In Egypt in the New Kingdom impressive rock temples were hewed from cliffsides, the finest being the great temple of Abu-Simbel constructed by Ramses II. In the developed structural temples of Egypt a doorway, flanked by monumental towers or pylons, led to an unroofed open court, generally surrounded on three sides by a colonnaded passage. Beyond the court lay the majestic hypostyle hall and a variety of chambers preceding and surrounding the holy of holies. From the temple entrance to this innermost sanctuary the various units diminished progressively in size and height, while the direct outside light was also reduced. The typical temple later accumulated additional pylons, courts, and rooms, the entire group being enclosed by a massive wall. Only monarchs and priests had access to the chambers beyond the hypostyle hall. The New Kingdom was the most active period of temple construction, although the grandest temple, that of Amon at Al Karnak, was begun much earlier.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.