The literature review comprises of two parts. One part is written from credible online books and periodicals. This part of the literature review is comprised of ancient Egyptian information on ancient Egyptian tombs and temples while the second part of the literature review is written from other online sources such as journals and articles on the great Egyptian sphinx. The literature review aims at first exploring ancient Egyptian architecture with emphasis on architecture that dates back to 5000 B.C. The sources highlight how ancient Egyptians in history created the most spectacular architectural works to this day.
Among the most notable and famous achievements of Ancient Egyptians architecture are their Egyptian pyramids. The design size and structure of the Egyptian pyramids reveals spectacular skills practiced by ancient builders. The literature review will aim at focusing on these great tombs and monuments for the kings among other spectacular Egyptian architectural works. The Egyptians beliefs are noted to have influenced most architectural designs. For instance, Badawy states that, “the belief that the king's soul would continue to govern the affairs of the Egyptian people after death influenced the building of tombs.” (Badawy 10).
The tombs were thus built in a manner that ensured that the king and the queen would continue to enjoy blessings from the gods. The preservation of bodies was also influenced by these beliefs. For instance, they Egyptians preserved the body of the pharaoh's by mummification. They generally built pyramids to protect the pharaoh’s soul ancient architectural buildings like the pyramid acted as symbols of hope, because they assured unity between the pharaoh’s and the gods. The literature review will thus explore the pyramids, tombs, mastabas and temples as the main architectural works in ancient Egypt (Silverman 23).
This study utilizes two data sources as the sole literature review data sources. The two sources include online books written by well renowned authors in the field of ancient Egyptian architecture. This will ensure that all data acquired from the books is credible. Periodicals on ancient Egyptian architecture are also utilized as credible sources in the literature review because this study will utilize the most current findings of ancient Egyptian periodicals. The second data source is from other online sources such as journals and articles on ancient Egyptian architecture. The journals and articles utilized are carefully chosen from reliable archeological websites to ensure accuracy and credibility of the data.
Egyptian architecture dates back as far from B.C. 5000 to the Christian era in the first century. The beginning of primitive architecture was composed of paddled reeds and clay and sun baked bricks. This is seen in the monumental style of granite and stone. The Egyptians adopted an architectural style of laying bricks in a concave manner to ensure greater security. They improved the stability of the walls by tilting all the wall structure inwards for both the clay covered reeds and the bricks in concave shape. Many scholars argue that the Egyptians architectural style was lead by instinct. The surface decorations of Egyptian masonry walls are believed to have been derived from the many pictures that scratched the early plastered and mud walls (Badawy 38).
Egyptian columns also had a distinct style which is believed to have originated from a vegetable origin. There is one unique column that is believed to have been reproduction of many stones made from reeds and them bound together to form of a bud (Badawy 41). The famous and unique brick vaults are also believed to have been constructed without temporary support or centering however they were only used in constructing utilitarian structures. The famous Egyptian monumental architecture was basically composed of a columnar style that was mostly used on tombs, pyramids and temples. Egyptian architecture thus proceeded along uninterrupted traditions until necessity required a change in construction methods or materials used. It is impressive how Egyptian architecture has lasted for many years.
Examples of Egyptian Architecture
a. The great sphinx
The Great Sphinx is an example of a mystery laden monument in Egypt. The great sphinx is located near and is the most famous of the mystery-laden monuments of Old Egypt. For centuries the great sphinx was hidden by the desert sand, until it was visible in 1816 A.D. by Caviglia who unearthed it. The date of the great sphinx whose purpose is still a mystery is speculated around the reign of Cheops before B.C. 3700. The great sphinx was then repaired by Chephren who was Cheops successor (Arnold 54).
The Sphinx is in a semi-recumbent lion for with a human head representing Horus who was the god of the sun. The great sphinx stands at 65 feet tall and 150 feet in length. The face is approximately 13 feet wide with a mouth that is 8 feet. The monument has suffered mutilation over the years with the first ever incident dating back to the Mahometan invasion. The Sphinx is now recognized as a symbol of an insoluble problem and chances of unveiling the mystery are still very slim in the future (Arnold 58).
The Egyptian tombs are another example of famous architecture. The Egyptian tombs are of many types namely the royal pyramids, the Rock hewn tombs and the mastabas.
The royal pyramids.
The great pyramid is the largest ancient Egyptian pyramid in existence. The pyramid was built by at Giza. The Great Pyramid stands at 481 feet in height and 775 feet in width with four bases (Silverman 67). Other pyramids in Egypt include the pyramid built by King Zoser known as the step pyramid. The step pyramid later became the smooth sided pyramid in a transition that took years. Forces of nature such as erosion are responsible for causing the step sided pyramid to become smooth sided.
There a number of royal pyramids in Egypt. An example of such pyramids is the Pyramids of Gizeh located near Cairo. The pyramids were erected during B.C. 3733 and 3566 (Silverman 30). These pyramids were specifically built by kings for themselves in order to securely preserve their bodies until a time that their souls returned to their bodies. This was an ancient immortality belief by the Egyptians. The royal pyramids were the most extravagant ancient Egyptian structures as they were of built with very extravagant techniques that comprised of beautiful art and a very large labor force and materials.
The Pyramid of Cheops is an example of a royal pyramid in ancient Egypt. The Cheops pyramid was 482 feet high covering an area of about 13 acres. The pyramid is an example of a remarkable structure in which very huge blocks of stone were perfectly fitted and finished onto one another (Wilkinson 36).The ways in which this magnificent piece of architecture was build is still unclear. The tomb chamber of the king inside the pyramid of Cheops was built in such a way that it was protected by huge stone portcullis fitted onto a rebate. The tomb was built with two air shafts that lead to the outer pyramid surface.
Archeologists speculate on the initial usage of this air shafts. Many argue that they were used for sanitary purposes, ventilation or as mystical passages. The other chamber in the Pyramid was the Queen's Chamber that connected to a passage that led to the King's Chamber while another was built to connect to the ground level. The royal pyramids are a great piece of ancient Egyptian architecture.
2. The Mastabas. These were ancient Egyptian tombs that were rectangular in shape and fiat on the roof. The Mastabas were probably acquired from the huge stones piled near the earlier mummy holes. The Mastabas basically consisted of three main parts namely the outer chamber, the inner chamber and the chamber of the sarcophagus. The inner chamber was highly decorated with valuable historical scenes. The inner secret chamber on the other hand contained statues representing the deceased family members. The chamber of sarcophagus basically connected with an underground shaft. The mastabas masonry basically joins the bas-reliefs with the finest ancient Egypt beliefs and practices (Wilkinson 91).
3. The Rock-hewn tombs. These tombs date back to B.C. 2778 and 2565. The tombs entrance consists of two sided columns that have in the past been seen as prototypes of Greek Doric. The projecting cornices of the tombs have representations of beams carved from solid rocks that reproduce in a stone and timber form. All the tombs are similar having corridors that lead to a room, beyond the sepulchral chamber that contained the granite of sarcophagus (Wilkinson 101). The tombs are also spectacular architectural works.
The temples of ancient Egypt are also spectacular architectural works. The temples of ancient Egypt acted as sanctuaries where kings and priests visited. The temples differ from the ancient Greek temples and Christian churches because of their use. Only priests and kings in ancient Egypt were allowed to penetrate the hypostyle hall of the temples making the temple a royal oratory that was specifically built to act as pledges and offering to the Egyptian gods (Wilkinson 77).
The Temples consisted of entrances such as; colonnades, pylons, courts, halls and priest chambers that were all enclosed using a high girdle wall. The entrance to this places consisted of sloping towers that enabled the fronting of obelisks. Beyond the sanctuary in the temples were small columned halls that were surrounded by numerous chambers and passages that connected to the temple service. The temples were also protected by high walls. Examples of the ancient Egyptian temples include the Temple of Ammon, Luxor, Ammon and Seti Abydos. The Temple of Abu-Simbel built in 1300 B.C. is an example of an impressive and stupendous temple in ancient Egypt (Badawy 17).
Alexander Badawy. Architecture in ancient Egypt and the near east, M.I.T. press, 1996.
David P. Silverman, Ancient Egypt. Oxford university press, 2003.
John Gardner Wilkinson, The Architecture of Ancient Egypt, BiblioBazaar publishers, 2010.