The major characteristics of ancient Egyptian art relate directly to their
religious beliefs, and in particular, to their belief in an afterlife. Most of their art
was made for a specific purpose: to fill the tombs of the dead.
Egyptian art was very static: traditions were established early
and maintained for 3000 years.
1. Theirs was an art filled society.
2. A culture fascinated with death.
iTom6s were most im ortant. Three ma·or t~ es:
mastaba tomb--a low trapezoidal structure
made of stone blocks. Imhotep, (M-Ho-tep) first
recorded artist/architect known bv name, designed
and built the first step pvramid which was a variant;
Group ol i\lastab,IS (alter A. Badawy). 4th
a series of mastabas stacked in decreasing
sizes (2750 B.C.) for King Djoser (Zo-ser).
pyramid tomb--four sided triangular
structure tapering to a point centered
over its square base. The Great
Pyramids at Giza 2570-2500 B. C.
rock-cut tomb--Iiterally carved into the
natural rock facing of a cliff, Funerary
temple of Queen Hatsheput (Hots-he-put) c.
1480 B.C., inner sanctuary is located inside
the cliff at Deir-el-Bahari.
Temples were also important. Two types:
mortuary temple (for the funeral rites of
pharaohs) Temple of Ramessess II,
(Ram- ah-seasJ Abu Simbel, 1257 B. C.
cult temple (dedicated to a particular deity)
Temples at Karnak, c. 1300 B. C. which relied
which relied on similar designs or plans.
Architecture was married to painting and
Tomb and temple decoration were most extensive.
Style was rigid and formal with conventions controlled
by tradition (canon). Dry Fresco on flat walls and
over relief mostly associated with architecture were
typical. Manuscript illustration was done on papyrus
scrolls, "Opening of the mouth ceremonv", from the
Book of the Dead, A ~uilding was incomplete without
painting and sculpture, just as painting and sculpture
were conceived against architectural settings.
Relief: low relief and sunken
relief were generally painted, The
Palette of Narmer c. 2700 B. C., an
example of low relief and Akhenaten
(Ah-kuh-naht· uhn) and Nefretete
(Ne-free-te) and their children, 1370-53 B.C.
an example of sunken relief.
Free-standing: enthroned rulers
"Khafre (Kah-free) Greek name
Chephren" standing rulers
(Greek name Mvcerinus) and his
Queen", or officials, seated scribes
"Seated Scribe", reserve ("ka"-the
life force or soul) statues and heads
"Bust of Nefretete" effigy figures, and
deities were among the most significant
Questions Concerning ttle Building Techniques of the
1. During 3rd Dynasty, the Stepped Pyramid of King
a. Brilliant architect, Imhotep, designed and built.
b. Six stacked mastabas some 60 meters high,
secret of success was 44 inner walls juxtaposed
for strength with properly cut and placed stones.
Transverse Section of the Step Pyramid of King Zoser,
. The Pyramids as Religious Architecture (approximately
100 of various sizes and sha es are to be found in Egygtl
1. What motivated the building of the pyramids?
Burial rites ... or much, much more?!
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2. Awareness of ancient Egyptian
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orientation to the stars and maps of Egypt.~- :..,.....
(to the south is called Upper Egypt and to
the north Lower Egypt)
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"mansion of eternity" may have had an additional religious purpose other
than mere burial.}_ _~~........
Built during the 4th Dynasty, 2570-2500 B. C. Actual construction
took about 30 years.
Study of the pyramid texts during the previous dynasty reveal
the first formal religious writings.
Egyptologists theorize that the Old Kingdom people worshipped
the stars believing the heavens represented a celestial
manifestation of their Gods.
Through the pyramid texts the origins and rites of mummification
The legends of the Gods are preserved through the pyramid texts.
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A Nation Is Born From A Tomb
Largest of three at Giza at a height of 484 feet, 2.7 million blocks
averaging 2 tons apiece, the largest weighed 20 tons, the facing slabs
were of polished white limestone with prehaps a glided cap of gold.
The construction involved every facet of society and took
approximately 30 years.
Various dialects merged into one common language.
Standard weights and measures were developed.
While there may have been some prisoners or slaves
involved, mostly free men, conscripted on a rotating basis
and working under the supervision of skilled artisans and
craftsman built the Khufu pyramid motivated by the
anticipation of salvation.
A nation was literally forged from this single construction
through a commonalty of physical. mental. and spiritual
E. Construction Prol5lems: Baffling guestions, even toClay.!
1. How did they do that? It would seem the Egyptians moved the
incredibly heavy blocks by building a ramp approximately 30 meters wide,
wrapping itself upward and around the pyramid, which easily
accommodated a work force of 5000 utilizing two lanes, one up and one
down, of slow but constant traffic. [See figures A & B top next page]
._..... -• . ~ ..
What did it cost? In today's dollars calculated at
approximately $800 billion!
An Englishman, John Taylor discovered that contained
within the mathematics of the pyramid, such as measurements
of length, height, etc. was this interesting tidbit:
length X 2 =230.304 X 2 = 3.14
Did the ancient Egyptians really know about "pi?" Probably not
and most assuredly they did not get it from extra-terrestrials.
Rather, "pi" was inherent within the logical, mathematical
reasoning capabilities of the Egyptians.
Other of the their mathematical calculations are solid examples of
this ability such as the almost perfect "leveling" techniques, i.e.,
trenches carved into the bedrock, filled with water and then
marked and extraneous material cut away to secure a level
foundation for the pyramid. They were ingenious and practical.
See fi ures A, B, C, & 0 below
Excavate & fill with water, mark level
trench with rubble.
Another example of ingenuity -- "dry hydraulics" to raise/lower
great weights. To place four ton roofing blocks thirty feet high
on a hypostyle temple sequentially illustrated, See fig. A, B & C
below usin a material the E
tians had in reat uantit, sand.
G. The Discovery of ttie Tomb of Tutanktiamen Kin Tut
English Archaeologist Howard Carter received funding from
Lord Carnarvon for a dig in the "Valley of the Kings".
In 1923 Carter unearths the "rock-cut" tomb of Tutankhamen, a
minor pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. Bulk of the artifacts intact
thus King Tut was considered a major find.
Story revealed is fragmentary at best, with a look at the
politics, intermarriages, and intrigue of Egyptian royalty.
Art treasures, artifacts and other personal items enumerated.
Sarcophagus of Tutankhamen
Art and artifacts from the tomb
Account of Tut's personal life from records in the tomb.
Family line is confusing and complicated.
Ascends the throne at age 9 and dies under
mysterious circumstances at age 18 or 19.
Contributes little other than a return to the traditional
standards of the New Kingdom period.
During excavation Carnarvon becomes ill and dies thus setting
into motion the legend of the "mummy's curse."(Death
shall come on swift wings to those who disturb the sleep of the