Monumental Architecture in Bronze Age Egypt and Crete

:: 6 Works Cited
Length: 1563 words (4.5 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Excellent
Open Document
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Text Preview

More ↓

Continue reading...

Open Document

Monumental Architecture in Bronze Age Egypt and Crete


The significance of monumental architecture lies not only in the function it is built to serve but also in the cultural values it represents. Monumental architecture is aesthetic as well as functional, and in its aesthetic aspects it is a form of cultural expression. In Bronze Age Mediterranean civilizations, the development of monumental architecture was influenced primarily by the political structure of the state. Perhaps the most disparate forms of monumental architecture in this region were developed in Pharaonic Egypt and Minoan Crete, reflecting the differences in their political systems. The socio-political structure of these two cultures can be sharply contrasted through an examination of a predominant type of monumental architecture found in each region.

Monumental architecture in Pharaonic Egypt is represented primarily by the funerary complexes of the pharaohs. The principal function of these elaborate complexes was to ensure that the pharaohs, who were exalted as living gods, would attain the afterlife they desired. This required that two basic conditions be fulfilled: the body had to be preserved from disturbance or destruction; and the material needs of the body and the ka had to be met (Edwards 20). Pharaonic burial complexes were also centers of worship for the god-king interred there and were designed to exalt his memory and deeds.

Egyptian burial complexes evolved from the simple rectangular mastaba to the great pyramids of the Fourth Dynasty. The true pyramid evolved from the mastaba through an intermediary form, the step pyramid, the earliest example of which is Zoser’s Step Pyramid at Saqqara, which dates to the Third Dynasty (c. 2680 BC). The Step Pyramid was revolutionary for several reasons. It is the earliest known free-standing monument built entirely of stone in Egypt (Fakhry 20); it is also the earliest example of evolutionary architectural development beyond the mastaba. In form the step pyramid is a series of superimposed mastabas and represents the stairway that the spirit of the pharaoh was to climb to reach the sky-realm and join the crew of the solar barque traveling across the heavens (Aldred 47).

The Step Pyramid was designed by Imhotep, the Chancellor of King Zoser, and was originally planned as a stone mastaba 7.0 meters high based on a square ground-plan (Aldred 45-46). However, this design underwent six alterations, and in its final form the Step Pyramid rose in six unequal steps to a height of 62.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Monumental Architecture in Bronze Age Egypt and Crete." 123HelpMe.com. 22 Nov 2017
    <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=21799>.
Title Length Color Rating  
Essay on Greek Architecture - Unit #1 – The Fundamentals Summary #1: The Introduction of Temples and Foreign Influence, and the role of the Architect Upon the end of the Dark Ages, the Hellenic civilization began to form, introducing temples as the main architectural focus of that era (Lawrence, 58). Despite forming after the Hellenic period, temples were influenced by a variety of factors, including the home plans of the Dark Ages (58). Temples served as a home for deities, a structure for them to visit, rather than what we would normally think of as a house of worship (58)....   [tags: History, The Dark Ages, Hellenic Civilization] 711 words
(2 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
The Egyptian Reserve Heads Essay - Introduction Khufu’s reign in the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty marks one of the greatest periods of change in funerary monumental construction. The careful planning of his complex at Giza extended from the Great Pyramid itself to the satellite cemeteries that would eventually hold the members of his family and his administration. It is in this temporal and geographic space that a puzzling find, unique to the Pyramid Age, appeared. The Egyptian reserve heads, well-sculpted depictions of human heads, have remained an enigma since their first finding....   [tags: Ancient Egypt] 1634 words
(4.7 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Greek Architecture Essay - Greek Architecture: History and Mechanics Throughout history, there have been several significant architectural movements. The last, and perhaps most enduring movement is that of Classic Greece. Although for centuries, the architecture of ancient Greece has been admired, mimicked, and replicated, its beginnings are somewhat surprising to one unfamiliar with the history of the region. It is important to understand the history and mechanics of Classic Greek architecture in order to fully appreciate its form, function, and beauty....   [tags: essays research papers fc]
:: 2 Works Cited
2000 words
(5.7 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
The Chaotic Reign of Akhenaten Essay - Amenhotep III was a pharaoh of ancient Egypt from around 1388 BC till about 1350 BC. During his rule of Egypt, was a period of unprecedented prosperity and artistic splendor (Wiki: Amenhotep III). The art from this time showed several gods that ancient Egyptians worshiped, such as Amun, Anubis, Aten, Ra, and many others. Most art was drawn in a way that most of the body parts were sized according to standard proportions, yet the poses were so rigid that they seem to have little sense of movement, if any at all....   [tags: ancient egypt, amenhotep III]
:: 7 Works Cited
1242 words
(3.5 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Art Throughout History Across the World Essay - Art Throughout History Across the World From stick figures in the sand and the earliest animals painted and carved in stone, people worldwide have reacted to the world by making images. The fundamental goal of art, especially in the past, was to convey meaning and express important ideas, revealing what was significant to every society, by arresting images. In recognizing the subject matter of any painting, you have to look at the artist's intentions, which are regularly connected to social conditions, national or global issues and the demands of the public....   [tags: Artists Pablo Picasso Egypt France Essays]
:: 7 Works Cited
4243 words
(12.1 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Essay on Ancient Egypt - Ancient Egypt is a fascinating ancient civilization. The Egyptian culture was heavily polytheistic with a complex view of the afterlife, which was evident in their architecture and communication. Even today as ancient Egypt melts together with modern Egypt. The pull of their ancient cities is still seen in Cairo and Alexandia. The highly developed belief of polytheism in the Egyptian culture was made up of many gods. This belief is the base to the Egyptian culture and life. In the Egyptian polytheistic culture the gods took on form and characteristics of objects found in nature....   [tags: Egypt]
:: 6 Works Cited
2318 words
(6.6 pages)
Term Papers [preview]
Roman Architecture Essay - When one thinks of Roman architecture, many things come to mind, such as arches, columns, statues, and richly covered surfaces in marbles. One must stop to think that this empire, which gained power and influence in the first century BC, must have been influenced from the thousands of years of cultures preceding them in order to create their masterpieces of ingenuity. This phenomenon can be seen in our borrowing of ideas of ancient Greece and Rome for the construction of our capitol buildings in the United States....   [tags: Architecture] 1441 words
(4.1 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Egyptian Art and Architecture Essay - Egyptian Art and Architecture Egyptian Art and Architecture, the buildings, paintings, sculpture, and allied arts of ancient Egypt, from prehistoric times to its conquest by the Romans in 30 bc. Egypt had the longest unified history of any civilization in the ancient Mediterranean, extending with few interruptions from about 3000 bc to the 4th century ad. The nature of the country, fertilized and united by the Nile, and its semi-isolation from outside cultural influences, produced an artistic style that changed little during this long period....   [tags: Egypt Paintings Sculptures Buildings Essays] 4122 words
(11.8 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Ancient Egypt Essays - Ancient Egypt One of the most interesting aspects of ancient Egypt is its religion. The depth of Egyptian thinking and rich imagination displayed in the creation of ideas and images of the gods and goddesses is beyond compare. On elaborating their beliefs, the Egyptians were working on the cosmic plane searching for an understanding of the most basic laws of the universe (Religion). The ancient Egyptians instilled their religion into every aspect of life including their art and architecture. The Egyptians were humanistic, naturalistic and polytheistic in their ardent faith....   [tags: Ancient Egypt Egyptian History] 1120 words
(3.2 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Essay on Egypt - Egyptian Art: Old, Middle and New Kingdoms Art historians, Egyptologists, and archeologists have made fascinating discoveries about the artifacts, pharaohs, and culture of Egypt since the discovery in 1799 of the Rosetta Stone. It led to the decoding of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Pharaonic names, dates, places, and events could then be reliably organized for linear presentation of ancient Egypt’s long 4,000 year history. Egyptian innovations in burial architecture, mummification, picture language, and huge monument building had both amazed and puzzled scholars for nearly 1,500 years....   [tags: essays research papers] 2293 words
(6.6 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]

Related Searches




3 meters on a base of 125 x 109 meters (Aldred 46). It is surrounded by the most extensive array of funerary buildings of any known pyramid complex (Edwards 61). These buildings were designed to serve the needs of the pharaoh in the afterlife, where it was assumed he would be called upon to perform the same functions that he had performed while alive. The buildings are ceremonial rather than functional, and most are solid sham-buildings of limestone filled with rubble (Lloyd 84). The entire funerary complex is surrounded by a niched enclosure wall roughly ten meters high with a peripheral length of over two kilometers (Edwards 50; Lloyd 81).


The Step Pyramid and related buildings are constructed of local limestone and were originally faced with fine white limestone quarried at Tura (Aldred 46). The pyramid was constructed of “small blocks which could be easily handled . . . showing that the technique of quarrying and manipulating heavy pieces of stone had not then been mastered” (Edwards 51-52). The limestone blocks were transported to the building site on the Nile and were carted overland on sledges pulled by men or oxen. As the pyramid rose in height, the blocks were conveyed to the level under construction via ramps of earth and rubble held in place by brick retaining walls and were then laid in place with a thin layer of mortar (Fakhry 12-13).


As an example of Egyptian monumental architecture, the Step Pyramid reveals much about Egyptian social values and the central structure of the Egyptian state. The fact that monumental architecture was associated exclusively with burial complexes and temples demonstrates the paramount importance placed upon the afterlife by the Egyptians. While ordinary buildings were needed to last only for a lifetime and could be replaced whenever necessary, tombs—or “castles of eternity”—were designed to last forever (Edwards 20). Monumental funerary complexes such as the Step Pyramid at Saqqara were reserved primarily for the pharaoh; they are very much individual monuments. As burial complexes, they provided no substantive material or economic good for the community. That the pharaoh was able to command the manpower and resources necessary to build a massive funerary complex which provided no material benefits for its builders evinces the tremendous power and authority he wielded. In Pharaonic Egypt both political and religious power were concentrated in the person of the pharaoh, whose status as a living god ensured his position as the ultimate authority in the state and subjected the people wholly to his command (Frankfort 52). Even the shape of the pyramid is indicative of Egyptian socio-political structure; the slope of the four sides produces an inward-facing structure which rises to a single point—the pharaoh.

The monumental architecture of Minoan Crete differs markedly from that of Pharaonic Egypt, reflecting the differences in their socio-political structures. Minoan monumental architecture consists of a number of palace complexes; these complexes were essential for virtually every aspect of Minoan life and were viewed as sacred buildings (Cadogan 32-33). Each of the palace complexes served as the economic, political, and religious center for the surrounding countryside.

The Minoan palaces were first built c. 2000 BC and were destroyed, probably by a natural disaster, c. 1700 BC. They were rebuilt within a relatively short time span (one to two generations) and were—with one exception—destroyed c. 1450 BC, possibly by invading Mycenaeans. The largest of the palace complexes, at Knossos, was destroyed c. 1375 BC, almost certainly by the Mycenaeans. This palace may have served as the architectural model for the others (Davaras 240) and possibly exerted some form of suzerainty over them (Lloyd 207). The palace at Knossos is roughly square, measuring approximately 150 meters on each side, and occupies an area of 20,000 square meters (Davaras 217-18). Indicative of its function as an economic distributive center, a majority of this area was given over to magazines used primarily for the storage of agricultural goods. The palace originally had two or possibly three stories and was built of rubble masonry or mud brick supported by a wooden framework and plastered or faced with limestone or gypsum (Higgins 23). The central feature of the palace is a rectangular courtyard measuring 50 x 25 meters (Cadogan 60); this central courtyard is an integral feature of all Minoan palace complexes and conforms to a standard size and shape. Unimpeded by fortification walls, the palace was built outwards from this courtyard in successive stages. The architecture is marked by a lack of symmetry and a sense of natural and organic growth (Higgins 22).

This naturalistic sensibility permeated the Minoan civilization, a civilization characterized by a reverence for life. The palace complexes were the focal point of the Minoan socio-political structure. That they were both religious and political centers suggests that the rulers were priest-kings (or priestess-queens), integrating both secular and spiritual authority, much as in Egypt. Unlike in Egypt, the existence of several palace complexes indicates that Minoan Crete was not a single political unit. The lack of fortification walls around any of the palace complexes suggests that there was no competition between palaces. The Minoan palace complexes were intrinsically communal in nature, in function resembling villages more than palaces. The palaces furthered economic and material needs by functioning as distributive centers, met religious needs in their role as temples and religious centers, and, as the centers of secular authority, provided a political structure for the island. Thus the Minoan people received both material and spiritual benefits from the palace complexes.

Although the cultures of Pharaonic Egypt and Minoan Crete existed in the same temporal and geographical milieu, they developed contrasting socio-political structures and distinct, individual styles of monumental architecture. Egyptian society was dominated by the existence of a living god, the pharaoh, at the summit of the social and political order. As a reflection of that hierarchy, Egyptian monumental architecture revolved around the individual person of the pharaoh. While Egyptian society was organized around the needs of this individual, the culture of Minoan Crete was organized around the needs of the community, a valuation reflected in its monumental architecture. The unique architectural forms developed by these two societies were thus as much a product of their philosophies and mind-sets as were their socio-political structures. Their pyramids and palaces stand today as imposing physical manifestations of their societal and cultural values.


References

Aldred, Cyril. Egyptian Art in the Days of the Pharaohs: 3100-320 BC. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1985.

Cadogan, Gerald. Palaces of Minoan Crete. New York: Methuen, 1980.

Davaras, Costis. Guide to Cretan Antiquities. Park Ridge, New Jersey: Noyes Press, 1976.

Edwards, I. E. S. The Pyramids of Egypt. London: Penguin, 1988.

Fakhry, Ahmed. The Pyramids. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961.

Frankfort, Henri. The Birth of Civilization in the Near East. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1954.

Higgins, Reynold. Minoan and Mycenaean Art. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1985.

Lloyd, Seton, Hans Wolfgang Müller, and Roland Martin. Ancient Architecture: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Crete, Greece. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1974.


Return to 123HelpMe.com