Shoshenq I Court

Related Features

Originally built by Shoshenq I – 945 BCE to 924 BCE

Modified by Nectanebo I – 380 BCE to 362 BCE

Other works initiated by Shoshenq I:

Western Processional Way, Bubastite Portal, Shoshenq I Court

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 temple’s first court, built by Shoshenq I, was located between the first and second pylon. The court enclosed the Sety II shrine and the northern section of the Ramesses III temple. The court was lined on its northern and southern sides with sandstone papyrus bud columns. A small area between the Ramesses III temple and the second pylon is known as the “Bubastite portal.” Inside the court, two columns mark this gate. The majority of the court still exists at Karnak today, only its west wall was destroyed during later construction in the area.
Measurements: The court is 82m wide and 101m deep. The western gate had an opening of 17.70m and a total height of 27.50m.

Phases of Construction

Shoshenq I

Shoshenq I constructed a huge court before the second pylon, the previous main entrance to the temple on its east/west axis. On the west side of the court, he probably built a huge new gateway (incorporated into the later pylon towers of Nectanebo). A stela from year 21 of Shoshenq’s reign explained that the king intended to “illumine Thebes by erecting its double door of millions of cubits, to make a festival court for the house of his father Amun-Ra, king of the gods.”

Two rows of fifty ram-headed sphinxes would have fronted the second pylon before the construction of the court. No doubt the king was forced to rearrange these sphinxes; a group of them may have been placed outside the new court.

The southeast exterior wall of the court was decorated with a series of famous scenes portraying the king triumphing over his enemies in Syro-Palestine.

See the Bubastite Portal for a discussion of this feature.

Construction materials: sandstone

About the reconstruction model of Shoshenq I

The reconstruction of the court’s western wall (later destroyed) was made based on the hypotheses of Arnold (1999: fig. 6). The basic plan of the courtyard was developed from the plan of the overall temple by Carlotti (2001: pl. 1). The design of the columns on the model were based on axial drawings by Carlotti (1995: pl. XXVII).

The court walls and its columns were given a plain sandstone pattern. As in reality, these were left undecorated.

The reconstruction of central gateway was based on the plan of Lauffray (1970: fig. 1). Since the upper portion of the gate was never completed, the incomplete area is shown transparent on the model. This offers a hypothetical reconstruction for the intended form of the gate.

The gate was given a plain sandstone pattern.

Nectanebo I

Nectanebo destroyed the western wall of the court in order to begin construction on his giant pylon entrance, the first pylon.

See Pylon I for more information on this featureIt is possible that the main gate of the existing first court was retained and incorporated into the new entrance.

In order to make room for the construction ramps needed to build his new pylon, part of the court’s northern and southern walls and columns (along the far west side) were taken apart. These were later rebuilt using new stones. The work was not completed and the column drums were left completely undressed. The unfinished nature of these renovations can be easily spotted at the temple today.

Construction materials: sandstone

Modern Site Photos


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.

Carlotti, Jean-François. (2001),L’Akh-menou de Thoutmosis III à Karnak : etude architecturale. Paris: Recherche sur les civilisations

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.

Arnold, Dieter. (1999),Temples of the last pharaohs. New York: Oxford University Press