Publication of Michel Azim’s Excavations in the courtyard of the Xth pylon (2015-2016)


HEADS OF MISSION: G. Charloux (USR 3172-CFEETK), R. Angevin (French Ministry of Culture)

COLLABORATORSH. Monchot (Paris IV), Th. Faucher (UMR 5060), K. Guadagnini (MAEDI), R. David (LabEx Archimede)



This project aims at publishing the final report on the archaeological excavations led 40 years ago by the late Michel Azim in the courtyard of the Xth pylon.
Deceased in 2013, Michel Azim has indeed left an important data collection (600 photographs and 19 folders) on this 1975-1977 excavation at the Maison de l’Orient in Lyon (France). The record of the excavations of the Xth pylon courtyard is now placed under the supervision of G. Charloux and R. Angevin for publication purpose, in agreement with the fund managers. This study will also help us to complete the documentation database of the French-Egyptian Centre at Karnak.

Besides this work of documentation, the project required the opening of a small sounding at the northern side of the excavation trench in the Xth pylon courtyard at a strategic location with no bench and requiring no removal of modern structure. The goal of this sounding was twofold: collecting items for dating (ceramic and C14 samples) and clarifying the stratigraphy established by the excavator in 1977.






The excavation of the courtyard of the Xth pylon
In the mid-1970s, the search initiated by Michel Azim in the eastern part of the courtyard of the Xth pylon was one of the first large scale archaeological explorations undertaken in the north-south processional alley since the work of Georges Legrain. Despite its importance, however, this operation remains largely unpublished.
As Michel Azim perfectly understood, the courtyard of the Xth pylon is a particularly suitable location to answer some key questions relating to the history of the temples of Karnak:

1. Firstly, the sequence of construction and function of buildings
Prior to the work of Michel Azim, the history of monuments standing in the courtyard of the Xth pylon had been considered under different prisms and many hypotheses have been advanced to trace their evolution. Many grey areas still remain, particularly relating to the development of the temple entrance during the New Kingdom, the strict contemporaneity of Horemheb wall and of the 10th pylon, the activities of Amenhotep II and Amenhotep III, the constructions under Seti I.


2. Second, the pattern and rate of the extension of Amun-Ra temple
The understanding of the development of the southern part of the domain of Amun has become one of the main approaches for identifying changes in the religious complex of Karnak, in the urban context of Thebes. A new circulation path seems indeed to appear at stratum II of the Second Intermediate Period, which could correspond to the early establishment of an axis going towards Mut Temple and to Luxor. Michel Azim had observed continuity in the frame and orientation of several excavated buildings between the Second Intermediate Period and the New Kingdom. It is therefore important to review in detail the question of existence of an original path in the 10th pylon courtyard before the reign of Horemheb. A special attention must also be drawn on the Byzantine period facilities revealed by the excavations which are virtually unknown at Karnak.

3. Finally, the occupations before the eighteenth dynasty
The First Intermediate Period, Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period occupations in the southern sector of the temples of Karnak remain, as elsewhere in Karnak, largely unknown. The publication of the excavations in the courtyard of the 10th pylon will give therefore an important insight on these periods.


The 1975-1977 excavation of the court
The main excavation located in the southeast of the Xth pylon courtyard was carried out from November 23 1975 to April 1 1976. A second campaign in the courtyard mainly concentrated on the pylon foundations and on the ramp of the so-called “Amenhotep II” edifice.
Among the major results of the excavations is the establishment of an archaeological sequence of the main events that took place in the courtyard:
Stratum I: a few scattered remains of a Middle Kingdom occupation, whose organization is unknown.
Stratum II: a large building with crafts installations dating back to the SIP-eighteenth dynasty.
Stratum III:
IIIa: civil constructions of the 18th dynasty and
IIIb: Amenhotep III architectural program / Horemheb
Stratum IV:
IVa: Completion of the court under Seti I
IVb: Construction of a monumental building outside the court, dating back to the 21st dynasty
IVc: Occupations of the 25th dynasty and the Ptolemaic era, with many pits.
Stratum V: Implementation of civilian Byzantine facilities along the central axis of the court.
All these conclusions established by Michel Azim must be re-evaluated.


The proposed project of publication will draw on the expertise of several specialists in various disciplines (archaeozoology: Hervé Monchot [Paris IV]; flint tools: Raphaël Angevin [French Ministry of Culture]; coins: Thomas Faucher [CNRS], etc.).
- The first phase aims at organizing the records of Michel Azim, comparing them with other data sources, especially those kept in CFEETK and at synthetizing all historiographical, topographical, archaeological observations coming from previous studies on the courtyard of the Xth pylon.
- The second phase is a detailed research for understanding the structures and the stratigraphy in detail, locating the plans and sections and vectorizing the ancient documents.
- In parallel with this work, an archaeological sounding was opened in the north of Michel Azim’s area, in order to date the main identified strata both by the analysis of ceramics and by the use of archaeometric methods (especially C14 analyzes). This work is linked with an archaeological training of four MAE Inspectors in the framework of a MAE-IFAO programme.
- The last phase aims at delivering a concise and collective publishing work in the IFAO-CFEETK collection.


View of the recent sounding in the courtyard of the Xth pylon.


M. AZIM, “Karnak (Fouilles du Centre Franco-Égyptien d’Étude des Temples de Karnak 1974-75)”, BCE 1, 1975, p. 7.
M. AZIM, “Karnak. Cour du Xe pylône (Fouilles du Centre Franco-Égyptien, 1975-1976)”, BCE 2, 1977, p. 7-8.
M. AZIM, “La fouille de la cour du Xe pylône, rapport préliminaire”, Karnak 6, 1980, p. 153-165.
M. AZIM, “La structure des pylônes d’Horemheb à Karnak”, Karnak 7, 1982, p. 127-166.
J. LAUFFRAY, “Les travaux du Centre Franco-Égyptien d’Étude des Temples de Karnak, de 1972 à 1977”, Karnak 6, 1980, p. 1-65.

Dernière mise à jour : 22-06-2018

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