Gateway to the Gods
Founded about 1400 BC, the Luxor Temple complex overlooks the east bank of the Nile River. During the Middle Kingdom, beginning about 1990 BC, Thebes (Luxor) became the capital of Egypt. Luxor Temple is one of several temple and mortuary complexes in the area. The complex is the work of several New Kingdom pharaohs: Amenhotep III (1390-52 BC), Tutankhamun (1336-27 BC), Horemheb (1323-1295 BC) and Ramesses II (1279-13 BC). Ramesses (also known as Ramesses the Great) added the pylon gate and the huge statues of himself. One of an original pair of obelisk recording his deeds flanks the left side of the gate. The matching pink granite obelisk is in the Place de la Concorde in Paris, France. Over time, with the decline of the ancient Egyptian power, capture and ransacking by rival armies, and the growth of population, the temple complex became surround by and finally overtaken by the city of Luxor. Centuries of rubble, buildings, and sand buried three-quarters of the sandstone structures by the time excavations began in 1884. Conservation, excavations, and restoration continue. The middle statue of Ramesses II on the right has only recently been reassembled and placed in its original site.
Luxor Temple had been an active religious site for over 3,000 years. Theories differ on the original function of the temple. Originally it was thought to be dedicated to the Theban Triad of Amun, Mut and their son Khonsu. More recently, it has been suggested that the temple was a sanctuary dedicated to divine kingship. The focus may have changed over time. During the period of Roman rule, it was a center for the Roman emperor cult. Following the introduction of Christianity to Egypt in the first century AD, sections were used as a Christian church. Later, a 13th-century mosque was built inside the temple. When excavations and removal of buildings began, the mosque, which is still active, was preserved.