Map of Ancient Egypt
Timeline of Ancient Egyptian civilization:


  • Geographical:

The narrow fertile strip of alluvial soil on the banks of river Nile flowing through the desert, which made agriculture possible that resulted in the development of towns & settlements on the eastern bank of the river. Egyptians built their pyramids & tomb structures on the western bank. The Nile river also served as a route of transport & communication.

  • Geological:

Egypt had limestone in the north, sandstone in the central region & granite in the south. The gigantic scale of Egyptian architecture was mainly possible due to the Egyptian methods of quarrying, transporting & raising enormous blocks of stone to position. Sun-dried & kiln burnt bricks made from Nile mud & chopped straw were used for palaces & houses, while stone was used for pyramids & temples.

  • Climatic:

Egypt has a warm, sunny climate with very little rainfall that has led to the preservation of its ancient buildings. Since sufficient light reached the interiors through doors & roof slits, Egyptian architecture is characterized by the absence of windows. The absence of rain also resulted in the use of flat roof with thick stone slabs.

  • Religious:

The belief in life after death made the Egyptians to build numerous tomb-houses & pyramids for the preservation of the dead.

  • Social:

The Pharaoh, who was considered to be the descendant of the sun god. Social life is graphically depicted in the wall sculptures of tombs. Slave labor is written all over the monuments of Egypt with the priests enjoying an exalted position in society.


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Characteristic Of Egyptian Architecture
  • Sun-baked bricks and stone ( limestone, sandstone & granite) were predominant material- due to scarcity of wood.
  • Old kingdom onward stones were reserved for tombs and temples.
  • Ancient Egyptian temples were aligned with astronomically significant events such as, solstices and equinoxes.

Bricks used for :

  1. Royal Palaces
  2. Fortresses
  3. Walls of temple precincts and towns
  4. Subsidiary buildings in temple complexes
  5. Houses of the  citizen
  • Architecture was based on religious monuments, massive structures characterized by thick sloping walls with few openings, to obtain stability.
  • Use of arch was developed during Fourth Dynasty
  • Exterior and interior walls, columns and piers were covered with hieroglyphic ad pictorial frescoes and carvings painted in brilliant colours.

Use of symbolic motifs:

  • Scarab (sacred beetle)
  • solar disk
  • Vulture


Common motifs:

  • Palm leaves
  • Papyrus plant
  • Buds and flowers of lotus


Screenshot (35)


  • Lotus Papyrus & Palm – for “ fertility”
  • Solar Discs & Vutures w/ wings – for “ protection ”
  • Spiral & feather ornament – for “ eternity ”
  • Scarab or sacred beetle – for “ resurrection”
Religious buildings/monuments

•massive structures characterized by thick, sloping walls with few openings.

• possibly a method of construction used to obtain stability in mud walls.•the incised and flatly modeled surface adornment of the stone buildings has derived from mud wall ornamentation.

•the use of the arch was developed during the fourth dynasty, all monumental buildings are post and lintel constructions,

•flat roofs are constructed of huge stone blocks supported by the external walls and the closely spaced columns.

•Exterior and interior walls, as well as the columns and piers, were covered with hieroglyphic and pictorial frescoes and carvings painted in brilliant colors.

•Many motifs of Egyptian ornamentation are symbolic, such as the scarab, or sacred beetle the solar disk the vulture palm leaves, the papyrus plant buds and flowers of the lotus and Hieroglyphs were inscribed for decorative purposes as well asto record historic events or spells.

Ancient Egyptian Obelisks

-The Obelisks symbolized the sun god Ra and it was believed that the structure possessed magical power and protected the temples and tombs.

-It is a monumental tapering column carved from a single block of stone.

-It was capped with a pointed top.

-The term is derived from the Greek word obelisks meaning “needle”.

-Procedure of building it was similar to that of pyramid.

-On each side of obelisk contains a line of hieroglyphic inscriptions containing the title of Pharaoh and praising the God was seen.

-Placed in pairs at the entrance of the temples associated with sun, also on some tombs. categorized as:

  1. “minor obelisks”
  2. “giant or major obelisks”- height of  9-32 m and tip covered with gold so that it would catch the first ray of sun and reflect.


Types of Tomb

1) Simple Pit graves

  • A simple hole in the ground which was just large enough to hold the body of the deceased and a few grave goods.
  • Over the years lining of wood or stone, a roof and then small chamber was added.
  • Pit graves was the most common type of graves, usually belonging to the commoners.

2) Mastabas

  • It’s a heap of stone that would cover the graves of Pharaoh.
  • These blocks covered the real tomb.

 3) Rock –cut Chapels

  • A rock-cut tomb or koka is a burial chamber that is cut into the living rock usually along the side of a hill.
  • It was a common form of burial for the wealthy in ancient times in several parts of the world.
  • examples are found in Egypt, most notably in the town of Deir el-Medina, between the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens

4) Pyramids

  • Most famous of all types of burial tomb.
  • Built for the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom to last for all eternity.
  • The dead was accompanied by all the things required for comfortable afterlife.



 Construction of Tombs

  • Had 2 essential architectural components:
  1. Burial chamber : below the ground and housed and protected the body and spirit
  2. Mortuary chapel : above the ground and was accessible to visitors who would perform rites.
  • False door : to establish connection between world of dead and living. The design on the door allowed the spirit to move freely between tomb and the chapel.
  • Terracotta funerary cone : owner’s name inscribed and placed above the entrance door

Historical Background

  1.  This type of structure was an elaboration of the Pre – Dynastic Period burial-pit and mound form. Mastabas were favored as funerary monument from the Early Dynastic Period on
  2. As the Egyptian craftsmanship increased in the Early Dynastic Period, mastaba such as those of the first dynasty at Saqqara, were elaborate, having many storage or offering compartments, housing funerary chapels, shrines, offering tables and were quite evidently close copies of contemporary houses.
  3.  In the Old Kingdom, even after the Pharaohs began to be buried in pyramids, other royal officials were still interred in Mastabas, usually around the site of the pyramid.

Usage and Shape

  1.  A sepulchral structure built above ground.
  2.  Mastabas were built above a shaft at the bottom of which was situated a tomb.
  3. The structure above the ground were relatively low.
  4. Rectangular in plan with inward-sloping walls.
  5. Flat roof.
  6. Built of brick and faced with limestone slabs.
  7. Sides sloping at an angle of about 75 degrees
  8. They were derived from the rude heaps of stones piled over earlier mummy holes.
  9. They consisted of three parts :

(i) The outer chamber, in which were placed the offerings to the Ka or ” double,” decorated with festal and other scenes which are valuable from an historical standpoint.

(ii) The inner secret chamber, known as the ” serdab,” which contained statues of the deceased members of the family.

(iii) The chamber containing the sarcophagus, reached by an underground shaft.

The Niche or fake doors in these buildings had an imaginary purpose, were thought as a way that permitted the Spirit of the deceased, return to this world to obtain nourishment needed to keep living his Ka, and for such deeds, family members, close friends and other persons, brought offerings and celebrated specific rituals, for this purpose.

The niches were built in the interior or exterior of the building, having different forms and sizes that run from small window-like niches to a series of niches with emplaced statue, and diverse decorations that also reveal a position status; in some locations, replaced by the real door at the entrance of the mastaba by Niches, or added columns at to decorate the entry way, probably to indicating the level of privacy that they wished for. In some niches of these mastabas have at the one or two representations of the same person, either sitting or standing as guarding the entrance way, guarding or greeting the entrance door to his dwelling place in paradise in an imaginary place in the Sky.

Decorations and Examples

  1.  Plain undecorated exterior
  2.  The interior of mastaba walls were decorated with texts and images, illustrating scenes from the daily life of the deceased, offering scenes and ritual hunt scenes.

The Mastaba of Thi, Sakkara


  1. Well preserved and restored, dates from the Fifth Dynasty, and was erected to Thi, who held the position of royal architect and superintendent of pyramids.
  2.  It consists of a small vestibule, beyond which is a large court, where offerings to the deceased were made, and from which a mummy shaft led to the tomb chamber.
  3.  The masonry is accurately jointed, and the bas-reliefs are some of the finest and most interesting in Egypt.
  4. A second tomb chamber, 22 ft. 9 ins. by 23 ft. 9 ins. and 12 ft. 6 ins. high, has mural reliefs which represent harvesting, ship-building, slaughtering of sacrificial animals, as well as arts and crafts of Old Egypt §while Thi himself is pictured in a papyrus thicket, sailing through the marshes.
 Pyramid Symbolism

  • Thought to represent the primordial mound from which the Egyptians believed the earth was created.
  • Also represents the descending rays of the sun.
  • Most of them were faced with polished, highly reflective white limestone
  • This gave them a brilliant appearance from distance
  • It was also named in ways to represent solar luminescence.
  • Example the formal name of bent pyramid at Dashur is The Southern Shining Pyramids.
  • Also believed to be designed as a machine of resurrection.
  • Built on the west bank of Nile, which as the site of the setting sun was associated with the realm of dead.
 Stepped-pyramid of the 3rd Dynasty

Pyramid at Djoser at Saqqara

  • Built by the 2nd Pharaoh of 3rd Dynasty.
  • Constructed as series of smaller terraces one on top of the other.
  • 1st monument built entirely of stone.
  • Designed by Imhotep and defied in Egypt as God of Architect.
  • Consists 6 tiers.
  • Rectangular base (109 m X 121 m).
  • Height :59.93 m (now 58.63 m due to erosion).
  • Volume : 330,400 cu.m
  • The royal tomb is 28m underground with a vertical shaft leading to it. The entrance was sealed with a 3 ton piece of granite.
  • A series of corridors and a tomb chamber was dug. Some of the chambers are lined with blue tiles.
  • Interior contains network of channels and shaft with the burial chamber of Dsojer at its center.
  • Stone blocks used were slightly larger than bricks previously used during the construction of raw mastabas.

 Pyramid of Maidum

  • The last ruler of the 3rd Dynasty, Huni, built the last and largest of the Dtepped-pyramid
  • Tiers : 7-8
  • Base : 122 m
  • Height : 82 m
  • Snefru the founder of 4th Dynasty, brigged the gaps between the steps by adding the coating
  • 1st regular pyramid was hence formed
  • Over the years the terrace structure resurfaced due to erotion.

 Pyramids of Snofru

  • Snofru built 3 pyramids
  • At Meidum
  • Bent Pyramid(at Dashur)
  • Red Pyramid (Dashur)
  • Its difference from the pyramids of that of  3rd dynasty:
  • The funeral complex is open with no surrounding wall

 Pyramids of Giza


  • After 2 centuries, of the pyramids of Snefru, the Pyramid of Giza Plateau was built.
  • It’s base covers over 13 acres and its volume is around 90,000,000 cubic feet. You could build 30 Empire State buildings with its masonry. It is 454 feet high which is equivalent to a modern 48-story building. There are currently 203 courses or steps to its summit.
  • The foundation of the Great Pyramid is amazingly level. No corner of its base is more than one-half inch higher or lower than the others.
Construction of Pyramids


Valley of Kings of Ancient Egypt

  • One of the most popular archeological sites of the world.
  • It is located on the western bank of Nile, opposite to the Thebes (modern day Luxor), within the heart of Theban Necropolis.
  • Also known as The Valley of the Gates of the Kings..
  • Declared as the World Heritage site in 1979.
  • The valley used for primary burials from approximately 1539 B.C to 1075 B.C and contains some 60 tombs.
  • Besides the tombs of Pharaohs the site also have the tombs of famous nobles and officials and their wives.
  • The quality of the tombs vary in different qualities of Limestone,
  • The site was damaged due to flood.

Most tombs followed a similar pattern:

  • 3 corridors
  • An antechamber
  • Sunken sarcophagus chamber
  1. Two main classes – mortuary temples, for ministrations to deified Pharaohs and Cult temples, for the popular worship of ancient and mysterious gods.
  2. Royal burials more important than mortuary temples.
  3. Their special character merged into that of the cult temples, lost the distinction between the two types.
  4. Cult temples essentials were rectangular palisaded court entered from a narrow end flanked by pennon – poles centrally within them an emblem of deity pavilion comprising vestibule and sanctuary
Egyptian Temples Function And Evolution

  • Temples were the homes of the gods.
  • Every temple was dedicated to a god or goddess and he or she was worshipped there by the templepriests
  • The vast temple complexes of theNew Kingdom grew out of humble beginnings. The local population built a small mud-brick shrine for their own, local deity, chosepriests out of their midst to serve it, and brought offerings in return for favors and protection. They expanded it slowly over the centuries by adding new wings but eventually the state began to administer them, replacing mud-brick structures by stone buildings,
  • The involvement of the general public in the temple ceremonies became small.
  • Ordinary people had no access to the inner regions of the temples which could only be entered after elaborate purification rituals.
  • Temple buildings in theNew Kingdom were made of stone. their walls covered with colored scenes carved onto the stone, showing the Pharaoh fighting in battles and performing rituals with the gods.
    – Temples were single buildings or great complexes,
  • The most essential component for any temple was the innermost shrine, where thestatue of the god was kept.
  • The activities of the temple revolved around the worship and celebration of thegod’s cult, and religious festivals.
  • Around many Temples were sacred lakes or sacred pools. These pools allowed both thepriests and followers to attend and perform their religious rites in a state of purity.
  • Temples owned land,livestock and received donations and taxes, in order to support the large armies of priests and servants.


Components Of Egyptian Temples

There were Five components of Egyptian temples

  • Pylons:


– These are the large gates of the temple, they consisted of two tapering towers, each surmounted by a cornice, joined by a less elevated section which enclosed the entrance between them
– The entrance was generally half the height of the two towers.
– Pylons were often carved and painted with scenes of the Pharaoh and gods with scenes emphasizing a king’s authority since it was the public face of a cult building.
– In front of the pylon were a pair of obelisks and statues of the Pharaohs.

  •  Inner Court:

2– This was a large open Hall, which decorated walls showing scenes of the Pharaoh and the gods.
– It had a transitional purpose, serving as an interface between the outside world and the sanctified regions deeper within the temple.
– People were only allowed to enter the Outer Courtyard on festival days.
– Sometimes there was a second pylon leading to the Hypostyle hall deeper in.

  • Hypostyle Hall:

3– This is a large colonnaded hall entirely roofed except for the central aisle which was lit by windows,
– Scenes of religious rituals were carved into the walls.
– The capital of the massive column often in the shape of the papyrus Flower.
– This was considered the reception area of the god and accessible only to the priests and the Pharaohs were allowed to enter the hypostyle hall, which was used for religious rituals.
– Smaller side doors, intended for bringing in offerings led into small rooms

  • Sanctuary:


– The sanctuary was the most special and important part of the temple. It was a very dark and relatively small room.
– The floor sloped steadily upwards until the sanctum was reached, while the roof was lower
– Only the High Priest and the Pharaoh could ever enter the sanctuary.
– In the middle of the sanctuary stood the Naos with the statue of the god. The naos was made of wood, with doors that were kept closed and locked at all times except for at the rituals
– A temple could be consecrated to more than one god, but the Naos of the main deities was always situated along the main axis, and lesser deities were placed on either side.
If both deities had the same importance, than a double sanctuary was constructed along the main axis (like the one shown in the picture above)
– In close connection to the sanctuary there were other rooms for storage of the god’s belongings, jewelry, insignia and ritual tools.

  • Sacred Lake:


– Most temple precincts included a sacred lake.

-Archaeologists have excavated a number of these in temples of the New Kingdom.

-The priests used water from the sacred lake to perform rituals in the temple.



Temple of Khonsu

  1. A Cult temple.
  2. It had entrance pylons, court hypostyle hall, sanctuary, and various chapels all enclosed by high girdle wall.
  3. The entrance pylons, fronted by obelisks, Corridor of Sphinxeswere approached through an imposingavenue of sphinxes.
  4. The temple is entered by a large Pylon, 32 meters long, 10 meters deep, and 18 meters high. Like the facades of other temples, it has four vertical grooves, with corresponding apertures in the masonry, for the fixing of flagstaffs. In front of the pylon are the remnants of a colonnade bordered by a row of sphinxes.
  5. On the far side of the forecourt, a ramp leads up to the Vestibule with 12 columns. Beyond this is a transverse Hypostyle Hall with eight papyrus columns; the four columns flanking the central aisle have open capitals, while the columns between the lateral aisles (which are 1.5 meters lower than the central aisle) have closed capitals.
  6. The light in the Hypostyle was admitted through clearstory.
  7. Beyond was the sanctuary , with openings front and back and acirculating passage around.
  8. Beyond this was again a four- columned hall.
  9. There were small rooms flanking the sanctuary.
  10. on its rear were mainly chapels, for purpose of rituals.
  11. The temple was protected by a great wall of the same height as thehalls.
  12. The wall decreased in height towards the sanctuary end.
Methods, techniques, materials, tools
  • Initially, Egyptians built with mud. Mud was formed into mudbricks. Mudbricks were dried and hardened in the sun. Structures built with mudbricks would later be plastered with gypsum, giving a fresh shinning white finish.
  • Later, Egyptians would become masters in stones. Limestone would be the material most used. Troyu and the Moqattam Hills, east of Cairo, were the source of numerous quarries from which limestone was cut.
  • Granite was also used for the interior of tombs. Granite was quarried from Swenet, in modern day Aswan.
  • Canals were usually dug to the construction site. Stones weighing tons were ferried on barges to the building sites. Levers and ramps were used to get the stones on sleds. Giant ropes of palm fibers and reeds were made to pull these giant stones in place. Manpower, not slaves but voluntary workers, were used for construction.
  • Oxens were sometimes used for muscle, instead of human.
  • Copper was the metal used to make tools. Diorite, hard stone, was used to cut, quarry limestone. Sleds without rollers were used to move large stones.

source: nward/ touregypt/ slideshareegyptlandofeternity/ planetware/ discoveringegypt

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