Originally built by Amenhotep I – 1525 BCE to 1504 BCE
Modified by Hatshepsut – 1479 BCE to 1458 BCE
Other works initiated by Amenhotep I:Middle Kingdom Court, Amenhotep I Calcite Chapel, Amenhotep I Limestone Chapel
Other works initiated by Hatshepsut:Obelisks of Festival Hall West Pair, Palace of Ma’at, 8th Pylon, Amenhotep I Calcite Chapel, Obelisks at Contra Temple, Obelisks of Wadjet Hall, Wadjet Hall, Red Chapel, Pylon and Festival Court of Thutmose II
The chapel of Amenhotep I was a roofed rectangular structure made of large blocks of calcite with access doors on its short sides. The interior relief scenes are the oldest surviving depictions of the sacred bark of the statue of the god Amun-Ra of Karnak. Each of the chapel’s exterior sides were decorated with a single scene related to temple festivals. The chapel has been reconstructed in modern times in the “open air museum” at Karnak.
Measurements: The chapel is 3.6m across, 6.75m deep, and 4.5m high.
Phases of Construction
Amenhotep I built the chapel as a ritual space to house the bark of Amun-Ra. Wooden doors on the shrine’s short ends could be closed to protect the sanctity of the god. Left incomplete by Amenhotep I, the decoration on the chapel’s south wall was finished by Thutmose I. The chapel may have stood in the so-called “Middle Kingdom Court,” serving as the main bark shrine for the portable bark of Amun-Ra.
Construction materials: white calcite (“Egyptian alabaster”), wood
About the reconstruction model of Amenhotep I
The digital model of the chapel was created based on the reconstruction drawings of Carlotti (1995: pl. XI).
The chapel’s position in the center of the “Middle Kingdom Court” is based on the traditional assumption that the chapel functioned as the main bark shrine for the temple under Amenhotep I (Graindorge (1999: 173-175, Fig. 1; Blyth 2006: 34-36).
Photographs of the chapel in the “open air museum” in Karnak were used to recreate the appearance of the interior and exterior walls of the structure. A plain calcite stone pattern was used to decorate the roof.
An alternative interpretation for the location for the calcite chapel is given by Graindorge in her more recent reconstruction of the early Amenhotep I form of Karnak (2002: fig. 4). Graindorge now argues that the calcite shrine may have stood in the temple forecourt, west of the later 4th pylon. A wooden chapel (no longer extant) would have served as the main shrine.
Hatshepsut may have moved the bark from the central area of the temple to a position along the southern festival processional, just south east of her new pylon (pylon eight). In its place she erected her own bark shrine, the “red chapel.”
Destruction: Thutmose III
Thutmose III may have dismantled or moved the shrine, building an identical calcite chapel near the seventh pylon. The king gave his new shrine the same name as the shrine of Amenhotep I. Where the Amenhotep I chapel was placed at this time is unknown.
In the reign of Amenhotep III, the calcite chapel was used as fill in the king’s construction of the third pylon.
About the reconstruction model of this Hatshepsut
If the calcite chapel did not function as the main shrine of the temple during the reign of Amenhotep I, the construction of the “red chapel” in the “Middle Kingdom Court” of the temple would have replaced Amenhotep I’s wooden shrine, not the calcite chapel.
In this case, the calcite chapel could have remained in a forecourt of the temple, west of the 4th pylon. The chapel may have been incorporated later into the architecture of the Thutmose IV peristyle in the festival hall of Thutmose II (Letellier and Larché 2014: pls.3-7).
(page updated 2015)
Blyth, Elizabeth. (2006),Karnak: evolution of a temple. London: Routledge
Graindorge, Catherine and Philippe Martinez. (1989),Karnak avant Karnak. Bulletin de la Société française d’égyptologie. vol. 115 , 36-55.
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.
Graindorge, Catherine. Beinlich, Horst (2002),Der Tempel des Amun-Re von Karnak zu Beginn der 18.Dynastie. Ägyptologische Tempeltagung: Würzburg, 23.-26. September 1999. vol. 5 , 83-90.
Graindorge, Catherine and Philippe Martinez. (1999),Programme architectural et iconographique des monuments d’Amenophis I a Karnak. Annales du service des antiquités de l’Égypte. vol. 74 , 169-182.
Letellier, Bernadette and François Larché. (2014),La cour à portique de Thoutmosis IV. etudes d’égyptologie. Paris: Soleb