Contra Temple


The Contra Temple was located east of the Akhmenu between the eastern obelisks of Hatshepsut. The temple opened to the east. The low screen walls of the building’s façade were interspersed with six square pillars fronted by Osiride statues. Decoration on the pillars’ other three sides depicted the king embracing Amun-Ra. The building’s wide front hall led to a series of small chambers, inside which scenes showed the king standing before offering tables dedicated to the gods Amun and Min. A naos, carved from a single piece of calcite, was located in the central chamber. This naos housed a (now broken) dyad of Thutmose III and Amun-Ra (though one scholar has suggested that Hatshepsut may have originally been depicted).
Measurements: The building measures approximately 15.5m across and 8.2m deep.

Phases of Construction

Thutmose III

Contra temples, usually appended to the rear wall of a temple and opening outward, provided a location for those not allowed to enter the temple proper to interact with the divinities. This example, standing against the eastern wall of the temple built by Thutmose III, offered one such place on the eastern side of Karnak. Known as the “chapel of the hearing ear,” the shrine allowed the populace of Thebes to petition a statue of the king with Amun-Ra.

Construction materials: sandstone, calcite (“Egyptian alabaster”)

About the reconstruction model of Thutmose III

The reconstruction of the contra temple was based on a plan of the structure (Van Siclen 1986: pl. 10), a general detailed plan of overall Karnak (Carlotti 2001: pl. 1), and photographs of the building today.

The walls of the temple were covered with a simple sandstone pattern on the model.

Neither the central calcite naos nor the Osiris statues were included in the model.

Nectanebo I

Nectanebo I added two small shrines to the northern and southern sides of the contra temple, enclosing the bases of Hatshepsut’s obelisks. These chapels had round, engaged columns in the center of both their northern and southern walls.

Construction materials: limestone

Modern Site Photos


Borchardt, Ludwig. (1938),Ägyptische tempel mit Umgang. Beiträge zur ägyptischen Bauforschung und Altertumskunde,. Cairo: Selbstverlag des herausgebers

Van Siclen, Charles. (1986),The Alabaster Shrine of King Amenhotep II. Brooklyn Museum Archaeological Expedition to the Precinct of the Goddess Mut at South Karnak. San Antonio: Brooklyn Museum, pl 10.

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

Nims, Charles. (1971),The Eastern Temple at Karnak. Beiträge zur ägyptischen Bauforschung und Altertumskunde. Wiesbaden: Steiner in Kommvol. 12 , 107-111.

Varille, Alexandre. (1950),Description sommaire du sanctuarie oriental d’Amon-Rê à Karnak. Annales du service des antiquités de l’Égypte. vol. 50 , 137-247.

Teeter, Emily. (1993),Popular Worship in Ancient Egypt: Contrary to what is often written, commoners had access to their deities. KMT: a modern journal of Ancient Egypt. , 2vol. 4 , 28-37.