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Ancient Egypt /
Religion
1. Introduction
2. Gods
3. Concepts
4. Cult
5. Cult centres
6. Necropolises
7. Structures

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Open map of Ancient EgyptAncient Egypt / Religion / Structures /
Temples



Karnak
Ca. 2000 BCE-300 CE.
In Ancient Egypt, the main centre of religious cult as well as dwelling place for gods.
Egyptian temples were built in standard form, with outer open-air courts in the public zone, leading into chambers in increased importance, with more restricted access, concluding in the inner and most holy chamber into which only the high-priests and kings were permitted.
From early structures built by lesser materials, often tree, Egyptian temples were soon built to endure time, made from high-quality stone. Temples were highly decorated and depending on the importance of the god and the wealth of his cult administration, large in size.
Temples could be built to the same god at different locations, then representing a form of religious colonies. These could serve the needs of peoples away from home; they could represent the king adopting a foreign cult; the submission of foreign lands and peoples.
In situations where important kings ruled large lands, one temple structure could be the home of a great number of gods, although the temple may have remained the home of one major god, or a triad of gods.
Temples emerged as the most important religious structure mainly in the New Kingdom, when tombs were of quite another order from the pyramids, digging into the rock, and hidden from the eye of society. Temples were the main arena for kings and notables to express their respect for their gods.
The earliest surviving temples are from the pyramid complexes, built to service for the funeral and commemoration of the king. Early on, temples were small and inferior, but that was while the pyramid were built most elaborately. As the royal economy became less able to service a grand pyramid, more was put into the temples. This mainly came in the 5th Dynasty, at the complex at Abu Sir.
In the Middle Kingdom's first dynasty, the 11th, temples were built to the saff structure, with Mentuhotep 2's temple. His tradition was repeated, and perfected in the New Kingdom's 18th Dynasty when Hatshepsut built her temple next to Mentuhotep's. But there was one shift now, her temple was not pysically part of, or linked to, any tomb. This would remain, and thourghout Egyptian history, major temples were built for its own purpose. Temple functions remained part of many, even most, tombs, but only as very modest structures.





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By Tore Kjeilen