hypostyle Hall, which was begun in the 18th Dynasty and finished in the 19th Dynasty, composed of 134 papyrus-shaped pillars, many 21 meters high and 3 meters in diameter, decorated with reliefs and paint still visible today.

Queen Hatshepsut, daughter of Thutmose I and wife of Thutmose II, usurped the throne for 22 years and was possibly the “daughter of Pharaoh” that drew Moses out of the Nile and adopted him (Exodus 2:5–10). At Karnak, she constructed Egypt’s tallest obelisks 29.5 meters, one which can still be seen today, along with her cartouche on it.

Thutmose III (ca. 1504–1450 BC), who according to biblical chronology reigned just before the Exodus and 40 years of wilderness wandering and suggested by some to be a Pharaoh of the oppression or Pharaoh of the Exodus, had a topographical relief constructed on the sixth and seventh pylons that listed cities in the Levant that he conquered. Many of these cities are also recorded in the Old Testament, and in the proper order, including a set from Numbers 33:45-50. Inscribed on the wall are locations as part of a topographical list containing 119 place-names in Canaan, Transjordan, Lebanon and Syria. The Egyptian route from the Arabah to the Plains of Moab lists four locations: Iyyin, Dibon, Abel, and the Jordan River. Numbers 33 lists six locations they camp at: Iyyim, Dibon-gad, Almon-diblathaim, Mt. Nebo, Abel-shittim, and the Jordan River. By comparing the two lists, one can see the route taken by the Israelites through Transjordan matches correctly with the Egyptian topographical list. Thus, the travel account in Numbers 33 is not only accurate, but in accordance with data from around 1450 BC, just over 40 years before the Israelites made the journey on this route.
Karnak Temple – The Way of the Land of the Philistines
The Canaan campaign reliefs of Seti I (ca. 1294-1274 BC) on the walls of the Karnak Temple depict the “Way of the Land of the Philistines” that the Israelites avoided in their Exodus (Exodus 13:17), as it was said to be a place where they would encounter war. On this relief at the Karnak Temple complex, a map of the Horus way shows 11 forts and a north-south reed lined waterway crossing called “ta denit” (the dividing waters).

Combine this map with Papyrus Anastasi I, and 23 Egyptian fortifications are present along the highway from Tjaru at the border of Egypt to Rafa at the border of Canaan. The site of Tjaru has been identified as a border fortress and town near modern Qantara, northeast of the Ballah Lake.

Inscriptions show its use by 18th and 19th Dynasty Pharaohs, specifically Thutmose II, Seti I, and Ramses II. Thus, the Israelites avoided the easy path along the coast as God had commanded because it was heavily guarded by Egyptian troops, and recent archaeological research has demonstrated this “Way of the land of the Philistines,” also known as the “Way of Horus,” to be guarded by Egyptian border fortresses.

Karnak Temple – Pharaoh Merenptah (Merneptah)
The Pharaoh Merenptah (ca. 1213-1203 BC) also commissioned a relief at the Karnak Temple, one which is thought to correspond to the Merenptah Stele (Merneptah Stele) mentioning Israel found in his mortuary temple near Thebes on the west bank of the Nile and now housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

The relief is especially important to Biblical history because it may contain the earliest artistic representation of Israelites. The alleged Israelites in the relief are dressed more like Canaanites, whose culture they progressively adapted to during the Judges period when this relief was designed, instead of Shasu nomads like they were during the Exodus and wandering period.

Karnak Temple – Pharaoh Shishak (Shoshenq)
Finally, the topographical list of Pharaoh Shishak I (ca. 943-922 BC) commemorated his conquests in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, mentioned in 1 Kings 14:25 and 2 Chronicles 12:2-4. On the wall of the Bubastite Portal at the Temple of Amun in Karnak, a long list of place names is recorded in relation to military conquest.

Part of it records the military campaign of Shoshenq I (Shishak 1) against Canaan and the Negev, supposedly naming captured cities in this conquest or tribute expedition of Shoshenq I. According to the Shishak Relief, both Israelite and Judean cities were involved.

This campaign was probably against Jeroboam of Israel and Rehoboam of Judah, as indicated by 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles, although neither name is found in the Egyptian inscriptions, but this is expected as the list does not contain personal names. At this point in the history of the Divided Kingdom, the Hebrew writers are not very concerned with the Northern Kingdom, and there is no information about Shoshenq I’s attacks in the north.


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