1st Pylon

Related Features

Originally built by Nectanebo I – 380 BCE to 362 BCE

Other works initiated by Nectanebo I:

1st Pylon, Contra Temple, Opet Temple, Shoshenq I Court, Enclosures and Gates, Bab el Amara Gate, Other Processional Ways


The first pylon stands at the far west of the Karnak precinct and is the main entrance to the temple today. The pylon was never completed and the remains of mud brick ramps used to build the pylon can still be seen inside the court today.
Measurements: The base for each tower is 14.5m deep and 113m wide. The north tower rises 32 course, about 21.70m, and the south tower rises 45 courses or 31.65m. These towers would have reached a height of 38m to 40m. The gateway between the towers (probably constructed by Shoshenq I) is 27.5m high and 7.4 wide. A second, smaller doorway (not shown on the model) was inserted into the gateway attaining a height of only 10.85m.

Phases of Construction

Nectanebo I

Nectanebo built Pylon I, in concert with a new huge enclosure wall surrounding the Amun temple precinct, to serve as a new monumental entrance to the temple. It continues to serve as the entrance to the temple today. The pylon was probably constructed to replace the western wall and gateway of the court of Shoshenq I, which functioned as the western entrance to the temple in the Third Intermediate Period. Nectanebo’s ambitious project was never completed. The construction of this pylon and its huge enclosure wall may have been undertaken to protect the temple from foreign invaders.

About the reconstruction model of Nectanebo I

The model of the first pylon was based on the plans of Carlotti (1995: pl. XVII). The finished sections of the pylon towers were covered with a sandstone pattern based on photographs from the temple. The upper sections of the towers, never completed, are shown in partial transparency to give the viewer a sense of how the pylon would have looked if finished.

Large wooden flagstaffs have been added to the pylon towers. These would have been topped with colorful cloth banners. The tall poles stood on stone bases, and were arranged within square notches left in the pylon’s exterior masonry. Clamps secured to the pylon itself (not shown on the model) further stabilized their upper portions. The form and size of the flagstaffs were based on representations of these features found at temples and tombs. These show the poles as reaching above the height of the pylon and tapering as they rise (Azim and Traunecker (1982: fig. 4).

The huge entrance gate between the pylon towers was at some point fitted with a smaller, interior gate. It measured some 10.8m in height and would have been outfitted with wooden doors to control entrance in and out of the temple (Lauffray, 1970: fig. 5). This door was not included on the model.

Modern Site Photos


Carlotti, Jean-François. (1995),Contribution à l’ étude métrologique de quelques monuments du temple d’Amon-Rê à Karnak. Cahiers de Karnak. vol. X , 65-127.

Azim, M. and C. Traunecker. (1982),Un mât du IXe Pylône au nome d’Horemheb. Cahiers de Karnak. vol. VII , 75-92.

Lauffray, Jean. (1970),La colonnade-propylée occidentale de Karnak dite “kiosque de Taharqa” et ses abords. Kêmi: revue de philologie et d’archéologie égyptiennes et coptes. vol. 20 , 111-164.

Hölscher, Uvo. (1943),Der erste pylon von Karnak. Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Abteilung Kairo. vol. 12 , 139-149.