Ancient Egyptian Art and Architecture

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<ul><li><p>5/20/2018 Ancient Egyptian Art and Architecture</p><p> 1/6</p><p>1</p><p>Ancient Egyptian Art and Architecture</p><p>For more than 2,000 years, Egypt was one of the richest and most civilized lands in the ancient world. Muchwhat we know about this great civilization has been learned from its art and architecture. In particular, the ruof tombs and temples have provided a valuable record of Egyptian life.</p><p>The Egyptians were extremely religious, and their belief in life after death was an important part of their cultuThey believed that, in order for the spirit to live on, the dead person's body had to be preserved, or mummifieand buried along with supplies of food and drink, tools and utensils, valued possessionsall the things theperson had needed or enjoyed on earth. The higher the person's station in life, the more extensive thepreparations for the afterlife. Kings and other wealthy persons had elaborate tombs built. Sculptures and walpaintings in the tombs were also created for use in the next life.</p><p>The gods, too, needed proper care. Their temples were built as great palaces, with stables, orchards andfarmlands, and staffs of attendants. Daily rituals and seasonal festivals were pictured on the temple walls.Rulers prided themselves on what they had done to improve the shrines of the gods.</p><p>The Early Dynastic Period (3000-2650 B.C.)</p><p>Egyptian history is usually divided according to the 30 dynasties (series of rulers of the same family) listed byan early historian. The first dynastic period began about 3000 B.C. with the legendary ruler Menes (also calleNarmer), who united Egypt under one government and founded the capital city of Memphis.</p><p>A carved slate slab, or palette, made about 3000, shows Narmer, his raised arm holding a club, about to cruthe head of his enemy. In the Narmer palette the human form is portrayed in a way that became standard inEgyptian art. The head and legs are shown from the side, while the eye and shoulders are shown from thefront.</p><p>The Old Kingdom (2650-2150 B.C.)</p><p>The first great period of Egyptian civilization, called the Old Kingdom, began during the rule of King Zoser. Tadvances of the period were due mainly to Imhotep, the king's first minister. He was a skilled architect,statesman, and scholar. He was probably the architect of the famous Step Pyramid at Saqqara. The StepPyramid was the first stone building in history and the first of the many pyramids to appear during the next1,000 years.</p><p>The Step Pyramid was designed as a tomb for Zoser and members of his family. It was an unusual pyramidbecause of its broad terraces, or "steps." It consisted of seven rectangles, each rectangle smaller than the obeneath it. Within the rock was a well where the king was buried. He was surrounded by a maze of corridorsand chambers that contained endless materials for his afterlife. More than 30,000 stone vesselsjugs, bowand vases--were buried in the chambers. This pyramid, about 200 feet (60 meters) tall, was the most importaof a great number of buildings enclosed within a high wall. An entrance gate, a great court for the celebrationreligious festivals, and a second tomb were built nearby. All these buildings were constructed from small bloof limestone, a soft rock common to the region.</p></li><li><p>5/20/2018 Ancient Egyptian Art and Architecture</p><p> 2/6</p><p>2</p><p>The form of the pyramid that we are familiar with developed quickly. The most important and famous pyramidare the three great pyramids at Giza, on the west bank of the Nile River. They were built between about 266and 2560 for the kings Cheops, Chephren, and Mycerinus. The pyramids were meant to house the pharaohsbodies and serve as reminders of their almighty power.</p><p>Building the great pyramid of Cheops (2551-28) was a tremendous feat. The pyramid is so large that it couldcontain comfortably the entire Capitol building of Washington, D.C. The pyramid is made of about 2,300,000</p><p>blocks of finely cut limestone. These stones have an average weight of 2 1/2 tons. The largest stones were cand floated almost 700 miles (1,125 kilometers) down the Nile to the pyramid site. With only the simplest oftools, the stones were dragged up earth ramps and set in place.</p><p>The pyramid, the tomb of the king, was only one part of a group of structures that formed the pyramid complAdjoining the pyramid on its eastern, or Nile, side was the pyramid temple, where the king was worshiped.From this temple a covered causeway led to the valley temple, which had access to the Nile. Clustered arouthe royal tombs or dug into the surrounding cliffs were smaller, flat-roofed tombs called mastabas that held thbodies of nobles. Though sometimes built of mud brick, the mastabas were more often of limestone. The sidof the buildings sloped inward. Within the long building only a small area was made into chapels for offeringsand chambers to hold statues of the dead. Far below the surface a burial chamber was hollowed in the rock</p><p>After burial the shaft was filled with large stone blocks.</p><p>Parts of temples have been found, but only the temple dedicated to the sun at Abu-Gurab (near Giza) remaiIt, too, was approached by a long passageway and surrounded by a high wall. Unlike all other Egyptiantemples, much of this temple was open to the sun. The most important part of the building was its great centcourt containing an altar and an obelisk, sacred symbol of the sun. An obelisk is a four-sided pillar tapering tminiature pyramid at the top. Usually an Egyptian obelisk was cut from one piece of stone, often covered witwritings of the kings' triumphs.</p><p>Sculpture and Painting</p><p>One of the earliest and most typical of royal Egyptian sculptures is a statute of the great Zoser found in his</p><p>pyramid at Saqqara. This life-size statue shows the sitting pharaoh staring straight ahead. For a long time, osuch calm poses were popular in Egyptian sculpture.</p><p>Many royal sculptures of hard stone were intended for the inside of a tomb of a king. But we can still see theremains of some public monuments. The outstanding example of these larger works is the Great Sphinx atGiza. A huge sculpture with a lion's body and a human head, the Sphinx was carved from the natural rock ofthe site. It is as high as a modern seven-story building.</p><p>Smaller, brightly painted limestone sculptures were also made for the tomb. They usually showed the owner a youthful man. Minor members of the royal family and many nobles had statues made of red granite and othard stones, but these were expensive. At all times throughout the Old Kingdom wood was used for statues.</p><p>too, was brightly painted. The eyes were often inlaid, giving the statue a lifelike appearance. Most officials haseveral statues made for their tombs.</p><p>Wall carving, or relief sculpturesculpture carved to stand out from a backgrounddecorated the walls of thpyramid temples and tombs. Scenes from daily lifesports, crafts, huntswere carved in rows.</p><p>Much less painting than architecture and sculpture remains from this period. The interior walls of the tombs onoblemen were lined with plaster and then painted. In many ways wall carvings were similar to paintings. In</p></li><li><p>5/20/2018 Ancient Egyptian Art and Architecture</p><p> 3/6</p><p>3</p><p>both, figures were placed on the walls in rows, one on top of the other. The carefully drawn outline was filledwith even, unshaded colors. In this way the painted wall carvings looked very flat, as though the figures werecutouts pasted to the wall.</p><p>The Middle Kingdom (2040-1640 B.C.)</p><p>About 2150 the central Egyptian government seems to have fallen apart. Egypt once more became a seriesseparate states in great confusion. During this time little building or sculpture was done.</p><p>Eventually, about 2040, a central government was again organized under a strong king. King Mentuhotep IIrevived the architecture of the Old Kingdom. His tomb included a courtyard, terrace, temple, and the king'sburial chamber at the end of a long passage that had been cut into the solid rock of the cliffs. The tomb had ahighly original design that was copied centuries later for Queen Hatshepsut's famous temple. Though nowbadly damaged, Mentuhotep II's tomb is of great interest because it is the oldest remaining temple at Thebesthe chief city of the south.</p><p>With the rise of King Amenemhet I about 1991, Egypt entered one of its great periods. Amenemhet returnedthe tradition of using the pyramid as the royal tomb. His pyramid was constructed at El Lisht, not far south of</p><p>Memphis. In general form his pyramid and those of his successors followed the Old Kingdom style</p><p>valleytemple, passageway, upper temple, and finally the pyramid itself.</p><p>But the newer pyramids were smaller and poorly constructed. Instead of the great stone blocks used earlier,these Middle Kingdom pyramids were often built of mud brick covered with limestone. The limestone wasalways stolen, and the brick pyramids crumbled into huge mounds. And, despite efforts to protect them, theroyal burial chambers in these pyramids were all robbed.</p><p>In this period the best tombs built by wealthy nobles were cut into great rock cliffs. The most famous are atBeni Hasan in Middle Egypt, on the east side of the Nile. The tombs have columned entryways and halls. Thinside walls are covered with paintings and relief sculptures.</p><p>The sculpture of the Middle Kingdom was one of the greatest achievements of Egyptian art. The best workswere the portrait sculptures of Sesostris III and Amenemhet III. For the first time in Egyptian history, kings werealistically represented as mortal men. These kings show the wear and tear of life; their faces are handsombut deeply lined, and they look sad and weary. Since they were thought of as god-kings, this realism wasunusual. But only the faces were realistic; the bodies of these statues looked youthful, slender, and strong.</p><p>Huge statues of kings were produced at this time in granite and other hard stones. Some statues were sooversized that they could not fit inside the temples but had to be placed in the open air. Smaller royal statueswere sometimes made in wood.</p><p>Some wood sculpture was done larger than life-size. Wooden models of boats and houses and even scenes</p><p>daily life were made to be placed in tombs for use in the afterlife. Statuettes of human and animal figures wemade of ivory and semiprecious stones.</p><p>The sculpture ordered by the nobility was similar to royal work. Harder stones were used more than limestonFigures were shown in several new positions. Perhaps the most important was the cube, or block, statue. Aman (never a woman) was shown seated on the ground with his knees drawn up against his chest. His entirbody was wrapped in a great cloak. The sculpture gives the impression of a head coming out of a great cube</p><p>The New Kingdom (1550-1070 B.C.)</p></li><li><p>5/20/2018 Ancient Egyptian Art and Architecture</p><p> 4/6</p><p>4</p><p>The Middle Kingdom came to an end with a series of foreign invasions. Soon after the beginning of the 16thcentury the last of the invaders were driven from Egypt. The new Egyptian kings were warriors, and they begconquering nearby states. Their conquests made Egypt the richest and most civilized power of the time, theruler of a great empire. The empire was rich in gold, there were countless slaves, and money from tributeadded to the wealth. This explains the richness of New Kingdom architecture.</p><p>One of the important changes in architecture was the disappearance of the pyramid. The pyramids had failed</p><p>to protect the royal burial from robbery. Kings and queens were now buried in tombs in the Valley of the Kingin Thebes. Long corridors with relief sculpture and religious writing on the walls led to a hall with columns.There the royal mummy rested in a great stone coffin. The temples were built separately on the edge of thedesert, facing the Nile. Even today their ruins are a beautiful sight.</p><p>The most beautiful of these is the temple of Deir el-Bahri. It was built about 1470 by the famous QueenHatshepsut. A series of terraces was surrounded by colonnades and connected by ramps. This temple wasbuilt entirely of fine limestone. In contrast, the nearby temple of Ramses II was built (about 1250) entirely ofsandstone--a coarse material that is easy to work with.</p><p>The latestand best preservedof these temples was constructed for Ramses III about 1180. Known asMedinet Habu, it is really a group of buildings and includes a palace, smaller temples, and houses for priestswas surrounded by a great brick wall. The temple itself had two great courts that led to a dimly lit hallcompletely filled with columns. Behind the hall, which was called a hypostyle hall, was the sanctuary where tstatue of the god was placed. This dark, innermost section of the temple was open only to the king and thepriests.</p><p>Across the Nile at Karnak the temple of Amun, the king of the gods, was rebuilt. It was enlarged into the largtemple ever known. Built mostly of sandstone, it was not constructed according to a fixed plan. Instead it wasadded to and changed by almost every king during the New Kingdom. Throughout the period Egyptianarchitects worked on a large scale. A long avenue of sandstone sphinxes connected the great temple atKarnak to a much smaller temple at Luxor, a few miles away.</p><p>The most spectacular building of the age is the famous temple of Abu Simbel, cut entirely from the rock. It wbuilt by Ramses II about 1250. Four huge seated statues of the pharaoh, each nearly 70 feet (21 meters) higwere carved in front of the temple. (About A.D. 1850 a traveler described standing on the lip of one of thestatues and not being able to reach the eyebrows!) The inside plan of the temple copied the design of theusual Egyptian temple, on a smaller scale.</p><p>Private (or nonroyal) tombs of the New Kingdom were built all over the country. The major ones of the nobilitwere at Thebes and were rock-cut. They are more interesting for their decorationreliefs and paintings--thafor their architecture. As in all periods, the private homes were built of mud and then whitewashed. They wersurrounded by gardens with pools of water.</p><p>Sculpture and Painting</p><p>Much sculpture has survived from the New Kingdom. No one knows the names of the artists because Egyptartists never signed their works.</p><p>King Amenhotep III (1391-1353) was a great patron of the arts. Two gigantic statues, called the Colossi ofMemnon, on the west side of the Nile at Thebes mark the site of his mortuary temple. The statues, which sh</p></li><li><p>5/20/2018 Ancient Egyptian Art and Architecture</p><p> 5/6</p><p>5</p><p>the king seated on his throne, are more than 60 feet (18 meters) tall. But the king was not interested only inerecting huge monuments. The art of his reign is remarkable most of all for its elegance and variety.</p><p>Egyptian art was becoming more realistic, moving away from the standard ways of representing the humanform. For example, a sculpture done late in Amenhotep's rule shows the king in foreign dress. Also, for the fitime in the long history of Egyptian art, certain flaws of the ruler's body are clearly depicted. He is shown as plump, aging man.</p><p>Statues became even more realistic during th...</p></li></ul>