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Karnak Temple

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Place overview

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The religious complex of Karnak - called Karnak Temple or simply Karnak - comprises a vast complex of temple ruins, chapels, pylons, and other buildings located north of Thebes, now the city of Luxor, in Egypt, on the east bank of the Nile.

The Karnak complex, rebuilt and developed over more than 2,000 years by successive pharaohs from Sesostris I to the Middle Kingdom to the Ptolemaic period, covers more than two square kilometers and consists of three enclosures. It is the largest religious complex in antiquity.

It was the most important temple of Dynasty 18 and was dedicated to the Theban Triad headed by the god Amen-Ra. The complex was linked to Luxor Temple by a sphinx alley nearly three kilometers long.

A tourist site, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. Only the enclosure of Amun can be visited. The site has been the subject of excavations since the 19th century by French archaeologists, organized since 1967 within the Franco-Egyptian Centre for the Study of the Temples of Karnak (CFEETK). The discoveries continue to be numerous.

The construction of the Karnak complex was spread over more than two millennia with a succession of constructions, modifications, additions, destructions, remodeling, etc., which made it the most extensive religious center in ancient Egypt. 

Site features

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Precinct of Amun-Ra

This precinct, the largest and located between the other two precincts, is the only one accessible to the public. Most of the buildings in this precinct are organized along two axes: one oriented east-west and the other north-south, forming a "T". The main axis, oriented east-west, consists of six pylons that precede the Temple of Amen proper at the eastern end of this axis. The secondary axis, oriented north-south, is composed of four pylons that connect to the main axis in its middle, at the level of the third and fourth pylons1. These two axes are completed by several constructions located in the center of the enclosure such as a sacred lake or on its periphery such as the Temple of Rameses II, the Temple of Opet, the Temple of Khonsu, the Temple of Ptah, or the Temple of Osiris Hekadjet.

The most famous part of the Temple of Amen is its hypostyle hall located between the second and third pylons. Composed of one hundred and thirty-four columns, most of which have retained their decoration, it resembles "a gigantic thicket of stone papyrus". Originally covered by a ceiling, light filtered through clerestory windows, some of which are still in place.

Montou Precinct

This precinct, the smallest in the Karnak complex, is located north of the precinct of Amen-Ra1. Its main buildings are the Temple of Montu, to which the Temple of Harpocrates and the Temple of Ma'at are attached.

Precinct of Mut

This precinct is located south of that of Amun-Ra. Its main constructions are the temple of Mut, to which must be added the temple of Khonspekhrod and the temple of Ramses III.

Chapel of Osiris Heqa-Djet

This enclosure is located south of that of Amun-Ra1. Its main constructions are the temple of Mut, to which must be added the temple of Khonspekhrod and the temple of Ramses III.

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