Architecture as a product of culture, history, science, technology, economics, society, religion, and state




A journey through five thousand years of architecture and urban planning in the Western world



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Each generation writes its autobiography in the buildings it creates.

Louis Mumford

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


          Historical Background
         Ancient Egyptian civilization arose on the banks of the fertile valley of the Nile. In c.3000 BCE two separate kingdoms were combined, Upper Egypt (the Nile Valley area, between the modern Aswan and modern Cairo, also called "red earth") and Lower Egypt (the fertile region north of the Nile, near its delta, also known as "Black Land" ) under the reign of King Meni (Menes in Greek), the founder of the first dynasty of over thirty dynasties of  Pharaohs (singular: Pharaoh per-aa, in ancient Egyptian literally: big house). Under the influence of west Asia, Egypt has been familiar as Musri (literally: a state or a fortress). In modern Arabic Egypt is Misr, Hence its Hebrew name – Mitzraim - duplication of the two kingdoms, two Misr.
The word Egypt stems from the Greek word Aigyptus which was the ancient name of the city of Memphis, Hu(t)-ka-pta (expressed Eikupta or Eikopta) meaning "the soul of Ptah". In Egyptian mythology the god Ptah was considered the creator of gods, the universal architect and patron god of masons. During the New Kingdom (see outline of periods below) Egypt was called Kemet or Kmt, literally in ancient Egyptian: black), after the black soil of the Nile Valley.
The Egyptians view their country as defined by the Nile. Because it flows from south to north, the area closer to the source of the Nile is considered upper, hence - Upper Egypt, and the region closer to the sea to where it is flowing, is considered lower, hence - Lower Egypt.
Another division of Egypt, which is associated with the Nile Valley, was the distinction between the land of the living and the land of the dead. On the eastern bank of the Nile were built towns for the living, while in the desert's arid soil on its western bank, were most of the graves. Like in other ancient cultures, east, the direction of sunrise, was associated in the minds of the Egyptians with birth, while the west, as the direction of sunset, was associated with death.
Egyptologists have disagreements about the chronology of ancient Egypt. In dating the periods and the various dynasties I was helped by the book of Morkot (see bibliography).
                  The Period of the early dynasties - the First and Second Dynasty c. 3000 -
2686 BCE.
  In 3000 BCE lower Egypt and Upper Egypt were unified under the rule of the King Menes. Until recently it was customary to tell that Menes, King of Upper Egypt, went to war against Lower Egypt and won. Likewise, it was stated that he annexed the Kingdom of the Delta to his kingdom and stole the red crown (crown traditionally associated with Lower Egypt, while the white crown was  traditionally associated with Upper Egypt) from his defeated rival. Today Egyptologists contend that there is no evidence indicating the truthfulness of this story. However, they agree that the culture that was created along the Nile Valley was homogeneous.

The Old Kingdom – third to eight dynasty, 2686-2125 BCE.
The Old Kingdom period was characterized by peace and prosperity, and the Egyptian culture reached a high intellectual and artistic level. Egypt became stronger probably due to efficient centralized rule, administration and developing trade relations with foreign countries. At that time was built a large part of the great pyramids, including the Great Pyramids of Giza.
 The Egyptian state was a religious institution, where the king was an omnipotent ruler and the social classes were set in divine and sacred rigorous hierarchy, given to very few changes. The first king in the third dynasty was Netjerikhet-Djoser (Netjerikhet, in ancient Egyptian literally: body of the gods), known as Djoser, who built the Step Pyramid in Sakara. During this period, when hieroglyphs were invented, extensive use of stone for construction began, mathematical methods developed, and the position of architects strengthened. During the fourth  dynasty, then the Great Pyramids of Giza were built, the king's power reached its peak. From the fifth dynasty on, the king's position weakened and government officials had more power. The latter's activity outside the court brought their control of land and made them rich. They started to build their tombs in their cities rather than in the burial site of the ruling pharaoh.  With the fall of the sixth dynasty, following a series of floods causing hunger, and increased threats of external enemies, the centralized rule of the king came to an end, and Egypt was divided into small districts often confronting each other. Power passed to the nobility, and began the process of democratization in religion and faith. The Nobility saw itself as entitled to eternal life, a right reserved in previous periods only for the king.
         The First interim period: from the 9th  dynasty until the 11th. C.
This was an interim period of disorder, wars, social and political chaos. During this period, the local rulers preferred to be buried in their cities along with their families and friends, rather than near the king's tomb, as was customary in earlier periods.
During the first part of the 11th dynasty (2125-2025 BCE) ruled the local rulers of Thebes (Wasset in ancient Egyptian): Intef the first and Intef the second. Intef the first, who was the first ruler of Thebes crowned himself king, came out against the kings of the ninth and 10th dynasties and defeated them. The dispersal of power caused by floods of the Nile, which created isolated islands at the end of the Old Kingdom, probably helped him to defeat them. Intef expanded the southern boundary to Elephantine, where he built chapels, and expanded the northern border to the ancient Egyptian Yebu (Elephantine) and Abydos, where his army was defeated. The unification of Egypt under the rule of Thebes came to a halt.
         The Middle Kingdom - second part of the 11th  dynasty (which ruled over entire Egypt) until the 14th dynasty. C.
- 2025 -1650 BCE. 
 During the 11th dynasty (c. 2025-1985 BCE), Mentjuhotep (ruled 2055-2004 BCE), successor to Intef II, unified Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, set up Thebes as the capital city, and revitalized the centralized administration of the third dynasty. During his period and the period of Mentjuhotep III  (2004-1992) architecturally innovative monuments were built. During the 12th dynasty (1985-1773 BCE) the pharaohs prominent as  great builders were Amenemhat I (ruled 1985-1956 BCE), Senusret (also called Senusert)  I (ruled 1956-1911 BCE), Senusret II (ruled 1877 -1870 BCE), and Amenemhat (also called Amenhemhet)  III (1831-1786 BCE).Senusret II built a massive and winding dam connecting Bahr Yusef, a branch of the Nile, with Lake Fayum ("She-resy" in ancient Egyptian). This enterprise routed the excess water of the floods to an agricultural area, at whose end was located the city of Kahun, also built by Senusret II.
During the Middle Kingdom, Egypt flourished, trade relations with foreign countries developed, and the Egyptians paid more attention to their economic situation. The social status of the government officials and the local rulers in the cities rose.
People were more aware of individual rights, and the kings had to consider it. Beliefs related to burial rituals, previously associated only with the royal class, spread toward the lower classes who built their tombs furnished and well equipped. Rock-hewn tombs were popular during this period among the nobility. Temples, which were destroyed as a result of neglect, were restored and elaborated. The worship of the god Re had been replaced at this time by the worship of the god Osiris and other gods.
         Second Interim Period: 15th to 17th dynasties
During the 15th dynasty (1650-1550 BCE) ruled the Hyksos Kings (Greek version the ancient Egyptian term Heqao khashut, literally: the rulers of foreign countries), invaders who came from Asia. Their main group took over Memphis (ancient Egyptian Inebhedj), the ancient capital of Egypt and ruled most of Lower Egypt. According to the text of Hatshepsut (see below), gods and temples were abandoned during the Hyksos rule. However, their time was a period of economic prosperity based on trade with West Asia. They adopted the local customs and culture and contributed to the Egyptian culture innovations such as the use of bronze and weaving techniques.
           In parallel to the rule of the Hyksos, Pharaohs ruled Thebes. In 1550 BCE, the Hyksos were expelled, Egypt was united and the New Kingdom was established.
            The New Kingdom: 18th to the 20th dynasty .1550 - 1069 BCE  
Under the rule of the 18th Dynasty kings (1550-1295 BCE) Egypt became a great power, culminating in expanding its territory all the way to the Euphrates River including Syria and Israel. Thebes was a flourishing city alongside Heliopolis (Iunu in ancient Egyptian) and Memphis, the northern cities that were not less big and important. Wealth resulting from the campaigns of conquest precipitated the development of culture and enabled construction operations with no precedent since the construction of the Great Pyramids.
            A unique queen of the 18th dynasty was Queen Hatshepsut (ruled 1479-1458 BCE) under whose rule Egypt flourished for 21 years. A Woman queen was an unusual phenomenon in ancient Egypt (there were also other queens, but very few, including: Nitoqert who ruled during the Old Kingdom from 2184 to 2181 BCE, Sobeknorfu who ruled in the 12th dynasty between the years  1777-1773 BCE, and Tawosret (ruled 1188-1186), the last Pharaoh in the 19th dynasty). Although the social status of women in Egypt was very low, the Egyptians treated their queens as pharaoh. Hatshepsut left behind a prosperous and well-organized state and spectacular projects of architecture that she initiated.
 Akhenaten (literally in ancient Egyptian: servant of god Aten; akhen-servant, aten- noon sun) (ruled 1352- 1336 BCE) was a prominent king of the New Kingdom. He did not approve of the strengthening power of the priests of the god Amun (also called Amon or Amen), and therefore broke the religious tradition, and created a new religion based on belief in one god, the sun god Aten. His detachment from control over the Egyptian empire at a time when its security was threatened by the Hittites, led to the beginning of its end. After his death the Egyptian Empire slowly faded away, although Ramesses II and his successors fought to repel foreign threats.
Pharaoh Ramesses II (ruled 1279-1213 BCE), third king of the 19th dynasty, was powerful and considered god. According to  researchers he was the pharaoh known to us from the Bible. He built many monumental structures that have survived until today. Ramesses II was one of the greatest kings in ancient Egypt, ruling for over a long period of time lasting 66 years.
During the New Kingdom architecture had notable achievements, and was characterized mainly by building rock-hewn tombs and temples. The main elements were monumental gates, courtyards surrounded by colonnades, obelisks and columns-halls.
The third interim period: 21st dynasty until the 25th (1069-664 BCE)
After the fall of the 20th Dynasty, Egypt descended again into political chaos. After the death of Ramesses XI, a man named Smendes from Tanis ("Dja'net"in ancient Egyptian) in the northeastern Delta, seized power and established the 21st dynasty.
During the 22nd  and  23rd (Libyan) dynasties (945-710 BCE)  Egypt was divided. Libyan pharaohs ruled for 20 years at the same time period as the 24th dynasty, and 30 years at the same time period as the 25th dynasty, until the Nubians put an end to their authority.                                                          
The 24th dynasty (730-710 BCE) - pharaohs who ruled the city of Sau or Sais (nowadays Sa el Hagar in the western Delta) and expanded their power over the city of Memphis. These kings made a pact with the Assyrians who were expelled from Egypt by the 25th dynasty.
The 25th dynasty (740-656 BCE) (Nubian) ruled Kush (modern Sudan) and Upper Egypt and established its ruling in Memphis, although Libyan kings continued to rule until the Nubian dynasty ended their ruling. The Nubians expanded their trade with Africa and established the Egyptian powerful state in West Asia, which protected the countries of the region against Assyrian aggression.
The Period of the late dynasties: the 26th dynasty until the 31st Dynasty (664-332 BCE)
          King Psamtik I (ruled 664-610 BCE) of the Saite (from the city of Sais) 26th  Dynasty, (664-525 BCE). reunited Egypt and kept away the Nubians of Thebes and Upper Egypt. He took advantage of the fact that the Assyrians were preoccupied with problems in the Assyrian Empire. The power of the Dynasties in the Delta area weakened and the power of Upper Egypt strengthened. The Saite dynasty period was a period of renewal for Egypt. Sais flourished and many temples of which a few have remained, were built. Many of the city's monuments were later transferred to Rome.
First Persian Period: the 27th dynasty 525-404 BCE
           During this period King Nakhtnebef, [Nectabo] I (ruled 380-362 BCE) worked to revive the glorious past of Egypt. He built new temples throughout Egypt and restored old ones. During his time ties with the rulers of the city-states in Greece and Cyprus were stronger than ever.

The second Persian period: the 31st Dynasty (343-332 BCE)

The Hellenistic period - the Macedonian and the Ptolemaic dynasties (330-30 BCE)
The Macedonian Dynasty (332-305 BCE) was established in Egypt by Alexander the Great (ruled 332-323 BCE), after conquering Asia Minor, Syria and Israel. This dynasty established its rule in Egypt, worshiped Egyptian gods and restored their temples.
Philip Arrhidaios (ruled 323-317 BCE) inherited the rule of Alexander the Great, and continued the construction of  temples that began during the 30th dynasty.
The Ptolemaic dynasty (305-30 BCE) was founded by Ptolemy, one of Alexander the Great's commanders at a time when Egypt was part of the Greek Empire. During this period the Egyptian gods were still respected by the Hellenist occupiers, and the temples built throughout Egypt continued the building tradition of The temples of the 18th dynasty. The coronation of several kings of the Ptolemaic Dynasty (among them Ptolemy V and possibly Ptolemy II) was conducted according to the ancient Egyptian ceremonial tradition in the temple of Ptah in Memphis.

Ancient Egyptian Religion
In Ancient Egypt, religion had a significant influence on culture. The ancient Egyptians had neither one clear religious system, nor standardized texts on which religion was based. Throughout ancient Egyptian history, religious belief was based on collection of many legends, telling the stories of more than 2,000 gods.
The equivalent word for "god" in ancient Egyptian was "netjer". Many gods had similar characteristics and different names in different places throughout Egypt. Every city had its own patron god and and a local sacred animal associated with him.
Every aspect of life was covered by the gods - from literature, dance and poetry to birth and death. As mortals, gods had families, "married" and had children. Like humans, they too had a limited lifespan. The moon god Thoth was perceived as he who calculated the lifespan of gods and humans.
From time to time different fashionable gods were popular. During the reign of King Akhenaten, monotheism prevailed for a short period.
Religious belief was associated with political and social life. During the Old Kingdom, Egyptian society moved from life in tribal communities to life in theocratic social system led by pharaoh - king with unlimited powers, god on earth and  mediator between gods and humans. With the force of faith in the king's divinity, his people built for him an eternal residence - the pyramid.
The Egyptians had close ties with their gods. They did not organize themselves to get together in religious rituals, as is common nowadays. The role of priests, known as the "servants of the god" (hem-netjer), was to hold magical rituals in the god's temple. Thus, they ensured his appearance on earth and that harmony and order would be kept in the world, as it was when created.
The god resided in isolation in the temple's sanctuary. Here he lived day and night and here he was also visited by the priests, who washed and dressed him (the statue), fed him meat and bread, and gave him wine and beer to drink.Thus, they satisfied ("hotep" in ancient Egyptian) his wishes.
Before entering into the god's room, the priest was required, inter alia, to shave his entire body, avoid eating certain foods, refrain from sexual activity, wear pure linen clothing and papyrus sandals, and be purified in the temple's sacred lake several times a day. This lake, probably associated  with the primeval water, was located in the the precinct of each temple, sometimes near the living quarters.
As time passed, the priestly class was strengthened, and their involvement in power and economy increased. At the end of the 20th dynasty rule, the priests of the god Amon were even able to reach the throne. In order to strengthen their status, they developed local theological theories.
 Each city presented a god of its own as the center of creation. The local gods became more Important as the political power of the cities that worshiped them strengthened. During the Old Kingdom, the god Ptah who was worshiped in Memphis, was the most important god in Egypt. Ptah was the patron god of builders and craftsmen, but was also perceived as the sun god who every day died and rose again.
According to the theology of Memphis, Ptah created the world with his heart, which was then considered the center of thought, and with his tongue - the power of the word.
The sun was one of the key elements in Egyptian religion and was worshiped in various ways. In the city of Heliopolis (literally in Greek: city of the Sun; Iunu in ancient Egyptian; iunu - literally a pillar, column; "On" in the Bible, Genesis 41, 45), near Cairo, the first god was the sun god Atum, who developed into two gods: the god Re Atum - the setting sun, and the god Re Horakhte - the rising sun. The latter was presented as a falcon- headed man, since the sun was seen as a falcon flying into the sky.
According to one version of the early Egyptian mythology from the Old Kingdom, god Atum created himself. He rose from the primordial water and stood on a hill that popped up for him (in other versions he emergeed from an egg or a lotus flower.) Then he separated the light and dark, making order out of chaos to create the world. Atum also created the Phoenix, the sacred bird  Bennu (literally in ancient Egyptian: to rise in radiance), which became the sacred bird of Heliopolis and the symbol of the birth of the sun. Bennu was considered as the first living creature, which appeared on the primordial hill after emerging from the water of creation - an event associated with the seasonal flooding of the Nile, which took place every year between June and September.
 The primeval hill called Benben, which was considered as the foundation of the city of Heliopolis, was represented by a stone, on which - according to legend, the first rays of the sun were shining, meaning that the god Atum lit it up at the first time.  
The shape of this stone, which have not survived, but was probably elongated and pointed, served as the prototype for the pyramid, obelisk, and stele (a rectangular stone with a rounded top, decorated with reliefs and inscriptions).
The god Atum created out of himself the deities Shu and Tefnut., who gave birth to the earth god Geb and the sky goddess Nut. The children of the latter were the deities  Isis, Osiris and Seth.
The ancient Egyptians believed that the earth was flat, and the dead were imprisoned in the body of Geb in the underworld. They perceived the sun as a god who makes his way in the sky every day, and passes every night through the underworld.
The first gods were presented in the form of animals. In the predynastic period a human form was added  -  a human shaped body was added to the animal's head. The the animal representing the deity often expressed its characteristics.
The ancient god Anubis, guardian of the cemeteries, who was believed to guide the spirits of the dead and protect them, was presented as  a jackal because in ancient times jackals would destroy tombs in the desert sands while searching food.
The sun god Re (Re, probably meaning: a creative force, a name associated with him being omnipotent) had a head of a hawk, because, like sunrise, the hawk crosses the sky.
A prominent god in ancient Egypt was Osiris ("Osiris" in Greek; in ancient Egyptian "Wesir", literally: the strong), the god of the dead.) The worship of the god Osiris and the goddess Isis ("Isis" in Greek, and "Aset" in ancient Egyptian), parents of the god Horus ("Horus in Greek", and "Heru" in ancient Egyptian), took place as early as the first dynasty.
According to Egyptian mythology, Osiris, the generous king of Egypt, killed Seth, his bad brother who envied him. Seth responded by chopping up Osiris' body parts into pieces and scattering them throughout Egypt.
Isis, the faithful wife (and sister) of Osiris, gathered his body parts and pieced them together into one body with the help of the jackal god Anubis. Thus, she created the first mummy and breathed life into it with her magical strength. Osiris could not live like other gods, and ruled the underground. The ability to overcome death made him the ruler of the world of the dead, the god of the dead, resurrection and fertility, and the judge in the underworld.
After the death of Osiris, Seth ruled Egypt, but when Horus grew up, he avenged his father's murder by battling against his uncle Seth in Edfu and won. Horus lost his left eye, but God Toth returned it to its place. After Horus overcame Seth, he became the king of Egypt.
Following this legend, the kings of Egypt were considered Horus on earth. While Osiris was the god of the dead, Horus was the god of life. During the second dynasty he merged with the sun god Re, and became the god Re Horachte.
With the fall of the Old Kingdom, Osiris was popular because he offered eternal life to the ordinary people. While during the Old Kingdom only the king could expect eternal life, during the 11th and 12th dynasty faith was democratized. Osiris cult promised eternal life to everyone, not just those who could afford luxurious tombs. The resurrection of Osiris was perceived by the Egyptians as a promise of their own eternal life - an idea that motivated them to devote most of their resources to fulfill this promise. Since then, a life of integrity, attention to sacraments and worshiping the god, were the only conditions necessary for blessed afterlife.
During the 11th Dynasty in the Middle Kingdom, the local falcon-headed war god Montu became Egypt's chief god. During the 12th  dynasty, Montu was replaced by Amon, who was the chief god of Thebes, and his temple in Karnac was one of the largest worship centers in Egypt. During this period were also built the temple of Ptah in Memphis and the temple of Re Atum in Heliopolis.
Apart from worship of individual gods, worship of group of gods - holy trinities, was common in Egypt as early as the first dynasties. The holiest gods of Memphis were: the father Ptah, mother Sekhet and son Imhotep. During the dynasties of Thebes the most important trinity of gods was the father - the sun god Amon (literally in ancient Egyptian: hidden) , the mother – moon goddess  Mut (literally in ancient Egyptian: mother) , and the son Khonsu.
God Amon was perceived as the creator who was associated with the invisible. According to the prevalent  belief, he created himself secretly and then created all the other gods. The theology of the New Kingdom saw in the main god integration of the god Amun with the sun god Re, and successor of God Atum.
During the 18th dynasty, Amenhotep III (ruled 1390-1353 BCE) gave a new name to the sun god - Aten or Aton (literally in ancient Egyptian: the midday sun, an ancient term that indicates the sun's energy), who received special attention. This was  probably a part of the king's efforts to reduce the influence of the priests of God Amun, who at the beginning of the 18th dynasty recieved many gifts from the kings as a gratitude for the expulsion of the Hyksos. So, the priests gained political power that threatened the rule of kings.
Akhenaten, (Amenhotep IV), son and heir of Amenhotep III, announced the sun god Aten as the only god. This bold move was intended to further restrict the growing power of the priests of God Amun. After the death of Akhenaten, the worship of Aten was abandoned and the cult of the god Amun was renewed.
From the ancient Egyptian religious beliefs derive two concepts of time that constitute an integral part of the Egyptian worldview: an eternal cyclic time – neheh, and non-cyclic eternal time - djet. Neheh is an event that occurs again and again endlessly since creation, and maintains the divine principle expressed in the "movement" of celestial bodies and the tides of the Nile. This type of time is represented by the scarab. which is associated with Re - the sun god. Djet stands for the perception of stability and is represented by a stone and mummy. The hieroglyph of the word "djet" also has a meaning of "body" and hence its connection with mummy which is designated to preserve the body forever. It is the permanent eternity. The god associated with djet is Osiris, who guards the world of the dead. Djet is, then, stopped time compared to neheh – the moving time.
From the texts of the pyramid of Pharaoh Pepi II (ruled 2278-2184 BCE) we can learn about the connection between the pyramid, the eternal stone structure, and djet. We find the language of prayer: "So that the ka of Pepi II will be held within [ inside the pyramid structure] for ever and ever "(originally: "djet djet"). The connection between the word djet, which indicates permanent eternity, and the ka of the king and the pyramid in which it resides, appears repeatedly in the texts of the pyramid.
Magic has been an integral part of the lives of ancient Egyptians. They believed that their gods gave them unnatural forces and wisdom. Inscriptions written on papyrus or inscribed on stone served as charms. Practical Magic dominated all areas of life: birth, death, love, hate, health, illness, and so forth. Paintings and sculptures were empowered by magic delegated by spells.
Spells were designed to protect against evil forces and preserve the cosmic harmony. The perfect harmony of the world in which each person has his own place, is defined by Maat (literally in ancient Egyptian: truth, justice), who guarantees the existence of moral values, social rules and physical factors that give the country wealth and order. Maat rules the world through pharaoh who was responsible for the rituals and ceremonies, which keep away the risk that chaos will return.
Fear of the opposite of Maat, that is, returning to  the primeval chaos, troubled the Egyptians every day and night. Hours of darkness were a dangerous dramatic time for the sun god who fights the forces of chaos in his nightly journey in the sky. Every night he subdues the night and darkness, and melts the clouds, which disappear by his rays. Every sunrise was considered a victory over the dark, victory of good over evil; every sunset was considered as a powerful entrance into the world of the dead where the sun copes with threatening dangers. To help the sun god in his struggle, temples were built for him and gifts were given to him.

The Belief in Life after Death
The Egyptian belief in life after death had the most significant influence on architecture and other arts in Egypt. The Egyptians saw the afterlife as direct continuation of life in this world. This belief may have resulted from the natural embalming of the dead in early period, when the dead were buried in pits dug in the sand. The extreme heat and dryness characterizing the climate in Egypt caused a rapid drying of the bodies and their perfect preservation in the sand. When the Egyptians put the bodies in coffins and built tombs, artificial embalming was required. This custom began as early as the Old Kingdom and reached its peak during the New Kingdom.
Egyptians believed that the existence of any person constitutes seven essential elements: Ren - the name of the person, Sekem – the power and energy of the person after his death, Sekhu - the physical remains of the of the dead, Sheut - the shadow reflecting the divine power inside him, ba - his spiritual component, ka - the life force of creation from ancient times, which abandons the body at death and allows the dead to continue to receive gifts after death, and akh - the unchanging unification of Ka and Ba, which united after the death of the physical body and after the deceased was given offerings and the appropriate spells were made.
Removing a person's name, or the royal name of the king from a statue or monument were considered the total destruction of his memory and existence. Thus, the absence of any of the other components might be an obstacle on the way to eternal life. The ka, as the life energy that had left the dead, needed food and beverages after death. The ba, described as a human headed bird, represented the dead's relationship with the world of the living. The Egyptians believed that the ba stayed with the mummy at night, but during the day it was out in the daylight. In ancient Egypt the prevalent belief was that a soul of a person or an animal can be transferred into a statue by the power of spells.
 When a person dies his soul ba, shown as a human headed bird, is flying from his body, after accompanying him during his life. The ba breathes life into the ka and moves to the kingdom of the dead. At night, the human soul ba is travelling with the sun god Re on his boat.
The ka cannot exist without a body, which is why a great effort was made to preserve the body. Upon arriving to the world of the dead, the ka was sentenced by God Osiris, who was aided by 42 demons. The Book of the Dead (written on the walls of tombs or on papyri found in them) suggested rules of conduct before the judge. While a sinful soul was condemned to a total destruction, the good soul would become the companion of eternity god Osiris.
The ba, the soul that flies from the body whose embalming was designed to provide the ka with body, should return to it, because without a body the ba will die. The ka penetrates the dead, whose mummy was designed to provide the ka with a body to enable the continuation of life after death. When the embalming was not successful,  the ka would find a substitute for the body in the shape of a sculpture, relief, or painting placed in the grave to provide it with a permanent place. As the statues of the dead placed in his grave were more numerous, the higher was the chance of his revival. To ensure life in the afterlife the dead would be buried with food and drink and all his possessions, which were to serve him in the afterlife.
For the ancient Egyptian, the tomb was the most important thing in the world for which he spent all his financial resources and intellectual ability. In the grave, "The Eternal House", as it was described in ancient Egyptian, were recorded his actions, meaning of life, and values.
An Egyptian nobleman who designed his tomb during his lifetime and left notes for his autobiographical description, wrote: "I was he who prepared this place, to serve me as a cemetery and fulfill my wishes. When I was among the living, I devoted my attention to it in every aspect."
When Pharaoh died and joined the gods, he needed all the status symbols that accompanied him throughout his life, such as gold, servants and slaves. There is evidence that in ancient times, when the king died, his family and servants were killed and buried with him, to accompany him to the next world. Gradually, sculptures replaced the family members. After a while, the Egyptians realized that they could not ensure real food for long for the deceased, and carved on the grave the names of foods and drinks for the dead so that Osiris and Anubis the gods of the dead, would take care of him. Paintings and sculptures, depicting chores, banquets, singing, dancing and other everyday life events, served as means of magic that would create the continuity of life after death.
Since the end of the Old Kingdom, the prevalent belief was that life after death depended on the morality of man. The Egyptians believed that with the arrival of the deceased  to the world of the dead he was sentenced in the presence of Maat – the goddess of truth, and the universal law and order, whose job was to make sure that justice would prevail. In the underworld, the dead's heart would be weighed against a feather that represented the goddess. When the heart was heavier due to evil deeds, it served as food for Ammit, the devourer of the dead, but when it weighed less than the feather, it meant that the deceased  was honest and honorable and would be received with blessings by Osiris.
The cult of the dead penetrated to almost every aspect of life, and enabled the preservation of most of the remains of ancient Egyptian civilization to this day. While the houses were perceived by the  Egyptians as temporary and, accordingly, were built with perishing materials, the graves, which were perceived as permanent residence, were built with durable materials withstanding the ravages of time. The abundance of stone in Egypt together with the desire to create eternal graves helped the development of architecture.

Symbols in Ancient Egyptian Architecture
In order to understand the ancient Egyptian architecture we have to be aware of the importance attributed to symbols during this period. The pyramid structure was perceived as a microcosm of the kingdom of gods. As in Mesopotamia, the ziggurat (step pyramid-shaped temple) reflected a cosmological concept, so did the pyramid in Egypt; however, while in Mesopotamia the corners of the ziggurat faced the four cardinal points, in the pyramids, the walls faced the four cardinal points. Thus, architecture has created a relationship between man and cosmos (the gods).
In ancient Egypt the pyramid was seen as representing the primordial hill, from which life began. According to Egyptian mythology, an emptiness was created in the ground and was filled with water. In this water grew a hill, from which started creation and life began. On this hill sprouted a lotus flower from which emerged the sun (according to other versions, the sun rose from the hill, or came from an egg). In texts engraved on the walls of the pyramids, is engraved in stone the primordial hill as a simple slope of a hill, a shape which is associated with the pyramid.
The appearance of God Ptah, which was perceived as P-Ta-Tenen (literally in ancient Egyptian: earth revealed) is also associated with the pyramid-shaped hill. This god was considered the architect of the world, a creator ex nihilo.  
The pyramid shape was inspired by the shape of the sun's rays. In the texts of the pyramids (magical spells engraved in vertical columns on the walls of the pyramids), it was written that the dead king was helped by the sun to ascend to heaven. The top of the pyramid, which was coated with gold, served according to Egyptian belief, as the basis of the ladder, on which the soul of pharaoh ascended and descended on the rays of the sun. Thus, the pyramid was intended to create a connection between the dead king and the living god, enabling him to climb to the top of the sky and sail the boat of the sun god Re every day.
Mystical elements were an integral part of determining the dimensions of the pyramid. There is no doubt that mathematics served not only as a means of engineering construction. Magic numbers were used in order to calculate dimensions of monuments. The fact that Ptah, the patron god of building in ancient Egypt, was a mathematician, reinforces this approach.
As a geometric shape, which stimulates a sense of stability more than any other geometric shape,  the pyramid immortalizes the dead king's life and strength. The eternality and stability radiated by the pyramid is also expressed by the static appearance of the sculptures, reliefs and drawings that adorn it. The power attributed to the pyramid is expressed in the well-known Arabic proverb: "All things fear time, but time fears the pyramids."
Like the pyramids in ancient Egypt, temples symbolized the primordial hill from which began the creation. In ancient Egyptian texts from the New Kingdom, the temple is presented as symbolizing  the primordial hill. The first temple on this hill had a shape of a wall, which was designed to distinguish between the god and his surroundings. Thus, an inscription on the basis of one of the obelisks built by Hatshepsut between the fourth and fifth pylons in the temple in Karnac, states that it is "the horizon on earth, the noble hill of the first event." Since the 18th dynasty the exact (or holy) place of the little temple in Medinet Habu was called "the first event." According to a text found in the temple of  Horus in Edfu (Dbot in ancient Egyptian), The first temple was built by the gods themselves.
As time passed, courtyards were placed in front of the temple, to separate between those permitted to enter the temple and others. In order to encourage the god to stay in the temple the Egyptians tried to copy the earliest temple and built columns to represent the trees that grew in the swampy land surrounding the primordial hill. The large halls in temples with the papyrus shaped columns, can be seen as a symbol of the swampy Delta, where the boat of the god sailed. Through these halls marched the procession that carried the god (his statue), from the sanctuary towards the outside of the temple.
Gaston Maspero (1846-1916), the French archaeologist, who studied ancient Egypt, wrote that  the builders of temples saw the temple's shape as symbolizing the world. The earth was perceived by them as a kind of rectangular-shaped flat board, and was represented by the floor of the temple, while the sky was represented by the ceiling or the vaults, which were supported by four pillars symbolizing the four corners of the earth. The columns hall of the temple demonstrated this approach. The ceiling was painted blue as the background of scattered yellow stars. Sometimes maps with stars of the zodiac adorned the ceiling. On the ground grow plants – a forest of columns, with capitals designed as lotus flowers, palm trees and papyri representing the fertility of the earth.
The wall that surrounded the temple and protectesd it, was sometimes built in a curving wavy shape, probably to represent the primordial water (Nun) of chaos. The Nile itself was thought to flow from Nun's primordial waters. Thus, the temple was a microcosm charged with magic powers. The gods who reside inside it and the king who builds it for them, contribute to the balance in the world and the well-being of mankind.

Construction Materials and Methods
The conditions of dryness in Egypt dictated the use of materials for construction. Wood, which tends to crack and rot in the dry conditions of Egypt, did not fit for construction. More suited materials were stone and mud bricks. During the period preceding the Old Kingdom, the Egyptians used Nile mud sun-dried bricks. Mud was mixed with straw to create very strong bricks. A hundred years after the first pharaoh of the ancient kingdom rule, the Egyptians replaced sun-dried bricks by stone to build sophisticated structures, and reached the greatest achievements in construction.
The ancient Egyptians had a large selection of stones for construction in large quantities. Limestone, known as "white stone", is plentiful in Egypt and was used more than any other material in building the pyramids and the mortuary temples (built in close proximity to the pyramids). Rough limestone is relatively soft and easy for quarrying. Softness was particularly important given the fact, that the Egyptians carved stone blocks with copper shovel, chisels, hammers made of raw basalt and granite, and other tools made of hard stone. Only during the New Kingdom began the use of iron, however, it was widely used only a few hundred years later.
Limestone was mainly hewn in Tura, Abydos, Beni Hassan, and El Amarna.
Sandstone, from which the Nubian pyramids and most of the temples were built, was found beyond the Aswan region. Major sandstone quarries were found from Kalabsha to Wadi halfa,  From Silsila, about 65 km north of Aswan, to  Edfu and Com-Ombo (Ombos in ancient Egyptian). Although Egypt is rich in sandstone, the use of this stone was not significant until the New Kingdom.
Alabaster stone, used mainly as a secondary construction material, usually for coating the walls and flooring, was hewn mostly in Het-nub, about 15 km to the south-east of El Amarna.
Basalt stone, used for flooring, was found in large quantities in northern Fayum, Aswan and to the north-west of the pyramids at Giza.
Pink granite was used for coating interior walls and sometimes to build pillaras and obelisks. Granite stone, white or black, of the strongest stones, served for coating the outside walls of several pyramids and the walls in the burial chambers inside them. Many obelisks, weighing hundreds of tons, were carved from it. Granite was found in large quantities in Aswan and Wadi Hammamat.
Quartzite stone was usually used for sculpture, but sometimes also for construction. Hatshepsut  used this stone to build her red chapel. In the temple in Karnac it was found in different colors (white, yellow, and various shades of red) in diverse textures. It was carved mainly in El-Gebel el-Ahmar,  Wadi Natrun, Edfu and Aswan.
The stone blocks used mainly for building the pyramids and temples, were carried in boats on the Nile to the construction sites. The houses, palaces and probably also public structures continued to be built with mud bricks. The highest quality mud bricks were burned in kilns. Naturally, the majority of the buildings built of mud bricks have not survived.
We can see that with the passage from mud-brick construction to building with stone, the building with stone adopted the architectural vocabulary of construction with mud-brick, wood, reeds, and other perishable materials used in Egypt before the third dynasty.
During the Old Kingdom, the heart of the pyramid was built in rough limestone, while the external and internal walls were covered with fine limestone. Often, rough limestone was hewn very close to the construction site. Such limestone quarries were found at Giza, Dahshur and Sakara.
White fine limestone was difficult to quarry and distant from the building sites. The main source of this stone was Muqattan Hills on the west bank of the Nile, near modern Tura. It Was necessary to dig trenches to reach the quarry, which was buried deep in the ground (sometimes at a depth of 50 meters). Large blocks of the limestone were cut into slats.
Architects had to take great care to fit the stones to each other accurately, because construction work was usually done without cement. When the thickness of the walls was moderate the stones on either side were chiseled, but when the wall was thick, the inner part between the two stone walls were filled with gravel, cement and stone fragments. These stones were well cut from all sides, except the back, which was reinforced with spikes.
Pyramid construction allows saving building material. The steeper the slope of the pyramid the less building material is required for each added meter of height. Throughout the history of ancient Egypt, the smaller pyramids had a steeper slope than the larger ones except for the satellite pyramids which were built with a slope identical to that of the main pyramid. The great and the medium pyramids reach a slope of 56 degrees, while the small pyramids reach a slope of 63 degrees as early as during the Old Kingdom. The average slope of the small pyramids built of mud bricks during the New kingdom reaches 70 degrees.
In building temples the Egyptians used a technique based on column and lintel (columns  supporting a flat surface), which is the simplest construction method. The horizontal line which is  dominant in this method of construction, reflects the stability to which the Egyptian art aspired. Although the Egyptians knew the structure of the arch, they made a little use of it. Perhaps the reason for this lies in the dynamic nature of the arch. The Egyptians, who have built structures to be durable and last forever, chose shapes expressing stability and stagnation.
Using stone pillars first appeared during the King Djoser of the third dynasty. With pillars it was possible to support small surfaces of stone blocks. In order to build ceilings for large spaces, the builders had to fill halls with many pillars. The stones were well chiseled and sometimes connected to each other through mortise and tenon joint, createing the impression of monolithic blocks.
Geographical conditions in Egypt forced the architects to build terraces above the levels of annual floods that inundated large areas due to the high tides of the Nile river.
Study of ancient Egyptian documents indicates careful planning of the construction work. Architects used a combination of drawings, models and written specifications to describe their buildings. These included groundplans of buildings and side sections, which were drawn on a surface covered with a grid pattern. Most of the ground plans which were found were drawn on limestone slabs. A ground plan drawn on papyrus that has survived, describes the tomb of Ramses IV (12th century BCE), and can be compared to the tomb itself. The comparison shows that the actual implementation is not symmetrical like the design. The side rooms at the edge of the grave defy the symmetry. Maspero, explaining the cause of these differences, writes that the ground plan sketch was seen only as a sketch which was to be changed if necessary. There was no intention to implement it strictly without any changes.

Ancient Egypt ground plans were often incorporated with the side sections, but these were rare compared to groundplans. One can see them especially in plans of small Egyptian temples.

Architectural models were no strangers to the ancient Egyptians. Such is the model (probably from the 12th dynasty) of underground rooms and corridors in the pyramid, which was found buried in the valley temple of Pharaoh Amenemhet III in Dahshur. In the limestone model rooms are arranged in groups and presented clearly but are schematic. The researchers believe that the model was used for building a pyramid that have not yet been revealed. Some Egyptologists link the model with the pyramid of Amenhemet III in Hawara, although the model does not match exactly the set of rooms and corridors in this pyramid.
Some architectural models from the Ptolemaic dynasty were also found. Their sizes range from approximately a few centimeters to one meter.
In their construction projects, the Egyptians used sand ramps, which were removed after the completion of the work. In the building of the temple in Karnac (see below), a ramp led to the top of the temple's wall. Such ramps were used for transporting stones to the upper parts of the building, enabling the arrival of artists to the upper parts of walls and pillars to do their work. When construction work was completed, the sand ramps were removed and revealed the building.

Burial Structures
The belief in life after death motivated the Egyptian, every one according to his ability, to find a means by which their bodies would be kept forever. Great efforts to ensure the continuation of life after death were made starting with embalming the body and ending with the construction of the tomb. In the predynastic period the grave pit was just deep enough to contain the body, which was naturally preserved in the sand due to the dry climate in Egypt. Thus, the first mummies were created. In ancient times the king and his family were buried in this way. Such pits continued to serve the common people, who buried their dead under the floor of the house throughout the period of ancient Egypt.
After the unification of Egypt by King Menes, separate cemeteries developed. Many graves were found near the large tombs of the kings and their families. During the third millennium BCE, with the emergence of political hierarchy, a sophisticated new way of burial appeared. Hierarchy led to the distinction between the burial of common people and that of the upper class. The first rulers and nobles were buried in tombs or "mastabas". Later kings were buried in pyramids, and during the New Kingdom the kings were buried in rock-hewn tombs.
Once a name was given to pharaoh, the  construction of his tomb began, and lasted until his death. As a result, part of the tombs of the kings are very large and rich with reliefs and paintings, while others (such as the tomb of Tut-Ankh-Amon, who ruled for a short period of time) are small. Paintings and reliefs that were found in these tombs are the most significant source of information about daily life in ancient Egypt.

The Mastaba
With the development of belief in the afterlife the pharaohs were buried with items intended to accompany them in the next life. Since graves' robbery was common, and there was a need to bury many objects with the dead king, a burial structure has evolved. A mud bricks rectangular structure reinforced by corners made of wood was built above the burial site. This was a hill-shaped tomb structure known as "Mastaba."
"Mastaba" is a modern Arabic word, literally meaning "a small bench". The word mastaba was coined in 1882 after the benches in Egyptian villages at that time. These tombs are rectangle-shaped, with rather smooth outer walls, sloping inward symmetrically, and supporting a flat roof. The Egyptians discovered that this type of graves, built of sun-dried mud-brick walls and sloping inward, do not tend to crash. When they built the mastabas of stone, they fashioned them in the same shape, with walls sloping inward, although it was not necessary any longer.
Even after the building of mastabas began, the Egyptians continued to bury the dead beneath the ground surface. Narrow pit in the mastaba led into a small rock-hewn room, where the dead were laid in a sarcophagus, or in a wooden coffin placed inside the sarcophagus. After the burial chamber was sealed and the pit was filled with gravel, the mastaba served as a meeting place for the friends and relatives of the deceased, who brought their offerings and chanted magical spells.
Mastabas were built in various sizes, but the height of most of them did not exceed three meters, and their length was generally smaller than five meters. The size of the mastaba grew over the years. The average size of a mastaba reached 40-50 meters in length, 20-27 meters in width, and 10-13 meters in height. The higher the deceased's social status was, the larger was his mastaba. Pharaoh Shepseskaf (ruled between 2503-2498 BCE), son and heir of King Menkaura, built himself a huge mastaba in southern Sakara, whose base was 78 m x 104.6 m and its height 20.95 meters. This mastaba was called  "Mastaba Pharaon" (literally in Egyptian Arabic: Pharaoh's bench).
Usually, According to the plan the four outer walls of the mastaba were supposed to face the four cardinal points, while the two long walls were supposed to face north and south. However, implementation was not always accurate.
The mastaba's structure was composed of two parts: the underground part, where the sarcophagus was placed, and the part above the surface where the chapel of offerings stood and served for sacrifices and ceremonies. In the subterranean part, except for the burial chamber, there were also rooms with things that were supposed to be used by the deceased in the afterlife.
With the passage of time the mastabas have become increasingly luxurious and spacious, so they could accommodate all the objects of the dead. Portraits of slaves were painted on the interior walls, to serve the deceased in the afterlife. The shape of these burial structures was designed to confuse the graves' robbers. The entrance to them was planned to be seen as part of the wall, and the passage to the subterranean part of the mastaba was covered with gravel and stone partitions.
During the second dynasty, the design of the mastaba changed. In its eastern wall two niches were built. The southern one, adorned with a long and narrow panel sunken into the wall, represented a real door, and is called "false door." This door was designed to allow the ka and the ba a passage from the burial room to the room of offerings.
During the third dynasty, the eastern niche in the southern wall developed into a series of rooms. Since the fourth dynasty, subterranean rooms were reduced into one underground burial chamber, and the structure on the surface became more complicated. On the walls of the rooms above the ground were painted scenes, depicting daily activities such as agricultural work, artists, and artisans in their work, hunting and fishing.
The false door was the most important part of the mastaba. It was also designed to allow the dead soul out to the world outside the tomb. 
Access to the chapel was permitted only to the priest and the family of the dead. Initially, as stated, the door was placed in the eastern wall (so that those who came to the tomb faced the west, the land of the dead), but later, the door was placed in the western wall. Usually, on the door was painted the figure of the deceased seated before a table of offerings, with inscription including details about him and his life (his title, details about his property, his slaves, and his officials) and ceremonial spells associated with the cult of death. These inscriptions were carved in stone or wood or just written on the wall.
Sometimes, before the false door, stood the altar for sacrifices and prayer. Beside the chapel with the false door, there was the serdab - a small room where the statue of the dead stood. The ka of the dead, his life energy, was perceived as reviving the statue of the dead, which became the home of the dead's soul. This ensured the continuity of the soul of the deceased when the deceased's body was damaged for some reason. Just in case, the name of the deceased was engraved on the base of the statue, which represented him, out of fear that it would be destroyed. A narrow slot in the wall of the serbab  was designed to allow the ba (soul) access to the world outside the tomb, and to allow the statue seen looking through the crack in the wall, to "attend" The ceremonies.
The false door in the wall of the mastaba was very common during the Old Kingdom and the early Middle Kingdom, but later became rare.
Despite all the precautions taken in building the tomb to prevent robberies, graves were often robbed. The similarity in the design of mastabas made it easier for the bandits to rob the graves.
With the end of the period of King Djoser's (the first king the third dynasty) reign, stone replaced mud in the construction of mastabas, and two false doors were added to the east side of the mastaba to serve the deceased's ba.
From the fourth dynasty on, mastabas of government officials and the royal family were built near the pyramids in order to ensure their afterlife. Giza Pyramids site was full of such graves. So it was also in Abydos, Sakara, Abusir and Dahshur. In Giza the mastabas were arranged in a symmetrical layout. In Sakara, Abusir and Dahshur, however, they were dispersed without order. The location and size of the mastaba indicated a social and religious hierarchy, which lasted even after death.
During the fifth dynasty, when the king's power weakened the power of the government officials strengthened. The number of tombs of the nobility increased and so did their dimensions. The upper classes abandoned the tendency to build tombs near the graves of the kings. The layout of the graves was more complex than before and they contained more rooms. Wall paintings in the chapel of offerings and other rooms in the grave depicted the daily life of the deceased.

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