1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Description of Ancient Egypt. Origin of Egyptian Architecture.

(Part 6)


Description of Ancient Egypt. Origins of Egyptian Architecture.

For the beginning of the art- its earliest efforts, grand even in their infancy – we must turn to Egypt.

A short description of general configuration of the country may be useful here. Its inhabitable land is a narrow strip a few miles wide, extending from the Nile, on one or both its banks, to rocks or desert. About 100 miles up the river is Cairo, and close to it Memphis, the old capital of the Lower Egypt, Heliopolis, and the great pyramids of Ghizeh, Abooseer, Sakkara, and Dashour; 450 miles higher up the river is the site of great Thebes, with Karnak and Luxor on the right or eastern bank, and Medinet Haboo on the west. Beyond this in succession are Esne, Edfoo, Elephantina, Syene, and Phile, close to the first cataract, Higher up (in Nubia) are great caves of Aboosimbel, and still the greater distance the pyramids of Moreo, or Dankelah. The rock is generally limestone up to Theves, sandstone and breccia to Syene, where the well-known variety of granites, with horneblended, is found; these with the addition of unburnt brick, are the chief materials used in the construction of Egyptian architectural monuments. The granite was principally supplied by quarries at Elephantina and Syene, for which Nile offered a ready mode of conveyance, although it appears that the obelisk and other enormous blocks were sent by land. Some species were brought down the river of Ethiopia, but we do not find that materials were brought from any other country. It maybe remarked, too, that in the earliest structures the common gres or sandstone is principally employed. Excepting the obelisks and some few of propylea, all the temples at Thebes are that material. In Lower Egypt, on the contrary, and in the works of later date generally, almost everything is constructed of granite.

It seems quite certain that Egyptians art is original and not derived from that of India; and it may be concluded with great probability that the structures of Egypt are the oldest specimens of Architecture in the world. The origin of the structures themselves has been matter thought that the rock-cut caves of Upper Egypt were the earliest effort architectural design, and furnished models for the enormous piles raised along banks of the Nile. An examination of these caves, however, will show clearly that the very reverse in the case, and that the carving of excavations are limited from the above- ground buildings.

The oldest work of Egyptians, according to Herodotus, were embankment of the Nile by Menes, the foundation of the city of Memphis, and the commencement of the temple to Vulcan. Next we learn from Manetho, as cited by Eusebius, the Venephes, and the fourth king of first dynasty, built some pyramids at placed called Cochomen, but this is all we know of them. Eusebius further records that Tosorthus, Sosorthus, the second king of the third dynasty, found out how to build with polished or smooth stone (kai ten dia xeston lithon oikodomen eureto).

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