The Origins of the Project
The Karnak Hypostyle Hall Project of the University of Memphis, William J. Murnane,
Founding Director (1945-2000)
Although the University of Memphis' mission to Karnak only began in 1990, the roots
of the Project go back decades earlier. From the early 1970s until his untimely death
in 2000, Dr. William J. Murnane was the driving force behind the recording and study
of the Great Hypostyle Hall. We dedicate this site and our ongoing work to our beloved
|Dr. William J. Murnane (1945-2000) Founding Director of the Karnak Hypostyle Hall
Karnak temple's Great Hypostyle Hall has long captured the imagination of American
Egyptologists, particularly those associated with the University of Chicago's Oriental
Institute. In the 1930s, Keith C. Seele's groundbreaking study of the wall reliefs
in this colossal edifice was the first major investigation of the Hall's decorative
reliefs and inscriptions and what these could tell Egyptologists about the history
of the early Nineteenth Dynasty.
In the 1970s, the Epigraphic Survey or "Chicago House" as it is better known, copied
the war scenes of Seti I on the north exterior wall.
|The war scenes of Seti I were copied by the Epigraphic Survey of the University of
Chicago in the 1970s. This definitive record is already invaluable since the reliefs
have decayed rapidly since then.
The "prehistory" of the University of Memphis' Karnak Hypostyle Hall Project stems
from another Chicago scholar, Harold H. Nelson. His involvement with this grand edifice
during his tenure as Director of the Oriental Institute's Epigraphic Survey at Luxor,
better known as "Chicago House."
Alone, and in his spare time, he made drawings of all the wall reliefs inside the
Hall. Some of these appeared in an important article on Theban temple reliefs, but
the lion's share of these drawings remained unpublished and unedited at his death
|Ramesses II offering to Amen-Re. Harold Nelson's drawing of a scene from the Hypostyle
Hall's west wall.
It fell to William J. Murnane, longtime epigraphist on staff at Chicago House, to
edit Nelson's drawings for their publication in 1981. Murnane was the logical choice
for this project because it was directly related to his own research interest in the
Hypostyle Hall in connection with his doctoral work on Egyptian royal coregencies,
particularly that of Seti I and Ramesses II.
The Karnak Hypostyle Hall was one of the most important focuses of study. Murnane
was also Chicago House's senior epigraphist when the Epigraphic Survey's "official"
work on the Hypostyle Hall began by recording of the war scenes of Seti I on the north
|The late William J. Murnane from his Chicago House days
Despite universal gratitude among Egyptologists for Nelson's handy volume, his drawings
are not facsimiles, but mere hand copies of limited epigraphic value. When the Epigraphic
Survey's results were published in 1985, the battle reliefs of Seti I were almost
the only reliefs in the Hypostyle Hall published in a definitive, scientific fashion.
Since then, Vincent Rondot's exhaustive publication of the inscriptions on the architraves
has appeared. Otherwise, publication of material from the Hypostyle Hall has been
spotty at best; never comprehensive or definitive.
|Vincent Rondot's publication of the architraves from the Hypostyle Hall.
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