Ancient Egyptian architecture

Spanning over two thousand years in total, what is called ancient Egypt was not one stable civilization, but instead a civilization in constant change and upheaval commonly split into periods by historians. Likewise, ancient Egyptian architecture is not one style, but a set of styles with commonalities used during each period of ancient Egyptian history.

The most well known example of ancient Egyptian architecture are the Egyptian pyramids; yet, excavated temples, palaces, tombs and fortresses have all been studied by architects. Due to location, most ancient Egyptian buildings were built of mud brick and limestone—readily available materials—by slaves. Monumental buildings were built via the post and lintel method of construction, and many buildings were aligned astronomically. Columns were typically adorned with decorated capitals which were made to resemble plants important to Egyptian civilization, such as the papyrus plant.

Ancient Egyptian architectural motifs have influenced present-day architecture, reaching the wider world first during the Orientalizing period and again during the nineteenth century Egyptomania.

The well preserved Temple of Horus at Edfu is an example of Egyptian architecture and architectural sculpture.


Due to the scarcity of wood,[1] the two predominant building materials used in ancient Egypt were sun-baked mud brick and stone, mainly limestone, but also sandstone and granite in considerable quantities.[2] From the Old Kingdom onward, stone was generally reserved for tombs and temples, while bricks were used even for royal palaces, fortresses, the walls of temple precincts and towns, and for subsidiary buildings in temple complexes. The core of the pyramids consisted of locally quarried stone, mudbricks, sand or gravel. For the casing stones were used that had to be transported from farther away, predominantly white limestone from Tura and red granite from upper Egypt.

Lepsius-Projekt tw 1-2-108
Drawings of the types of the architectural capitals specific for the Ancient Egyptian civilization, drawn between 1849 and 1859 by the egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius

Ancient Egyptian houses were made out of mud collected from the damp banks of the Nile river. It was placed in moulds and left to dry in the hot sun to harden for use in construction. If the bricks were intended to be used in a royal tomb like a pyramid, the exterior bricks would also be finely chiselled and polished.

Many Egyptian towns have disappeared because they were situated near the cultivated area of the Nile Valley and were flooded as the river bed slowly rose during the millennia, or the mud bricks of which they were built were used by peasants as fertilizer. Others are inaccessible, new buildings having been erected on ancient ones. However, the dry, hot climate of Egypt preserved some mud brick structures. Examples include the village Deir al-Madinah, the Middle Kingdom town at Kahun,[3] and the fortresses at Buhen[4] and Mirgissa. Also, many temples and tombs have survived because they were built on high ground unaffected by the Nile flood and were constructed of stone.

Thus, our understanding of ancient Egyptian architecture is based mainly on religious monuments,[5] massive structures characterized by thick, sloping walls with few openings, possibly echoing a method of construction used to obtain stability in mud walls. In a similar manner, the incised and flatly modeled surface adornment of the stone buildings may have derived from mud wall ornamentation. Although the use of the arch was developed during the fourth dynasty, all monumental buildings are post and lintel constructions, with flat roofs constructed of huge stone blocks supported by the external walls and the closely spaced columns.

Exterior and interior walls, as well as the columns and piers, were covered with hieroglyphic and pictorial frescoes and carvings painted in brilliant colors.[6] Many motifs of Egyptian ornamentation are symbolic, such as the scarab, or sacred beetle, the solar disk, and the vulture. Other common motifs include palm leaves, the papyrus plant, and the buds and flowers of the lotus.[7] Hieroglyphs were inscribed for decorative purposes as well as to record historic events or spells. In addition, these pictorial frescoes and carvings allow us to understand how the Ancient Egyptians lived, statuses, wars that were fought and their beliefs. This was especially true when exploring the tombs of Ancient Egyptian officials in recent years.

Ancient Egyptian temples were aligned with astronomically significant events, such as solstices and equinoxes, requiring precise measurements at the moment of the particular event. Measurements at the most significant temples may have been ceremonially undertaken by the Pharaoh himself.[8]


In Ancient Egyptian architecture as early as 2600 BC the architect Imhotep made use of stone columns whose surface was carved to reflect the organic form of bundled reeds, like papyrus, lotus and palm; in later Egyptian architecture faceted cylinders were also common. Their form is thought to derive from archaic reed-built shrines. Carved from stone, the columns were highly decorated with carved and painted hieroglyphs, texts, ritual imagery and natural motifs. Egyptian columns are famously present in the Great Hypostyle Hall of Karnak (circa 1224 BC), where 134 columns are lined up in 16 rows, with some columns reaching heights of 24 metres.

One of the most important type are the papyriform columns. The origin of these columns goes back to the 5th Dynasty. They are composed of lotus (papyrus) stems which are drawn together into a bundle decorated with bands: the capital, instead of opening out into the shape of a bellflower, swells out and then narrows again like a flower in bud. The base, which tapers to take the shape of a half-sphere like the stem of the lotus, has a continuously recurring decoration of stipules.

The grammar of ornament (1868) (14587326250)

Illustration of papyriform capitals, in The Grammar of Ornament

Composite Papyrus Capital MET 10.177.2 EGDP018080

Composite papyrus capital; 380-343 BC; painted sandstone; hight: 126 cm (49​58 in.); Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)

Mammisi Philae2

Columns with Hathoric capitals, at the Temple of Isis from island Philae

Aegypt1987-056 hg

Papyriform columns in the Luxor Temple

Giza pyramid complex

The Giza Necropolis stands on the Giza Plateau, on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. This complex of ancient monuments is located some 8 kilometers (5 mi) inland into the desert from the old town of Giza on the Nile, some 20 kilometers (12 mi) southwest of Cairo city center. This Ancient Egyptian necropolis consists of the Pyramid of Khufu (also known as the Great Pyramid and the Pyramid of Cheops), the somewhat smaller Pyramid of Khafre (or Kephren/Chefren), and the relatively modest-sized Pyramid of Menkaure (or Mykerinus/Mycerinus), along with a number of smaller satellite edifices, known as "queens" pyramids, the Great Sphinx as well as a few hundred mastabas, and chapels.[9]

All Gizah Pyramids
The Pyramids of Giza

The pyramids, which were built in the Fourth Dynasty, testify to the power of the pharaonic religion and state. They were built to serve both as grave sites and also as a way to make their names last forever.[10] The size and simple design show the high skill level of Egyptian design and engineering on a large scale.[10] The Great Pyramid of Giza, which was probably completed c. 2580 BC, is the oldest of the Giza pyramids and the largest pyramid in the world, and is the only surviving monument of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.[11] The pyramid of Khafre is believed to have been completed around 2532 BC, at the end of Khafre's reign.[12] Khafre ambitiously placed his pyramid next to his fathers. It is not as tall as his father's pyramid but he was able to give it the impression of appearing taller by building it on a site with a foundation 33 feet (10 m) higher than his father's.[13] Along with building his pyramid, Chefren commissioned the building of the giant Sphinx as guardian over his tomb. The face of a human, possibly a depiction of the pharaoh, on a lion's body was seen as a symbol of divinity among the Greeks fifteen hundred years later.[10] The Great Sphinx is carved out of the limestone bedrock and stands about 65 feet (20 m) tall.[10] Menkaure's pyramid dates to circa 2490 BC and stands 213 feet (65 m) high making it the smallest of the Great Pyramids.[14]

Popular culture leads people to believe that Pyramids are highly confusing, with many tunnels within the pyramid to create confusion for grave robbers. This is not true. The shafts of pyramids are quite simple, mostly leading directly to the tomb. The immense size of the pyramids attracted robbers to the wealth that lay inside which caused the tombs to be robbed relatively soon after the tomb was sealed in some cases.[10] There are sometimes additional tunnels, but these were used for the builders to understand how far they could dig the tomb into the crust of the Earth. Also, it is popularly thought that due to grave robbers, future Kings were buried in the Valley of the Kings to help keep them hidden. This is also false, as the Pyramid construction continued for many Dynasties, just on a smaller scale. Finally, the pyramid construction was stopped due to economic factors, not theft.

Evidence suggests that they were built by paid laborers and craftsmen that were well cared for and not by slaves.

Hypostyle hall, Karnak temple
The hypostyle hall of Karnak Temple. Pictured here is the largest of the precincts of the temple complex, and is dedicated to Amun-Re. The material of these columns is sandstone.

New Kingdom Temples

Luxor Temple

The Luxor Temple is a huge ancient Egyptian temple complex located on the east bank of the River Nile in the city today known as Luxor (ancient Thebes). Construction work on the temple began during the reign of Amenhotep III in the 14th century BC. Horemheb and Tutankhamun added columns, statues, and friezes – and Akhenaten had earlier obliterated his father's cartouches and installed a shrine to the Aten – but the only major expansion effort took place under Ramesses II some 100 years after the first stones were put in place. Luxor is thus unique among the main Egyptian temple complexes in having only two pharaohs leave their mark on its architectural structure.

Luxor Temple, from the east bank of the Nile

The temple proper begins with the 24 m (79 ft) high First Pylon, built by Ramesses II. The pylon was decorated with scenes of Ramesses's military triumphs (particularly the Battle of Qadesh); later pharaohs, particularly those of the Nubian and Ethiopian dynasties, also recorded their victories there. This main entrance to the temple complex was originally flanked by six colossal statues of Ramesses – four seated, and two standing – but only two (both seated) have survived. Modern visitors can also see a 25 m (82 ft) tall pink granite obelisk: this one of a matching pair until 1835, when the other one was taken to Paris where it now stands in the centre of the Place de la Concorde.

Through the pylon gateway leads into a peristyle courtyard, also built by Ramesses II. This area, and the pylon, were built at an oblique angle to the rest of the temple, presumably to accommodate the three pre-existing barque shrines located in the northwest corner. After the peristyle courtyard comes the processional colonnade built by Amenhotep III – a 100 m (330 ft) corridor lined by 14 papyrus-capital columns. Friezes on the wall describe the stages in the Opet Festival, from sacrifices at Karnak at the top left, through Amun's arrival at Luxor at the end of that wall, and concluding with his return on the opposite side. The decorations were put in place by Tutankhamun: the boy pharaoh is depicted, but his names have been replaced with those of Horemheb.

Beyond the colonnade is a peristyle courtyard, which also dates back to Amenhotep's original construction. The best preserved columns are on the eastern side, where some traces of original color can be seen. The southern side of this courtyard is made up of a 36-column hypostyle court (i.e., a roofed space supported by columns) that leads into the dark inner rooms of the temple.

Temple of Karnak

A recreation of the temple complex at Karnak visiting center.

The temple complex of Karnak is located on the banks of the Nile River some 2.5 kilometers (1.5 mi) north of Luxor. It consists of four main parts, Precinct of Amon-Re, the Precinct of Montu, the Precinct of Mut and the Temple of Amenhotep IV (dismantled), as well as a few smaller temples and sanctuaries located outside the enclosing walls of the four main parts, and several avenues of ram-headed sphinxes connecting the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Amon-Re and Luxor Temple. This temple complex is particularly significant, for many rulers have added to it. However, notably every ruler of the New Kingdom added to it. The site covers over 200 acres and consists of a series of pylons, leading into courtyards, halls, chapels, obelisks, and smaller temples. The key difference between Karnak and most of the other temples and sites in Egypt is the length of time over which it was developed and used. Construction work began in the 16th century BC, and was originally quite modest in size. But eventually, in the main precinct alone, as many as twenty temples and chapels would be constructed.[15] Approximately 30 pharaohs contributed to the buildings, enabling it to reach a size, complexity and diversity not seen elsewhere. Few of the individual features of Karnak are unique, but the size and number of those features is overwhelming.

Luxor Karnak-Tempel 2016-03-21 Große Säulenhalle 04
Example of the inscriptions present throughout the complex. As visible from this image, the upper regions are painted, suggesting (in cannon with other such temples) that the remain columns and ceilings would have been brightly painted. The temple roof representing the heavens[16] would often display images of stars and birds, whereas the columns often boast images of palm plants, lotus and people.

One of the greatest temples in Egyptian history is that of Amun-Ra at Karnak. As with many other temples in Egypt, this one details the feats of the past (including thousands of years of history detailed via inscriptions on many of the walls and columns found on site, often modified or completely erased and redone by following rulers), and honors the gods. The temple of Amun-Re was constructed in three sections, the third being constructed by the later New Kingdom pharaohs. In cannon with the traditional style of Egyptian architecture, many of the architectural features, such as the inner sanctum of the complex, were aligned with the sunset of the summer solstice.

One of the architectural features present at the site is the 5,000 sq m (50,000 sq ft) hypostyle hall built during the Ramesside period. The hall is supported by approximately 139 sandstone and mud brick columns, with 12 central columns (~69 feet tall) that would have all been brightly painted.

Temple Ramesseum

The design of Ramesses's mortuary temple adheres to the standard style of New Kingdom temple architecture. Oriented northwest and southeast, the temple entrance consists of a number of stone figures, one located horizontally to the next. In the center area of the complex was a covered 48-column hypostyle hall, surrounding the inner sanctuary.

Ramses II, a 19th Dynasty pharaoh ruled Egypt from around 1279 to 1213 BCE. Among Ramses II many accomplishments, such as the expanding of the Egyptian borders, he constructed a massive temple called the Ramesseum. The temple is located near the city of Thebes, which at the time was the capital for the New kingdom pharaoh. The Ramesseum was a magnificent temple, completed with monument status to guard its entrance; the most impressive of which was a 62 foot tall statue of Ramses himself.[17] Only fragments of this structure remain, particularly its base and torso are all that remain of the this impressive statue of the enthroned pharaoh, and thus the dimensions and weight (approximately 1000 pounds) are based on estimates. The temple was also accompanied with impressive reliefs many of which detail a number of Rames' military victories, such as the Battle of Kadesh (ca. 1274 BC) and the pillaging of the city "Shalem".

Temple of Malkata

Under the tenure of Amenhotep III workers constructed over 250 buildings and monuments. One of the most impressive building projects was the temple complex of Malkata, known among the ancient Egyptians as the “house of rejoicing”, was constructed to serve his royal residence on the west bank of Thebes, just south of the Theban necropolis. The site is approximately 226,000 square meters (or 2,432,643 square feet).[18] Given the immense size of the site, along with its many buildings, courts, parade grounds, and housing, it is considered to have served not just as a temple and dwelling of the Pharaoh but a town.

The central area of the complex consisted in the Pharaoh's apartments that were made up of a number of rooms and courts, all of which were oriented around a columned banquet hall. Accompanying the apartments, that presumably housed the royal cohort and foreign guests, was a large throne room connected to smaller chambers, for storage, waiting, and smaller audiences. The greater elements of this area of the complex are what have been come to be called the West Villas (just west of the King's Palace), the North Palace and Village, and Temple.

Reconstruction of Wall Decoration from the Temple of Amun at Malqata MET 17.10.1a
The faience (glazed ceramic earthenware) tile (above) is a reconstruction of wall decoration fragments found at the Temple of Malkata in stacks at the southwest corner.[19] The gold spirals here were painted with gold paint, whereas the originals would have probably been covered by gold foil. Notably, similar patterns are found in the Pharaoh's Palace.[19]

The temple's external dimensions are approximately 183.5 by 110.5 m, and consists of two parts: the large forecourt and the temple proper.[18] The large front court is 131.5 by 105.5 m, oriented on the east-west axis, and occupies the east part of the temple complex.[18] The western part of the court is on a higher level and is divided from the rest of the court by a low retaining wall. The lower court is almost square, whereas the upper terrace was rectangular in shape. The upper section of the court was paved with mud bricks and has a 4 m wide entrance to it from the lower part of the fore-court, connecting the base to the upper landing was a ramp enclosed by walls.[18] This ramp and entrance were both at the center of the temple, with the same orientation as the front court entrance and the temple proper.

The temple proper might be seen as divided in to three distinct parts: central, north, and south. The central part is indicated by a small rectangular anteroom (6.5 by 3.5 m), many of the door jambs including those of the antechamber include inscriptions, such as 'given life like Ra forever'.[18] A 12.5 by 14.5 m hall follows the anteroom from which is entered via a 3.5 m wide door in the center of the front wall of the hall. There is evidence the ceiling of this chamber was decorated with yellow stars on blue background, whereas the walls today show only the appearance of a white stucco over mud plaster.[18] Notwithstanding, we might speculate given the numerous decorative plaster fragments found within the room's deposit that these too were ornately decorated with various images and patterns. Supporting the ceiling are six columns arranged in two rows with east-west axis. Only small fragments of the column bases have survived, though they suggest the diameter of these columns to have been about 2.25 m.[18] The columns are placed 2.5 m away from the walls and in each row the columns are approximately 1.4 m away from the next, while the space between the two rows is 3 m.[18] A second hall (12.5 by 10 m[18]) is accessed by a 3 m door at the center of the back wall of the first. The second hall is similar to the first, first its ceiling seems to have been decorated with similar if not identical patterns and images as the first. Second, in the same way the ceiling is supported by columns, four to be precise, ordered in two rows on the same axis as those of the first hall, with a 3 m wide space between them. In hall two, at-least one of the rooms appears to have been dedicated to the cult of Maat, which suggests the other three in this area might have likewise served such a religious purpose.[18]

The southern part of the temple may be divided into two sections: western and southern. The western section consists of 6 rooms, whereas the southern area given its size (19.5 by 17.2 m) suggests it might have served as another open court. In many of these rooms were found blue ceramic tiles inlaid with gold around their edge.[18] The Northern part of the temple proper consists of ten rooms, similar in style to those of the southern.

The temple itself seems to have been dedicated to the Egyptian deity Amun, given the number of bricks stamped with various inscriptions, such as "the temple of Amun in the house of Rejoicing" or "Nebmaarta in the Temple of Amun in the house of Rejoicing". Overall the temple of Malakata shares many with other cult temples of the New Kingdom, with magnificent halls and religiously oriented rooms with many others more closely resemble store rooms.[20]

Ancient Egyptian Fortresses

Fortifications within Ancient Egypt were built in times of conflict between rival principalities.[21] Out of all fortresses analyzed within this time frame, most (if not all) were built of the same materials. The only exception to the rule were some fortresses from the Old Kingdom as fortresses such as the fort of Buhen utilized stone with the creation of its walls. The main walls were mainly built with mud brick but were reinforced with other materials such as timber. Rocks were also utilized to not only preserve them from erosion as well as paving.[21] Secondary walls would be built outside of fortresses main walls and were relatively close to one another. As a result, this would prove to be a challenge to invaders were as they forced to destroy this fortification before they could reach the main walls of the fort.[22] Another strategy was utilized if the enemy managed to break through the first barrier. Upon making it to the main wall, a ditch would be constructed that would be positioned between the secondary and first walls. The purpose of this was to place the enemy in a position that would leave them exposed to the enemy, making the invaders susceptible to arrow fire.[22] The position of this ditch Walls within the interior of fortresses would become demilitarized during times of unity; leading to them being demolished. The parts that were used to construct said walls could then be reused, making the overall design extremely beneficial.

Fortresses within Ancient Egypt held multiple functions. During the Middle Kingdom Period, the Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt would establish means of control throughout the Nubian Riverside by creating fortified stations. The location of Egyptian fortresses were not exclusive to just the riverside. Sites within both Egypt and Nubia would be placed on terrain that was either rocky or sandy.[22] The purpose behind this method was to spread its influence throughout the region as well as discourage rival groups from raiding the sites.[21] Inspections of these forts in Nubia have led to the discovery of copper smelting materials which suggest a relationship between miners in the region [21] The occupation of these Nubian forts suggests a trade relationship between the two parties. Miners would collect the materials and would transfer them to these forts in exchange for food and water. Up until the Thirteenth dynasty, Egypt would hold control of Nubia through the use of these fortresses.[21]

Pelusium Fortress

The Pelusium fortress served as means of protection from invaders coming towards the Nile Delta.[23] While the site served this role for more than a millennium, Pelusium was also known for being a center of trade (both land and Maritime). Trade was primarily conducted between Egypt and the Levant.[23] While information is not concrete in terms of the fortresses establishment, it is suggested that Pelusium was erected during either the Middle Kingdom period or during the Saite and Persian periods from the 16th and 18th century.[23] Pelusium is also seen as an integral part of the Nile as other ruins were found outside its borders, indicating that the area was large in occupation. Architecturally, structures of Pelusium (such as it's gates and towers) appear to be built from limestone. A metallurgy industry is also indicated to have taken place at this site due to the discovery of copper-ore.[23] Excavations of the site have also discovered older materials that date back some of the early dynasties. The found materials include Basalt, Granite, Diorite, Marble, and Quartzite.[23] How these materials were utilized during the operation of is unclear as they may have been placed at the location more recently.[23] Seeing as the fortress was placed in close proximity to the Nile River, the fort was largely surrounded by both dunes and coastal lines.[23]

There are multiple reasons that caused the decline of the Pelusium fortress. During its existence, events such as the Bubonic Plague appeared in the Mediterranean for the first time and multiple fires within the fortress occurred[23] Conquest from the Persians as well as a decrease in trade could also be attributed to the increase also may have led to an increase in abandonment. Officially, natural reasons are what led to Pelusium falling apart such as tectonic motions.[23] The official desertion of the site is attributed to the time of the crusades.[23]

Fortress of Jaffa

Jaffa Fortress was prominent during the New Kingdom period of Egypt. It served as both a fortress and a port on the Mediterranean coast. To this day, Jaffa serves as a primary Egyptian port.[24] Originally under the control of the Canaanites, the site fell under the control of the Egyptian Empire. Because of a lack of evidence, it is unclear as to what exactly caused the succession from Canaanite to Egyptian occupation.[24] During the Late Bronze Age, the site was successfully in holding campaigns from Pharaohs of the 18th dynasty.[24] In terms of its functions, the site held multiple roles. It is suggested that Jaffa's primary function was to serve as a granary for the Egyptian Army.

Rameses gate, which is dated to the Late Bronze Age, serves as a connection to the fortress. Ramparts were also discovered with the fortress Upon excavation, the site hosted multiple items such as bowls, imported jars, pot stands, and beer and bread which further emphasizes the importance of these items to the area.[24] The discovery of these objects show a close connection between the storing of food and the creation of ceramic items.[24]


Mastabat al-Fir’aun, where king Shepseskaf was buried, made of red sandstone, pink granite and Tura limestone

Mastabas are burial tombs that hold royal significance. As chosen by Egyptian rulers, many of the tombs found throughout time were located along the Nile river.[25] The structural exterior regarding Mastabas varies throughout history but there is a noticeable evolution of the course of Egyptian dynasties. The Mastabas of the First Egyptian Dynasty would be created through the use of stepped bricks.[26] The design would then evolve by the time of the Fourth Dynasty as the structural exterior change from brick to stone.[26] The reasoning behind the stepped designs of Mastabas is connected to the idea of "accession".[26] Lateral penetration was a concern in when constructing tombs. In order to prevent damage to the structure, brickwork layers were placed around the base of structure.[26] Mastabas from the old empire, took upon a pyramid design structure.[25] This design was largely reserved for rulers, such as the king, and his family as a means for burial.[25] Other design characteristics regarding Mastabas from the old empire include having rectangular outlines, walls that were slanted which were made of stone and brick materials, and having the axis of a building run both North and South.[25] Multiple elements make up the interior of Mastabas such as an offering chamber, statues for the dead, and a vault beneath which held sarcophagi.[25] By the end of the old Empire, the usage of these tombs were abandoned.


Three types of gardens are attested from ancient Egypt: temple gardens, private gardens and vegetable gardens. Some temples, such as those at Deir el-Bahri, were provided with groves and trees, especially the sacred Ished Tree (persea). Private pleasure gardens are known from an 11th Dynasty tomb model of Meketra, and from tomb decoration of the New Kingdom. They were typically surrounded by a high wall, planted with trees and flowers, and provided with shady areas. Plants were cultivated for fruits and fragrance. Flowers included cornflowers; poppies and daisies, while the pomegranat, introduced in the New Kingdom, became a popular shrub. The gardens of wealthier individuals were arranged around an ornamental pool for fish, waterfowl and water-lilies. Vegetable plots, whether privately owned or belonging to temples, were laid out in squares divided by water channels, and located close to the Nile. They were irrigated by hand, or (from the late 18th Dynasty) by means of the Shaduf.

Model of a Porch and Garden MET DP350592

Model of Meketra's house and garden from his tomb at Thebes, which consists of a shady grove of trees surrounding a central pool; circa 1981-1975 BC; painted wood & cooper; height: 39.5 cm (15​916 in.); Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)

Architectural Drawing of a Garden MET EG14.108.jpeg

Architectural drawing of a garden, on a writing board; circa 1550-1295 BC; plastered and painted wood; height: 23.5 cm (9​14 in.); Metropolitan Museum of Art

Brickmakers Getting Water from a Pool, Tomb of Rekhmire MET 30.4.89 EGDP012958

Brickmakers getting water from a pool; circa 1479-1425 BC; tempera on paper; from the tomb of Rekhmire; Metropolitan Museum of Art

Le Jardin de Nébamoun

Fresco which depicts the pool in Nebamun's estate garden; circa 1350 BC; painted plaster; height: 64 cm (maxim); British Museum (London)

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ R. G. Blakemore, History of Interior Design and Furniture: From Ancient Egypt to Nineteenth-Century Europe, John Wiley and Sons 1996, p.100
  2. ^ Blakemore, 1996, p.107
  3. ^ W. M. Flinders Petrie, Kahun, Gurob, and Hawara, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, and Co., London 1890
  4. ^ Charles Gates, Ancient Cities: The Archaeology of Urban Life in the Ancient Near East and Egypt, Greece and Rome, Routledge 2003, p.101
  5. ^ Dieter Arnold, Byron Esely Shafer Temples of Ancient Egypt, I.B.Tauris, 2005
  6. ^ Blakemore, 1996, pp.107ff.
  7. ^ Arnold, 2005, pp.204ff
  8. ^ "Temples aligned with the stars", New Scientist 2724 (5 Sep. 2009), p. 7; see also J. Belmonte & M. Shaltout, "Keeping Ma’at: an astronomical approach to the orientation of the temples in ancient Egypt", Advances in Space Research (August 2009) doi:10.1016/j.asr.2009.03.033
  9. ^ Winston, Alan. "An overview of the Giza Plateau in Egypt". Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  10. ^ a b c d e Reich, Lawrence S. Cunningham, John J. (2010). Culture and values : a survey of the humanities (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. ISBN 0-495-56877-5.
  11. ^ "The 7 Wonders of the Ancient World". Archived from the original on 8 August 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  12. ^ Lehner, Mark. "The Pyramid of Khafre". The Complete Pyramids. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  13. ^ Lehner, Mark. "The Pyramid of Khafre". The Complete Pyramids. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  14. ^ "Pyramid of Mankaure". National Geographic: Egypt. National Geographic Society. Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  15. ^ Wilkinson, R. (2000). The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt. New York, Thames & Hudson. p. 154.
  16. ^ Gulio, Magli (2013). Architecture, Astronomy and Sacred Landscape in Ancient Egypt. Cambridge University Press.
  17. ^ Dieter, Arnold (2003). The encyclopaedia of ancient Egyptian architecture. I.B. Tauris. p. 196. ISBN 1-86064-465-1.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Koltsida, Aikaterini (2007). "A Dark Spot in Ancient Egyptian Architecture: The Temple of Malkata". Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt. 43: 43–57 – via Jstor.
  19. ^ a b "Reconstruction of Geometric Decoration". Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  20. ^ Lansing, Ambrose (1918). "Excavations at the Palace of Amenhotep III at Thebes". The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. 13 – via Jstor.
  21. ^ a b c d e Lawrence, A. (1965). Ancient Egyptian Fortifications. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology,51(1), 69-94.
  22. ^ a b c Clarke, S. (1916). ANCIENT EGYPTIAN FRONTIER FORTRESSES. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 3, 155.
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Stanley, Jean-Daniel, et al. “Pelusium, an Ancient Port Fortress on Egypt's Nile Delta Coast: Its Evolving Environmental Setting from Foundation to Demise.” Journal of Coastal Research, vol. 24, no. 2, 2008, pp. 451–462. JSTOR, JSTOR,
  24. ^ a b c d e Aaron A. Burke, et al. “Excavations of the New Kingdom Fortress in Jaffa, 2011–2014: Traces of Resistance to Egyptian Rule in Canaan.” American Journal of Archaeology, vol. 121, no. 1, 2017, pp. 85–133. JSTOR, JSTOR,
  25. ^ a b c d e L. E. R. “Two Mastaba Chambers.” Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin, vol. 8, no. 45, 1910, pp. 19–20. JSTOR, JSTOR,
  26. ^ a b c d Badawy, Alexander. “The Ideology of the Superstructure of the Mastaba-Tomb in Egypt.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. 15, no. 3, 1956, pp. 180–183. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Further reading

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A cavetto is a concave moulding with a regular curved profile that is part of a circle, widely used in architecture as well as furniture, picture frames, metalwork and other decorative arts. In describing vessels and similar shapes in pottery, metalwork and related fields, "cavetto" may be used of a variety of concave curves running round objects. The word comes from Italian, as a diminutive of cave, from the Latin for "hollow" (it is the same root as cave). A vernacular alternative is "cove", most often used where interior walls curve at the top to make a transition to the roof, or for "upside down" cavettos at the bases of elements.The cavetto moulding is the opposite of the convex, bulging, ovolo, which is equally common in the tradition of Western classical architecture. Both bring the surface forward, and are often combined with other elements of moulding. Usually they include a curve through about a quarter-circle (90°). A concave moulding of about a full semi-circle is known as a "scotia".Only a minor element of decoration in classical architecture, the prominent cavetto cornice is a common feature of the ancient architecture of Egypt and the Ancient Near East.

Egyptian temple

Egyptian temples were built for the official worship of the gods and in commemoration of the pharaohs in ancient Egypt and regions under Egyptian control. Temples were seen as houses for the gods or kings to whom they were dedicated. Within them, the Egyptians performed a variety of rituals, the central functions of Egyptian religion: giving offerings to the gods, reenacting their mythological interactions through festivals, and warding off the forces of chaos. These rituals were seen as necessary for the gods to continue to uphold maat, the divine order of the universe. Housing and caring for the gods were the obligations of pharaohs, who therefore dedicated prodigious resources to temple construction and maintenance. Out of necessity, pharaohs delegated most of their ritual duties to a host of priests, but most of the populace was excluded from direct participation in ceremonies and forbidden to enter a temple's most sacred areas. Nevertheless, a temple was an important religious site for all classes of Egyptians, who went there to pray, give offerings, and seek oracular guidance from the god dwelling within.

The most important part of the temple was the sanctuary, which typically contained a cult image, a statue of its god. The rooms outside the sanctuary grew larger and more elaborate over time, so that temples evolved from small shrines in late Prehistoric Egypt (late fourth millennium BC) to large stone edifices in the New Kingdom (c. 1550–1070 BC) and later. These edifices are among the largest and most enduring examples of Egyptian architecture, with their elements arranged and decorated according to complex patterns of religious symbolism. Their typical design consisted of a series of enclosed halls, open courts, and entrance pylons aligned along the path used for festival processions. Beyond the temple proper was an outer wall enclosing a wide variety of secondary buildings.

A large temple also owned sizable tracts of land and employed thousands of laymen to supply its needs. Temples were therefore key economic as well as religious centers. The priests who managed these powerful institutions wielded considerable influence, and despite their ostensible subordination to the king they may have posed significant challenges to his authority.

Temple-building in Egypt continued despite the nation's decline and ultimate loss of independence to the Roman Empire in 30 BC. With the coming of Christianity, traditional Egyptian religion faced increasing persecution, and temple cults died out during the fourth through sixth centuries AD. The buildings they left behind suffered centuries of destruction and neglect. At the start of the nineteenth century, a wave of interest in ancient Egypt swept Europe, giving rise to the discipline of Egyptology and drawing increasing numbers of visitors to the civilization's remains. Dozens of temples survive today, and some have become world-famous tourist attractions that contribute significantly to the modern Egyptian economy. Egyptologists continue to study the surviving temples and the remains of destroyed ones as invaluable sources of information about ancient Egyptian society.

Herbert Ricke

Herbert Rüdiger Ricke (27 September 1901 – 22 March 1976), was a German archaeologist, Egyptologist and architectural historian who is best known for his works on ancient Egyptian architecture.

Herodotus Machine

The Herodotus Machine was a machine described by Herodotus, a Greek historian born in Halicarnassus, Caria (modern-day Bodrum, Turkey). Herodotus claims this invention enabled the Ancient Egyptians to construct the pyramids. The contraption supposedly allowed workers to lift heavy building materials. Herodotus is believed to have encountered the device while traveling through Egypt. With limited reference and no true schematics, this machine has stimulated many historians' theories of how the Ancient Egyptians were able to create pyramids.


In architecture, a hypostyle () hall has a roof which is supported by columns.

Mahat chapel of Mentuhotep II

The Mahat chapel of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II is an Ancient Egyptian funerary chapel (Egyptian: mahat) built by king Mentuhotep II (reigned c. 2046 BC – 1995 BC) at Abydos. The remains of the well preserved chapel were found in 2014.The chapel was discovered on the 23rd April 2014, after noting a ground subsidence in front of a house in Abydos, because of illegal excavations. The Tourism and Antiquities Police was able to find the illegal diggers and the Ministry of Antiquities was sending several archeologists for investigating the remains.The remains of the chapel are very close to the enclosure of the temple of Temple of Seti I. About 20 meter north of the funerary chapel there are the remains of a similar one, belonging to the New Kingdom king Ramesses I. The excavations have so far unearthed a chamber 2.6 wide and about 4.2 m below modern floor lever. The walls are built of fine limestone and decorated with reliefs. They show different deities and king Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II. A longer inscription states that the chapel was erected for Osiris, Khentiamentiu, Wepwawet and all gods who are in Abydos. The inscription calls the chapel mahat and reports that a canal was dug for the chapel.At Abydos there are several royal chapels. This one is so far the oldest.


A Mammisi (Mamisi) is an ancient Egyptian small chapel attached to a larger temple (usually in front of the pylons), built from the Late Period, and associated with the nativity of a god. The word is derived from Coptic — the last phase of the ancient Egyptian language — meaning "birth place". Its usage is attributed to the French egyptologist Jean-François Champollion (1790–1832).


A mastaba (, or ) or pr-djt (meaning "house for eternity" or "eternal house" in Ancient Egyptian) is a type of ancient Egyptian tomb in the form of a flat-roofed, rectangular structure with inward sloping sides, constructed out of mud-bricks (from the Nile River). These edifices marked the burial sites of many eminent Egyptians during Egypt's Early Dynastic Period and Old Kingdom. In the Old Kingdom epoch, local kings began to be buried in pyramids instead of in mastabas, although non-royal use of mastabas continued for over a thousand years. Egyptologists call these tombs mastaba, from the Arabic word مصطبة "stone bench".


An obelisk (; from Ancient Greek: ὀβελίσκος obeliskos; diminutive of ὀβελός obelos, "spit, nail, pointed pillar") is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape or pyramidion at the top. These were originally called tekhenu by their builders, the Ancient Egyptians. The Greeks who saw them used the Greek term 'obeliskos' to describe them, and this word passed into Latin and ultimately English. Ancient obelisks are monolithic; that is, they consist of a single stone. Most modern obelisks are made of several stones; some, like the Washington Monument, are buildings.

The term stele is generally used for other monumental, upright, inscribed and sculpted stones.

Ornament (art)

In architecture and decorative art, ornament is a decoration used to embellish parts of a building or object. Large figurative elements such as monumental sculpture and their equivalents in decorative art are excluded from the term; most ornament does not include human figures, and if present they are small compared to the overall scale. Architectural ornament can be carved from stone, wood or precious metals, formed with plaster or clay, or painted or impressed onto a surface as applied ornament; in other applied arts the main material of the object, or a different one such as paint or vitreous enamel may be used.

A wide variety of decorative styles and motifs have been developed for architecture and the applied arts, including pottery, furniture, metalwork. In textiles, wallpaper and other objects where the decoration may be the main justification for its existence, the terms pattern or design are more likely to be used. The vast range of motifs used in ornament draw from geometrical shapes and patterns, plants, and human and animal figures. Across Eurasia and the Mediterranean world there has been a rich and linked tradition of plant-based ornament for over three thousand years; traditional ornament from other parts of the world typically relies more on geometrical and animal motifs.

In a 1941 essay, the architectural historian Sir John Summerson called it "surface modulation". The earliest decoration and ornament often survives from prehistoric cultures in simple markings on pottery, where decoration in other materials (including tattoos) has been lost. Where the potter's wheel was used, the technology made some kinds of decoration very easy; weaving is another technology which also lends itself very easily to decoration or pattern, and to some extent dictates its form. Ornament has been evident in civilizations since the beginning of recorded history, ranging from Ancient Egyptian architecture to the assertive lack of ornament of 20th century Modernist architecture.

Ornament implies that the ornamented object has a function that an unornamented equivalent might also fulfill. Where the object has no such function, but exists only to be a work of art such as a sculpture or painting, the term is less likely to be used, except for peripheral elements. In recent centuries a distinction between the fine arts and applied or decorative arts has been applied (except for architecture), with ornament mainly seen as a feature of the latter class.

Phallic architecture

Phallic architecture consciously or unconsciously creates a symbolic representation of the phallus. Buildings intentionally or unintentionally resembling the human penis are a source of amusement to locals and tourists in various places around the world. Deliberate phallic imagery is found in ancient cultures and in the links to ancient cultures found in traditional artifacts.

The ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated phallic festivals and built a shrine with an erect phallus to honor Hermes, messenger of the gods. Those figures may be related to the ancient Egyptian deity Min who was depicted holding his erect phallus. Figures of women with a phallus for a head have been found across Greece and Yugoslavia. Phallic symbolism was prevalent in the architectural tradition of ancient Babylon. The Romans, who were deeply superstitious, also often used phallic imagery in their architecture and domestic items. The ancient cultures of many parts of the Far East, including Indonesia, India, Korea and Japan, used the phallus as a symbol of fertility in motifs on their temples and in other areas of everyday life.

Scholars of anthropology, sociology, and feminism have pointed out the symbolic nature of phallic architecture, especially large skyscrapers which dominate the landscape as symbols of male domination, power and political authority. Towers and other vertical structures may unintentionally or perhaps subconsciously have those connotations. There are many examples of modern architecture that can be interpreted as phallic, but very few for which the architect has specifically cited or admitted that meaning as an intentional aspect of the design.

Post and lintel

In architecture, post and lintel (also called prop and lintel or a trabeated system) is a building system where strong horizontal elements are held up by strong vertical elements with large spaces between them. This is usually used to hold up a roof, creating a largely open space beneath, for whatever use the building is designed for. The horizontal elements are called by a variety of names including lintel, header, architrave or beam, and the supporting vertical elements may be called columns, pillars, or posts. The use of wider elements at the top of the post, called capitals, to help spread the load, is common to many traditions.

The trabeated system is a fundamental principle of Neolithic architecture, ancient Indian architecture, ancient Greek architecture and ancient Egyptian architecture. Other trabeated styles are the Persian, Lycian, Japanese, traditional Chinese, and ancient Chinese architecture, especially in northern China, and nearly all the Indian styles. The traditions are represented in North and Central America by Mayan architecture, and in South America by Inca architecture. In all or most of these traditions, certainly in Greece and India, the earliest versions developed using wood, which were later translated into stone for larger and grander buildings. Timber framing, also using trusses, remains common for smaller buildings such as houses to the modern day.

The biggest disadvantage to a post and lintel construction is the limited weight that can be held up, and the small distances required between the posts. Ancient Roman architecture's development of the arch allowed for much larger structures to be constructed. The arcuated system spreads larger loads more effectively, and replaced the post and lintel trabeated system in most larger buildings and structures, until the introduction of steel girder beams in the industrial era. As with the Roman temple portico front and its descendents in later classical architecture, trabeated features were often retained in parts of buildings as an aesthetic choice. The classical orders of Greek origin were in particular retained in buildings designed to impress, even though they usually had little or no structural role.

Revivalism (architecture)

Revivalism in architecture is the use of visual styles that consciously echo the style of a previous architectural era.

Modern-day revival styles can be summarized within New Classical Architecture, and sometimes under the umbrella term traditional architecture.

Rosemarie and Dietrich Klemm Collection

The Rosemarie and Dietrich Klemm Collection, deposited in the British Museum in London, consists of thousands of rock samples from the sites of Egyptian quarries. The collection was formed by the Egyptologist Rosemarie Klemm and the geologist Dietrich D. Klemm, both at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich. Comparison with these rock samples can make it possible to identify, certainly or with probability, the origin of the stone used in ancient Egyptian architecture, statues and inscriptions.

Before its deposit in the Museum the collection was consulted in 1999 during conservation of the Rosetta Stone. The study showed a close resemblance to rock from a small granodiorite quarry at Gebel Tingar on the west bank of the Nile, west of Elephantine in the region of Aswan; the pink vein running across the upper part of the Rosetta Stone was also noted as typical of granodiorite from this region.

Sakka, Rif Dimashq Governorate

Sakka or Saqqa (Arabic: سكا‎) is a village to the southeast of Damascus, on the edge of the Ghouta, 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) north west of Damascus International Airport in Syria.


A serdab (Persian: سرداب‎), literally meaning "cold water", which became a loanword in Arabic for 'cellar') is an ancient Egyptian tomb structure that served as a chamber for the Ka statue of a deceased individual. Used during the Old Kingdom, the serdab was a sealed chamber with a small slit or hole to allow the soul of the deceased to move about freely. These holes also let in the smells of the offerings presented to the statue.The word serdab is also used for a type of undecorated chamber found in many pyramids. Due to the lack of inscriptions, it has been impossible to determine the ritual function of this chamber, but many egyptologists view it as a storage space, akin with the underground storehouses in private and royal tombs of the second dynasty. It is easiest recognized by its position in the east end of the pyramid's internal chamber system and the three niches in its outer wall.

The earliest serdab of this type is found in the pyramid of Menkaure, but it was during the reign of Djedkare Isesi that it became a part of the standard pyramid layout.

Temple of Debod

The Temple of Debod (Spanish: Templo de Debod) is an ancient Egyptian temple that was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid, Spain.

The shrine was originally erected 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) south of Aswan in Upper Egypt, very close to the first cataract of the Nile and to the great religious center in Philae dedicated to the goddess Isis. In the early 2nd century BC, Adikhalamani (Tabriqo), the Kushite king of Meroë, started its construction by building a small single-room chapel dedicated to the god Amun. It was built and decorated in a similar design to the later Meroitic chapel on which the Temple of Dakka is based. Later, during the reigns of Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy VIII, and Ptolemy XII of the Ptolemaic dynasty, it was extended on all four sides to form a small temple, 12 by 15 metres (39 ft × 49 ft), which was dedicated to Isis of Philae. The Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius completed its decorations.From the quay, there is a long processional way leading to the stone-built enclosure wall, through three stone pylon gateways, and finally to the temple itself. The pronaos, which had four columns with composite capitals, collapsed in 1868 and is now lost. Behind it lay the original sanctuary of Amun, the offering table room and a later sanctuary with several side-rooms and stairs to the roof.

In 1960, due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam and the consequent threat posed by its reservoir to numerous monuments and archeological sites, UNESCO made an international call to save this rich historical legacy. As a sign of gratitude for the help provided by Spain in saving the Abu Simbel temples, the Egyptian state donated the temple of Debod to Spain in 1968.

The temple was rebuilt in one of Madrid's parks, the Parque del Oeste, near the Royal Palace of Madrid, and opened to the public in 1972. The reassembled gateways have been placed in a different order than when originally erected. Compared to a photo of the original site, the gateway topped by a serpent-flanked sun was not the closest gateway to the temple proper. It constitutes one of the few works of ancient Egyptian architecture that can be seen outside Egypt and the only one of its kind in Spain.

Urban planning in ancient Egypt

The use of urban planning in ancient Egypt is a matter of continuous debate. Because ancient sites usually survive only in fragments, and many ancient Egyptian cities have been continuously inhabited since their original forms, relatively little is actually understood about the general designs of Egyptian towns for any given period.The Egyptians referred to most cities as either nwt or dmi. Nwt usually refers to unplanned cities that grew naturally, such as Memphis and Thebes, while dmi can be translated as "settlement" and usually refers to towns that were laid out along a plan. The archaeological evidence of such cities is best preserved, and has been most thoroughly delved, at el-Lahun, Deir el-Medina, and Amarna, though some averment of urban planning exists at other sites as well.

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