The Hypostyle Hall between the 4th and 5th Pylons in the Temple of Amun at Karnak

The Hypostyle Hall between the
4th and 5th Pylons in the Temple of Amun at Karnak

by Jimmy Dunn

A general view of Hatshepsut's Obelisk and the surrounding area

As we pass through the ruins of the fourth pylon at Karnak (the Temple of Amun in Modern Luxor which was ancient Thebes), we enter the vast complex of the Temple of Ipet-Sut of Amun proper. This was the original gate of the temple. Here, between the fourth and fifth pylons is what has been termed the "Hypostyle Hall" of the temple of Ipet-Sut, not to be confused with the Great Hypostyle Hall which precedes it. The wall that surrounds the whole of this element of the temple was erected by Tuthmosis III, but decorated at certain places on the inside by Ramesses II.

Just within the gate to either side of the interior of the fourth pylon are Osirian Pillars. These are fitted into niches and those to the north probably wore the Red Crown, while those to the south wear the white crown. Within this small asymmetrical area we find to the north (left) the obelisk of Hatshepsut, which dominates this area of the temple. North of this obelisk are two rows of three columns each. At one point, there was a complimentary obelisk to the south (right), but that is now gone. South of that obelisk were two rows of four columns each.

The southern Osirian statues

This pair of obelisks was produced from granite on the island Sehel at Aswan under the supervision of the steward Amen-hotep. Their transport by ship and the erection of both obelisks at Karnak is shown in detail in the so-called "Hall of O" in the first portico of the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari. A relief in her Red Chapel also provides a report about the donation of these two obelisks.

The standing, northern obelisk of Hatshepsutt must be considered one of the most famous single monuments within the whole of the Karnak complex. Originally, she erected four obelisks at Karnak, but only this one remains. However, at approximately 29.56 meters tall, it is the largest standing obelisk in Egypt. Built of red granite, it weighs some 323 tons (note that various figures are given by different sources for the obelisk's height and weight). The bottom part of the obelisk has a slightly different tint than the top, because it had been walled up by her successor, Tuthmosis III.

On its base are thirty-two horizontal lines of hieroglyphs, eight lines to each side, that describe why she had constructed this obelisk. The inscription reads in part:

"I was sitting in the palace and I remembered the One who created me; my heart directed me to make for him two obelisks of electrum [a natural alloy of gold and silver], that their pyramidions might mingle with the sky amid the august pillared hall between the great pylons of [Tuthmosis I].... My Majesty began to work on them in the year 15, the second month of Winter, 1st day, continuing until Year 16, fourth month of Summer, 30th day, spending 7 months in cutting it from the mountain.... I acted for him with a straightforward heart, as a king does for any god... Let not anyone who hears this say it is boasting which I have said, but rather say, 'How like her it is, she who is truthful to her father.' The god knows it in me [namely] Amun, Lord of the Thrones of the Two Lands.... I am his daughter in very truth, who glorifies him."

View of Hatshepsut's Obelisk

To a significant degree, historians owe what little they know of obelisk raising from archaic sources to this inscription.

All four sides of the obelisk are carved with a central column of inscriptions and, on the upper half, eight tableaux on which the king (in Egypt, the female ruler was not termed a queen, but a king), is directed toward Amun going from the northwest corner towards the southeast corner. On the north face, the central inscription begins with Hatshepsut's titles, including the Horus, the Two Goddesses and the Golden Horus names:

"Horus 'Powerful of Kas', the Two Ladies 'Flourishing of Years', Golden Horus 'Divine of Appearances', King of Upper and Lower Egypt and Lord of the Two Lands 'Maat-Ka-Ra'. Her father Amun had established her great name 'Maat-Ka-Ra' on the Ished tree, her annals are million of years, duration and power, son of Ra 'Hatshepsut, unified with Amun', beloved of Amun-Ra, King of the Gods, as [reward for this good, enduring and excellent monument], that she had donated to him (at the occasion) of the first royal jubilee ( sed festival). May she live forever."

On the west side, after the same title, the text reads:

"Horus 'Powerful of Kas', the Two Ladies 'Flourishing of Years', Golden Horus 'Divine of Appearances', King of Upper and Lower Egypt and Lord of the Two Lands 'Maat-Ka-Ra'. She made (it) as her monument for her father Amun, Lord of the Throne of the Two Lands, erecting for him two large obelisks at the great gate [Pylon) 'Amun is Great in-Terror', wrought with very much electrum, which illuminates the Two Lands like the sun. Never was the like made on earth since the beginning. It was done for him (Amun) by the sun of Ra 'Hatshepsut, unified with Amun', may she live forever like Ra.

Hence, Hatshepsut specifies that these obelisks were intended to be erected in front of the fifth pylon. On the east facade of the obelisk, her title includes only the Horus name and she affirms that the building of these obelisks was for her father:

"Horus 'Powerful of Kas', King of Upper and Lower Egypt 'Maat-Ka-Ra', beloved of Amun-Ra. Her majesty has made the name of her father established on this enduring monument, so that the King of Upper and Lower Egypt and Lord of the Two Lands 'Aa-kheper-ka-Ra' ( Thutmosis I) will be praised by the majesty of this god, when the two great obelisks were erected by her majesty on the first time ( of her royal jubilee). The King of Gods (Amun) said: 'Your (fem.) father, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt "Aa-kheper-ka-Ra' had given the command to erect obelisks. Your (fem.) majesty will repeat the monuments. (So that) you may live forever."

The Southern facade likewise provides only Hatshepsut Horus' name as well, and reads:

"Horus 'Powerful of Kas', King of Upper and Lower Egypt 'Maat-Ka-Ra', brilliant emanation of Amun, whom he has caused to appear as king upon the throne of Horus 'Holy of Holiest' of the Great House, whom the ennead of gods have brought up to be mistress of the circuit of the sun. They have united her with life, power and joy of the heart, the First of the Livings, son of Ra 'Hatshepsut, unified with Amun', beloved of Amun-Ra, King of the Gods, may he (Hatshepsut) live forever like Ra."

The upper part of the broken southern obelisk

The upper part of the southern obelisk, broken into pieces, is mounted on concrete blocks in the proximity of the sacred lake. The base of Hatshepsut's missing southern obelisk is not without inscriptions. Like the northern standing obelisk, there are eight lines of inscriptions carved horizontally on its four sides. The text starts with the top line of the southern facade of the base with the titles of the queen and her recounting of the erection of two great obelisks made from southern (Aswan) granite on the occasion of her first renewal (sed-festival). It reads: "Two great obelisks of enduring granite of the South, (their) summits [pyramidions] being of electrum of the best of every country."

On the west side of the base, the queen affirms that she has acted under the command and supervision of Amun, recognizing his divinity. Hatshepsut implies that she has conceived of nothing without following his laws (of proportion) because her "heart was in sia (wisdom)". She affirms that "Karnak is the horizon on earth [the first appearance], the August Ascent of the beginning, the sacred eye of the All-Lord, the place of his heart". On the north side of the base, after a long oath of faith where the queen affirms that her power over the earth is due to divine kindness and that she will descend into the amenti and exist "in eternity as an "Undying One", she specifies that these two obelisks were extracted from the mountains and erected in seven months, during the fifteenth year of her reign.

On the east side of the base, the queen recounts how, following her desire to embellish the obelisk, she measured the best electrum by the "hekat, more than the entire Two Lands had (ever) seen. The ignorant, like the wise, knoweth it".

Floorplan of the Hypostyle Hall

Interestingly, the pyramidian of the second obelisk suffered more at the hands of Akhenaten than by Tuthmosis III. During the Amarna period, the electrum and the relief on it were mostly destroyed, but restored after Akhenaten's death by Seti I.

The pyramidian of the borken southern obelisk

The wall that was built by Tuthmosis III around the Hatshepsut's obelisk stood as high as the third tableau. At the foot of this wall is a limestone column pedestal that is presumed to have originally supported a cedar column. To each side papyriform columns flank it. The rearmost of these two columns provides, above the floral decoration, a ring of three interesting lines of text. Here, Tuthmosis III recounts:

"My Majesty had raised four columns in addition to the two columns of the north end, a total of six columns wrought with solid sandstone...[of which] the height is 31 cubits (a little over 16 meters) on the two sides of the august doorway."

Hence, the two northernmost columns in this court preserve the name of Tuthmosis I, while the four between them and the standing obelisk were erected by Tuthmosis III, if indeed there were several cedar columns in the north.

This section of the Temple of Amun is relatively small, but its importance should not be overlooked. While much of it is ruined, nevertheless it contains many fine reliefs and as noted above, is distinguished as the original entrance to the Temple of Ipet-Sut

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See Also:

The Great Hypostyle Hall

Part One, An Overview and the Exterior Walls

Part Two: The Columns

The Interior Walls

The Obelisk Courtyard (Between the Third and Fourth Pylons)

The Hypostyle Court of the Temple Proper

The Colonnade of Tuthmosis I and the Vestibule and Antechamber of Tuthmosis III Between the Fifth and Sixth Pylons

The Peristyle Court of Tuthmosis III, The Naos of Philip Arrhidaeu and the Sanctuary of Hateshpsut Beyond the Sixth Pylon

The Central Courtyard and the Festival Hall of Tuthmosis III

The Temple of the "Hearing Ear", The Eastern Temple of Ramesses II, the Colonnade of Taharka and the Gate of Nectanebo I at Temple of Amun at Karnak

The Courtyard of the Cachette

The Courtyard of the Cachette, Part I

The Courtyard of the Cachette, Part IIThe Sacred Lake and the Scarab

The Courtyard Between the Seventh and Eighth Southern Pylons

The Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Pylons and the Courtyards Between them

The Osirian Temple of Taharqa at Karnak






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