The Egyptians continued as the powerhouse of the Nile River and tomb builders for the kings. Their standardized written language was into literary texts, and many technical innovations introduced around Egypt. The horse and chariot, musical instruments, bronze works, pottery, and looms evolved into modern machines. This period marked the height of the Egyptian Empire with great pharaohs, including Hatshepsut, Thutmose 3, Akhenaten (4.1), and Tutankhamen. After 600 BCE, the Persians controlled Egypt, and the great Egyptian Empire slowly eroded.
Karnak means "the most select of places."
As part of the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Karnak (4.2) located on the Nile River in Upper Egypt, one of the largest religious centers ever built, covering 200 acres and in use for over 2,000 years. The structure is massive Notre Dame, St. Peters, and St. Marks cathedrals could all fit within its walls. The grand room at Karnak was the 5,000-meter Hypostyle Hall with 134 carved columns, each one twenty-four meters high, made of stacked sandstone transported from Gebel Silsila, over 100 miles. The stone was probably floated down the Nile until it reached the temple for placement. The Hypostyle Hall (4.3) is still the most significant religious sanctuary in the world.
The Temple at Karnak was an enormous, open-aired religious site, constructed over 1500 years by many pharaohs, and dedicated to the supreme deity Amon-Ra. The entire temple brightly painted with many colors, and the grand opulence in the colorless desert must have been remarkable to see in person. Many theories surround the building of Karnak, and they focus on the use of ramps or pulley systems. No theory is substantiated, and it still is pure speculation on how the temple was constructed.
The giant obelisk (4.4) of Queen Hatshepsut remains standing today, weighing 325 metric tons and over 29 meters tall, the obelisk was made from a single block of granite and transported to the site. Once at Karnak, the obelisk was carved on all four sides depicting the story of Queen Hatshepsut as Pharaoh. Four obelisks originally installed, all from the pink granite quarried and moved for miles, the installation process still a mystery.
The Valley of the Kings (4.5) located on the Nile River in Upper Egypt, adjacent to the Temple of Karnack. The Valley of the Kings was used for the creative, extraordinary burial tombs of the pharaohs and dynasties in Egypt after the building of pyramids waned. The magnificent tombs were cut directly into the sandstone hillsides and elaborately decorated with murals to relate the story of the pharaoh buried deep inside.
One of the most famous burial tombs is that of the famous Queen Hatshepsut (1508-1458 BCE). Hatshepsut (4.6) was the fifth pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Egypt, reigned for 22 years, and regarded as one of the great female leaders in the world. The tomb is also one of the most beautiful in Egypt with gardens of Frankincense trees and other rare plants. The tomb (4.7) was completed within 15 years of starting and had a three terraced entrance past colonnades, courtyards, and porticos.
“Welcome my sweet daughter, my favorite, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Maatkare, Hatshepsut. Thou art the Pharaoh, taking possession of the Two Lands”
Inside the tomb were elaborate low relief carvings (4.8) painted with exquisite colors depicting the life of the Hatshepsut. Generally, the people are portrayed in a side view, especially the head. If a person painted from the front, the head always turned in profile. As delicately as they are carved, they were precisely painted as well. Painted reliefs exposed to the elements can deteriorate quickly when exposed to the elements; however, the images were hidden deep underground and preserved for the future. The artist had a variety of colors available from local rock and minerals at their disposal.
The Egyptians believed in mummification, a process involving embalming and wrapping the body in preparation for the sarcophagus. The internal organs were removed from the body during the embalming process. The heart, embodiment of the soul, was the only organ left in the body for the journey to the afterlife. Each organ placed in a different canopic jar (4.9), made from clay, and placed with the body during burial. The jars all had different lids and were ornately decorated with animal or human faces (4.10) to signify the different gods who looked after the organs.