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Karnak is the modern-day name for the ancient site of the Temple of Amun at Thebes, Egypt. The Egyptians called the site Nesut-Towi, "Throne of the Two Lands", Ipet-Iset, "The Finest of Seats" as well as Ipt-Swt, "Selected Spot" also given as Ipetsut, "The Most Select of Places".
The original name has to do with the ancient Egyptian belief that Thebes was the first city founded on the primordial mound which rose from the waters of chaos at the beginning of the world. At that time, the creator-god Atum (sometimes Ptah or Ra) stood on the mound to begin the work of creation. The site of the temple was thought to be this original ground and the temple was raised at this spot for that reason. Karnak is believed to have been an ancient observatory as well as a place of worship where the god Amun would interact directly with the people of earth.
The Temple of Amun is the largest religious building in the world (though some claim Angkor Wat in Cambodia is larger) and honors not only Amun but other gods such as Osiris, Montu, Isis, Ptah and the Egyptian rulers who wished to be remembered for their contributions to the site. It was built gradually over the centuries, with each new ruler adding to it, from the beginning of the Middle Kingdom (2040 - 1782 BCE) through the New Kingdom (1570 - 1069 BCE) and throughout the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323 - 30 BCE).
It has even been suggested that the rulers of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613 - c. 2181 BCE) first built there owing to the style of some of the ruins and the king's list of Old Kingdom monarchs inscribed by Tuthmose III (1458 - 1425 BCE) of the New Kingdom in his Festival Hall there. His choice of kings suggests that he may have removed their monuments to build his hall but still wanted them to be remembered. Structures were regularly removed, renovated, or expanded during the temple's long history. The complex continued to grow with each succeeding ruler and the ruins today cover over 200 acres of land. It has been estimated that one could fit three structures the size of Notre Dame Cathedral in the main temple alone.
The Temple of Amun was in constant use with perpetual growth for over 2,000 years and considered one of the most sacred sites in Egypt. The priests of Amun who oversaw the administration of the temple became increasingly wealthy and powerful to the point that they were able to take control of the government of Thebes toward the end of the New Kingdom when rule of the country became divided between theirs at Thebes in Upper Egypt and that of the pharaoh in the city of Per-Ramesses in Lower Egypt.
The rise of the power of the priests, and the resulting weakness of the position of the pharaoh, is considered the major contributing factor in the decline of the New Kingdom and the beginning of the Third Intermediate Period (1069 - 525 BCE). The temple complex was damaged in the Assyrian invasion of 666 BCE and again by the Persian invasion of 525 BCE but, both times, was repaired and renovated.
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It has been estimated that one could fit three structures the size of Notre Dame Cathedral in the main temple alone.
It was rediscovered during the 7th century CE Arab Invasion of Egypt at which time it was called "Ka-ranak" which means 'fortified village' because of the enormous amount of architecture amassed in one area. When European explorers first began traveling in Egypt in the 17th century CE they were told the grand ruins at Thebes were those of Karnak and the name has been in use for the site since then.
Amun & the Early Temple
Amun (also known as Amun-Ra) was a minor Theban deity who, after Mentuhotep II unified Egypt in c. 2040 BCE, rose in prominence. The powers of two older gods, Atum and Ra (the creator god and sun god, respectively) were combined in Amun, making him the supreme king of the gods, both creator and preserver of life. The area of Karnak may have already been sacred to Amun before any structures were built there or could have been sacred to Atum or Osiris, both of whom were also worshipped at Thebes.
The site was already set apart as holy ground in that no evidence of domestic homes or of markets has been found there, only religiously-themed buildings or royal apartments constructed long after the first temple was constructed. As there was no separation of one's religious beliefs from one's daily life in ancient Egypt one might think that it would be hard to tell a purely secular building from a religious site but this is not so, or not always so. At Karnak the inscriptions left on the columns and walls, as well as the artwork, clearly identify the site as religious in nature from the earliest times.
The first monument thought to be raised at the site is that of Wahankh Intef II (c. 2112 - 2063 BCE) who erected a column to the honor of Amun-Ra. This claim has been contested by those scholars who point to the king's list of Thutmose III in his Festival Hall who claim the site was first developed for religious purposes in the Old Kingdom. They also sometimes point out Old Kingdom styles in some of the architecture of the ruins.
The architectural link has no bearing on the claim, however, because the style of the Old Kingdom (the age of the great pyramid builders) was often emulated by later ages to invoke the grandeur of the past. If any Old Kingdom rulers built there then their monuments were removed by later kings and this is what some scholars claim Thutmose III's king list points to.
Wahankh Intef II was one of the Theban rulers who waged war against the ineffectual central government at Herakleopolis and paved the way for Mentuhotep II (c. 2061-2010 BCE) to overthrow the kings of the north and reunite Egypt under Theban rule. When Mentuhotep II came to power he built his mortuary complex directly across the river from Karnak at Deir el-Bahri and this has suggested to some scholars that a significant temple to Amun already existed there at this time; not just the monument of Wahankh Intef II.
Mentuhotep II may have built a temple at the site to honor Amun for helping him achieve victory, and then built his complex across from it, but this claim is speculative and no evidence suggests it. Most likely he chose the site of his mortuary complex because of its proximity to the holy site across the river; there would not have had to be a temple on the spot at the time to motivate him.
The first known builder at Karnak is the king Senusret I (r. c. 1971-1926 BCE) of the Middle Kingdom who built a temple to Amun with a courtyard which may have been intended to honor, and mirror, Mentuhotep II's mortuary complex across the river. Senusret I, then, would have been the original architect of Karnak in response to the great hero Mentuhotep II's tomb. Any claims along these lines remain speculative, however, and all that is clearly known is that the area was considered sacred before any temple was constructed there.
The Middle Kingdom rulers who followed Senusret I all added their own touches to the temple and expanded on the site but the rulers of the New Kingdom would transform the modest temple grounds and buildings into a colossal complex of immense scope and detail. Nothing like Karnak had been attempted since the 4th Dynasty king Khufu (r. 2589-2566 BCE) built his Great Pyramid at Giza.
The New Kingdom Developments
The pharaohs of the New Kingdom lavished attention on the Temple of Amun. Seti I (r. 1290-1279 BCE) and, especially, his successor Ramesses II (The Great, r. 1279-1213 BCE), added decorations and columns to the Hypostyle Hall which had been constructed to huge proportions previously in the New Kingdom. This was done to honor the god and ensure the pharaoh's place in the eternal remembrance of the people. Scholar Corinna Rossi, citing Egyptologist Elizabeth Blyth's work, writes:
The importance of Karnak resided in its being the contact point between Amun, the supreme ruler of the universe, and the pharaoh, the supreme ruler on Earth who represented all Egyptian people. Thus, especially from the New Kingdom onwards, every king who wished to be remembered forever was virtually compelled to contribute to the splendor of this most important temple. (41)
All of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom, before and after Seti I and Ramesses II, contributed to Karnak. Actual labor on the site was accomplished by forced labor of inmates from the Great Prison at Thebes, individuals performing community service, or paid workers, masons, and artists. The New Kingdom began with the reign of Ahmose I (r. 1570 - 1544 BCE) who united Egypt after expelling the foreign rulers known as the Hyksos. Ahmose I, a Theban prince, thanked the god Amun for his victory by contributing to the temple at Karnak. Amenhotep III (r. 1386 - 1353 BCE), who had one of the most luxuriant reigns in Egyptian history and whose many building projects guaranteed he would be remembered, still made sure to contribute to the Temple of Amun at Thebes.
His successor, Akhenaten (r. 1353 - 1336 BCE), banned the worship of Amun and the other gods of Egypt, closed all the temples, and elevated his personal god, Aten, to the level of the one supreme god of the universe. Even so, he still contributed to Karnak though his contribution was a temple to Aten, not Amun, which was destroyed by the later pharaoh Horemheb (r. 1320 - 1295 BCE) when he restored the gods of Egypt and tried to wipe the memory of Akhenaten's reign from history. The result of these additions, renovations, and developments throughout the New Kingdom was an ever-increasing complex of immense size and scope. Historian Margaret Bunson writes:
Karnak remains the most remarkable religious complex ever built on earth. Its 250 acres of temples and chapels, obelisks, columns and statues built over 2,000 years incorporate the finest aspects of Egyptian art and architecture into a great historical monument of stone. It was designed in three sections. The first one extended from the northwest to the southwest, with the second part at right angles to the original shrine. The third section was added by later kings. The plan of the Temple of Amun, evident even in its ruined state, contained a series of well-coordinated structures and architectural innovations, all designed to maximize the strength of the stone and the monumental aspects of the complex. Karnak, as with all other major temples of Egypt, was graced with a ramp and a canal leading to the Nile and this shrine also boasted rows of ram-headed sphinxes at its entrance. At one time the sphinxes joined Karnak and another temple of the god at Luxor, to the south. (133)
This huge complex, dedicated to Amun and a number of honorary gods and goddesses, had at its center the inner sanctum of the god's home which was perfectly aligned with sunset at the summer solstice. All of Karnak, in fact, is aligned with celestial events which would have been interpreted by the priests there to understand the will of the god and his wishes for humanity.
The Structure & Operation of the Site
Karnak is comprised of a series of pylons (monumental gateways which taper towards the top to cornices), leading into courtyards, halls, and temples. The first pylon opens onto a wide court which invites the visitor further. The second pylon opens onto the Hypostyle Court which measures 337 feet (103 m) by 170 feet (52 m). The hall is supported by 134 columns 72 feet (22 m) tall and 11 feet (3.5 m) around in diameter.
The god to whom the ground was originally dedicated may have been Montu, a Theban war god, and there was a precinct dedicated to him even after the rise of the cult of Amun. As the temple grew, however, it became divided into the three sections Bunson mentions above and dedicated to Amun, his consort Mut who symbolized the life-giving rays of the sun, and their son Khonsu, the moon god. These three gods became known as the Theban Triad and would be the most popular gods until the cult of Osiris with its triad of Osiris, Isis, and Horus overtook it (eventually becoming the Cult of Isis, the most popular in Egyptian history).
The temple complex grew from the original temple to Amun of the Middle Kingdom to an honorary site for many gods including Osiris, Ptah, Horus, Hathor, Isis and any other deity of note to whom the pharaohs of the New Kingdom felt they owed a debt of gratitude. The priests of the gods administered the site, collected tithes and gifts, dispensed food and counsel, and interpreted the gods' will for the people. There were over 80,000 priests employed at Karnak by the end of the New Kingdom and the high priests there were more wealthy than the pharaoh.
The cult of Amun caused problems for the monarchs of the New Kingdom from the reign of Amenhotep III onwards, probably earlier. Except for the half-hearted attempts of Amenhotep III and the dramatic reformation of Akhenaten, however, no ruler ever tried to do anything to significantly curb the priest's power and, as noted, every king contributed to Amun's temple and the wealth of the Theban priests without pause.
Even during the disunity of the Third Intermediate Period (c. 1069 - 525 BCE), Karnak still commanded respect and the rulers of Egypt continued to add to it what they could. Toward the end of the Third Intermediate Period Egypt was invaded first by the Assyrians in 671 BCE under Esarhaddon and then in 666 BCE by Ashurbanipal and Thebes was destroyed, but not the Temple of Amun at Karnak. This same paradigm repeated itself in 525 BCE when the Persians invaded the country. The Assyrians, in fact, were so impressed by Thebes and its great temple they ordered the Egyptians to rebuild the city after they had destroyed it.
The Persians were driven from Egypt by the pharaoh Amyrtaeus (r. 404 - 398 BCE) and Egyptian rule resumed; as did construction at Karnak. The pharaoh Nectanebo I (r. 380 - 362 BCE) added an obelisk and a pylon (unfinished) to the temple and built a wall around the site, perhaps to protect it from any future invasions. Nectanebo I was one of the great monument builders of ancient Egypt who was also responsible for the Temple of Isis at Philae. He was one of the last native Egyptian kings of the country. When the Persians returned in 343 BCE Egypt lost its autonomy.
The Ptolemies & the Coming of Rome
In 331 BCE Alexander the Great took Egypt from the Persians and, after his death, his general Ptolemy claimed the country as his share of Alexander's empire. Ptolemy I (r. 323 - 283 BCE) tried to blend Egyptian and Greek culture to create a harmonious, multi-national state but focused most of his attention on Alexandria. His later successor Ptolemy IV (r. 221 - 204 BCE), however, turned his attention to Karnak and built a hypogeum there, an underground burial chamber, dedicated to the god Osiris. The Ptolemaic Dynasty began to unravel under his reign and no other rulers of this period made additions to the Karnak site. The dynasty ended with the death of Cleopatra VII (l. 69 - 30 BCE) after which Egypt was taken by Rome.
The Romans also focused their attention on Alexandria and ignored Thebes and its temple. They sacked Thebes in the 1st century CE during or after a battle with the Nubians to the south and left the city in ruins. After this date, fewer and fewer people visited either the city or the temple.
In the 4th century CE, Christianity was adopted by the Roman Empire under Constantine the Great (r. 306 - 337 CE) and the new faith, no longer persecuted, began to gain more power and wider acceptance. The emperor Constantius II (r. 337 - 361 CE) closed all pagan temples in the empire which of course included Karnak but, by this time, Thebes was a ghost town with some few inhabitants living in the ruins. The Coptic Christians of the area used the Temple of Amun as a church in the 4th century CE but then abandoned it. The city and the temple complex were then left to decay.
In the 7th century CE the Arabs invaded Egypt and were the first to call the great structure "Karnak" because they believed it to be a fortified village ("el-Ka-ranak"). This was the name the local inhabitants gave to the early European explorers of the 17th century CE and the name the site has been known by since. Today Karnak is a great open air museum drawing thousands of visitors from around the world. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Egypt and among the most impressive ruins in the world.
As with ancient sites like Baalbek, Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid, Nemrut Dag, Angkor Wat, and others, Karnak continues to fascinate visitors by its size, scope, and the possibilities of how the temple was built in a time without cranes, without trucks, without any of the modern technology which one considers so essential in the modern day. The history of Egypt from the Middle Kingdom through the 4th century CE is told on the walls and columns of Karnak and, as people today visit the site and see the inscriptions, they fulfill the hope of the monarchs of ancient Egypt that they would live forever through their great deeds recorded through their contributions to the Temple of Amun at Thebes.
Karnak is located in the city of Thebes and is over a mile from the city’s center and the temple of Luxor. Quays and processional ways link the three precincts to the Nile. The mortuary temples of the pharaohs and the Valleys of the Kings and Queens are on the Nile’s West bank across from Thebes. Karnak was a religious center for Egypt and was the seat of the cult of Amun/Amun-Ra.
The existing structures at Karnak date to the New Kingdom period. These buildings likely replaced older structures but no remains of them exist today. Successive rulers up to Roman times rebuilt, added to or restored Karnak’s buildings. Building at Karnak was a way to ensure immortality for the pharaoh and the favor of the gods.
Pharaohs commissioned carvings that detailed their building projects at Karnak. They also recorded their restoration work. These records indicated that the pharaohs believed restorations were as important as new buildings. A pharaoh would also complete unfinished projects started by his predecessor, especially his father.
A variety of scenes decorated the columns and walls of the temples. Some show rituals or festivals conducted in a specific area of the temple. Other inscriptions tell about the dedication of a building or an object. Records of a pharaoh’s military exploits decorated some buildings. The Egyptians painted these decorations but most of the color has worn away.
© eviljohnius - Wall Reliefs at Karnak
Karnak: Temple Complex of Ancient Egypt
Karnak is an ancient Egyptian temple precinct located on the east bank of the Nile River in Thebes (modern-day Luxor). It covers more than 100 hectares, an area larger than some ancient cities.
The central sector of the site, which takes up the largest amount of space, is dedicated to Amun-Ra, a male god associated with Thebes. The area immediately around his main sanctuary was known in antiquity as &ldquoIpet-Sun&rdquo which means &ldquothe most select of places.&rdquo
To the south of the central area is a smaller precinct dedicated to his wife, the goddess Mut. In the north, there is another precinct dedicated to Montu, the falcon-headed god of war. Also, to the east, there is an area &mdash much of it destroyed intentionally in antiquity &mdash dedicated to the Aten, the sun disk.
Construction at Karnak started by 4,000 years ago and continued up until the time the Romans took control of Egypt, about 2,000 years ago. Each Egyptian ruler who worked at Karnak left his or her own architectural mark. The UCLA Digital Karnak project has reconstructed and modeled these changes online. Their model shows a bewildering array of temples, chapels, gateway shaped &ldquopylons,&rdquo among many other buildings, that were gradually built, torn down and modified over more than 2,000 years.
Karnak would have made a great impression on ancient visitors, to say the least. &ldquoThe pylons and great enclosure walls were painted white with the reliefs and inscriptions picked out in brilliant jewel-like colours, adding to their magnificence,&rdquo writes Egyptologist Heather Blyth in her book "Karnak: Evolution of a Temple" (Routledge, 2006).
&ldquoBehind the high walls, glimpses of gold-topped obelisks which pierced the blue sky, shrines, smaller temples, columns and statues, worked with gold, electrum and precious stones such as lapis lazuli must have shimmered in the dusty golden heat.&rdquo
Blyth notes that the earliest certain evidence of construction at Karnak dates to the reign of Wah-Ankh Intef II, an Egyptian ruler who lived more than 4,000 years ago. An &ldquoeight-sided&rdquo sandstone column of his bears the name of Amun-Ra and says &ldquohe [the king] made it as his monument for that god . &rdquo
This, &ldquomust surely imply a temple, or at the very least, a shrine dedicated to Amun at Karnak,&rdquo Blyth writes. The UCLA Digital reconstruction team starts their digital model in the reign of king Senwosret I (reign 1971-1926 B.C.) and shows a limestone temple, with a court in the middle, dedicated to Amun-Ra. It contains 12 pillars at front the bases of which &ldquowere adorned with engaged statues of the king in the pose of Osiris [god of the underworld],&rdquo the team writes. This reconstruction is somewhat hypothetical as little of the temple remains today.
Karnak would remain a modest precinct up until the New Kingdom, a time period that ran from roughly 1550 to 1070 B.C., when work accelerated with many of the greatest buildings being constructed.
Starting in the New Kingdom, and continuing in the centuries after, Egyptian rulers gradually created a series of 10 &ldquopylons&rdquo at Karnak. Functioning as gateways of sorts, these pylons were connected to each other through a network of walls.
They were often decorated with scenes depicting the ruler who built them and many of them also had flag-staffs from which colorful banners would be flown.
At Karnak the pylons start near the main sanctuary and go in two directions. One set of six pylons faces west towards the Nile River and ends in an entrance lined with an avenue of small sphinxes. Another set of four pylons faces south along a processional route used for ceremonies.
According to the UCLA Digital Karnak project the Wadjet Hall (whose name comes from the style of columns used) was first built by Thutmose I (reign 1504-1492 B.C.) near the main sanctuary, between the fourth and fifth pylons. It measures about 246 feet by 46 feet (75 meters by 14 meters) and was used for the king&rsquos coronation and jubilee (heb-sed) festival.
The heb-sed festival generally took place 30 years after a king came to the throne and then every three years afterwards. &ldquoDuring the festival, the king ran around a heb-sed court performing feats of strength to demonstrate his ability to continue to rule Egypt,&rdquo writes researcher Pat Remler in her book "Egyptian Mythology, A to Z" (Chelsea House, 2010).
Hatshepsut & Thutmose III
Hatshepsut was a female pharaoh of Egypt who reigned from roughly 1479 to 1458 B.C. At Karnak she renovated the main sanctuary at Karnak, creating in its place a &ldquoPalace of Ma&rsquoat.&rdquo She also created a chapel made of red quartzite to hold the god&rsquos portable bark (boat).
When Hatshepsut&rsquos successor, Thutmose III, came to the throne, he ordered the destruction of images of the female pharaoh and had her quartzite chapel destroyed and replaced with one of his own.
His legacy at Karnak was not all destructive as he ordered construction of the Ahkmenu, a pillared structure built on the east side of the central sanctuary. It contains a list of Egyptian kings going back to before the Great Pyramids were built.
He also created a &ldquocontra temple&rdquo adjacent to the Ahkmenu. &ldquoKnown as the &lsquochapel of the hearing ear,&rsquo the shrine allowed the populace of Thebes to petition a statue of the king with Amun-Ra,&rdquo writes the Digital Karnak team. In addition the king built a &ldquosacred lake&rdquo to the south of the main sanctuary.
The Great Hypostyle Hall
Perhaps the most fantastic building at Karnak was the &ldquoGreat Hypostyle Hall&rdquo built just to the west to the main sanctuary, along the main entranceway. Built by Seti (also called Sety) I, a king who ruled from 1290 to 1279 B.C., it covers an area &ldquolarge enough to accommodate the whole of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral&rdquo writes the University of Memphis Great Hypostyle Hall Project team on their website.
The building is about 337 feet (103 meters) by 170 feet (52 meters). The researchers note that there are 134 columns in total, the largest twelve of which are 70 feet (21 meters) high and support the central part of the structure. The other 122 columns are about 40 feet (12 meters) tall.
On the outside walls are scenes showing Seti and his successor, Ramesses II, smiting enemies from Libya, Syria and the Levant. Shortly after it was constructed, the hall likely became the setting for coronation and heb-sed ceremonies, replacing the Wadjet hall in this function.
Khonsu was the child of Amun-Ra and the goddess Mut. A temple dedicated to him at Karnak was built, appropriately, placed between the main sanctuary of Amun-Ra and the southern precinct that honored Mut.
Built by Ramesses III, a king who reigned from 1186 to 1155 B.C., the temple is about 230 feet (70 meters) by 88 feet (27 meters). The columns in its hall measure about 23 feet (7 meters) tall. &ldquoThe temple contained not only a suite of rooms for the housing of the statue of the god, but also a separate bark (boat) chamber,&rdquo writes the digital Karnak team.
Construction continued at Karnak periodically after the end of the New Kingdom. King Taharqa, who reigned around 2,700 years ago, was part of a dynasty of rulers from Nubia (modern-day Sudan) who came to control much of Egypt. He was interested in Karnak&rsquos &ldquosacred lake&rdquo and built the &ldquoedifice of the lake&rdquo beside it, a partly underground monument.
Today it&rsquos badly damaged although mysterious, &ldquothis is a puzzling and enigmatic monument that has no parallels&rdquo writes Blyth. &ldquoIt was &ldquodedicated to Re-Horakhte [a combination of two sky gods], which would explain the open solar court above ground, while the subterranean rooms symbolised the sun&rsquos nocturnal passage through the underworld.&rdquo Among its features was a &ldquonilometer&rdquo a structure used to measure the water level of the Nile that. In this case, the meter would have had a symbolic use.
Nectanebo I and the end
The last major building program at Karnak was carried out by Nectanebo I, a king of the 30th, and final, dynasty of ancient Egypt. He reigned between 380 and 362 B.C. After his dynasty ended, Egypt would be ruled by people descended from Persia, Greece or Rome.
Nectanebo built a large enclosure wall around the site along with an additional temple. He also began construction of a new pylon at Karnak at the western entrance (although he wasn&rsquot able to finish it).
The rulers of foreign descent who took control of Egypt continued work at Karnak to some degree. Ptolemy IV (reign 221-205 B.C.) would create a series of ritual catacombs dedicated to Osiris, god of the underworld.
&ldquoThe building functioned as a &lsquohypogeum,&rsquo an underground burial place. Many of these are known from ancient Egypt, although typically these spaces contained burials for sacred animals. The Karnak example instead served for the burial of small statuettes of Osiris,&rdquo writes the digital Karnak team.
You've only scratched the surface of Karnak family history.
Between 1962 and 1997, in the United States, Karnak life expectancy was at its lowest point in 1988, and highest in 1997. The average life expectancy for Karnak in 1962 was 59, and 85 in 1997.
An unusually short lifespan might indicate that your Karnak ancestors lived in harsh conditions. A short lifespan might also indicate health problems that were once prevalent in your family. The SSDI is a searchable database of more than 70 million names. You can find birthdates, death dates, addresses and more.
Luxor is one of Egypt&rsquos most precious inheritances when it comes to Egyptian ancient civilization. With a vast number of incredible ancient monuments, one of Luxor&rsquos great temples is the Karnak Temple.
The Karnak Temple Complex consists of a number of temples, chapels, and other buildings in the form of a village, and is for that reason that the name Karnak was given to this complex as in Arabic Karnak means &lsquofortified village&rsquo.
Where is the Karnak Temple located?
The Karnak temple is located in Karnak, in Luxor Governorate, in the south of Egypt on the east side of the Nile River bank.
When was the Karnak Temple built?
The Karnak Temple dates back from around 2055 BC to around 100 AD. It was built as a cult temple and was dedicated to the gods Amun, Mut, and khonsu. Being the largest building for religious purposes ever to be constructed, the Karnak Temple was known as &ldquomost select of places&rdquo by ancient Egyptians.
Who were the gods Amun, Mut, and Khonsu?
Also Known as Amon, Ammon, and Amen, Amun was the Egyptian god of the sun and air. Regarded as one of the most important gods, Amun is the ancient Egyptian civilization during the beginning of the rise of the New Kingdom from 1570 to 1069 BCE.
Also known as Maut and Mout, Mut was a goddess worshiped by ancient Egyptians. The meaning of her name is &lsquomother&rsquo and therefore she was known as the mother goddess. For some, she was known as the mother of everything in the world, and for others, they recognized her as the mother of the moon child god khonsu.
Known as the son of goddess Mut, Khonsu was the ancient Egyptian god of the Moon. The meaning of his name is &lsquotraveler&rsquo.
The Importance of the Karnak Temple
During the New Kingdom, the Karnak Temple Complex was the center of the ancient faith while power was concentrated at Thebes (modern-day Luxor) and its significance is reflected in its enormous size.
In addition to its religious significance, it was also served as a treasury, administrative center, and palace for the New Kingdom pharaohs. It is to this day considered as the largest temple complex ever constructed anywhere in the world.
It developed over a period of 1500 years, added to by generation after generation of pharaohs and resulting in a collection of temples, sanctuaries, pylons, and other decorations that is unparalleled throughout Egypt.
While the height of its importance was during the New Kingdom and during the reigns of famous pharaohs such as Hatshepsut, Tuthmose III, Seti I and Ramesses II, all contributed significant additions to the complex, construction continued into the Greco-Roman Period with the Ptolemies, Romans, and early Christians all leaving their mark there.
Visiting the Karnak Temple Complex
Karnak is divided into three compounds: the precinct of Amun, the precinct of Mut, and the precinct of Montu however, for most visitors the largest of these, the precinct of Amun, is enough. It is a complicated layout alone dwarfs every other site that you will visit in Egypt.
The precinct of Amun contains all of the most famous sections of the Karnak complex, including the dizzying Great Hypostyle Hall. This hall of 134 massive columns is one of the most impressive places in all of Egypt. Going into the detailed description of the different elements that make up the complex is a near-endless task that we will leave to a tour guide to explain it while you awe at it.
Instead, we will simply suggest that you allow plenty of time to explore this huge complex and admire the many impressive sights within it. Imagine how awe-inspiring it must have been over 2000 thousand years ago when these huge structures were newly constructed.
Like all of the major sights in Egypt, Karnak has a sound and light show that is offered in several different languages. The show takes place 3 times a night, but you should consult your tour guide or your hotel about the languages of the various showings.
Wadjet Hall was first built by Thutmose I, near the main sanctuary, between the fourth and fifth pylons. The hall measures about 246 feet by 46 feet it was used for the king&rsquos coronation and heb-sed festival.
The heb-sed festival usually would take place 30 years after a king came to the throne and then every three years afterwards. During this festival, the king would run around a heb-sed court performing feats of strength to demonstrate his ability to continue to rule Egypt.
The Great Hypostyle Hall
Great Hypostyle Hall is perhaps the most fantastic building at Karnak. It was built to the west to the main sanctuary, along the main entranceway. It was constructed by King Seti, a king who ruled from 1290 to 1279 B.C.
The building is about 337 feet by 170 feet. There are 134 columns in total the largest twelve are 70 feet high and support the central part of the structure. The other 122 columns are about 40 feet tall.
On the outside walls are scenes showing Seti and his successor, Ramesses II, smiting their enemies from Libya, Syria and the Levant. Not long after its construction, the hall became the setting for coronation and heb-sed ceremonies, replacing the Wadjet hall.
Starting in the New Kingdom and continuing in the centuries after, Egyptian rulers would gradually create a series of 10 pylons at Karnak. These pylons would function as gateways of sorts they were connected to each other through a network of walls.
The Pylons were often decorated with scenes depicting the ruler who built them.
At Karnak, the pylons start near the main sanctuary and go in two different directions. One set of six pylons faces west, towards the Nile River and ends in an entrance lined with an avenue of small sphinxes and the other set of four pylons faces south along a processional route used for ceremonies.
Interesting Facts about the Karnak Temple
● Karnak is an open-air museum. It is considered to be the largest religious building or site in the world.
● The 54,000 square feet Great Hypostyle Hall in the Karnak Temple is large enough to fit the Cathedral of Notre Dame comfortably.
● Over eighty thousand servants and slaves were assigned the task of serving Amon-Ra in Karnak, showing his power and importance at the time, also 5,000 statues were erected in his honor.
Visit the open city museum of Luxor, Temple of Karnak, through one of our Egypt tours.
Facts About Karnak
- Karnak is the world’s largest surviving religious building
- Cults worshipped Osiris, Horus, Isis, Anubis, Re, Seth and Nu
- The priests at Karnak grew fabulously wealthy rivalling and often exceeding the pharaoh in wealth and political influence
- Gods often represented individual professions
- Ancient Egyptian gods at Karnak were frequently represented as totemic animals such as falcons, lions, cats, rams and crocodiles
- Sacred rituals included the embalming process, the “opening of the mouth” ritual, wrapping the body in cloth containing jewels and amulets, and placing a death mask over the face of the deceased
- Polytheism was practised unbroken for 3,000 years, save for the Pharaoh Akhenaten’s imposition of Aten worship until the temple was closed by the Roman emperor Constantius II
- Only the pharaoh, the queen, priests and priestesses were allowed inside the temples. Worshipper had to wait outside the temple gates.
Karnak’s Sprawl of History
Today, the Temple of Amun is the world’s largest surviving religious building. It is dedicated to Amun and a host of other Egyptian gods including Osiris, Isis, Ptah, Montu, Ptah and Egyptian pharaohs looking to commemorate their contributions to the vast site.
Built over the centuries, each new king beginning with the early Middle Kingdom (2040 – 1782 BCE) to the New Kingdom (1570 – 1069 BCE) and even through to the essentially Greek Ptolemaic Dynasty(323 – 30 BCE) contributed to the site.
Egyptologists content Old Kingdom (c. 2613 – c. 2181 BCE) rulers initially built there on the site based on the architectural style of sections of the ruins and Tuthmose III (1458 – 1425 BCE) list of Old Kingdom kings inscribed in his Festival Hall. Tuthmose III’s selection of kings implies he demolished their monuments to make way for his hall but still wanted their contributions to be recognised.
During the temple’s long history buildings were regularly renovated, expanded or removed. The complex grew with each succeeding pharaoh and today the ruins sprawl across 200 acres.
The Temple of Amun was in continuous use during its 2,000-year history and was recognized as one of Egypt’s most sacred sites. The priests of Amun supervising the temple’s administration became increasingly influential and wealthy eventually subverting secular control of Thebes’ government towards the end of the New Kingdom when government rule was split between Upper Egypt in Thebes and Per-Ramesses in Lower Egypt.
The emergent power of the priests and the pharaoh’s subsequent weakness is believed by Egyptologists to be a major contributing factor to the New Kingdom decline and the turbulence of the Third Intermediate Period (1069 – 525 BCE). The Temple of Amun complex was extensively damaged during the 666 BCE Assyrian invasions and again during the Persian invasion of 525 BCE. Following these invasions, the temple was repaired.
Following Egypt’s annexation by Rome in the 4th century CE Egypt Christianity became widely promoted. In 336 CE Constantius II (337 – 361 CE) ordered all pagan temples to be closed leading to the Temple of Amun being deserted. Coptic Christians used the building for their services but the site was once more abandoned. In the 7th century CE Arab invaders rediscovered it and gave it the name “Ka-ranak,” which translate as ‘fortified village.’ In the 17th-century European explorers travelling in Egypt were told the splendid ruins at Thebes were those of Karnak and the name has been associated with the site ever since.
The Emergence And Rise Of Amun
Amun began as a minor Theban god. Following Mentuhotep II’s unification of Egypt in c. 2040 BCE, he gradually accumulated followers and his cult gained influence. Two older gods, Atum Egypt’s creator god and Ra the sun god, were merged into Amun, raising him to the king of the gods, as both the creator and preserver of life. The area around Karnak is believed to have been sacred to Amun prior to the construction of the temple. Alternatively, sacrifices and offerings to Atum or Osiris may have been performed there, as both were regularly worshipped at Thebes.
The sacred nature of the site is suggested by the absence of remains of domestic homes or markets. Only religiously purposed buildings or royal apartments have been discovered there. At Karnak inscriptions surviving on the walls and columns together with artwork, clearly identify the site as religious from its earliest times.
Karnak comprises a series of monumental gateways in the form of pylons leading onto courtyards, hallways and temples. The first pylon leads onto an expansive courtyard. The second pylon leads onto the magnificent Hypostyle Court a majestic 103 meters (337 feet) by 52 meters (170 feet). 134 columns 22 meters (72 feet) tall and 3.5 meters (11 feet) in diameter supported this hall.
Montu, a Theban war god, is thought to have been the original god in whose name the ground was originally dedicated. Even following the emergence of the cult of Amun a precinct in the site remained dedicated to him. As the temple expanded, it was divided into three sections. These were dedicated to Amun, his consort Mut symbolizing the life-giving rays of the sun and Khonsu their son the moon god. These three gods eventually became known as the Theban Triad. They remained Egypt’s the most popular gods until the cult of Osiris with its own triumvirate of Osiris, Isis, and Horus overtook them before evolving into the Cult of Isis, the most popular cult in Egypt’s history.
Over the years, the temple complex expanded from the original Middle Kingdom temple of Amun to a site honouring numerous gods including Osiris, Isis, Horus, Hathor and Ptah together with any deity the pharaohs of the New Kingdom felt gratitude towards and wished to recognise.
The priesthoods administered the temples, interpreted the gods’ will for the people, collected offerings and tithes and gave counsel and food to devotees. By the end of the New Kingdom, over 80,000 priests are believed to have staffed Karnak and its high priests became wealthier and more influential than their pharaoh.
From the reign of Amenhotep III onwards, the cult of Amun posed political problems for the New Kingdom monarchs. Aside from Amenhotep III’s irresolute reforms Akhenaten’s dramatic reformation, however, no pharaoh was able to significantly restrain the priest’s rising power.
Even during the chaotic Third Intermediate Period (c. 1069 – 525 BCE), Karnak continued to command respect obliging Egypt’s pharaohs to contribute to it. With the invasions initially in 671 BCE by the Assyrians and again in 666 BCE Thebes was decimated but the Temple of Amun at Karnak survived. So impressed were the Assyrians by Thebes’ great temple that they ordered the Egyptians to rebuild the city after they had destroyed it. This was repeated during the Persian invasion in 525 BCE. After the Persians were expelled from Egypt by the pharaoh Amyrtaeus (404 – 398 BCE), construction at Karnak recommenced. The pharaoh Nectanebo I (380 – 362 BCE) erected an obelisk and an unfinished pylon and also constructed a protective wall around the city.
The Ptolemaic Dynasty
Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 331 BCE, after defeating the Persian Empire. Following his death, his vast territory was divided amongst his generals with his general Ptolemy later Ptolemy I (323 – 283 BCE) claiming Egypt as his share of Alexander’s legacy.
Ptolemy I, focused his attention on Alexander’s new city of Alexandria. Here, he looked to meld Greek and Egyptian culture to create a harmonious, multi-national state. One of his successors Ptolemy IV (221 – 204 BCE) took an interest in Karnak, constructing a hypogeum or underground tomb there, dedicated to the Egyptian god Osiris. However, under Ptolemy IV’s rule, the Ptolemaic Dynasty began a slide into disarray and no other Ptolemaic kings of this period added to the Karnak site. With the death of Cleopatra VII (69 – 30 BCE), the Ptolemaic dynasty ended and Rome annexed Egypt, ending its independent rule.
Karnak Under Roman Rule
The Romans continued the Ptolemaic focus on Alexandria, initially largely ignoring Thebes and its temple. In the 1st century CE the Romans sacked Thebes following a battle to the south with the Nubians. Their pillaging left Karnak in ruins. Following this devastation, visitors to the temple and the city dwindled.
When the Romans adopted Christianity in the 4th century CE, the new faith under the protection of Constantine the Great (306 – 337 CE), gained increasing power and widespread acceptance across the Roman Empire. The emperor Constantius II (337 – 361 CE) consolidated Christianity’s hold on religious power by directing all pagan temples in the empire be closed. By this time, Thebes was largely a ghost town except for a few hardy inhabitants living in the ruins and its great temple lay deserted.
During the 4th century CE, Coptic Christians living the area used the Temple of Amun as a church, leaving behind sacred images and decorations before finally abandoning it. The city and its lavish temple complex were then deserted and left to gradually deteriorate in the harsh desert sun.
In the 7th century CE an Arab invasion overtook Egypt. These Arabs gave the sprawling ruins the name “Karnak” as they thought it was the remnants of a great, fortified village or “el-Ka-ranak”. This was the name local inhabitants gave early 17th-century European explorers and this became the name the archaeological site has been known by ever since.
Karnak continues to fascinate its visitors by its sheer scale, and the engineering skill required to build such a monumental temple complex at a time where there were no cranes, no trucks, or any the modern technology which even today would struggle to construct the monumental site. The history of Egypt from its Middle Kingdom through to its eventual decline in the 4th century is writ large on Karnak’s walls and columns. As the throngs of visitors stream through the site today, little do they realise they are fulfilling the hopes of ancient Egypt’s vanished pharaohs that their great deeds recorded on the Temple of Amun at Thebes would be immortalized forever.
Reflecting On The Past
Today Karnak is a massive open-air museum drawing thousands of visitors to Egypt from all around the globe. Karnak remains one of Egypt’s most popular tourist destinations.
Header image courtesy: Blalonde [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Karnak - History
Karnak Wall Describing Conquest of Judah
Photo by Don Knebel
In about 2000 B.C., an Egyptian pharaoh named Sesostris ordered construction of a new temple near Luxor, Egypt. For 1300 years, his successors kept building on the same site until the complex of temples, halls and obelisks now called Karnak had grown into the largest collection of religious structures in the world. Grateful pharaohs built and decorated walls at Karnak to thank the gods for enabling their military successes. One of those walls can date the reigns of Biblical Kings David and Solomon.
Amun was one of the most important of the gods worshipped at Karnak. An annotated wall drawing shows Amun delivering about 150 captured cities, each identified by hieroglyphs, to a pharaoh named Sheshonq. The translated names of the cities include Arad, Beth-Shean, Megiddo and other cities of ancient Israel. Scholars recognized that the Karnak wall memorializes an Egyptian campaign against “the fortified cities of Judah” the Bible says succeeded because King Rehoboam had abandoned the laws of Yahweh. The Bible identifies the conquering pharaoh as Shishak, which scholars say is another name for Sheshonq. So we have two records of the same military campaign, with only the god mandating the outcome differing between them.
Using Greek and Egyptian records, scholars have determined that Sheshonq ruled Egypt from about 943 to 922 B.C. Somewhat arbitrarily, they have dated his campaign against Judah to 925 B.C., three years before his reign ended. Since the Bible says the campaign occurred in Rehoboam’s fifth year, his father Solomon must have passed the throne to him in 930 or 931 B.C. Because Solomon reigned for 40 years, his father David died in about 970 B.C.
Jerusalem is missing from Karnak’s long list of captured cities. The Biblical version of Sheshonq’s campaign (2 Chronicles 12) provides the reason. Sheshonq (or Shishak) spared Jerusalem (and Rehoboam) in exchange for “the treasurers of the temple of the Lord [Yahweh] and the treasurers of the royal palace.”
For people curious about whether events described in the Bible really happened, a visit to Karnak can provide some insight. It also provides an opportunity to view some truly spectacular ancient structures.
For years, Don Knebel, an Indianapolis attorney, law professor, speaker and civic leader, has traveled with his wife Jen to interact with the world’s people and learn about their customs and their religions. The idea for this book came when he discovered that not all people find western bathroom plumbing an improvement. From that exposure of his cultural bias, he began looking in the places he visits for stories and pictures reflecting our common humanity and the beliefs and traditions that both divide and unite us. Some of the stories describe people we can never forget. A few are about bodies that end up in more than one place. Some of the stories are quirky, some are inspirational and some contradict common assumptions. All help show our connections to each other and only one is about toilets. The 101 stories are arranged in roughly chronological order, providing a quick and fascinating tour through the 10,000-year history of western and near eastern civilization. If you plan to travel, this book can suggest where to go. If you don’t plan to travel, this book can tell you what you’ll miss.
Karnak temple consists of a group of temples, largest space of them, and the center of the temple it covers sixty-one acres belong to Amun-Ra, the male god of Thebes, we can see in the south of the central area his wife the goddess Mut. And more other temples like the temple of khonso, the temple of Ptah, the Ipt temple, the temple of Osiris and temple of Month.
Karnak temple wasn’t only for gods but also the Egyptian rulers who wish to be memorized added their own architectural mark to it over the centuries, from the beginning of the Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, New Kingdom, and Ptolemaic Dynasty.
An avenue of ram-headed Sphinxes leads to the first pylon. Ram head symbolizing to god Amun, there are 20 rams on each side, it was built to protect the temple. The first Pylon is the main entrance to the temple and the last building at Karnak.
Great Court is 100m in length and 80m in wide it contains ten papyrus columns every column is 21m in height. Now only one column still stands is known as a kiosk of Taharqa who was the fourth king of the 25 Dynasty. There is the statue of Ramesses II it shows the king stand to wear the double crown of upper and lower Egypt, at his feet we found his wife princes.
The Great Hypostyle Hall:-
The Great Hypostyle Hall is the most amazing building at Karnak. It 103m in length and 52m in width, it consists of 134 gigantic stone columns, there are the largest 12 columns which are 22.40 m in height and 3.5m in diameter, while the other 122 columns are 14.75 m in height. It built by King Seti who ruled from 1290 to 1279 B.C. The outer walls of the northern wing describe Seti’s battle. The south wall inscribed with Ramesses II’s peace treaty with the Hittites.
The 120m by 77m Karnak Temple Sacred Lake is the largest of it’s kind. King Tuthmosis III(1473-1458 B.C) dug it and was used by priests for purification and other rituals like navigation, it was the home of sacred geese of Amun. It lined with stone and provided with stairways descending into the water. We can find the storerooms and homes of priests surrounded the lake.
Karnak Temple is one of the most important attractions in Egypt, where is a lot of tourists around the world come to visit it, so if you prefer to visit this historical monument and the other archaeological sites in Egypt you can check our luxury Egypt tours and choose your journey to Egypt, or other option you can enjoy it’s Nile cruise tour between Luxor and Aswan which is the most adventurous experience to do in Egypt.
The Shatterer Karnak
One of the greatest hand-to-hand combatants the galaxy has ever seen, Karnak (with his enlarged cranium) is somewhat of an enigma within Inhuman society. He is incredibly powerful and gifted with the sight to see flaws and weaknesses in all things, yet he is not a true Inhuman, having never been exposed to the Terrigen Mists. Still, as a member of the Inhuman royal family, he has played a crucial role in the history of his people, helping his cousin Black Bolt become the king of Attilan.
The Shatterer is Born
Millennia ago, the alien Kree Supreme Intelligence experimented on alien species to breed super-soldiers to serve in the Kree Empire’s interminable war against the shape-shifting Skrulls. On Earth, 25,000 years ago, the Kree turned prehistoric humans into Inhumans, who settled on the island Attilan off Atlantis’ coast. The Inhumans later discovered Terrigen Crystals from which they derived Terrigen Mists to unlock each Inhuman’s super-powered potential. Developing the sacred rite of Terrigenesis, they exposed children to the mists at their coming-of-age, with the Genetics Council strictly controlling which Inhuman couples could have children.
In the first half of the 20th century, Karnak was born into the House of Agon, the Inhuman Royal Family, the second son of philosopher priest Mander and ocean biologist Azur. Terrigenesis leaves his brother Triton unable to survive out of water unassisted, so the couple decide to raise Karnak without Terrigen mutation, instead enrolling him in his father’s religious seminary in the Tower of Wisdom where he trains in physical and mental disciplines.
In his teens, Karnak’s innate powers developed without direct Terrigen exposure due to generations of familial mutation, allowing him to sense weaknesses in people and objects. Backed by his fighting skills, this ability earns him the nickname “the Shatterer.” Shortly after this power emerged, Karnak sensed that Attilan was vulnerable. He also realized that the Inhumans’ monarch secretly removed the Slave Engine and hid it to protect mankind. Karnak informs Black Bolt, the previous king’s son, and they confronted the monarch in a challenge that ended with Black Bolt taking the crown. Karnak’s mother later died in a mysterious undersea mishap after Karnak turned eighteen and left the seminary.
Karnak has an extrasensory ability, virtually effortless and enhanced by mental discipline, to perceive stress points, fracture planes, or weaknesses in objects, people, and even societies. By striking or applying pressure at these points, he can split or shatter objects as hard as diamond. He has strengthened all the striking surfaces of his body in his hands in particular, so they are covered with dense calluses. Karnak can shatter objects with sufficient precision as to send shrapnel larger than he could lift to strike specific targets. Combining this power with his exceptional martial arts skills, he can knock people out with a single tap, render insensate beings of far greater strength than he or even slay most opponents with a single blow, though he rarely chooses to do so. When Karnak battled Mantis after Phyla-Vell took Crystal hostage and the Inhumans pursued the Guardians to Knowhere, he complimented her on her combat skills but noted that he would find the weakness in her technique. She bested him before he got the chance.
Karnak can refocus this perception to probe for subterranean structures, locate weak points in force fields, sense the location of specific machinery from across a space station, spot underwater objects too small for sonar to detect, analyze weaknesses in alien computer firewalls, and learn how to pilot unfamiliar alien spacecraft within a few seconds. Karnak’s superior genetic structure and intensive exercise regimen allows him to lift one ton, and his Inhuman metabolism affords him slightly superior reaction time, endurance, and speed than the most perfect human specimen. He has physically conditioned his mind and body to peak levels of efficiency, and he retains voluntary control over most of his body’s autonomic functions including breathing, heartbeat, bleeding, reaction to pain, and healing rate. Extremely lithe and flexible, he can expand and contract muscles and contort his body into seemingly painful positions. As an Inhuman male, his natural lifespan is about 120 years (compared to mid-70s for a human male). However, like all Inhumans, his immune system is weaker than a human’s.
Maximus, Black Bolt’s power-hungry brother, is one of Karnak’s primary foes as he constantly vies for the throne, which Karnak defends. Once Karnak and Gorgon foolishly release Maximus from confinement to confirm that Black Bolt had not broken a sacred Inhuman vow never to slay another of their kind.
Karnak also stands with Attilan when it repels incursions by Chinese soldiers, Doctor Victor von Doom, the Silver Surfer (Norrin Radd), Mandarin, Ultron-7, and the Fifth Dimension tyrant Xemu.
Though the extended House of Agon has many branches, Karnak’s closest associates are peers close to his age: his brother Triton, cousins Black Bolt, Medusa and Medusa’s sister, Crystal, and Bolt’s cousin Gorgon, the latter his closest compatriot. Gorgon’s impulsive, aggressive nature is a stark contrast to Karnak’s analytical calm.
When Black Bolt’s insane brother Maximus orchestrated a coup and forced the rest of the royal family into exile, they befriended the Fantastic Four. Over the next few years, Karnak and the royal family forged close bonds with many Super Heroes including the X-Men, Black Panther (T’Challa), Hulk (Bruce Banner), Spider-Man (Peter Parker), and the Avengers.
- Azur (mother, deceased), Mander (father), Triton (brother), Blackagar Bolagon (Black Bolt), Maximus Boltagon, Crystalia Amaquelin (Crystal), Medusalith Boltagon (Medusa) (cousins), Rynda (paternal aunt, deceased), Ambur (maternal aunt), Agon (paternal uncle, deceased), Quelin (maternal uncle), Avoe, Aladi Ko Eke, Ronan, Oola Udonta, Onomi Whitemane (cousins-in-law), Ahura Boltblackagar, Luna, (cousins once removed), Magnar (paternal grandfather, presumed deceased), Zeta (paternal grandmother, presumed deceased), Kobar (maternal grandfather, presumed deceased), La (maternal grandmother, presumed deceased), Alecto, Gauntlet, Gorgon, Tusk, Unspoken (distant cousins), Symak, Tanith (distant cousins, presumed deceased), Barrage, Foxbat, Harddrive, Korath, Milena, Psynapse (distant cousins, deceased), Pietro Maximoff (Quicksilver, ex-cousin-in- law/marriage annulled), others
- Extended Lifespan
- Extrasensory Ability
- Superhuman Strength
- Superhuman Speed
- Superhuman Endurance
- Superhuman Agility
- Weakness/Vulnerability Detection
Loyal to the Royal
The Kree sought to claim their creations, using their agent, Shatterstar (Arides), Fantastic Four foe Blastaar and Maximus as pawns. After defeating them, the Royal Family ventured into space seeking a new home for their people, but on the first world they visited they became embroiled in local politics between Kree allies and anti-Kree rebels. Failing to save innocents caught in the crossfire, Karnak suffered a confidence crisis, feeling his ability was only useful for destruction, but rallied after using his power to navigate Kree Space Station Web’s mazelike interior, allowing the Royal Family to escape before their rebel allies blew up Web. Returning to Earth, the Royal Family helped Kree renegade Captain Mar-Vell thwart a Kree invasion. Later, Dr. Hydro (Herman Frayne) used Terrigen to turn unwilling humans into amphibious “Hydro-Men.” Fantastic Four leader Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards) developed an anti-Terrigen cure, but since it could also reverse Inhuman Terrigenesis, Karnak and Gorgon accompanied Reed and the Thing (Ben Grimm) to guard it. Frayne’s Terrigen supplier, Maelstrom, a renegade Deviant-Inhuman hybrid, stole the anti-Terrigen and captured the heroes, but Karnak broke free of the restraints that frustrated his stronger allies, and Maelstrom was defeated.
Finding Earth’s increasing pollution toxic, the Inhumans relocated Attilan to the Moon’s Blue Area, which possessed a breathable atmosphere, though even this remote spot did not prevent further attacks. Karnak grew concerned the Genetic Council’s increasingly harsh childbirth rulings were prompting suicides. When Medusa, now married to Black Bolt, announced her unexpected pregnancy, the Council’s Chief Justice, secretly aspiring to ascend the throne, ordered the pregnancy’s termination. With Black Bolt feeling unable to oppose them, Medusa fled to Earth, and Karnak, Gorgon, and Crystal followed to support her. Karnak became attracted to Medusa’s maid, Minxi, but to his jealous annoyance, she initiated a relationship with Gorgon instead. Eventually, after Medusa’s child Ahura was born, Black Bolt was reunited with his wife, and everyone returned to Attilan, where the Council took custody of the infant then secretly traded him to an Earth genetics lab. Aware only that Ahura had been sent to Earth, Karnak and Gorgon went looking for the boy.
They aided Daredevil (Matt Murdock) against robot Ultron-13 and in turn, he helped them locate Ahura. The demon Blackheart targeted them all as part of a ploy against his father Mephisto and exacerbated Karnak’s annoyance at Gorgon’s recklessness and success with women to bring the two Inhumans to blows. Blackheart then pulled all of them into Hell but the abductees resisted his manipulations and escaped. Distrusting the Council, Karnak and Gorgon left Ahura with human friends, planning to retrieve him once the Council stopped monitoring them. Over the next few months, Attilan suffered further attacks, including one by the mutant Apocalypse (En Sabah Nur), who transformed some of Karnak’s more distant Royal Family relatives into his murderous Riders of the Storm before being driven off. The Council’s machinations were eventually exposed and Black Bolt disbanded both the Council and monarchy, then led the Royal Family to Earth.
When the Blue Area’s atmosphere was compromised, the Royal Family saved Attilan with the Fantastic Four’s help, and it was relocated to a recently raised section of Atlantis. But being back on Earth brought Attilan within reach of forces who coveted the Inhumans’ technology. Consulting only Karnak and Medusa, Black Bolt let invading mercenaries breach Attilan’s outer defenses then triggered the island’s destruction to cover Lockjaw teleporting the city back to the Himalayas. In space, the Supreme Intelligence had been destroyed and the Kree absorbed into the rival Shi’ar Empire. Kree rebels led by Ronan the Accuser transported Attilan into space, forcing the Inhumans to fight for them. Karnak and Triton infiltrated the Shi’ar army and then the Imperial Guard, aiding Black Bolt in an assassination attempt on Shi’ar empress Lilandra. A Guard precognitive foresaw the attack, which saved Lilandra and the Inhumans narrowly escaped. Challenging Ronan, Black Bolt won the Inhumans’ freedom and they returned to the Moon. Ronan subsequently won Kree independence from the Shi’ar.
After a reality warp depowered most of Earth’s mutants including Quicksilver, Crystal’s ex-husband stole the Terrigen Crystals. The Royal Family pursued him, but U.S. forces took the crystals from Quicksilver first, rejecting diplomatic requests to return them. Black Bolt declared war and the Inhumans reclaimed the Crystals by force. Skrulls later abducted Black Bolt, replacing him with a Skrull agent. When this was discovered, Karnak breached Skrull computer systems to find Black Bolt and the Royal Family rescued him. Tired of being victims, Black Bolt took the Inhumans back into space to hunt down the Skrulls and seize control of the Kree Empire. The Shi’ar’s belligerent new ruler Vulcan (Gabriel Summers) declared war, a conflict that ended with Black Bolt and Vulcan seemingly slain and a Terrigen-bomb ripping a parsecs-wide Fault between realities.
As Medusa’s aide, Karnak represented the Empire at the Galactic Council and worked on strategies to win the Kree over to Inhuman rule, supporting Medusa in having Maximus stage false threats the Inhumans could be seen to heroically defeat. When Black Bolt was found alive, the Inhumans followed him back to Earth where they formed alliances with alien Inhumans to create the Universal Inhumans. A restored Supreme Intelligence resumed control of the Kree, ordering Earth attacked and the Inhumans wiped out, and the Universal Inhumans allied with the Future Foundation and Avengers to battle the Kree armada. The Universal Inhumans then pursued the Supreme Intelligence into space.
Erasing Tutankhamen: Horemheb’s Attempt to Rewrite History
In an attempt to rewrite history, Horemheb usurped monuments made by previous pharaohs and inscribed his own name on them. (Image: JMSH photography/Shutterstock)
The Ninth and Tenth Pylons
Like every pharaoh, Horemheb wanted to show that he is a great builder. Like other pharaohs before him, he built a great pylon, a gateway, for himself at Karnak. He actually built two pylons, called the ninth and tenth pylons. How did he build this pylons?
Akhenaten built temples at Karnak for Aten. After Akhenaten passed away, these temples reminded people of the bad times, of how the pharaoh had tried to enforce monotheism. In an effort to erase the memory of Akhenaten’s heresy, Horemheb took down Akhenaten’s temple, and filled his ninth pylon with the blocks of this temple.
This is a transcript from the video series History of Ancient Egypt. Watch it now, on Wondrium.
Erasing Tutankhamen’s Name
Horemheb also usurped all of Tutankhamen’s monuments. Every monument that Tutankhamen had been advised to erect, Horemheb had the young pharaoh’s name erased and his own inserted in its place. That is why it is so hard to find any information about Tutankhamen.
So, Horemheb was trying to systematically erase all trace of Tutankhamen, who was also seen as being associated with the heresy of his father, Akhenaten. There are so many monuments that were originally erected by Tutankhamen, from which the name of the young pharaoh has been obliterated.
The Restoration Stela
Tutankhamen erected a stela, like all Egyptian kings had done in the past. It is called the ‘Restoration Stela’, because of what it says. As the name suggests, the inscription on the stela talks about restoring old traditions. “When I became king, the temples were in disarray. There were weeds growing in them. All the statues of the gods had been melted down. The military was not respected. If it rode off, nobody attended.”
All pharaohs used to erect stelas to talk about what they thought and did. (Image: Claudio Caridi/ Shutterstock)
Tutankhamen is really saying in this inscription that Egypt had gone downhill under Akhenaten’s reign. In the end, he says, “I will restore it all. I have had new statues of the gods made. The temples are open again.” Despite the fact that Akhenaten was his father, Tutankhamen had to make this announcement because this is what the people wanted to hear.
But Horemheb, as soon as he became the king, had put his name on the stela. One will not find Tutankhamen’s name on it. If one looks at the cartouche on the stela, it will say “Horemheb”.
The Luxor Colonnade
There is another monument that was very important for Tutankhamen, but one cannot find Tutankhamen’s name there. It’s called the Luxor Colonnade. When Tutankhamen’s grandfather Amenhotep III died, he left a monument unfinished. He had started a hall with tall columns, which is why it is called a colonnade. He had built it at Luxor Temple.
When Akhenaten moved to Akhetaten, he left behind his father’s undecorated and unfinished monument. When Tutankhamen moved back from Akhetaten to Thebes, Aye probably advised him to finish this monument. Why? Tutankhamen would have wanted to be associated with his grandfather—whom everybody loved—rather than his heretic father. So, Tutankhamen’s major project during the 10 years of his reign was restoring and completing the Luxor colonnade.
The Opet Festival
Tutankhamen had the artists put scenes from the ‘Opet Festival’ on the Luxor colonnade. Opet festival was the most sacred festival in Egypt. He did this to show to the people of Egypt that he was a traditionalist. It can be read as his declaration of not associating himself with his father, but with his grandfather.
The three major gods of Thebes during this time were Amun, ‘the Hidden One’, Mut, his wife, and Khonsu, their ram-headed son. These gods had statues at Karnak Temple. Karnak Temple is only about a mile and a half away from Luxor Temple. And once a year, during the festival of Opet, the statues of Amun, Mut and Khonsu, would be placed in a little boat shrine and taken from Karnak to Luxor, where they would spend a fortnight or so.
The work on the colonnade at the Luxor temple was begun by Amenhotep III and completed by Tutankhamen. (Image: Dmitri Kalvan/ Shutterstock)
During the festival, people saw the statues of the gods and arrangements were made for food and drink as well. And the king paid for it all. It was a wonderful town feast. That is what Tutankhamen had made the artists put on the Luxor colonnade.
The Opet festival declared to the subjects that their pharaoh, Tutankhamen was bringing back the old traditions. Tutankhamen took part in this festival. We know this from the scenes in the Luxor temple that show Tutankhamen making offerings to the gods.
If one looks very carefully at the Luxor colonnade, one can’t find Tutankhamen’s name. His name has been erased from the monument and one finds Horemheb’s name, instead.
Horemheb was the traditionalist who tried to restore old order in Egypt. And what he had to do for official reasons, at least what he attempted to do, was erase all traces of the Akhenaten’s heresy. So, he wiped out everything, including Aye’s name. We are left with no traces, no real official records of Akhenaten, Tutankhamen, and Aye.
Horemheb had rewritten history to erase his heretic predecessors and establish himself as a true pharaoh, who had restored the old order.
Common Questions about Horemheb’s Attempt to Rewrite History
When Horemheb built the Ninth pylon at Karnak, he took down the temple built by Akhenaten, and filled the pylon with the broken blocks of Akhenaten’s temple.
Horemheb was trying to systematically erase all trace of Tutankhamen and his father Akhenaten because Akhenaten was seen as a heretic king by many.
The Restoration Stela was originally erected by Tutankhamen to declare his intention to restore traditional ways in Egypt. Later, Horemheb replaced Tutankhamen’s name from this stela with his.