Book Review: Karnak - Evolution of a Temple

Book Review: Karnak - Evolution of a Temple

Title: Karnak Evolution of a Temple

Author: Elizabeth Blyth Publisher/Date: Routledge, Abbingdon, Oxon 2006

ISBN 10: 10-415-4087-8 (pbk), 10-415-4086-X (hbk)

ISBN 13: 978-0-415-4087-7 (pbk),

978-0-415-4086-0 (hbk),

978-0-203-96837-6 (ebk)

Publishers Price: 27.99 (pbk)

Many of those who visit Egypt on more than one occasion will, understandably, end up spending a lot of their time in Luxor. Not only is this a particularly pleasant city in which to pass several days, relaxing by the banks of the Nile, but also the worlds greatest open air museum. Amongst the most visited sites that Luxor has to offer is the vast complex of temples and chapels that constitute the Great Temple of Amun-Re, at Karnak.

An initial visit, as part of an organised tour group, can only serve to whet ones appetite and its perfectly normal to give in to the, seemingly, magnetic pull of this vast monument and return on each and every subsequent visit; each time finding more and more of the remains to explore.

With a few notable exceptions; e.g. Kent Weeks, wonderful, genereal guide to the monuments of Luxor, guide books tend to be lavishly illustrated, light on history & limited in the scope of what they cover; to little more than the standard guided tour itinerary and give brief coverage to many of the visible remains, concentrating on the monuments of the better known Kings. There is a near universal and depressing tendency to ignore completely the structures completed by those who have received less film or TV coverage and those earlier buildings that are now to be found reconstructed within the Open Air Museum. This creates a situation in which those who really want to explore; and get to know, Karnak can find themselves frustrated, as they struggle to make sense of the maze of walls, pylons, obelisks and courtyards, all with their attendant statues, with which they are presented.

Thankfully, Elizabeth Blyth has come to the rescue.

Blyth has produced a guide book that manages to combine the difficult task of providing a comprehensive and indepth history of the development of the Precinct of Amun-Re; her book doesnt incorporate the inaccessible Mut and Montu precincts, with a series of maps, line drawings and monochrome photographs (these actually work better for displaying eroded or damaged texts and reliefs) that enable the visitor to easily locate and identify both the extant structures and the original locations of those that are now displayed in the Open Air Museum.

At, approximately, 10 X 8 inches (25 X 20 cm) and 258 pages, including index and bibliography, in paperback format, this volume is both compact and light enough that one could easily refer to it whilst exploring the site.

Additionally, by following a chapter arrangement of Kingdom Dynasty - ruler, she enables the visitor to wander around the complex, tracing the development of the temple, in a way which is not always ossible by simply walking from Pylon I to Thoth-moses IIIs Festival Hall (ix-mnw), or from Hat-shep-suts obelisks to Pylon X.

Although Blyth does provide Egyptian names for many of the structures she discusses; as one would expect for a former lecturer in Egyptology, at University College London, this the result of the fact that she is aiming at a wide audience and is more in the way of providing for specialist readers, as well as those tourists who really want to know all the ins and out of everything they see.

Overall, she has produced a work that has fulfilled a need, amongst the return visitors; who have been bitten by the Egypt Bug, and it is only to be hoped that more of the Egyptological fraternity will be inspired to follow suit.

Glen Parry

March 2010