Luxor Temple

Photograph of the block magazzino at Luxor Temple, 2022.

BY Ray Johnson


Plate 131

Traces of the Eighteenth Dynasty Decoration in Context on the Facade, East Wall, First Register

The lower facade of the Colonnade Hall--that is, the area located below the roofline of the Ramesside portico on both the east and west sides--is an area that reveals two major stages of carving and layout, the first undertaken during the late Eighteenth Dynasty and the second during the early Nineteenth Dynasty. The Ramesside revision was necessitated by the addition of the first court of Luxor Temple directly in fr.ont of the facade scenes of the Eighteenth Dynasty were arranged in three large registers, executed in raised relief by Ay (see the key plans fig. 1).

During the construction of the first court, the architraves and roofing blocks of the south portico were keyed into the facade, thereby destroying the original second register scenes. The solution adopted by the Ramesside builders was to smooth away most of the Eighteenth Dynasty decoration underneath the portico roof and replace it with new scenes of Ramesses II, rendered in sunk relief and arranged in markedly different registration. Although the original first register scenes have largely vanished from view, a number of trace lines are still visible beneath the later figures and their associated inscriptions.

In this drawing, the basic elements of the Ramesside decoration (the major figures and the p.t-sign) appear in outline, to provide a context for the traces of the Eighteenth Dynasty decoration that are still visible around them. For the suggested restoration of the scene, see pl. 132, below.

Within the Ramesside outlines of the heads of Amun and Mut, a number of elements of the faces and of Mut's headdress are given full sun and shadow weight. These few elements are located on portions of stone that are significantly higher than the background surface of the sunk relief Ramesside figures. Where these lines continue on lower levels within the deep sunk relief at the perimeter of the figures, transition points are noticeable, at which the higher and lower lines have been skillfully joined, such as on the internal strands of Mut's wig.

Although the faces of the two deities seem to have been incorporated into the final scene without much alteration, the stone-cutters of Ramesses II recarved the rest of their bodies and crowns in sunk relief, and with more attenuated proportions. It is therefore probable that the heads of Amun and Mut represent the only portions of the original Eighteenth Dynasty deco- ration of the facade left intact, and for that reason they are indicated here in fully weighted lines.

During the recarving of the facade the figures of Amun and Mut were retained in their original positions, but the left half of the first register was entirely reorganized, doubtless due to the destruction of the original second register, which had been de- voted to the third member of the Theban triad, Khonsu (see the key plans fig. 1 and pls. 136 and 142). In order to maintain the triad intact, the Ramesside draftsmen inserted Khonsu into the first register, standing behind the king. It is also noteworthy that the Ramesside registration does not coincide with that of the Eighteenth Dynasty. The sunk relief version of the first register is lower than the original raised relief scene, and the remaining space below the roofline is filled with several smaller tableaux: Ramesses II before the isd-tree, Ramesses II offering incense and pouring a libation, and a frieze of cartouches with pendant cobras that corresponds to the height of the architraves (see pl. 130). In the area of the original Eighteenth Dy- nasty dado beneath the first register, Ramesses II inscribed a horizontal marginal text, placing his own dado of three sunk relief bands just below.

This compositional revision was imitated on the west facade of the Colonnade Hall as well, and it provides important clues to the positioning of additional block fragments belonging to that wall (see pl. 142). Above the Ramesside roofline, it was apparently not felt necessary to recarve the sadly truncated scenes, which were largely invisible from ground level. There, the raised relief decoration of the Eighteenth Dynasty was al- lowed to remain intact, as it had been usurped by Horemheb.

Medinet Habu
Ancient temple and tomb of Ramses III Learn More
Ramesses II
Important pharaoh and a builder at Luxor Temple Learn More