In this section of Architecture Through the Ages, you will learn about the great architecture that was made by the Egyptians. You will learn how the pyramids were built, what was carved on top of many stone columns, and more. We hope that you enjoy this page!
Probably the most famous structure in all of Egypt, the Pyramids are still on of the worlds best architectural achievement, even though they were built many centuries ago. These structures can be as tall as 482 feet (147 m) high. The Pyramid towers over many other famous landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty.
The first true pyramid was build at saqqara for the king Zoser. It was called a step pyramid because of its step shape. The later pyramids were smooth sided, like the Great Pyramid at Giza, built for the king Khufu about 4,500 years ago.
The smooth sided pyramid was built from the Dynasty IV and on. They were built by first having men chisel the block of granite the way that they wanted it. The stonemasons used special rods to check that a stone block was cut accurately. Next, the blocks stayed in the quarry until the flood season. They did this so they could use barges to haul over the heavy granite blocks. Once the boast had arrived near the pyramid and unloaded the blocks, they were hauled up a ramp. Then, ropes and levers were used to maneuver the huge blocks into position. The overseer checked that every block was laid correctly. Once all of the granite blocks were placed in place, laborers rubbed the casing blocks with polishing stones until they would shine in the sun. The overseers used plump lines to check that the angle of the slope was correct.
As for the finishing touches, workers placed hieroglyphics around the pyramid as well as many statues. There were also a lot of bright and vibrant colored columns. There were also one or two large boats buried near the tomb so the king to have a peaceful sail over to the Next World.
As for the path that leads up to the pyramid, there was first the Valley Temple. When the king died, his body was first rowed across the Nile to the Valley Temple to be mummified. Next, there was the causeway. This was a covered processional way which came from the Valley Temple. The walls on the inside were decorated many times, and there were holes in the roof to provide light. At the end of the Causeway, there was the Mortuary Temple. This was built against the side of the pyramid. The Mortuary Temple was the place where priests made offerings to the king's spirit every day for eternity. To the left of the Mortuary Temple, can be found the queen's pyramid. Much smaller than the kings pyramid, this was where the king would bury his wife.
The number of granite blocks were enormous. There had to be a huge quarry to supply the huge demand. And of course, there were many accidents at the construction site. There were doctors on the site, but little helped for sprained or broken body parts. Eventually, the whole pyramid was built, and all of the sweat and toil payed off. To learn more about the Ancient Egyptian pyramids, seeThe Evolution of the Pyramid
Before the pyramid, the kings used to be buried inside of tombs. The tomb itself was usually composed of two distinct parts: the chapel and crypt. The highly decorated walls of the funerary chapel accommodated a false door. This was the symbol linking the living with the dead, and there was a carved image of the tomb owner. The halls were flanked by several smaller rooms housing the deceased's provisions such as furniture, offerings, sacred text, victuals, etc.
In the rear , there was a burial shaft below ground which led to the actual crypt. Although it was walled in or dissimulated by all sorts of subterfuges-fits, snares, booby traps, and false galleries- the storerooms and chapel were devoted to the cult which remained accessible to the deceased's family and friends and to the priests who continued rituals. The crypt was highly decorated with carved reliefs and wall paintings which described the truths expected to exist for eternity and depicting the figures of priests and servants. They would accompany the deceased and his retinue to his afterlife.
Scattered throughout Egypt, you may see some large brown columns. These structures are made of granite and they all have some hieroglyphics on it. You may see some sort of design on the top of the columns. Well, these designs are all based on things that are in Egypt. You may see the lotus flower, papyrus, palm, eight-sided column, and a proto-Dorix or sixteen-sided column. Each of these are all very interesting and fun to look at.
These columns were built to support buildings, obviously. However, many times, you see only the column standing. The reason being, is that the building which it was supporting was either torn down, fell down, or was destroyed because of vandalism. Lets hope that the columns that are left today will still be here tomorrow.
Also scattered throughout Egypt are stone figures. These figures could look like a tiger, a king, and eagle, or maybe even a mixture of both. Perhaps the best know stone figure of them all is the Sphinx. It is a figure of a kings head who is wearing the striped headcloth (nemes). His body is that of a lion.
Like many of the old figures found throughout the world, many of theserelics have either been destroyed, vandalized, or stolen. This is especially true about the Egyptian sculptures. You could see a lion figure with no nose, an eagle with no head, or, an empty stand where a figure once stood. You may even see a granite obelisk with 1/4 of their hieroglyphic rubbed out beyond recognition.
However, not all destruction is because of vandalism and such. Pollution is also a big factor. The pollution may stain or break down the structure of the figure. However, the pollution levels should be getting lower, thus helping to preserve these priceless figures.
1. Stierlin, Henri, The Pharaohs Master-Builders, Paris, Terrail, 1992
2. Millard, Anne, Pyramids, New York, Kingfisher, 1996
3. Chalaby, Abbas, Egypt, Italy, Bonechi, 1981