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In existence from approximately 3000 BC, Egyptian architecture has essentially been one of the most diverse and influential architectural styles in the world. The ancient architecture, built in the regions of Egypt and Nubia, was deeply influenced by the divine relationship humans shared with kings and their gods. This identification is highly reflected in the form of tombs, temples, and pyramids present across Egypt, projecting post and lintel methods of construction. This customisation of the culture and beliefs of people in the architecture exercised a widespread impact of the Egyptian style of architecture on modern architecture during the orientalising period and Egyptomania.
The Sphinx, Courtesy: Pexels
Egyptian architecture has had a long history of experimenting with patterns and styles throughout the historical periods. The effect of such eclectic forms and styles in Egyptian architecture strongly impacted its evolution over time.
In 3001 BC, considered the predynastic and early dynastic architecture regime, Egyptian architecture witnessed its origin in the form of hieroglyphs, Mastabas, and obelisks which essentially project the relationship of people with the divine. This form of architecture primarily underlines the principles of ancient Egyptian culture encompassing features like symmetry, balance, and grandeur. The idea of including pyramids in Egyptian architecture, which is now a part of history and culture, came into being in the Old Kingdoms of Egypt.
The construction of the first pyramid of Meidum and the pyramid of Giza during this period led to the foundation of a dynamic era in Egyptian architecture. Including an immense inspiration from the early dynastic architecture, this style of design impactfully idealised elements like sculptures, statues, paintings, etc. In later years, the monarchical control led to a cultural shift which gave rise to a distinct form of architectural style. During this period in the Middle Kingdom of Egypt, the design style included beautiful chapels, rock-carved tombs, painted walls, etc. This is known as the golden era of Egyptian architecture and has had a profound impact on the culture and heritage of Egyptian history.
During 1550-1070 BC, the construction of Abu Simbel, Luxor temple, Karnak Temple, etc. transformed the course of the history of Egyptian architecture. During this period, the New Kingdom of Egypt witnessed the domination of rock-cut temples and tombs including columns and chambers. Egyptian architecture has been highly influenced by Greek culture and folklore, which was a result of the Greek pharaohs during the Ptolemaic era. This influence was characterised by honouring gods like Osiris, Isis, Horus, etc. This process of inclusion of the diverse patterns and layouts into Egyptian architecture resulted in it being widely popular across the globe.
Egyptian architecture is widely a reflection of its social and political experiences. With shifting political kingdoms and ideologies, Egyptian architecture succeeded in encompassing distinct forms and characteristics. With the immense creative freedom and representation projected in Egyptian architecture, the materials used widely included limestone, sandstone, granite, etc. During the early dynastic period, sun-baked mud bricks were the main form of material used in the construction of monuments. This, in fact, later evolved to the point of stone being the building material for elements like door jambs, lintels, windows, etc. Apart from the typical usage of materials to provide a significantly rare form of designs, Egyptian architecture was characterised by various elements, primarily from the amalgamation of various religious, social, and political ideologies.
Mastabas: The characteristic of Egyptian architecture, mastabas are essentially burial tombs primarily located on the bank of the river Nile. The concept of building mastabas was greatly influenced by the construction of pyramids in ancient architecture. These brick and stone buildings were built as burial places for the king and his family, with an exterior including rectangular outlines and slanted walls, the interwar featured statues of the dead, vaults, and chambers.
Hieroglyphs: Referring to formal Egyptian inscriptions of logographic, syllabic, and alphabetic elements on papyrus and wood for religious literature, hieroglyphs are one of the significant features of Egyptian architecture. Hieroglyphs are all distinctly figurative, representing real or abstract elements, sometimes stylised and simplified, and can be interpreted as a phonogram, ideogram, or logogram.
Carved stone images: Using native stones like soft limestone, sandstone, calcite, and schist, the architects created sculptures of their Gods, kings, and queens. The images and sculptures portrayed the victories and stories of the battles, conquests of foreign lands, and the lives of the pharaoh and his family. Besides, the background cutaways, known as “reliefs”, were a significant element of Egyptian architecture from time immemorial. The ‘sunken’ or ‘outline’ relief depicted the culture of Egypt and was a part of all the Egyptian construction.
Egyptian architecture significantly witnessed the inclusion of various Symbols in painting that was gathered from religious and political ideas and philosophies. Apart from that, Was Sceptre, Scarab, Tjet. Crook & Flail, Shen, Udjat Eye, ankh, and Djed had a massive influence on other forms of architecture.
Ankh, symbolising eternal life, the male and female principles, the heavens and the earth, is a cross with a top loop, influenced by the Christian ideology. There are many demonstrations of various gods holding the ankh.
Djed, including influence from the construction of columns, has a broad base with four parallel lines. This essentially depicted stability and service to god. The djed was thought to represent the god's backbone and appeared on the bottom of sarcophagi to help the newly arrived soul stand up and walk into the afterlife.
Pyramid of Giza: Egyptian architecture is widely characterised by the construction of pyramids in large numbers due to their projection of life after death. Built during the 26th century BC, the pyramid of Giza was the tallest man-made structure for around 3900 years. The lowest was cut into the bedrock upon which the pyramid was built. The other two, Queen's Chamber and King's Chamber, containing a granite sarcophagus, are higher up within the pyramid structure. Cased with white limestone, with ‘backing stones’ supporting the exterior, the horizontal exterior layers possess an outward slope giving rise to four uniform chambers. Each side of the pyramid is said to have a groove, especially down the middle of the face, which is known to be a result of increased casing thickness in these areas. With longer corridors, air shafts, and chambers, the pyramid's interior has to descend and ascend passages leading to the bedrock beneath the masonry and the grand gallery, respectively.
Abu Simbel Temple: Built in commemoration of the pharaohs, temples were an essential form of Egyptian architecture used to perform a variety of rituals, the central functions of Egyptian religion, and reenacting their mythological interactions through festivals. Constructed during the 19th Dynasty reign of the Pharaoh Ramesses II, Abu Simbel temple is a historic twin rock-cut temple. Serving as a lasting monument in the memory of Ramesses II, the entrance possesses four statues representing the crowned Pharaoh seated on a throne. As a common feature of Egyptian architecture, the temple's interior possesses three triangular layouts. The statues along the left-hand wall bear the white crown of Upper Egypt, and those on the opposite side are wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. The pronaos, also known as the hypostyle hall, influenced by the various religious ideologies, is supported by eight pillars representing the god of fertility, agriculture, the afterlife, the dead, resurrection, life, and vegetation to indicate the eternity of the pharaoh.
Temple of Edfu: One of the best-preserved shrines in the history of Egypt, the temple of Edfu was built during the Ptolemaic kingdom. The temple is widely known for its inscribed walls highlighting mythological and religious ideologies and the language during the Hellenistic period. The temple has witnessed several religious festivities of Horus and Hathor of Dendera.
Built with an architectural style of the new kingdom, the temple consists of a pillared hall, two transverse halls, and a bark sanctuary surrounded by chapels and has one of the enormous pylons reaching up to a height of 37m. The distinct design and model of the temple have had a considerable impact on various architectural forms, including British architecture and the perfect representation of Temple Works in Holbeck, Leeds.
Architecture in any design and identification generally is influenced by the prevalent political systems and cultural forms. Likewise, Egyptian culture and heritage, including architecture, were highly influenced by different cultural styles. A substantial number of foreign rulers managed to include the European, British, or other forms of architectural style in the Egyptian culture, which led to a robust causal relationship between the social and political conditions with the architecture of Egypt.Being highly influenced by the columnar and trabeated type of architecture, Egyptian architecture revolved around religious temples, tombs, obelisks, etc. Religious sentiments were also a part of the architecture in terms of the lotus, papyrus, and palm capitals. Besides, dromos, sphinxes, and sculptures were also essentially the origin of the religious impact. In constructions like Deir-el-Bahari, the temple groups of Luxor and Karnak, the architectural layout showcases the effect of Neo-classicism and Rational architecture. The large temples, long ramps, and facades of plain square columns are essentially the derivation of this form of architecture. Other styles like Hellenistic culture, Roman architecture, Rational architecture, etc. have also had a significant impact on the evolution of Egyptian architecture over time.
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