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The Luxor Temple in Egypt: Facts & Overview

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  • 0:04 Builders &…
  • 1:09 The Pylon
  • 2:00 Outer Courtyard
  • 3:18 Hypostyle Hall
  • 4:11 Inner Sanctuary
  • 5:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Trenton Mabey

Trenton has a master's degree in global history and has developed college Asian history courses.

The Luxor Temple was a religious temple complex built in honor of the Egyptian god Amon-Ra. Learn the features of the Egyptian temples by exploring the design of the Luxor Temple.

Who Built The Luxor Temple?

The Luxor Temple is a temple complex located in the city of Thebes, the ancient capital of Egypt during the time of the New Kingdom. Thebes is located in Upper Egypt, on the east bank of the Nile River. Construction of the temple was begun by the pharaoh Amenhotep III and was completed by Tutankhamen. After completion, the temple complex was continually developed by other pharaohs like Ramesses II and outside conquerors like Alexander the Great. Temples during the New Kingdom were constructed as places of religious worship, dedicated to certain gods of the Egyptian pantheon. The Luxor Temple was dedicated to the king of the Egyptian gods Amon-Ra.

Constructive Features

The Luxor Temple is constructed of sandstone blocks from Nubia, in southwest Egypt. The temple complex is surrounded by mud-brick walls, symbolic of the separation between the world and the sacred realm of the gods. Temple design during the New Kingdom exhibited a set of common design features in temple construction. The Temple of Luxor exhibits many of the features typical of temple construction during the New Kingdom. One must first pass through the pylon to enter the temple.

The Pylon

The pylon is the entrance to the temple, a gateway into the outer courtyard of the temple complex built by Ramesses II. Not just anyone could enter the temple complex; only the pharaoh, priests, and other officials were allowed. The pylon at Luxor is guarded by statues of Ramesses II sitting on each side of the entrance. Two stone obelisks also marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple, though only one still stands today.

An obelisk is a tall stone monolith with a pyramid shaped top and covered by reliefs celebrating the accomplishments of the pharaoh erecting it. Egyptians incorporated symbolism and optical illusion into the design of their temples, and the Luxor Temple is known for this practice. The stone obelisks that mark the entrance to the temple were designed to look the same height but were actually different heights, an optical illusion.

The Outer Courtyard

The outer courtyard is entered after passing through the pylon gate. The outer courtyard at Luxor is known as the courtyard of Ramesses II. The outer courtyard is a common feature of many of the temple complexes, and some temples contained multiple courtyards. Courtyards were decorated with statues and reliefs depicting the pharaoh and commemorating his reign. The Luxor Temple has two outer courtyards connected by a column line hallway called a colonnade. The courtyard of Amenhotep III is connected to the courtyard of Ramesses II by the colonnade.

The column is a common feature of the Egyptian temples and features the architecture of the temple complexes. Egyptian columns are topped by a carved representation of the papyrus, lotuses, and other plants found along the Nile River. Columns were decorated with reliefs detailing the deeds of the kings.

The Temple of Luxor reveals the competitive nature of the Egyptian kings. Some of the names of pharaohs were scratched out and replaced with the names of others. There are examples where the name of Tutankhamen was removed and replaced with the name of Horemheb. Other names that adorn the columns inside the temple complex at Luxor include Amenhotep III, Tutankhamen, Ramesses II, Seti I, Horemheb, and Seti II.

The Hypostyle Hall

Walking through the courtyard of Amenhotep III, the next area is the hypostyle hall. The term 'hypostyle' refers to a roof that is supported by a row of columns. Here is a representation of a typical hypostyle hall.

Columns not only support the roof but fill the whole hall. The hypostyle hall within the Temple of Luxor contained four rows of eight columns each, or thirty-two total columns. Only the pharaoh and the priests could enter this area of the temple. According to Egyptian mythology, the columns in the hypostyle hall symbolically supported the heavens. At one point in history, the hypostyle hall was converted into a Christian chapel. Excavations of the Luxor Temple reveal not only the history of Egypt and its pharaohs but also provide insight into the religious and mythological beliefs of the ancient Egyptians through the hieroglyphic reliefs and the architecture itself.

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