The Mut precinct was a major religious center from the Eighteenth Dynasty to the Roman Period, but evidence suggests the existence of an even earlier temple. It expanded during the reign of the Kushite king, Taharqa and attained its present size during the fourth century BCE, sheltering three major temples, several small chapels, and eventually, a village within the protection of its massive enclosure walls. One of its most striking features is the hundreds of Sekhmet statues.
In 1976, the Brooklyn Museum began the first systematic exploration of the precinct as a whole. Since 2001, Brooklyn has shared the site with an expedition from the Johns Hopkins University, both teams working cooperatively toward the same goal.
The domain of Mut is located at the south of the great temple of Karnak, perpendicular to the axis of the Xth pylon to which it was joined in antiquity by a avenue flanked on both sides by sphinxes with ram's heads (). The processional avenue which went from Luxor toward Karnak turned off to the East in order to pass before the entry of the goddess's domain. An alter of rest for barque of Mut and Khonsu stood besides to this place. On the other side of the avenue was the temple of Amon-Kamutef.
This avenue is under restoration ().
The walled enclosure of the domain, built by Nectanebo, presents itself currently rather like a trapezoidal slope of 250x350m. which circumscribes a domain where there is only a door for access. Of the one here, situated at the north, only the base from Ptolemaic times (Ptolemy II and III) remains, along with some sculpted blocks ().
And this is how it offers itself as a view to the buildings of the domain of Mut, probably once sumptuous, and which is now hardly recognisable because of the overgrown land. One has difficulty in imagining that this walled enclosure contained at least six sanctuaries.
Immediately in line with the entrance, one sees on the ground the remains of the small avenue built by Taharqa (XXVth Dynasty), which leads to the actual entrance of the temple of the goddess Mut ().
From a possible Middle Kingdom foundation, a more imposing building was built to the 18th Dynasty (by Hatchepsut?). It was Amenhotep III (Amenophis) who will rebuild this temple of Mut in sandstone. He furnished it with hundreds (it is thought 720 or 730, one for every day of the year, morning and evening) of statues of the goddess Mut in her leonine shape of Sekhmet (, ). Later Ramesses II was to restore the building.
Let's enter !
After having cast a glance on the ground to the left of the door of the enclosure on a colossus, pathetically broken (), one discovers the remains of a large "alabaster" stela of Ramesses II on which his marriage to a Hittite princess is reported (, , ).
One first of all passes a pylon. In the thickness of the door is a representation of the god Bes ().
One then enters into a first court (, , ) centred also by a colonnade of the Kushite period, of which all faces were preceded with statues of Sekhmet (, , ).
The second court is in line with the first, with a doorway currently reduced to nearly nothing. This second court, smaller than the first, contained around its periphery columns of square section. Behind these, against the wall, are again numerous Sekhmets and before them (smaller than before) sat the statues of Pharaohs (, , , , ).
One of the Sekhmet statues carries on her head a kind of round mortar made up of uraei side by side (, ). One notices the variation of the headgear of the goddess from one statue to another.
This very particular statue also carries a Pharaoh's cartouches that I identify as Sheshonq I (Meryimen) / Hedjkhepere-Setepenre (, , , ) It thus dates to (or wrongfully to) the XXIInd so-called Libyan Dynasty, and more precisely from years 945-924 BC.
Other copies of the goddess are still in good condition, with sometimes the sema-tawy represented on the archaic low cuboid seat (, ), or another wearing by the solar disk (, ). They embody the triple aspect of Mut – Sekhmet – Eye of Re, which the goddess could take.
One then enters (to enter is a very big word, because there nearly nothing standing any more) in the most intimate parts of the temple. One discovers the remains of a stela whose arch portrayed the figures of the Theban triad Amon, Mut and Khonsu (, ). Also, one can admire what remains of a group of baboons in worship before the rising sun ().
The periphery of the external wall of the sanctuary, is again lined with statues of Sekhmet (, , , , ).
One arrives thus at the sacred lake (Isheru) in the shape of a horse-shoe which surrounds the temple on three sides (, ). As an historical footnote, it contained fish and some fished there…
On the other side of the lake, towards the west, one finds the remains of the temple of Ramesses III (, , ). Very much destroyed, there one finds mention of the king's campaigns in the Near-east. In front of it are two headless colossi.
On turning around, the levelled walls allow us to see, one behind the other, the second and first courts, as well as of the varied column bases (, , ).
Now let's go into the zone of the temple of Amenophis III, which of what remains of the pylon indicates the entrance (). This temple is placed in the northeast corner of the walled enclosure, and it was dedicated to Amon-Re. It is very poorly studied to date.
Some cryosphinxes are a reminder of the god Amon for whom the building was intended (, )
Straight away, the eye is attracted to two Osirian colossi. The first, in pitiable state, is half buried (). The second is interesting (). As one approaches it () one can decipher the cartouches (). One immediately notices that the inscription has been overwritten.
As to the origin, the Pharaoh was Djehutymes / Menkheperure, therefore Thutmosis IV (1386-1349 BC). In the over-inscription of the top of the cartouche () one recognises a picture of Ma'at and Re, which seems to indicate Nebmaatre / Amenhotep III, but the layout isn't correct, and the second cartouche () remains a mystery.
One can however be sure that this building dates, contrary to what is advanced, from before Amenhotep III.
It was also either enlarged or restored by Nectanebo I (380–362 BC) since his cartouches appear on a rest of architrave: Nakhtnebef / Kheperkare ().
On the other hand I don't know who are half buried on these two photos (, ).
Once past the pylon, one sees the following areas levelled.
After a colonnaded court, one sees the remains of the hypostyle hall () with its bases with fluted shafts and one approaches base pieces, the Holy of holies (, , ).
One finds various representations on the ground, sometimes with colourful reliefs (, ), of groups of gods (, , ), a rather rare effigy of Anubis (), another of Mut in her form of vulture (), etc…
A famous scene: the one of a circumcision ().
The last area at the bottom and on the left (), although of small size, includes again two very visible columns ().
Good, the guards lose patience… A good tip and everybody is happy.
It only remains to leave the temple and to head by the avenue of Mut toward the Xth pylon of Karnak ().