The Akhmenu was a large, rectangular temple located in the eastern part of Karnak, just outside of the original early 18th Dynasty temple complex. Entrance to the building was gained through a main door in the temple’s southwest corner, as well as through a door (only recently discovered) in the center of the building’s west wall. The southwest entrance led to a line of nine small chambers to the south and to a short vestibule on the north. A small room north of the entrance corridor, known as the “hall of ancestors,” was the location of a type of king list; sixty-one kings, the royal ancestors of Thutmose III, were depicted seated and receiving offerings from the king. The earliest preserved king names listed refer to 4th Dynasty rulers of Egypt.

The temple’s main pillared hall (the heret-ib) was covered with a beautifully painted blue ceiling with yellow stars. The roof was supported by two rows of uniquely shaped columns representing the poles of a portable tent. At the north of the hall stood three chapels decorated with relief scenes of cult rituals and processions, including the procession of royal statues (the wehem-ankh). Inside the largest of these shrines stood a quartzite triad of Thutmose III with the gods Amun and Mut.

The southeast sector of the building, dedicated to the god Sokar, consisted of a suite of rooms leading onto a hall with eight fluted columns. The block of rooms just north of the Sokar suite were dedicated to the ithyphallic form of the god Amun and to the king himself.

Depictions of exotic flora and fauna sighted by the king on his military campaign are inscribed onto the walls of the famous “botanical room,” located in the temple’s northeast section. The “botanical room,” fittingly adorned by four papyrus columns, led into the Akhmenu’s main sanctuary. Eight niches lined the sides of the sanctuary’s walls; each originally held a statue, possibly of the Theban Ennead. A larger niche in the rear was left for the placement of the naos.

A stairway accessed from the northeast corner of the pillared hall led up to a solar shrine on the roof of the temple. A Heliopolitan-type solar altar, shaped like a series of hetep symbols, stood within this solar sanctuary.

It is possible that the building overlaid an earlier temple on the same location dated to the reign of Hatshepsut or to the co-regency of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III.

Measurements: The building is 40m deep by 77.5m wide. The main pillared hall spans 40m.

Phases of Construction

Thutmose III

Thutmose III began construction on the Akhmenu in the 23rd year of his reign and it was completed 7 years later. Inscriptions in the “botanical room” record that decoration of the temple began 2 years after initial construction. The large pillared hall commemorates the jubilee of Thutmose III, likely celebrated in his year 30.

Texts within the hall describe the building as a “mansion of millions of years,” a type of building that in part was dedicated to the cult of the divine king. Many of the mortuary temples on Thebes’ west bank were given this same title. The temple appears to have served as a locus of cult for worship of the king’s royal ancestors, the divine king Thutmose III, the god Amun (unified with the king), as well as solar and underworld deities.

Later changes to the Akhmenu were minimal. The upper solar shrine was altered and decorated in the Ramesside period. A new stairway may have been added at this time as well. Decoration in the rooms dedicated to the king and the ithyphallic Amun was altered during the reign of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BCE.

Construction materials: sandstone

About the reconstruction model of Thutmose III


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