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Karnak Temple Complex - Table of Contents........................Egyptian / Egyptian Revival Architecture - Table of Contents

Three Obelisks, Temple of Amon-Ra
Karnac Temple Complex
Near Luxor, Egypt

Sandstone, limestone, and red granite were the primary types of stone used for buildings and large decorative features at Karnak temple. Other stones, like red quartzite, black granite, and travertine (calcite or "Egyptian alabaster") were utilized in much smaller quantities. High quality limestone was shipped to Thebes from the quarries in the north of the county, Tura and Massara, near modern Cairo.

See also: Digital Karnac - Construction Methods and Building Materials: Obelisks


Click on illustrations for larger size

Obelisk #1





Obelisk #2



Obelisk #3




Limestone (note fossils)

The obelisks or monumental pillars, which stood in pairs to dignify temple entrances, are huge monoliths, square on plan and tapering to a pyramidal summit, with a metal capping, and have a height of nine or ten times the diameter at the base, and the four slightly rounded sides are cut with hieroglyphic records still visible.

The transport of such large blocks of stone, with-out steam power, was an extraordinary engineering feat. The granite was probably quarried by the insertion of wooden wedges which expanded after soaking and thus split the granite into blocks. The transport was accomplished on great barges, as depicted in sculptures, and the obelisk was placed on its foundation by hauling it up a causeway of earth, and then tilting it into position.

- A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method, by Sir Banister-Fletcher, New York, 1950, p. 37

Photos and their arrangement © 2009 Chuck LaChiusa
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