Glossary of Terms 


Plural abaci. A square block placed between the capital of a column and an architrave. In the Hypostyle Hall, these were inscribed on all four faces with the cartouches of Seti I and Ramesses II.


Originally an obscure local god, Amen rose to national prominence when successive royal dynasties came from his hometown of Thebes. His identity was merged with that of the ancient sun god Re. During the New Kingdom he became a solar god and universal creator.


At the death of Merenptah, a usurper took control of the throne from the legitimate successor Seti II. After a brief reign, he was overthrown by Seti II. His main accomplishments were to build a tomb for himself in the Valley of the Kings (KV 10) and to erase the name of Merenptah on monuments in Thebes.


Architraves are large stone beams supported by the columns in the Hypostyle Hall which once supported roofing slabs. The architraves are inscribed with dedicatory texts on their sides and the royal names and titles of Ramesses II and Seti I on their undersides (see under soffit).

Battle of Kadesh

A battle fought by Ramesses II with the Hittite emperor for control of the strategic town of Kadesh in modern Syria. It was the last in a series of failed Egyptian offensives against Kadesh dating back to the reign of Akhenaten. Although he failed to capture Kadesh, Ramesses widely publicized the campaign as a victory by commemorating it with a series of war scene panoramas on monuments throughout Egypt. At Kadesh, he ordered scenes of the battle to be carved on the south wall of the Hypostyle Hall and the Cour de la Cachette. He soon changed his mind and moved the scenes to another part of Karnak, leaving a palimpsest of Kadesh on the Hall.


Architectural feature typical of columned halls in ancient Egyptian temples. It consists of a series of windows above eye level, usually at the top of the columns closest to the main axis of the hall. Its purpose was to provide lighting for otherwise dark enclosed spaces.

Cour de la Cachette

A large court between the Seventh Pylon and the main axis of the temple so called because of the hundreds of statues were buried there in the Late Period and discovered in the early twentieth century. The west wall adjoins the Hypostyle Hall. Ramesses II carved part of the unfinished Battle of Kadesh scenes there, but later abandoning the project. He later carved his Hittite Peace Treaty stela there. A later set of war sceens on either side of the treaty were carved later and are the work of Merenptah.


The scientific recording and analysis of monumental inscriptions. The Egyptian tendency to record their history on their monuments and to alter the latter for political and ideological reasons makes the study of epigraphy an important facet of Egyptology. See also under usurpation.

Hittite Treaty Stela

The Egyptian-Hittite peace treaty of Ramesses II's 21st regnal year was commemorated with a large stela carved into the west exterior wall of the Cour de la Cachette.


The last ruler of the Eighteenth Dynasty, he built the Second Pylon but only partially decorated it before his death. His reliefs were later usurped by Ramesses I and Ramesses II. With no heir of his own he designated then General Pramessu (the future Ramesses I) to succeed him.


A Greek term for a building with a roof supported by columns.


El-Karnak (the castle) is the Arabic term for the temples of Karnak which was once thought to be a royal palace by local Egyptians since the Middle Ages. The ancient name for the temple complex was Ipet-Sewt, "the Most Select Place."


A moon god who was the son of Amen-Re and Mut. He is often shown as a mummiform figure with a combination crescent moon and moon disk on his head. His other form is as a hawk-headed man with the same headdress.


The son and successor of Ramesses II. He commemorated his exploits on the battlefield with a series of war scenes on the west wall of the Cour de la Cachette. After his death, a rival claimant to the throne named Amenmesse denied the rightful heir Seti II the throne for a few years and erased Merenptah's name on the monuments. Once Seti II deposed the interloper, he replased the erased name of his father Merenptah on the monuments with his own.


Pronounced Moot, she was the wife of Amen-Re and the mother of Khonsu. She is most often seen in human form with a vulture cap surmounted by the Egyptian double crown. She was often seen in the guise of other goddesses including the lion-headed godess Sakhmet.


A term used by papyrologists and Medievalists to describe a document (papyrus or parchment) which has been recycled by washing off the original text for reuse, but leaving traces of the original behind. Egyptologists use the term to refer to the erasure of one set of inscriptions and its replacement by a new one. On the south wall of the Hypostyle Hall, the erasure of the Battle of Kadesh scenes was finished in plaster leaving many traces of after the new reliefs were carved over them.

Ramesses I

Founder of the Nineteenth Dynasty, Ramesses I ruled less than two years. His main accomplishment was to complete the decoration of the Second Pylon before the construction of the Hypostyle Hall. He also usurped reliefs of Horemheb on the pylon which must have been constructed before Ramesses I came to the throne. His name, in turn, was eventually usurped by his grandson Ramesses II.

Ramesses II

One of the most famous of Egyptian pharaohs, Ramesses II gave his name to the Ramesside age and to ten of his successors. Reigning for 67 years into his eighties or nineties, he built many monuments in Egypt. At the death of his father Seti I, construction of the Hypostyle Hall was complete, but its reliefs and inscriptions were only partly finished. Ramesses II completed the decoration and later added his name to part of the Hall that Seti I had decorated, even replacing Seti's name with his own in some cases.

Seti I

As the second king of the Nineteenth Dynasty, Seti launched a series of ambitious building programs and equally daring wars in the Levant. Like most of his other great monuments, the Hyposytle Hall was incomplete when the king died after an 11 year reign, leaving Ramesses II to complete its decoration. Seti completed the decoration of the north wing of the Hall, including a magnificent panorama of war scenes on the north exterior wall, but his sculptors had barely started work in the south wing before he died.

Seti II

The legitimate successor of his father Merenptah, Seti's rule was challenged by a usurper king Amenmesse who may have ruled in the south of the country, including Thebes, for a few years before Seti regained total control of the country. Where Amenmesse had erased his father's cartouches, Seti II replaced them with his own.


A soffit is the inscribed underside of an architrave. The soffits in the Hypostyle Hall often retain their original briliant paint having been shielded from sun, wind and rain for over 3300 years. They are inscribed with the names and titles of Ramesses II and Seti I.


The tendency of pharaohs in the New Kingdom to erase the names of their predecessors on monuments and replace them with their own. Among the unfortunate targets of this practice are monuments of Queen Hatshepsut and Tutankhamen, both of whom were defamed in later reigns. In other cases, however, the Ramesside kings usurped the monuments of their recent predecessors, even their own fathers and grandfathers but with no sense of malice towards them. So Ramesses I usurped the cartouches of his predecessor Horemheb on the Second Pylon only to have them usurped in turn by his grandson Ramesses II who also usurped the name of his father Seti I in some parts of the Hall. There is no evidence of animosity in these cases.