Originally built by Shoshenq I – 945 BCE to 924 BCE
Modified by Taharqo – 690 BCE to 664 BCE
Other works initiated by Shoshenq I:Western Processional Way, Bubastite Portal, Shoshenq I Court
Other works initiated by Taharqo:Taharqo Kiosk, Taharqo Edifice and Nilometer, Ramesses II Eastern Temple, Khonsu Temple, Western Processional Way
Recumbent, ram-headed sphinxes on rectangular pedestals line the western entrance into Karnak temple. Osiride statuettes of Ramesses II stand between the front paws of the sphinxes. At the temple today, forty sphinxes grace the entrance to Pylon I, and fifty-two are contained within the Shoshenq Court. Traces of the original paint still remains on the some of the sphinxes.
Measurements: The pedestals measure 1.35m across by 1.70m deep, with a height of 0.43m. The sphinxes themselves vary between 3.6m-3.8m in length and 1.1m-1.2m in width.
Phases of Construction
Pinedjem, a “high priest of Amun” at Karnak temple, placed some 100 sphinxes along the 200m processional pathway that stretched from the entrance of the temple of the time (Pylon II) to the temple quay. The sphinxes (originally carved during the reign of Amenhotep III and Thutmose IV) were probably cited at Luxor temple (about 2km south of Karnak) since the 19th Dynasty, where they were moved and usurped by Ramesses II. Pinedjem seems to have shifted the sphinxes from Luxor to Karnak, adding his name to them as well.
Construction materials: sandstone
About the reconstruction model of Pinedjem
Due to the complex nature of modeling statuary, a high resolution sphinx model was purchased from 3D Cad Browser, an image uploaded by Timothy Tokoas in 2002. The sphinx was modified extensively by Itay Zaharoaits in 2008 specifically for the Digital Karnak project. Imagery of the sphinxes taken at Karnak was added to the model to better recreate the appearance of the ancient statue. A simple sandstone pattern was added to the base. This single sphinx statue was duplicated to create the over 100 sphinxes represented on the model.
With the construction of his new first court to the temple, the line of sphinxes must have been nearly cut in half. Some remained in the court (their arrangement at this time is unknown), while some were placed before the new western gate to the temple.
During the reign of Taharqo, the addition of a large central kiosk in the Shoshenq I Court may have necessitated the regrouping of the sphinxes along the northern and southern walls of the first court. This is the arrangement of the sphinxes at the temple today.
The sphinxes outside the temple complex were regrouped again in the Roman Period and have remained in this location down to the present time. A space was left between the 7th and 8th sphinxes to give access to the complex of structures south of the quay.
Modern Site Photos
Cabrol, Agnès. (2001),Les voies processionnelles de Thèbes. Orientalia Lovaniensia analecta. Leuven: Peeters, 97, xxxviii, 853 p..
Lauffray, Jean. (1971),Abords occidentaux du premier pylône de karnak, le dromos, la tribune et les aménagements portuaires. Kêmi: revue de philologie et d’archéologie égyptiennes et coptes. vol. 21 , 77-144.
Murnane, William. (1979),The Bark of Amun on the Third Pylon at Karnak. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt. vol. 16 , 11-27.