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 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

By Jimmy Dunn

An outer wall of the naos depicting repeated images of Amun-Re

Ramesside period scenes adorn the north, south and east facades of the outer Tuthmosis walls of the GreatTemple of Amun atKarnak in ancientThebes(modernLuxor), that terminate at the two sides of the eastern sanctuary. For example, the bas-reliefs of the northern partition of the third Tuthmosian enclosure are in the name ofRamesses II. HisHorus name is discernable here, carved in very fine hieroglyphs, underAmun and Mut receiving offerings. The spiral ofMut's double crown winds around within the body of a small, earlier figure of Amun on which an inscription is outlined that reads, "Mut, mistress of Heaven, queen of the neters".

On the southern portion of the east facade of the enclosure wall,Ramesses II had scenes carved in his name that are oriented in the direction of the alabaster naos ofTuthmosis III.

Looking into the Chapel of the Hearing Ear on the outer Eastern wall of the Temple of Amun at Karnak

In the middle of the outer east wall of the third enclosure that surrounded the GreatTemple of Amun is located the eastern sanctuary of Amun-Re, which is known as aChapel of the "Hearing Hear". It is a small sanctuary which contained no entrance to the inner temple because it was built for common Egyptians, who were not generally allowed into much if any of the temple proper, in order to allow them to worship and partition the all important god,Amun.

Common ancient Egyptians frequently built within their houses small altars to worship their gods, as well as small private temples for communal use. However,state templesbuilt for the benefit and worship of the gods were rare, and mostly consisted of small structures attached to the rear, closest to the actual inner sanctuaries, of major temples. Such temples never had access to the main temple to which they were attached, but they must have played a significant role for religious worship by the common Egyptians.

Today, this eastern sanctuary consists mostly of an enormous alabaster monolith ofTuthmosis III which is flanked by lateral chambers. This huge, single piece of alabaster is preceded by alarge hall that opens on the east side. Each of the two outer walls of this naos contained scenes in which Tuthmosis III presented offerings to fifteen figures ofAmun in sheaths. Each of the images is seated upon a throne and holding the was scepter with both hands. On the north wall, which is the best preserved, the king holds the cane and the club in his left hand and consecrates the offerings with his right, "To Amun in each of his names."

A closer view of the two statues within the naos of the chapel at Karnak

This monument presses directly against the back of the wall of the principal temple, which has been slightly hollowed out for the structure. It contains two engaged statues, both greatly damaged. It is presumed that the statue on the north representsTuthmosis III, though the one on the right is difficult to identify. It has been suggested that this second statue may be that of Mut (Champollion) Hatshepsut (Steindorff) Amun (Borchardt) or perhaps Nekhebet (Lubicz).

The Osirian statues that front the Chapel of the Hearing Ear on the outside of the Temple of Amun at Karnak

The facade of this hall is adorned by quadrangular pillars decorated externally with engaged, Osirian statues. This entire group of structures is then framed by the bases of two broken obelisks of QueenHatshepsut (now destroyed) that are enclosed within two chapels ofNectanebo I. These latter have been established in the face of two large images ofAmun, which were probably highly venerated, that form the final point of two long series of tableaux depictingRamesses II before the great state god.

Just behind theTemple of Amun's primary axis atKarnak in ancient Thebes (modern Luxor), is the Eastern Temple ofRamesses II, followed by a colonnade built by Taharka which finally leads to the gate ofNectanebo I in the very back of the complex set in the enclosure wall.

The Colonnade of Taharka at Karnak

The small temple of Ramesses II was conceived of as a peristyle court, with two Osirian pillars in the center. Between it and the main temple complex is an offering table.

All the columns of the temple ofRamesses II and the small room preceding the area where a single obelisk once stood are made from the shafts of ancient Tuthmosian polygonal columns, recovered with plaster and bearing the cartouches of Ramesses II. The central doorway that currently provides access between these two rooms was only opened during the reign of Ptolemy VII, according to the dedication inscribed on the south doorpost. Also, on the southern part of the splaying of this new doorway is a depiction of worship of the "souls of the east" by four baboons. On the north it is the "souls of the west".

The missing obelisk was removed fromKarnak by the emperor Constantine around 330 AD and transported to Rome in 357 by his son, who installed it in the Circus Maximus. It was rediscovered there, broken in three pieces, in 1587. The following year, Pope Sixtus V had it raised in the square of Saint John Lateran where it currently remains in a very non-pagan setting.

The upper four faces of the obelisk each bear three vertical lines of inscriptions. The central columns are those ofTuthmosis III, while the lateral columns are ofTuthmosis IV. On the lowerpart of the southern face of this obelisk below the title of Tuthmosis III, the king specified that he had a single obelisk created, destined to be erected in the forecourt of the temple of Ipet-sut, and he emphasized the fact that this was the first time an obelisk was raised alone. On the same southern face, Tuthmosis IV records that he finished this single obelisk of his "father" after it had remained resting on its side in the hands of the royal engineers for thirty-five years. He erected it inKarnak as instructed by his "father", making itspyramidion ofelectrum. Actually, we must note that Tuthmosis IV was really the grandson of Tuthmosis III.

The obelisk of Tuthmosis III now in Rome

Tuthmosis IV also provides that, "He has made as his memorial for His Father Amun-Ra [the act] of erecting for him an obelisk of great size next to the upper gate of Ipet-sut next to Thebes", which explains its location at the southern end of the temple.

The Eastern Temple of Ramesses II actually opens on the east, opposite to the main complex. It is proceeded by a colonnade built by Taharka that consists of four rows of five columns each linked together by small walls of intercolumniation on which are represented the nomes and the characteristic scenes of the "royal ascent:" to the temple. The central colonnade borders a red granite pavement.

Beyond this colonnade, set in what was once the enclosure wall of the Temple of Amun, is the gate ofNectanebo I. This portal stood nearly 20 meters tall. It was set into the outer enclosure wall that was itself constructed on a bed of bricks that are alternately convex and concave, thus forming an undulation.

Champollion said of the gate ofNectanebo I:

"This immense gate, for which the upper portion is made of enormous blocks and the doorposts from smaller stones but assembled with a great deal of care, provides entrance into the great enclosure of Oph (Karnak) on the east side. The large enclosure of baked bricks touches on both the left and right side of this propylon, which has never been adorned with any sculpture, either on its top or jambs, on the inside as well as outside of the enclosure, except that toward the back on the left side (when exiting) there are t3wo tableaux of worshiping carved in the thickness of the doorway."

Gate of Nectanebo I at Karnak

On the west, the lintel is formed of two enormous monolithic blocks, with a third from which the mold of the torus has been cut out. On the stone monolith of the cornice's first course, a large rectangle facing the setting sun is worked in relief, at the site of the uraei-flanked disk. On the east side, the torus, the disk facing the rising sun and the uraei are sculpted, rather than in relief.

Much of the decoration of the gate was never completed. On the east facade of the lintel, on the left, only the upper part of Ptolemy II Philadelphus offering Ma'at is carved out, while Amun has only his feathers, his lower limbs and his throne. Behind him the upper portion of Mut's body is carved in sunk relief, while the lower part is simply marked out. Aside from her crown, Queen Arsinoe is entirely drawn out in dots, while in the next figure only her forearms and her right hand are marked. On the right, the king, Amun and Khonsu are sculpted down to the waist and cut in half by the joint. The lower parts of their bodies are completely missing.

These structures terminate theTemple of Amun proper atKarnak on its southeastern end.

Ground plan of the eastern region of the Temple of Amun at Karnak

Ground plan of the eastern region of the Temple of Amun at Karnak

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Reference Number

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Last Updated: June 12th, 2011