Tombs and TemplesWhat are some major architectural structuresof Ancient Egypt? There are many amazing sites of architecture in Egypt fromancient times. Many have been discovered, but there are still ones being discoveredand excavated today. Pyramids, tombs, and temples are the main structuresstill standing that can be seen today.The first tombs of the pharaohs werelarge, unimpressive, bunker affairs called mastabas. A mastaba (Arabic for”bench”) is a low rectangular structure which was built over a shaft whichdescended to the burial location. They were made from sun dried mud bricksand most have long since crumbled to dust. This all changed around 2630 BCwith the creation of the step pyramid.The Step Pyramid was designed for KingDjoser ,of the 3rd dynasty, by his vizier, Imhotep.
The pyramid is locatedin Saqqara, the main necropolis of Memphis. The Saqqara pyramid has a seriesof six levels of stone decreasing in size as they ascend to about 200 feet/60meters in height. The Step Pyramid originally began as a mastaba, and it hasbeen visualized as a series of mastaba shapes, decreasing in size, stackedone on top of another. The surface was originally encased in smooth white limestonewhich must have caught the sun light and reflected its rays.
It has the distinctionof being the site of the first large stone structure built in the world. Theplace where humans began to strive for the impossible, where the imaginationgained the power to transform reality.Some of the loveliest works of artever seen can be found at Saqqara, in the tombs of the nobles. The limestonewalls are delicately incised with myriads of animals, fish, birds, insects,vegetation and people – hunting, herding and farming. Some of the forms stillretain their original paint, after 4,500 years! The quality of these compositionsdemonstrates that the Egyptians had attained, at an early stage, an artisticculture of a very high order. Cattle Crossing is an etching made from sketchesdone at Saqqara. The medium of etching, itself a process of erosion, seemswell suited to capturing the time worn quality of the relief carving.Theperson responsible for the step pyramid, Imhotep, is credited as being theinventor of building in stone and was a man of many talents – Architect, physician,master sculpture, scribe, and astronomer.
He must be the first true geniusin recorded history and the impression he had on the Egyptians was profoundbecause later generations revered him as a god of wisdom.The age of thefirst ancient wonders of the world began with the pyramids of Northern Sneferu.This Pharaoh built three pyramids and may have had a hand in others.
His pyramidat Medium began as a step pyramid and was then modified to form the first truepyramid. It standardized the shape of all pyramids to come. Its four sidesare equilateral triangles which meet at a point.
He built another pyramidsat Dahshur. It was called the Bent Pyramid because its upper part has a shallowerangle of inclination than the lower part. The slope of its sides probablywas adjusted due to the development of cracks in the base during the construction.When Khufu, also known as Cheops, became pharaoh one of his first actswas to curtail the growing power of the priesthood. He shut up all the templesand forbade sacrifices.
As a priests living came from performing these ritualsit is not surprising that Khufu was unpopular with the religious orders.Some believe that his pyramid at Giza was built by slaves but this is nottrue. One hundred thousand people worked on it for three months of each year.This was the time of the Niles annual flood which made it impossible to farmthe land and most of the population was unemployed. He provided good food andclothing for his workers and was kindly remembered in folk tails for many centuries.There are three pyramids at Giza, each of which once had an adjoining mortuarytemple. Attached to this temple would have been a covered causeway descendingdown to a valley temple, near the Nile. The “Great pyramid”6 itself is trulyan astonishing work of engineering skill.
For over four thousands years, untilthe modern era, it was the tallest building in the world. The sides are orientedto the for cardinal points of the compass and the length of each side at thebase is 755 feet (230.4 m).
They rise at an angle of 51 52′ to a height , originally,of 481 feet (147 m) but nowadays 451 feet (138 m). It was constructed usingaround 2,300,000 limestone blocks, weighing, on average, 2.5 tons each. Althoughsome weigh as mush as 16 tons. Until recently, relatively speaking, it wascased in smooth limestone but this was plundered to build Cairo.Is itconceivable that by bringing together so many people and giving them a commongoal, that of making a mountain, a national identity is forged in their hearts.From Upper and Lower Egypt communities would have got to know each other anda common bond would have been manifest in the object of the pyramid. If thisis true it is unique because all other forms of nationalism have grown outof war.
For example England and France in the Hundred years war and the USAthrough the revolutionary, civil and Indian wars.The Temple of Karnak wasknown as Ipet-isut (Most select of places) by the ancient Egyptians. It isa city of temples built over 2000 years ago and dedicated to the Theben triadof Amon, Mut and Khonsu. This abandoned place is still capable of overshadowingmany of the wonders of the modern world and in its day must have been awe inspiring.For the largely uneducated ancient Egyptian population this could only havebeen the place of the gods.
It is the mother of all religious buildings,the largest ever made and a place of pilgrimage for nearly 4,000 years. Althoughtodays pilgrims are mainly tourists. It covers about 200 acres,(1.5 km by0.8 km). The area of the sacred enclosure of Amon alone is 61 acres and wouldhold ten average European cathedrals. The great temple at the heart of Karnakis so big that St.
Peter’s Cathedral, Milan Cathedral , and Notre Dame Cathedralcould be lost within its walls. The Hypostle hall at 54,000 square feet withits134 columns is still the largest room of any religious building in the world.In addition to the sanctuary there are several smaller temples and a vastsacred lake.The Temple of Dendara, in Karnak, was known as the Castle ofthe Sistrum or Pr Hathor, House of Hathor. Hathor was the goddess of love,joy and beauty. With the exception of its supporting pillars, which had capitalssculpted in the image of Hathor and were defaced by the Christians, the walls,rooms and roof are complete and extraordinarily well preserved.
The stone stepsof the spiral staircase are time worn but still used to ascend to the roof,where there is a small chapel decorated with Hathor-headed columns. The Christiansseemed to have missed these.Dendara was also used as a healing centreand in the grounds stands an ancient hospital along with a sacred lake. Aftervisiting Dendara one gets a feel for the layout of other temples along theNile and in the minds eye it is possible to reconstruct the really huge designof buildings like Karnak. What really grabbed my artistic attention among allthis magnificence was a small detail. The place sings with the music of birds.Hundreds of them roost in small cracks and hollows in the walls seeming tocontemplate their carved likeness in the hieroglyphic reliefs. There is oneother thing that stirs the imagination, the building bares the name of thefamous Cleopatra and her son, whose father was Julius Caesar.
It is possiblethat these celebrate personalities climbed the same stairs and contemplated,on high, the same landscape which stretches for miles below.In Summation,some of the most precious examples of architecture from the ancient world areof the ancient Egyptians. Although the ancient Egyptians lived in a primitiveworld, they proved to have great knowledge for building lasting structuresthat would forever have a unique and majestic influence on the world.