Temples of Ancient Egypt

By Dieter Arnold; Lanny Bell et al. | Go to book overview

4 THE NEW KINGDOM «DIVINE» TEMPLE: THE EXAMPLE OF LUXOR

LANNY BELL


Introduction

This discussion of the role of the New Kingdom "divine" temple in Egyptian society is based on Luxor Temple, a rich mine of information heretofore largely unexploited. 1 Luxor Temple is a particularly good subject with which to begin a study of the "divine" cultic temple of the New Kingdom because it is architecturally compact and coherent, even deceptively simple, particularly in comparison with Karnak, the most elaborate God's House still standing in Egypt. Because Luxor Temple is representative in so many ways, detailed knowledge of it teaches something about all related temples.

The attempt to unravel the secrets of Luxor Temple leads along many paths, each of which has a number of offshoots. These include the history of the temple's construction and decoration, its relationships to other temples, and several important historical implications. New evidence also permits us to glimpse the temple's prehistory. Throughout, the various functions of the temple are set in the context of ancient Egyptian culture as a whole, and the temple's relevance to ordinary Egyptians is addressed. The Opet-festival and the cultus of the royal ka will serve as starting points for exploring how temple rituals promoted social cohesion by validating the king's preeminent role in society. 2 We shall see that public access into certain areas of Luxor Temple was permitted, especially during annual fes-

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