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Karnak: Hypostyle Hall (Lepsius, 1843)


Fig.1: Hypostyle Hall at Karnak (Lepsius, Denkmäler vol.1 1848).

Karnak, part of Thebes, contained a vast (1.5 by 0.8 km) complex of temples first built during the 18th Dynasty (1550-1307 BC) when Thebes became the center of dynastic administration, then rebuilt over more than 2000 years through the Graeco-Roman era.

Largest of all the temple complexes is the precinct of Amun in the northern part of Karnak, begun by Akhenaten (1353-1335 BC). The massive hypostyle hall, built during the 19th Dynasty by Seti I (1306-1290 BC) and Ramesses II (1290-1223 BC), is located between the 2nd and 3rd pylons of the temple precinct of Amun. The hall, once roofed, had a total of 134 papyrus columns, and 12 central columns covered with painted reliefs (Baines and Malek 1980; Hobson 1987). The central columns are 22 meters high, with lotus capitals.

This colored lithograph, based on a drawing made in 1843 in the Hypostyle Hall, is comparable to the scene portrayed in an 1839 drawing by David Roberts (published in 1842). Both show details of the painted reliefs on the central columns, and hieroglyphic inscriptions on the bars they support, once part of clerestory openings which provided light into the temple.


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