Karnak (Egypt)

The huge religious complex known today as Karnak is located on the east bank of the Nile at Thebes. The name comes from that of the nearby modern village of el-Karnak, but the site was known to the ancient Egyptians as Ipet-Sut ('the most select of places'). Karnak covers more than 100 hectares and is one of the largest religious complexes in the world; it consists of the temples of the original local god Montu, and those of Amun, Mut and Khonsu, the Theban triad. The sacred precincts of Montu, Amun and Mut were surrounded by mud brick enclosures and were linked to each other, and to another temple of Amun in Thebes, now known as the Luxor Temple, by avenues of sphinxes.

The temple at Karnak perhaps goes back to the Old Kingdom (about 2613-2160 BC), but the earliest visible remains are of the Twelfth Dynasty. The kings of the New Kingdom (about 1550-1070 BC) had their origins in Thebes and favoured the god Amun. Most kings from the New Kingdom onwards made some addition to the Temple of Amun at Karnak, resulting in the complex series of pylons and courts visible today. The courts were originally filled with private statues, showing the eternal devotion of the owners to the god. However, the courts were cleared periodically, and the statues buried. One such group, known as the Karnak Cachette, was found in the court of the Seventh Pylon in the Temple of Amun.

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