Egypt: Building and Construction in Ancient Egypt

About Ancient Egypt

Building Materials of the Pyramids Builders by Jimmy Dunn writing as Alan Winston

Many of the pyramids were built with a number of different stone materials. Most of the material used was fairly rough, low grade limestone used to build the pyramid core, while fine white limestone was often employed for the outer casing as well as to cover interior walls, though pink granite was also often used on inner walls. Basalt or alabaster was not uncommon for floors, particularly in the mortuary temples, as was mudbricks to build walls within the temples (though often as not they had limestone walls).


The Columns of Ancient Egypt by Jimmy Dunn writing as Monroe Edgar

When we think of Egyptian temples, one of the principle architectural elements that comes to mind is the column. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a temple such as Karnak without thinking of its columned halls, and what many visitors will take away with them is visions of pylons, obelisks, statues and columns. Column shafts were often decorated with colorful depictions in painted, carved relief, and remain some of the most interesting architectural elements in Egyptian structures. Most people who have any familiarity with ancient Egypt will immediately recognize the form of Lotus and Papyrus style columns, but actually no less the about 30 different column forms have been isolated from temples of the various periods.


Construction in Ancient Egypt by the Egyptian Government


There is consensus among historians and Egyptologists that the ancient Egyptians were the first builders ever known to man; they taught humanity how to design and erect buildings; thus laying grounds for human civilization, urbanization and man's settlement in a specific homeland of his own for the first time in history


Construction of the Pyramids, Part I: Orientation and Layout and the Pyramid Platform by Jimmy Dunn writing as Alan Winston

Before the physical orientation and layout of a new pyramid took place, considerable planning was needed under the direction of a "royal master builder". Ultimately, the responsibility fell on the vizier, who was typically the head of all royal works. The first step in the process was taken by specialists who would draw up plans for the pyramid on papyrus. After the construction began, plans and sketches were drawn on papyri or flat slabs of limestone. Planners even made models of their projects, as evidenced by a limestone model of a substructure found in the Pyramid of Amenemhet III at Dahshur. After the planning stage, each step of pyramid building was initiated with foundation rituals. Pyramids, unlike many other types of religious structures, required strict orientation to the cardinal points. Pyramid alignment may have been carried out through a number of different means, including some methods we have probably never thought of. The primary theory of how the ancient Egyptians oriented most any building that had to conform to true primary coordinates has been by stellar measurements.


The Ecological Context of Ancient Egyptian Predynastic Settlementsby Michael Brass


Predynastic Ancient Egypt was a contrast of mixed ecologies. These ranged from the borderland deserts both to the east and to the west of the floodplains, to the contrast between the Middle and Upper Egyptian floodplains itself and the Nile Delta. The differing environments affected not only settlement regions, but also site positions within those regions as well as the cultural composition of the inhabitants.


The Foundation Ceremony For Ancient Egyptian Religious Buildings by Jimmy Dunn writing as Alan Winston

Most all of Egypt's best built monuments, the ones still around for us to see today, were somehow related to religion, and all construction of religious buildings in ancient Egypt began with ceremonies of very ancient origin. Today, we call these foundation rituals. The rituals involved leaving a foundation deposit buried not only under the corners of, for example, a temple, but sometimes at the apex and even at the corners of individual halls, courtyards and shrines as well as underneath pylons, columns and obelisks. They have been a valuable source of information for Egyptologist throughout the years.


Houses and Villages of Ancient Egypt by Marie Parsons


Knowledge of cities, towns and houses in the Predynastic through Middle Kingdom periods is limited to rare traces of domestic architecture, because for the most part, the settlements are destroyed or covered by later and even modern construction. It is even more difficult to study early agricultural villages because they were built of reed mats and mud-brick that did not last the millennia as stone does. We know less about the houses the people lived in and more about their "houses of eternity," their tombs.


The Labors of Pyramid Building by Jimmy Dunn writing as Alan Winston

When many of us were young, we were taught that the great pyramids required immense human resources to build, which of course, they did. We were told that as many as 100,000 slaves worked as forced labor for decades to build the Great Pyramid at Giza. Regrettably, it would seem that our teachers needed something to say about this ancient Egyptian civilization, and as is not unusual, memorizing some sort of data outweighed the importance of having correct information. Hence, we committed to memory the fantastic estimates of ancient historians who were mystified by the large volumes of material required to build these great stone edifices. However, we must give them credit, for at least they did not degrade the accomplishments of the early Egyptians by proposing the builders of these great structures to be space aliens or Atlantians. To many, the sheer size of the pyramids made such overestimation seem reasonable. Wieslaw Kozinski, a Polish architect, believed that an average of 25 men were required to transport a block weighing one and one-half tons.


Lifting Material to Build the Pyramids of Egypt: Ramps and Other Lifting Devices by Alan Winston

The problems related to material movement for pyramid building has been much discussed and debated. Lifting huge blocks of stone, some weighing many tons, has inspired Egyptologists, enthusiasts and uninformed laymen to speculate on theories ranging from space alien assistance to the use of gigantic kites. However, it is also essential to understand that these problems not only involve lifting the material, but also the high rate of delivery and placement of the material in some of the largest of the pyramids. Many of the theories, including those proposed by scholars, often attempt to reduce these problems to a simple answer, but modern research, as well as common sense, seem to suggest that such solutions are not to be found. The ancient Egyptians fairly consistently built pyramids for a thousand years, in various locations and utilizing a number of different structural designs. It is highly probable, considering these factors along with archaeological evidence, that the means of lifting blocks and other material varied considerably.


The Location and Orientation of Ancient Egyptian Temples by Jimmy Dunn writing as Monroe Edgar

Just about everything that the ancient Egypt's did sometimes seems to have been dictated by religious considerations. Actually, this is probably not entirely true. It is just that they had a tendency to build religious structures more durably then many others, so they have survived for us to study. It probably places a bias to some extent, on our perception of the importance of their religion. But temples were definitely religious structures, and even their placement and orientation were often dictated by some sort of theology. However, in actuality, it was probably less of an overall scheme then a temple by temple decision. Much of this discussion is also relevant to other religious structures in Egypt, such as tombs and pyramids. In theory, Egyptian temples were almost always located at a point of some religious interest, and most often oriented in the direction of another significant religious point.


Restoring Egyptian Monuments by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Walters


Sometimes there have been complaints about restoration work carried out in Egypt, a situation which is easy to criticizes, but much more difficult to find equitable solutions. Egypt has thousands of historical monuments, yet it does not have the resources of many western nations. Also, so many of the monuments are thousands of years older then those found in the west, and that creates complexities that few really understand.


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Last Updated: June 9th, 2011