After the Eighth Pylon in the Temple of Amun at Karnak in Egypt

After the Eighth Pylon in the Temple of Amun at Karnak in Luxor (Ancient Thebes), Egypt

by Jimmy Dunn

The Eighth Pylon looking from the South

The north-south secondary axis of the Temple of Amun at Karnak in ancient Thebes (modern Luxor) consists of four courtyards divided and terminated by four pylons. In reality, the first two courtyards fall along a straight axis, while the second two (southernmost) are expanded in size and take a somewhat more easterly axis, with the third courtyard larger than the second and the last being largest of all.

The kings cartouche and the Coptic Niche

On the west doorpost of the eighth pylon's southern facade is the cartouches and titles of Tuthmosis II, while on the east doorpost are those of Tuthmosis III. Next to the cartouche of Tuthmosis II (his Son of Ra name) is a niche that has been hollowed out, almost certainly by the early Coptic Christians, in which the upper section is in the form of a seashell. On each wing of the eighth pylon between the niches for the flagpoles is one lone tableau that depicts the massacre of the prisoners Here, Amenhotep II, with a curly hairstyle brandishes the white club fitted with a curved blade to strike down the defeated prisoners who, unusually, are standing.

Fronting these scenes are seated colossi made from several materials. There are two made of limestone and one of quartzite on the west, and only one, made from white limestone, which remains on the east wing. On the west wing, the white limestone colossus, representing Amenhotep I, is carved from a single block. The king is seated with his right hand closed and his left hand open, resting on his knees. Note the emphasis that has been placed on the carving of the breasts. To his left is a small statue of a seated female figure. The colossus to the west of the Eighth Pylon doorway is made out of red quartzite from Gebel el-Ahmar. On the belt and side of the throne are the cartouches of Tuthmosis II, who is believed to have had this statue carved. The finely sculpted feet of the colossus are engaged with the pedestal on which they rest. On the east facade of the pedestal is a delicate, unfinished image of Amun, whose headdress is cut short. The scepter that he holds is barely outlined, and the only legend states, "Words spoken by Amun-Ra, master of Heaven, master of Earth".

The delicate and unfinished image of Amun

There is also a doorway on the western end of the west wing of the eighth pylon. Here, three registers can be found that depict the presentation of fattened cows, crowned and bedecked with ribbons similar to scenes in the Court of Ramesses II at the Temple of Luxor. They are part of a procession of priests carrying flowers towards the eighth pylon.

There is little to be seen in the courtyard between the Eighth and Ninth pylons. The Ninth pylon is built on an axis of and perpendicular to the avenue of sphinxes that leads to the temple of Mut. The fact that the temple of Mut was constructed by Amenhotep III suggests that the ninth pylon, which was build during the reign of Horemheb, might have replaced an older pylon made from brick, and probably built by Amenhotep III. Like the Second Pylon in the Temple of Amun, the Ninth Pylon is hollow. It measures some 66 meters, with a Width of about 11.5 meters. The construction of the Ninth Pylon consists of exterior stone facings formed from a single tier of

blocks of varying thickness. All the rest of the construct is hollow, with the exception of the stairway passage. The staircase climbs from the east entrance up to the level of the doorway's lintel and from their a second staircase crosses the west wing and leads to the terrace. The upper section of the pylon is held in place only by the enormous weight of the cap that works much like a keystone in an arch. Unfortunately, if this cap is compromised, than the structure will collapse, which is what has happened to the two hollow pylons at Karnak.

A view of the Ninth Pylon before any recent restoration work

On the west wing of the Ninth Pylons northern facade, the bottom was covered by two registers in which the king is proceeding from east to west (therefore entering the temple). However, the barques carried by the priests on the top register are going in the opposite direction out of the temple. On the east wing of the pylon are bas-reliefs of Ramesses IV. Within the last courtyard of the secondary north-south axis on the west wing of the Ninth Pylon to the left of the large flagpole niche is an almost obliterated scene that is framed by a sort of bas-relief false door. Flat inlaid stones mark out the site of the cornice, providing the sole protrusion beneath a frieze of uraei. This scene is said to the the counterpart of the inscription that recounts the marriage of Ramesses II with the eldest daughter of the king of the Hittites, which is represented on the southern face of the east wing, which in turn is said to be a replica of the famous "marriage stela" of Abu Simbel.

Interior Facade of the Passageway of the Eighth Pylon's Doorway

Interior Facade of the Passageway of the Eighth Pylon's Doorway

White Limestone Colossus before the Eighth Pylon's West Wing

White Limestone Colossus before the Eighth Pylon's West Wing

After signing a peace treaty the two ancient foes met in friendship when the Kheta leader came to Egypt, in the middle of winter, accompanied by his eldest daughter and a large escort laden with rich presents. Ramesses II married the daughter and have her the titles of "Great royal wife", "Mistress of the Two Lands" an Maatneferure {she who sees the beauty of Ra". To the right is an offering scene that has been reworked at least several times. The style is that of Horemheb, but the cartouches are in the name of Ramesses II. A great colossus of Ramesses II once stood before the Ninth Pylon's southern facade, but now all that is left is a piece of the foot on the pedestal.

An overall view of the Amenhotep II Sed Festival Monument before any recent restoration

Within the last courtyard, on the eastern wall, is a monument built by Amenhotep II. Borchardt believed that this small building was a sed-festival kiosk of Amenhotep II, which had been destroyed by Akhenaten. He believed that it was restored in its original site by Seti I, with the addition of several blocks of Akhenaten. However, Charles Van Siclen III, an American Egyptologist who recently reconstructed the building thinks that the structure once stood in the area before the Eighth Pylon and that it was removed, stone by stone, during the reign of Horemheb, to be rebuilt in its current location. The building was constructed entirely upon a stylobate (a flat surface upon which columns are normally constructed), and consists of a large square room with a roof supported by pillars, and two small lateral sanctuaries that were fronted on the west by a portico of twelve square pillars. The building is nearly symmetrical in plan and very shallow and broad. A ramp ascends to the portico. The large square hall has four row of five square pillars each that form a central nave bordered on either side by two aisles. In the passage along the inner face of the wall an architrave with cornice crowns the pillars. There was once probably a back doorway to the hall which was replaced with a false door.

Carved Pillars in Amenhotep II Sed Festival Monument

The temple's central hall contains some finely carved reliefs that retain much of their original color, though the figures of Amun were desecrated by the agents of Akhenaten. Seti I is known to have at least repaired these images. In the southeast corner of the large, central chamber, the square-sectioned pillars rest on a small pedestal and are topped by a capital in the form of a grooved cornice with a torus at the base and an abacus under the architrave. While this architecturally is rare, it can be found however in the tomb paints of the 18th Dynasty. Various scenes which include the king are depicted on these columns. The king, wearing different crowns in succession, is proceeding Amun in a west to east direction. The two horizontal lines of text under the scenes specify that the king is celebrating his sed festival. On some of the pillars, the king is depicted in light relief, striding to the south and wearing the white crown, while on others, he is depicted in sunk relief, proceeding to the north, and wearing the Red Crown. Beyond the Amenhotep II monument, on the wall between it and the Tenth and last pylon, we find the king presenting Amun with the presents brought by the high chiefs of Punt. He wears the characteristic wig with five rows of curls. Behind him are two rows of chiefs from the land of Punt with twisted goatees. They carry sacks of gold, skins, feathers and cloth. Here, text

Gifts from the land of Punt

proclaim them as friends of Egypt: "The great chiefs of the land of Punt say: 'Glory to thee, king of Egypt, sun of the Nine Bows. As truly as thou art in life we have not known of the black land [Egypt] and our fathers have not trampled it down." Further along this wall, after an opening, we find a scene depicting the presentation of Aegean and Syrian tributes. With his right hand, the king presents the delicately wrought vessels, the horns and the sacks of precious materials that are arranged before the naos of the seated Amun. He holds in his left hand the hek scepter, together with the coiled ropes that bind three rows of prisoners behind him. Here, text tells us that they are, "The miserable lords of Hannebu [Aegeans], the vile chiefs of Retenu [Syria]... terror is in their hearts". Here, the king's cartouche is in the name of Horemheb, but some scholars believe that this scene is attributable to the reign of Tutankhamun.

Queen Mut-Nefertari at the foot of the king

Before the Tenth Pylon's northern facade are several colossal statues that frame its great gate. On the pedestal of the while limestone colossus to the east, decorating three sides, are "the prisoners with the escutcheons", who symbolize the Nine Bows who are the vanquished enemies. Upon the pedestal is also a smaller statue of the Queen, Mut-Nefertari, who is clad in a finely pleated linen robe held by a belt that is knotted under her chest. She wears a wig that is encased by the Mut vulture and capped by the double feathers. The queen rests her hand on the king's calf at the level of the ham. On the pedestal of the colossus on the western side of the gate we find Asian warriors, who are also bound. It was Horemheb who built the last, Tenth Pylon, reusing many blocks from the temple of Akhenaten. The gate of this pylon measures 15.60 meters under the lintel and the double lintel adds another 2.47 meters, which gives the gate a height of 18.07 meters, not including the cornice. On the gate are four registers of scenes in the name of King Horemheb. From bottom to top, these scenes depict the offering of wine to Amun-Ra, water to Amun-Ra Kamutef, censing to Amun-Ra and on the top, the worshiping of Mut, then Khonsu, repeated four times.

The king offers bread on the exterior of the Tenth Pylon

On the inner side of the passage by the east doorpost, there are three scenes. On the bottom, the king is making offerings to a seated Amun. Amun's throne is surrounded by a border depicting the gold framing that is inlaid with a glass paste the color of lapis lazuli, turquoise and carnelian. The throne rests upon a mat surmounting the pedestal, on which the feet of the god rests. His ankles are adorned with bracelets. The king wears the triangular skirt over which falls a front panel of pearls with a uraeus framed by ribbons. On the middle register the king is making the "great stride". He wears the white crown. On the exterior of the Tenth Pylon, and therefore of the north-south secondary axis, as on the north facade, the doorposts include four registers. The register at the bottom is partially covered by a fore-gate that splits Amun off from he king, who is making an offering of bread, which is in the form of a long cone. The king is girded by a diadem over his blue ibes wig topped by the horns of Khnum around which two uraei uncoil and fall to either side of the king's face.

Pedestal of the Colossus of Amenhotep III

Just in front of the Tenth Pylons outer wall is a colossus of Amenhotep III, of which only the feet remain. This statue is said to have been the masterpiece of Amenhotep, son of Hapu, who says that: "My lord made me chief of all works. I established the name of the king forever. I did not imitate that which had been done before. I fashioned for him a mountain of gritstone, for he is the heir of Atum...I conducted the work of his statue, immense in width, taller than his column, its beauty marred the pylon. Its length was 40 cubits in the august mountain of gritstone..." The statue was carved in a monolith of quartzite sandstone and represented the standing and crowned Amenhotep III, with one foot forward. Both of his feet rested on the pedestal made from a separate block of the same quartzite, which in turn rested on a second pedestal of red Aswan granite. The measurements provided plus the size of the feat indicate that the statue would have once stood 20.95 meters tall.

Quartzite Pedestal of the Colossus of Amenhotep III, West Facade

A horizontal line of text on the facade of the quartzite pedestal, on both sides of the ankh of the axis, gives the cartouches of Nebmaatre (Amenhotep III) which are labeled fraction of Ra on the side with the setting sun and heir of Ra on the side with the rising sun. Below are two male figures (Iunmutefs, pillar of his mother) who wear the braids of a crown prince falling over their shoulders. Each holds a panther paw in their left hands, while with the right they present their speech. In the center on both sides of the disk, two falcons wearing the double crown are perched on the Horus name of the king framed by the ka which rests on an ensign holder provided with two arms, one of which holds up the long staff crowned with the emblem of the royal ka. On the west face of the quartzite pedestal, the first eight nomes of Lower Egypt are represented.

Detail of the double Pedestal of Amenhotep III

The facade of the lower pedestal of granite is divided into three parts. In the median axis of the central one, the flowers of the North and South are linked around the sma sign and at the same time serve to bind prisoners by the neck. On the east side are the prisoners of the south, while on the west side they are Asians.

Beyond the temple's north-south axis is the avenue of sphinxes that leads from the tenth pylon to the temple of Mut. The avenue was created in the name of Horemheb, and stretches more than 310 meters in length. As of the time when Champollion investigated the temple, there were 120 sphinxes to which Seti II had had added his cartouches. To the east of the avenue is a stylobate constructed of fourteen large granite blocks, of which six were cut during the reign of Amenhotep III. These six blocks from the pedestals of three black granite statues, two of which must have been of very great height. It has been suggested that these statues originally stood at the funerary temple of this king.

Off course, the tenth pylon served as the southern entrance to the precinct of Amun and led, through its gate, past the two limestone colossi to the sphinx-lined avenue which was a processional way, connecting the precinct of Amun with that of Mut. It should be noted that the area south of the Seventh Pylon was undergoing restoration work by a combined Franco-Egyptian team, though apparently this work is now finished.

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Reference Number

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