View of the Nile Valley  Map of Egypt Map of the Roman World  

Reading: Architecture, pp. 52--65

Old Kingdom (c. 3200-2100 B.C.) Centralized political and economic organization. Kings (Pharaohs) of divine origin; powerful system of central and local officials.

Middle Kingdom (c. 2100-1800 B.C.) Feudal age of powerful landed nobility, with some centralized power in the hands of the Pharaohs.

New Kingdom (1570-1085 B.C.): Foundation of military empire extending south to Abyssinia, east to Euphrates. Corresponding expansion of foreign trade. Enormous wealth and luxury. Brief, unsuccessful attempt by Ikhnaton to establish monotheism.

Ptolemaic period (c. 300 - 30 B.C.) Centralized power revived briefly.

Egyptian architecture is characterized by preference for simple cubic masses, sense of weight, solidity, permanence. Massive tremendous scale, heavy walls and supports. Repetition of similar geometric forms: rectangular and polygonal piers, columns with capitals and shafts in simplified plant shapes. All-over decoration in low or sunken relief or painting. Axial organization. Architecture symbolic of eternal order, reflects natural order of environment of Nile Valley [001 Nile delta and Mediterranean]. Artistic conventions begun in Old Kingdom last 3000 years. Primary concerns were polytheistic religion and life after death.


Representative Buildings:

1. Mastaba form; fig. 11 (in textbook)

2. Saqqarah, near Cairo, Egypt: The Step Pyramid of King Zoser, attributed to Imhotep, c. 2750 BC; [ 002 view with partial perimeter wall; 003 section] and temple complex [ 333 reconstructed view; 330 perimeter wall detail (cf. 005 contemporary sarcophagus form); 006 interior with engaged columns; 007 fake door with faience tiles; 008 engaged columns]; fig. 14-16.
3. Pyramids of Cheops, Chefren and Mycerinus, Giza (nr. Cairo), c. 2570--2500 BC [ 332 reconstruction; 009 view today; 011 detail of partial original casing]; figs. 20--24 (in textbook).
4. Temple/Tomb of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir-el-Bahari, Egypt, attributed to Senmut, c. 1520 B.C. [ 195 plan; 196 reconstructed view; 012 and 197, views today; 013 colonnade]; figs. 29-31 (in textbook).
5. Karnak: Temple of Khons in the precinct of Amon-Re, 12th century B.C.;figs. 32-34


  • plan
  • section
  • elevation
  • arch or vault (arcuated system) [ 010 diagram of arch; 004 building an arch over wooden formwork]
  • post-and-lintel (trabeated system) [ 006 interior of Saqqarah temple complex; 013 Deir-el Bahari colonnade]
  • mastaba