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Article

Jaromir Malek

Site of the ancient Egyptian sun temple of King Neuserre (reg c. 2416–c. 2392 bc), on the western bank of the Nile north-west of Abusir, almost opposite the southernmost suburbs of modern Cairo. The temple, called Shesepib re (‘joy of the sun god Re’), is situated at the edge of the Libyan Desert, in the area of the Memphite necropolis.

Six sun temples were built for the state sun god Re-Horakhty by the kings of the 5th Dynasty, but by the late 20th century only two had so far been located. The sun temple of Neuserre was excavated by Friedrich Wilhelm von Bissing in 1898–1901. Nearly all the reliefs were removed, mostly to German collections, and many perished during World War II. The temple was built mainly of limestone. It consists, from east to west, of the valley temple, causeway and upper temple. This arrangement is similar to that of pyramid complexes and suggests a generally accepted concept of a purpose-built temple during the Old Kingdom. A brick-built bark of the sun god was discovered near by....

Article

R. G. Morkot

Site in Egypt, on the west bank of the Nile in Lower Nubia, 280 km south of Aswan. With the construction of the Aswan Dam in the early 1960s, the temple complex was one of a number of ancient monuments saved by being moved to a new site. Having been cut into pieces and reassembled, it now stands on the shores of Lake Nasser, 64 m higher and 180 m west of its ancient site. It is not known whether any small rock-cut chapels already existed at Abu Simbel, but inscriptions from the Middle Kingdom show that it was already an ancient sacred site when Ramesses II (reg c. 1279–c. 1213 bc) chose it for his most grandiose, and most famous, Nubian monument.

The construction of the Great and Small Temples of Abu Simbel began in the early years of Ramesses II, and they were completed by around the 25th year of his reign. The Great Temple (...

Article

Abydos  

John Baines

[anc. Egyp. Abdjw]

Egyptian site, c. 50 km south of Sohag, and necropolis of the ancient city of This (perhaps modern Girga), which was briefly the capital of the newly united Egypt in the Late Predynastic period (c. 3000–c. 2925 bc). As the country’s most ancient capital, it remained significant throughout Egyptian history, becoming the principal cult centre of Osiris, a funerary deity who embodied the tradition of kingship. From the later Middle Kingdom (c. 1750 bc), the Early Dynastic period (c. 2925–c. 2575 bc) royal necropolis was believed to contain the tomb of Osiris; because of this, it was visited by pilgrims until Roman times (30 bcad 395). Large cemeteries continued to accumulate, and they were characterized in the latest period by a distinctive Greco-Egyptian type of stele. These merged Egyptian and Classical styles with a largely Egyptian decorative repertory and were increasingly inscribed in Greek. Thus for two millennia Abydos was an important centre of non-royal art, as well as the location of major temples....

Article

(b Athribis, nr Benha, c. 1440 bc; d c. 1350 bc).

Ancient Egyptian architect and patron. Amenhotpe rose to prominence in his home town during the reign of Amenophis III (reg c. 1391–c. 1353 bc) as a royal scribe and chief of the priests of the local god Khentekhtai. About 1390 bc he moved to the royal court at Thebes and was rapidly promoted by Amenophis III to the position of chief royal architect, responsible for the whole process of temple construction, from quarrying to the sculpting of relief decoration, as well as the commissioning of royal statues. The full list of buildings for which Amenhotpe was architect is not known, but he certainly supervised the construction of a huge temple at Soleb near the second cataract of the Nile in Lower Nubia, where several of the reliefs depict him standing alongside the King during the temple consecration ceremony. He also built two tombs and a mortuary temple for himself on the west bank at Thebes (...

Article

Ian M. E. Shaw

[Nebmaatre]

(reg c. 1391–c. 1353 bc). Egyptian ruler and patron. He reigned in the late 18th Dynasty (c. 1540–c. 1292 bc), a time of great national peace and prosperity. Amenophis III was a prolific builder: it was during his reign that Amenhotpe, the greatest Egyptian architect since Imhotep, rose to a position of power and influence as ‘Overseer of all the King’s Works’.

Although Amenophis III constructed numerous temples, from Memphis and Bubastis in the north of Egypt to Soleb and Sedeinga in the south (see Nubia, §III), only a small number of these have survived. His mortuary temple, built in fine white limestone on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes, must have been one of the most impressive buildings of the time, but it was systematically dismantled in the 19th Dynasty (c. 1292–c. 1190 bc). Only a few items of sculpture and stelae have been preserved from it, notably the celebrated ‘...

Article

Claude Vandersleyen

[Amenemhet III; Nymaatre]

Egyptian ruler. Both architecture and sculpture have survived from his reign in the 12th Dynasty (for chronological chart of Egyptian kings see Egypt, ancient, fig.). He built two pyramids, one at Dahshur and the other at Hawara in the Faiyum region, where is also a small temple, finished by Ammenemes III’s successor, Ammenemes IV; the reliefs in this temple have not been published in detail. Some reliefs of Ammenemes III were also found at Abydos (Philadelphia, U. PA, Mus.); they display little of the quality and interest of the reliefs of his predecessor, Sesostris III.

There are more than 50 statues and heads of Ammenemes III, easily identifiable because of his distinctive physiognomy. As with the statues of Sesostris III, they appear to correspond to various ages of the King; however, this progression is probably complicated by wider variations of style and dimensions. The characteristic traits of these heads are large eyes (always serious and impassive), exceptionally large ears and a nose that is far less prominent than that of Sesostris III and hooks back into the face after the bump of the nasal bone. His mouth has thick, curled lips, the corners of which turn up to end against fleshy protuberances. The cheek-bones are very high and wide and are cut by a wrinkle leaving the inside corner of the eye at an angle of 45°....

Article

Robert S. Bianchi

[Arab. Bahbayt al-Hagar; anc. Egyp. Pr-ḥbyt; Lat. Iseum]

Site in northern Egypt, c. 100 km north of Cairo, an important cult centre for the worship of the goddess Isis, which flourished during the 4th century bc. The modern name is a combination of the ancient Egyptian name and the Arabic epithet ‘al-hagar’ (‘the stone’), referring to the jumbled mass of granite blocks from the collapsed Temple of Isis that now litters the site. The site is mentioned in inscriptions of the New Kingdom, but it rose to prominence during the 30th Dynasty (380–343 bc) when Nectanebo II (reg 360–343 bc) sponsored the construction of the Temple of Isis. The geographic proximity of Behbeit el-Hagar to Sebennytos, the capital during the 30th Dynasty, less than 10 km away, implies that Isis was the Dynasty’s titular deity. Behbeit el-Hagar (Iseum) eventually became the capital of an independent nome (administrative province) during the Ptolemaic period (after ...

Article

Charles C. Van Siclen III

[Egyp. Per-Bastet; now Tell Basta, nr Zaqāzīq, Egypt]. Site in the eastern Nile Delta 77 km north-east of Cairo. It flourished c. 2575 bcc. ad 300. The ancient city of Basta (Gr. Bubastis) was the home of the feline goddess Bastet (Egyp.: ‘She of Basta’), often associated in the later periods of Egyptian history with the cat. Both the city and the cult of Bastet date back at least to the beginning of the Old Kingdom (c. 2575 bc). Bubastis was a significant political, economic and religious centre, and during the 22nd Dynasty (c. 950–c. 730 bc) it was home to a family of pharaohs named Osorkon and Shoshenq, who ruled the whole of Egypt. The importance of the city declined with shifting trade routes, changing political structures and above all the appearance of Christianity and later Islam, when the site was abandoned. The great temple to Bastet and her joyous festival are both described by Herodotus (...

Article

Dendara  

John Baines

[anc. Egyp. Iunet; Gr. Tentyris.]

Egyptian site on the west bank of the Nile c. 65 km north of Luxor. It was an important provincial centre throughout Egyptian history; its chief artistic monuments are successive temples of the goddess Hathor from the 6th Dynasty (c. 2325–c. 2150 bc) to the 2nd century ad (see fig.). The site stands to the south of the Nile, about 1 km away at the edge of the low desert. The temples stand within a high mud-brick enclosure wall and occupy the north-west part of the sacred space. The site was cleared by Auguste Mariette in the mid-19th century, and work continued sporadically until about 1960.

Activity of Pepy I (reg c. 2289–c. 2256 bc) is referred to in the Greco-Roman temple and attested by a fine statue. The 11th-Dynasty king Mentuhotpe II (reg c. 2008–c. 1957 bc) built a chapel to Hathor and her son Harsomtus which also celebrated his own status (Cairo, Egyp. Mus.). This chapel still stood in the time of Merneptah (...

Article

Edfu  

Eleni Vassilika

[anc. Egyp. Behdet or Djeba; Gr. Apollinopolis; now Idfū.]

Site in Upper Egypt. It is dominated by the Temple of Horus, the most completely preserved of all Egyptian temples, dating mainly to the Ptolemaic period (304–30 bc; see also Egypt, ancient, fig.). To the east of the temple are the ruins of a city (now covered by modern Idfū) dating back at least to the Old Kingdom (c. 2575–c. 2150 bc). The Temple of Horus was built and decorated by the Ptolemies, although the cult of the god Horus at Edfu is attested since the Middle Kingdom (c. 2008–c. 1630 bc). The remains at Edfu include part of a pylon of Ramesses III (reg c. 1187–c. 1156 bc). Blocks from the forecourt, excavated in the 1980s, date back to the New Kingdom (c. 1540–c. 1075 bc), but they may have been dragged there from another site....

Article

Esna  

John Baines

[anc. Egyp. Ta-senet, Gr. Latopolis.]

Egyptian city c. 55 km south of Luxor on the Nile. Inhabited since ancient times, Esna remains important as the terminus of one of the main caravan routes between Egypt and the Sudan, and as a centre of textile production. The only ancient building to survive is part of the Greco-Roman Temple of Khnum, but Deir Manayus wa Shuhada (the ‘Monastery of the Martyrs’), a 4th-century ad Coptic foundation, lies 6 km to the south-west, and the Ottoman mosque of el-Amri in the town centre retains a brick-built minaret of the Fatimid period (ad 969–1171).

The Temple of Khnum, now reduced to its hypostyle hall, formed the core of a complex including a quay (in situ) and a processional approach (untraced); this was related to four further complexes (almost entirely lost) in the region. The earlier, inner part of the temple is represented by its front wall, which was incorporated into the hall and now forms its rear wall. It has carved relief decoration dating to the reigns of Ptolemy VI Philometor (...

Article

Faiyum  

R. J. Leprohon and T. G. Wilfong

Egyptian semi-oasis region c. 80 km south-west of Cairo on the Bahr Yusuf, an ancient channel of the Nile (see fig.). In the north-west is Lake Qarun, a remnant of the ancient Lake Moeris, an important part of ancient Egyptian cosmogony since it was reputed by some to be the site of Nun, the primeval ocean. Throughout the Dynastic and Greco-Roman periods (c. 2925 bcad 395) the major god worshipped in the Faiyum was the crocodile-headed Sebek (Gr. Suchos), but the region had a large Jewish community from the 3rd century bc, and Christianity probably arrived in the 1st century ad. Major sites in the Faiyum include the Middle Kingdom monuments at Hawara, el-Lahun and Qasr el-Sagha, and Greco-Roman towns at Qasr Qarun and Kom Ushim. The principal Coptic monuments are the monasteries of Deir el-Azab and Deir el-Malak, and there is a 15th-century mosque in the regional capital of ...

Article

Barry Bergdoll

(b Cologne, June 15, 1790; d Paris, Dec 31, 1853).

French architect, writer and archaeologist of German birth. In 1810 he left Cologne with his lifelong friend J. I. Hittorff for Paris, enrolling at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1811 under the tutelage of the ardent Neo-classicists Louis-Hippolyte Lebas and François Debret. But from the beginning Gau was exposed to a wider field of historical sources, first as assistant site architect under Debret on the restoration of the abbey church of Saint-Denis (1813–15) and then from 1815 in Nazarene circles in Rome, where he met the archaeologist and philologist Barthold Nieburh (1776–1831), who arranged a scholarship for him from the Prussian government and a trip through the eastern Mediterranean. In Egypt Gau undertook an arduous trip down the Nile to visit and record the monuments of Nubia, which he published as the lavish folio Antiquités de la Nubie. He noted assiduously every trace of colour on the remains, just as he was to do in ...

Article

Nabil Swelim

[anc. Egyp. Iunu; Bibl. On; now Tell Hisn]. Site near Cairo, Egypt. It was the capital of the 13th Lower Egyptian nome (administrative province) and a cult centre of the sun-god in its various guises (Re, Atum, Khephri). The symbol of Heliopolis was the benben, the precursor of the pyramid and obelisk, which represented the primeval hill on which the sun first rose. The oldest monolithic benben found at Heliopolis dates to the 6th Dynasty (c. 2325–c. 2150 bc). An obelisk of Sesostris I (reg c. 1918–c. 1875 bc) still stands on the site; two other obelisks of Heliopolitan origin—‘Cleopatra’s needles’—are now in London and New York. Remains of a temenos wall and chapel reliefs testify to the city’s importance as a religious centre as early as the Early Dynastic period (c. 2925–c. 2575 bc). Imhotep, who bore the title ‘Greatest of seers’ and served in Heliopolis under the 3rd Dynasty (...

Article

Alain-Pierre Zivie

[Djeserkheprure]

(reg c. 1319–c. 1292 bc). Ancient Egyptian ruler and patron of the post-Amarna period. The reign of Horemheb was rich and fascinating in terms of art and architecture, although the amount of evidence is small and the situation is confused by the large number of monuments usurped from his predecessors. It would be too simplistic to consider him merely as one who restored order and traditional religious cults after the so-called anarchy or revolution of the reign of Akhenaten (reg c. 1353–c. 1336 bc). It was during the reign of Akhenaten that he first came to prominence, perhaps under the earlier name of Paatenemheb, later appearing in the monuments of Tutankhamun (reg c. 1332–c. 1323 bc) as the general-in-chief and regent, Horemheb. He became even more powerful during the reign of Ay (reg c. 1323–c. 1319 bc), whom he eventually succeeded. It is possible that his wife Mutnodjmet was of royal descent and thus conferred on him a legitimacy that he had at first lacked....

Article

Article

Imhotep  

Nabil Swelim

(fl c. 2600 bc).

Egyptian official and architect. Imhotep, who bore the title ‘Greatest of Seers in Heliopolis’ and served under the kings Djoser (reg c. 2630–c. 2611 bc) to Huni (c. 2600–c. 2575 bc), was traditionally the architect of the step-pyramid complex at Saqqara. His name was inscribed on the base of a statue of the owner of that monument near the beginning of its entrance colonnade. Imhotep was probably the builder of another step-pyramid complex for Horus Sekhemkhet at Saqqara, where his name appears once more. By the Late Period (c. 750–332 bc) Imhotep had been deified, and there are numerous bronze statuettes dating from the Late and Greco-Roman periods (332 bcad 395) showing him seated and reading from a papyrus roll. He was worshipped at the temple of Karnak, Thebes, and an unfinished chapel at Philae was dedicated to his cult. He was traditionally also the builder of the temple at ...

Article

Edda Bresciani

[Kawm Umbū; anc. Egyp. Nubt: ‘city of gold’, Gr. Ombos]

Site on a promontory of the west bank of the Nile, between Aswan and Edfu. Very little remains of the ancient Egyptian city of Ombos, which in Ptolemaic times (c. 332–30 bc) was capital of the 1st nome of Upper Egypt. However, the temple complex, dedicated to the crocodile-god Sebek and the hawk-god Haroeris (an aspect of Horus), is well preserved. The site was known to early European travellers and to the first Egyptologists, such as Champollion and Rosellini, but the clearance of the temple did not begin until the work of Jacques de Morgan in 1893.

The main temple was first constructed in the reign of Ptolemy VI Philometor (reg 180–145 bc), but its decoration continued throughout the Ptolemaic era (particularly in the reign of Ptolemy XII Auletes; c. 80–51 bc) and the period of Roman rule (Augustus, Tiberius, Domitian and Trajan; c. 30 ...

Article

Mammisi  

Ann Bomann

[Copt.: ‘place of birth’]

Type of small temple that first appeared in Egypt in the 30th Dynasty (380–343 bc) and became a common feature of Egyptian temple complexes in the Greco-Roman period (332 bcad 395). The name was invented by the French Egyptologist Jean-François Champollion (1790–1832) to describe the buildings devoted to the birth rites of the mother-goddess (usually Isis or Hathor). The birth house was invariably an annexe within the enclosure wall of a large temple such as those at Edfu, Dendara, Philae and Armant. The concept of such a building developed out of the birth scenes of Queen Hatshepsut (reg c. 1479–c. 1458 bc) at the Deir el-Bahri temple and the birth chamber of Amenophis III (reg c. 1390–c. 1353 bc) at the Luxor temple (see Thebes, §III). The rites of the goddess, as she gave birth to her son Horus or Ihy, followed on from the rites performed in the chambers associated with the god Osiris....

Article

Mastaba  

Philip J. Watson

Type of ancient Egyptian tomb in which the burial chamber is surmounted by a rectangular superstructure built of mud-brick or stone. It is named after its resemblance to a low mud-brick bench (Arab. mastaba). Mastabas were used throughout the Early Dynastic Period (c. 2925–c. 2575 bc) and the Old Kingdom (c. 2575–c. 2150 bc) and were the commonest tomb type for Old Kingdom private burials. They are therefore found predominantly in the royal cemeteries of Memphis, capital at that time, which stretched across the desert plateau between Cairo and the Faiyum. Mastabas consist of three main elements: the burial chamber, the superstructure and the offering chapel.

Very simple mastabas are known from the 1st Dynasty (c. 2925–c. 2775 bc), such as Tomb 1845 at Tarkhan, which comprise a pit burial covered by a brick-faced mastaba filled with rubble. A much more elaborate example from early in the 1st Dynasty is that of Queen ...