Location: Modern day Luxor City, Egypt.

Grid Reference: 25° 43′ 0 N, 32° 38′ 60 E

  • Karnak – (Thebes).

Karnak is the largest of the temple complexes at Thebes (The Egyptian Middle and New Kingdom Capital). It was built over several several episodes of construction and enlargement from around 2055 B.C to 395 A.D (3). It was originally surrounded by the famous city of Thebes and in its heyday was the Vatican of its time. Most of the remaining structures were built during the 18th Dynasty. The city was completely sacked in 667 B.C by the Assyrian ruler Ashurbanipal.

Although the oldest standing building remains are only from the 12th dynasty, and most of the original temple compound now lies under the city of Luxor and is therefore currently inaccessible by archaeologist’s, the earliest evidence from archaeology so far demonstrates activity as far back as 3,200 BC.(4)

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The Karnak Temple Complex. (Ipet-isut- ‘Most select of places’)

This was once the largest sacred centre in all the ancient world (It covers almost 200 acres 1.5km by 0.8km). The area of the sacred enclosure of Amon at the heart of Karnak  alone is 61 acres and is large enough to accommodate several average cathedrals. It was said to have been staffed by 80,000 people in the time of Ramasses III.

The Karnak complex is the work of several Pharaohs and is dedicated to the supreme deity Amon-Ra. The site consists of several huge temples, a forest of columns, pylons, obelisks, and avenues of sphinxes. An ancient obelisk still stands and is said to weigh approximately 323 tons with a height of 29 metres. The majority of the complex was built around 1,500 BC. although Lockyer dated it astronomically as having a foundation date of 3,700 BC. (1)

At Karnak as at Heliopolis, a belief existed that the site was the place of creation, where Amun-Ra made the first mound of earth rise from Nun.

Chronology of Karnak.

Sir Norman Lockyer calculated a date of 3,700 BC. based on the alignment of the temple of Amen-Ra in relation to the summer solstice sun-set. The orientation was determined from  change in amplitude. For those interested, here is a quote from Lockyer:

‘Taking the orientation as 26°, and taking hills and refraction into consideration, we find that the true horizon sunset amplitude would be 27° 30′.This amplitude gives us for Thebes, a declination of 24° 18′. This was the obliquity of the eclipse in the year 3,700 B.C., and is therefore the date of the foundation of the shrine to Amen-Ra at Karnak..’ (1).

This date is disputed by Egyptologists as it is unclear which part of the setting sun was used as the ‘setting marker’ (i.e. edges, top, centre, first glimpse, last glimpse etc), an argument often used against Lockyer, who was accused of using different ‘setting markers’ at different sites. Recent excavations have pushed the history of Karnak back to around 3200 BC (4), when there was a small settlement on the bank of the Nile where Karnak now stands.

Two brick-built mastaba tombs dating from the 3rd or 4th dynasty have been found in the Theban area, and a small group of tombs have been found dating from the 5th and 6th Dynasties in the area of the necropolis known as el-Khokha. In addition, no buildings survive in Thebes older than the portions of the Karnak temple complex, which date from the Middle Kingdom, although the lower part of a statue of King Niuserre of the 5th Dynasty has been found in Karnak.(2)

This superb example of an Egyptian ‘Water-Clock’ was found at Karnak in 1904, and dates from the reign of King Amenhotep III (1415-1380 BC). It is made of alabaster and was used for indicating the passage of time. In use, the vessel was filled with water, which leaked out slowly from a small hole near the bottom; the time being indicated by the level of the water remaining within. (5)

The Main Structures at Karnak.

The Great Temple of Amon-Ra.

The oldest remains of the temple date to the reign of Senwosret I of the 12th Dynasty (2), and therefore represents some of the oldest remains at Karnak. Much of the site was covered in sand until it was excavated.

Nineteenth century photograph of Karnak.

The condition of the temple at Karnak before restoration.

Impression of the original, finished temple.

The huge central pillars of the hypostyle.

There are two styles of pillar at Karnak…’Papyrus’ and ‘Lotus’.

All of which were covered with hieroglyphs.

The Temple of Amon Ra has at its sacred heart, the ‘holiest of holies’, which was orientated towards the summer solstice sunset.

The Inner Sanctum: The Holiest of Holy’s. The Heart of the Amun-Ra Complex.

The Temple of Montu:

Montu was the major god at Karnak before Amun.

‘Just north of the Temple of Amun-Ra, are the foundations of an earlier, but also central and primary, temple dedicated to the god Montu. Little remains of this temple, not because it was weathered by the elements, but rather because it was systematically deconstructed and its building stones used in the construction of other temples. According to Schwaller de Lubicz, this mysterious dismantling of temples, found at Karnak and numerous other places in Egypt, has to do with the changing of the astrological cycles. The supplanting of the bull of Montu with the ram of Amon coincides with the astronomical shift from the age of Taurus, the bull, to the age of Aries, the ram; the earlier temple of Montu had lost its significance with the astronomical change and thus a new temple was constructed to be used in alignment with the current configuration of the stars’.(4)

Montu was the original god in the Theban area. (Montu, originated in the form of a local solar god in Upper (southern) Egypt, apparently at Hermonthis (City of the Sun). His worship appears to have been exported to Thebes around the time of the 11th Dynasty.

The Enclosure of Mut:

The southern part of Karnak contains the temple of Mut, on the east bank of the Nile, more than 900 feet south of the temple of Amun-Ra.

The main Mut temple is surrounded on three sides by a sacred lake called the Isheru, which is a term used to describe sacred lakes specific to precincts of goddesses who can be leonine in form. The Mut Precinct’s Isheru is probably fed by an underground spring.

Alignments at karnak – Sir Norman Lockyer was very particular about the orientation of the temple of Amen-Ra, which dominates Karnak, and was found to align with the summer solstice sunrise. He said of it:

Evaluation of the site of the temple of Amun-Re at Karnak, taking into account the change over time of the obliquity of the ecliptic, has shown that the Great Temple was aligned on the rising of the midwinter sun. (6)

The earliest axis included the famous Great Hypostyle Hall built by Ramses II on an east to west alignment. Sir Norman Lockyer (1836-1920) proposed a midsummer sunset alignment of the Main Axis of the Great Temple of Amon-Re (see The Dawn of Astronomy, 1894). As Lockyer noted of Karnak, it was ‘a scientific instrument of very high precision, as by it the length of the year could be determined with the greatest possible accuracy.’ By some accounts, the temple at Luxor may have no less than four well-defined alignment changes involving stars. Unlike solar alignments which can generally last for thousands of years intact, stellar alignments are much more critical because of the precession of the equinoxes, and last only a few hundred years. Lockyer’s measurements showed several Karnak temples had been altered over the centuries to match the precessional changes in their aligned stars. (3)

(More about precession)

The Karnak Sphinx’s.

Rows of sphinx’s line the entrance to the temple of Amon-Ra, both inside and out. They are mostly Ram-headed.

An avenue bordered by sphinxes originally linked the Karnak complex with the Luxor temple.

(More about Sphinx’s)

Construction Techniques at Karnak.

The blocks of the temple were joined with ‘metal-ties’ similar to those found at Giza, Dashur, Denderra (And Tiahuananco, In South America).

The soft metal is believed to have functioned as a structural stabiliser, preventing movement between the stones. While it is easily understood how such techniques are seen in other sacred temples in Egypt, the discovery of the exact same technique (along with several other specific construction techniques), in the pre-columbian sacred centres of South America, lends weight to the suggestion of contact between the old world and the new world.(

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The Karnak Obelisks.

There are two obelisks still standing at Karnak. The obelisk erected by Queen Hatshepsut (1473-1458BC). is 97 feet tall and weighs approximately 320 tons. An inscription at its base indicates that the work of cutting the monolith out of the quarry required seven months of labor. Nearby stands a smaller obelisk erected by Tuthmosis I (1504-1492 BC). It is 75 feet high, has sides 6 feet wide at its base, and weighs between 143 and 160 tons.

Hatshepsut raised four obelisks at Karnak, only one of which still stands.

Tuthmosis I was the first to erect obelisks in Karnak. It was 22 metres high, of red granite and had its pinnacle encased in electrum or gold. Tuthmosis celebrated five sed festivals, and on each occasion, obelisks were set up to commemorate the event: the first three pairs were erected in Karnak, the fourth in Heliopolis (now located in London, New york) and his fifth is now in Rome – the so-called “Lateran” obelisk.

(More about Egyptian obelisks)

Thebes: An Earth Navel.

Herodotus mentioned that the temple of Amon-Ra was an Egyptian ‘Earth Navel’ from which doves were sent by the priests to other sacred sites such as Delphi and Dodona, both oracle centres with some curious ancient connections to Egypt. This subject was extensively researched by Livvio Stecchini, Peter Tompkins and Robert Temple, all of which have published research on the subject, the conclusions of which suggest that ancient Egypt was operating a system of temple placement according to longitude and latitude.

(More about Earth Navels)

The significance of the latitude of Karnak – (25° 43′ 00″)

(This latitude, whether through accident or design, has an important geometric significance).

It is has been noticed that certain significant ancient Egyptian temples were located on geometrically significant latitudes. In the case of Karnak (Thebes), we can see that the latitude is a result of the following simple mathematic procedure:

(90° / 7 which equals 12.857°)

Although this number may seem to have no immediate significance, there has been much work on the theory that the ancient Egyptians were aware of the dimensions of the globe, a theory which finds favour in the specific placement of particularly significant sacred sited.

Livvio Stecchini was the first to suggest that the ancient oracle centres were placed at specific latitudes which he called the ‘Oracle octave’. He suggested that the historical narratives of Herodotus, who made a reference to the connection between the oracle centres of Ammon-Ra and Delphi. (which is situated at 38.57° N).

If the Northern half of the hemisphere of earth (90°), is divided by seven, then one can start to look at the ancient sacred sites in a different light. The ‘First Cataract’ of Egypt falls exactly on first division on latitude 12.857° N, the Temple of Amon (Thebes), falls on the second division:

12.857° x 2 = 25.714° N (25° 43′ 00″ N)

The Third is home to Delphi (and the Evora complex in Portugal).. both on latitude 38.57° N, and the fourth, the home to the largest pyramid in Europe, Silbury Hill at (51.428° N).