Egyptian Architecture

Topics: Ancient Egypt, Egypt, Egyptians Pages: 26 (9078 words) Published: February 26, 2013
Ancient Egyptian Architecture

The Nile valley has been the site of one of the most influential civilizations which developed a vast array of diverse structures encompassing ancient Egyptian architecture. The architectural monuments, which include the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Great Sphinx of Giza, are among the largest and most famous.

In Ancient Egypt and other early societies, people believed in the omnipotence of Gods, with many aspects of daily life were carried out with respect to the idea of the divine or supernatural and the way it was manifest in the mortal cycles of generations, years, seasons, days and nights. Harvests for example were seen as the benevolence of fertility deities. Thus, the founding and ordering of the city and her most important buildings (the palace or temple) were often executed by priests or even the ruler himself and the construction was accompanied by rituals intended to enter human activity into continued divine benediction. Ancient architecture is characterized by this tension between the divine and mortal world. Cities would mark a contained sacred space over the wilderness of nature outside, and the temple or palace continued this order by acting as a house for the Gods. The architect, be he priest or king, was not the sole important figure; he was merely part of a continuing tradition.

1. Influences: 

a. Geographical Location
Egypt, the land of the Pharaohs, of which the ancient name was Kemi, or the black land, consists of a narrow strip of fertile, alluvial soil along both banks of the Nile bordered by the sandy desert. It was the only country of the ancient world which, by means of the Red Sea, commanded outlets and inlets for foreign trade by both the Mediterranean and Arabian Seas. The Nile itself was of untold value, not only as a trade route and a means of communication, but also chiefly because its overflowing and fertilizing waters made desert sands into fruitful fields, and it may truly be described as the rich life-blood which runs in the veins of Egypt. On its banks therefore, from time immemorial, the Egyptians founded their cities, both for the living and the dead, and here are the royal pyramids and the priestly temples.

b. Geology & Building Materials
The natural products, such as timber, brick, clay, and stone, largely determine the character of the architecture of a country. Stone, including limestone, sandstone, and alabaster, as well as the harder syenite (red granite from Aswan), basalt and porphyry, was the material chiefly employed, not only for constructive and decorative architectural work, but also for vases, and even for personal ornaments, as the country was poor in metals. Foremost Among the productions of Egyptian quarries was the famous limestone of the Mokattam Hills in the north ; then came the sandstone in the central districts, and the red granite or syenite of Aswan in the south, and it is partly owing to the hard and durable nature of these materials that so many monuments still exist. The gigantic scale which distinguishes Egyptian architecture was made possible not only by the materials, but also by the methods employed in the quarrying of enormous blocks of stone, and in transporting and raising them into position. Recent excavations have revealed the use of sun-dried and kiln-burnt bricks for dwelling-houses and royal palaces. There was little building timber, but acacia served for boats and sycamore for mummy cases; while the indigenous date palm, whose fruit is the staple food of the people, was sometimes used in roofing. The quarrying of gigantic stones may have been accomplished by inserting timber wedges which, when swollen by water, split the rock into sizes suitable for the mason.

c. Climate
Egypt has been said to have but two seasons, spring and summer. The climate is equable and warm; snow and frost are unknown, while storm, fog, and even rain are rare, and these conditions have contributed to the...
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