The Karnak Temple Complex, commonly known as Karnak (from Arabic Khurnak meaning "fortified village"), comprises a vast mix of decayed temples, chapels, pylons, and other buildings near Luxor, in Egypt. The area around Karnak was the ancient Egyptian Ipet-isut ("The Most Selected of Places") and the main place of worship of the eighteenth dynasty Theban Triad with the god Amun as its head. It is part of the monumental city of Thebes. The Karnak complex gives its name to the nearby, and partly surrounded, modern village of El-Karnak, 2.5 kilometres (1.6 miles) north of Luxor.
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The complex is a vast open site and includes the Karnak Open Air Museum. It consists of four main parts, of which only the largest is currently open to the general public. The term Karnak often is understood as being the Precinct of Amun-Ra only, because this is the only part most visitors see. The three other parts, the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Montu, and the dismantled Temple of Amenhotep IV, are closed to the public. There also are a few smaller temples and sanctuaries connecting the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Amun-Re, and the Luxor Temple.
The key difference between Karnak and most of the other temples and sites in Egypt is the length of time over which it was developed and used. Construction of temples started in the Middle Kingdom and continued into Ptolemaic times. Approximately thirty pharaohs contributed to the buildings, enabling it to reach a size, complexity, and diversity not seen elsewhere. Few of the individual features of Karnak are unique, but the size and number of features are overwhelming.
circa 280 CE
Precinct of Amun-Re
The Precint of Amun-Re is the largest precinct of Karnak Temple Complex, which is surrounded by a rectangular enclosure wall, orientated to the four points of the compass. Inside it there are the levelled remains of previous ramparts, which show that the sacred precincts had been extended. The Temple of Amun was built on a mound that symbolized the first land to emerge from the primordial swamp. The Amun complex incorporated a Sacred lake, which was supposed to represent the swamp in which the sun-god Re first manifested himself.
circa 280 CE
Precinct of Montu
The Precinct of Montu, located near Luxor, Egypt, is one of the four main temple enclosures that make up the immense Karnak Temple Complex. It is dedicated to the Egyptian god Montu. It is located to the north of the Amun-Re complex and is much smaller in size.
circa 280 CE
Precinct of Mut
Located to the south of the newer Amen-Re complex, this precinct was dedicated to the mother goddess, Mut, who became identified as the wife of Amun-Re in the Eighteenth Dynasty Theban Triad. It has several smaller temples associated with it and has its own sacred lake, constructed in a crescent shape. This temple has been ravaged, many portions having been used in other structures. Following excavation and restoration works by the Johns Hopkins University team, led by Betsy Bryan (see below) the Precinct of Mut has been opened to the public. Six hundred black granite statues were found in the courtyard to her temple. It may be the oldest portion of the site.
circa 280 CE
Temple of Amenhotep IV
The Temple of Amenhotep IV was an ancient monument at Karnak in Luxor, Egypt. The structures were used during the New Kingdom, in the first four years of the 18th dynasty reign of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten, when he still used the name Amenhotep IV. The edifices may have been constructed at the end of the reign of his father, Amenhotep III, and completed by Akhenaten.