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Bible Stock Illustrations

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Opet Festival of Amun-Re at Karnak

The illustration tackles the joyous mood at the start of the great Opet festival lasting 27 days in the height of Summer during the flooding of the Nile. The procession of the divine family: the god Amun-Re, his wife the goddess Mut, their son Khonsu, and the royal family of the Pharaoh began in the inner chambers of the gods deep inside the great temple complex of Amun-Re at Karnak. The procession of the three boats is here depicted passing through the grand kiosk of the 25th Dynasty king Taharqa (690-664 BC) which fronts the main entrance of the temple complex.

Too sacred to be a public spectacle, the three deities are enthroned behind closed doors inside their golden shrines mounted on golden festival boats and carried by the most elite of the priesthood serving in the Temple of Amun-Re.  Bearers of colored ostrich fans and royal standards stride alongside the priests. Dignitaries and notables follow, along with musicians and dancers who join the parade. Some of the richly bedecked female spectators among the assembled nobility are shown keeping the beat with their sistrums (shakers). The columns of Taharqa's kiosk tower 63 feet (21 meters) above the courtyard and they are not spanned by a roof but a huge drapery with the repeated image of Nekhbet the vulture goddess of motherhood providing shade for the procession.  The columns of the kiosk are dwarfed by the monumental pylon of King Horemheb and Seti I (1291-1278 BC) whose massive surface is painted with scenes of the king making offerings to the gods of Egypt and hieroglyphics boasting of the king's pious deeds.  Soaring far above the pylon, eight tapering cedar poles connected with electrum sheathing and topped with banners adorn the facade and complete its grandeur.

The festival boats of the gods and that of the king proceed to the rectangular quay a little way down the processional road where they are transfered to river boats and towed under sail by men at ropes along the shoreline  for the two mile trip upriver to the Amun temple of Luxor. A host of other boats accompany the divine barques to the sound of crowds chanting and clapping.  Upon arrival at the Luxor temple, royalty and high officials will greet the gods and the king in their golden festival boats with incense and offerings who will be then entertained by musicians and acrobats.  The priests will proceed to feast the assembled crowds of tens of thousands on bread, cakes and beer.  The gods are then carried to their shrines to rest. Subsequently the coronation rites of the king were re-enacted  and by presenting offerings to the god, the power of the king and his father the god Amun-Re was mutually renewed.

The illustration is based on a photograph taken at the site around 10:30 AM, perfect for the timing of the procession emerging from the temple. Out of the ten columns of the kiosk the only one still standing today enabled me to project the height for all the rest along the same lines of latitude I drew from  the vanishing point on the horizon line which I found on the eye level of the all the tourists on the photo.  With a high res. photo it was possible to make out the decoration on the column. The great pylon is now reduced to rubble but elsewhere in Egypt some survive almost intact making its elevation predictable based on the size of its foundations.  The architectural details that do not survive and the decorations on the pylon follow standard sacred iconography which I referenced from examples found on better preserved monuments of the appropriate periods.  Many tomb paintings show how high the flag poles were in front of the pylon, how they were attached to the pylon's facade and how the banners looked at the top.  I found a passage in a New Kingdom text that mention electrum sheathings around the poles also evidenced by some tomb paintings .  I found images of the sacred golden barque of Amun carried by priests in the temple of Karnak itself and elsewhere but there is an actual ceremonial barque on display in the Temple of Edfu sanctuary which I used as a model.  The various wall reliefs of sacred barques born aloft by priests are executed with so much detail that I had plenty of information to recreate the procession.  The crowds are dressed in costumes I referenced from tomb paintings.  

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