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Architectural Features

Architectural Features - Architectural Features General...

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Unformatted text preview: Architectural Features General temple layout: Many of the best preserved examples of Egyptian temples date to the New Kingdom (1550-1069 BCE), a period of national wealth and renewed interest in monumental building. Although each temple s layout is unique, these buildings show a remarkable unity of plan, demonstrating that Egyptian architects envisioned the temple as composed of a series of core parts. Temples built in subsequent periods were greatly influenced by this design, and they generally retain the basic plan developed in the late 18th Dynasty.1 The basic layout of these temples consisted of the following features: • • • • • entrance gateway or pylon open court columned/hypostyle hall rear sanctuary with side rooms naos (central shrine) General overview of the Karnak temple precinct. A priest, moving from the front rooms of the temple to the innermost sanctuary, would find that the floor level rose and the ceiling level lowered, creating a visible narrowing of space. As he approached the shrine, the diminishing light must have accentuated the feeling of privacy, as open courts gave way to partly lit halls and darkened interior cult rooms.2 Each temple combined these elements in distinct ways, differing due to location, the god to whom it was dedicated, and royal patronage. Some temples, like Karnak, became important show places for the king, expressed in continued building efforts. As a result, temples expanded significantly as multiple features, such as courts and halls, were appended onto the original structures. At Karnak, this sustained expansion and replacement has produced in a series of pylons and open courts along the western and southern entranceways of the Amun temple, as well as numerous columned halls before the sanctuary. The impetus for this continuous enlargement of the temple may have stemmed from both the king s desire to highlight his power and importance as the gods greatest patron, as well as his wish to extend the existing, enlarging and expanding what had been created by his ancestors.3 The orientation of Egyptian temples was influenced by a number of factors, with local topography greatly affecting the siting. Most of the temples in Thebes are situated perpendicular to the banks of the Nile, and this appears to have deter- The pillared courtyard of the Ramesses III Temple. 1 2 3 Van Siclen 1986 Badawy 1968 Hornung 1992: 91; Shafer 1997: 6 Architectural Features mined the east/west axis of Karnak. However, the location of other temples in an area also often shaped a temple s orientation, and this is true at Karnak as well. The temple s north/south axis, following the line of the seventh to tenth pylons, gradually shifted to better align with the temple of Mut to the south. Luxor temple, the core section of which was constructed perpendicular to the river, had its northern courts and colonnade skewed slightly east, in order to more closely align with Karnak.4 Architectural terms and definitions Pylon Pylons are large stone or brick entranceways to Egyptian temples or sacred areas formed by two trapezoidal towers split by a gateway, originally outfitted with a large wooden door.5 The towers are battered, rimmed with a torus molding, and topped with a cavetto cornice. Egyptian texts suggest that the pylons symbolically represented two mountains on the horizon, a symbol well known from the hieroglyphic script, between which the sun rose to start life anew each day.6 In its latest form, Karnak temple boasted ten monumental stone pylons, all arranged along the temple s east/west and north/south axis routes. Pylons, including those numbered seven and eight at Karnak, were frequently decorated with carved relief scenes depicting the pharaoh smiting foreign enemies or hunting wild animals, imagery that related the king to the maintenance of world order and control.7 Karnak s gigantic first pylon, measuring 113 meters wide at the base, was never completed. Forty-five courses of stone were added to its south wing, and 32 to its north wing before construction halted.8 The remains of mud brick ramps used for raising the stone blocks were left in place at the time of cessation, and remains of these ramps are still visible in the temple s first court today. Digital rendering of the reconstruction of Pylon X. Flagstaff Pylons at Egyptian temples were often adorned with large wooden flagstaffs topped by colorful cloth banners. The tall poles stood on stone bases, and were arranged within square notches left in the pylon s exterior masonry. Clamps secured to the pylon itself further stabilized their upper portions, holes for which are still visible today.9 While the wooden flagstaffs have long since disappeared, carved and painted scenes in Theban temples and tombs depict a number of these from Karnak,10 showing that they would have extended even above the giant pylon towers. Research at Karnak s ninth pylon shows that the base of one of its wooden poles measured over a meter wide.11 Pylon I with remnants of mud brick ramp in the Shoshenq I Court. Sullivan 2008, Architectural Features. Digital Karnak. 2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Badawy 1968 Arnold 2003 Badawy 1968 Arnold 2003 Legrain 1929 Arnold 2003 Azim and Traunecker 1982 Azim and Traunecker 1982 Architectural Features Court A court is a space that is open to the sky, enclosed by surrounding structures. In Egyptian temples, the court usually followed the entrance pylon or gateway, and fronted a columned hall. The court was the site of the few events accessible by the public that took place within the temple walls, as access to the inner sections of Egyptian temples was limited to the priests servicing the deities.12 Colonnade Colonnades are formed by aligned columns, often supporting a roof.13 Colonnades front several building entrances in Thebes, including the porches of the temples of Khonsu and Amun-Ra-who-hears-prayers at Karnak and the area between the second pylon and hypostyle hall in Luxor temple. In addition, colonnades were used to create a partial roofed area along the walls of open courts, such as along the north and south sides of the first court at Karnak. Reconstruction of the Taharqo Colonnade at the Ramesses II Eastern Temple. Bark shrine A bark shrine is a room or structure, usually including a stone platform or ledge, meant for the placement of the god s portable bark (the sacred boat). These could be located within the core, central section of the temple (sometimes more specifically called the bark chamber), or along processional routes, sometimes outside the temple proper (sometimes more specifically called the bark station).14 Karnak temple was equipped with numerous examples of bark shrines, including the white chapel of Senusret I, the red chapel of Hatshepsut, the shrine of Philip Arrhidaeus, a shrine of Thutmose III on the east side of the court of the eighth pylon near the sacred lake, and the chapel of Sety II in the temple s first court. Sety II shrine in the Shoshenq I Court. The building originally stood outside the western entrance of the temple. Screen walls and frieze Screen walls are low walls that serve to divide two spaces, as well as restrict the view of one area from another. When placed between pillars or columns, screen walls extend only part way up the height of the support. A frieze is a type of decorative band or border, carved or painted with a series of designs. Monumental screen walls are distinctive features of Greco-Roman Period temples, such as Dendera, Esna, and Edfu.15 However, they are found as early as the New Kingdom. An example from Karnak comes from inside the temple of Ramesses III in the first court. Here, the temple s rear rooms are sectioned off from the open courtyard by a low screen wall bordered by a frieze of uraei (snakes linked iconographically with the royal house). 12 13 14 15 Bell 1992; Shafer 1997 Ching, Jarzombek and Prakash 2007 Arnold 2003 Finnestad 1997 Sullivan 2008, Architectural Features. Digital Karnak. 3 Architectural Features Hypostyle hall A hypostyle hall is a flat-roofed room supported by a series of columns or pillars.16 In Egyptian temples, these columned halls usually stand perpendicular to the central axis line.17 The great hypostyle hall at Karnak is the largest in Egypt, and one of the largest examples in the world. Covering 5500 square meters,18 its side halls are supported by a series of 122 columns standing 12 meters (40 feet) high. These are bisected along the temple s east/west axis by a central nave, supported by an additional 12 columns rising 21 meters (70 feet) high.19 Light illuminates the hall via clerestory windows. Clerestory lighting Lighting a room via clerestory windows is accomplished by raising one section of the roof higher than the neighboring sections, then lining the raised area with windows. This design allows light to enter along the sides of the elevated roof section. At Karnak, the great hypostyle hall is most famous for the clerestory lighting that illuminated the primary axis. Large stone grills, 24 meters (80 feet) above the hall s floor, allowed light to pierce the otherwise dark hall.20 Other buildings, including the Akhmenu and the Wadjet hall constructed by Thutmose III utilized clerestory lighting to illuminate their interiors.21 In the New Kingdom, clerestory lighting was also commonly used to allow daylight inside houses. Architrave Architraves are a vital architectural component of many buildings, functioning as a lintel connecting the columns and pillars supporting a roof, or as an articulation surrounding doorframes, walls and other structural elements. At Karnak s hypostyle hall, the size of the architraves (the largest around seven meters in length) needed to support the huge stone roofing slabs (up to 9 meters in length) was so unwieldy that architects were forced to use multiple blocks of stone for each architrave.22 Although serving a functional purpose, the Egyptians frequently decorated these elements, and examples with carved and painted lines of text can be seen in both the great hypostyle hall and the Akhmenu. A surviving clerestory window from the hypostyle hall. Cavetto cornice A cavetto cornice is a decorative ledge crowning the top of pylons, gateways, screen walls, and other structural parts of Egyptian buildings. The form harkens back to the appearance of walls constructed using palm fronds, a material used by early Egyptian builders; the cornice provided a deep shadow line to define architectural components.23 At Karnak today, pylons nine and ten still retain portions of their original cavetto cornices, as do the southern and eastern monumental gateways through the temple enclosure wall. 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 Sullivan 2008, Architectural Features. Digital Karnak. 4 Ching et al. 2007 Badawy 1968 Arnold 2003 Brand 2004 Brand 2004 Carlotti 2001; Personal communication, Emmanuel Laroze Arnold 1991; Rondot 1997: 5 Arnold 2003 Architectural Features Torus molding A torus molding is a type of rounded, decorative band used by Egyptian architects to frame architectural features such as pylons and gateways. It is often found in concert with the cavetto cornice.24 The torus molding represents the poles of an enormous tent structure; the lashings, which tied these poles to matting forming the front of these light shrines, were carved in stone on the pylon corners. Such details harken back to the cult shrines of pre-dynastic Egypt. These moldings often were accented with painted patterns mimicking the lines of the natural construction materials like reeds used in Egypt s early history.25 Talatat blocks In the reign of king Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten, Egyptian builders began using a new size of stone block, measuring approximately 52x26x24 cm,26 about 1x1/2x1/2 Egyptian cubits, significantly smaller than the traditional form of stone building materials. The small size of this block allowed for easy movement of the stones, facilitating the rapid construction of new buildings demanded by that king s religious innovations.27 At Karnak, four new structures were erected by Akhenaten, one of which, the Gem-pa-Aten, has been located east of the present Amun precinct. All of the structures were later torn down by kings rejecting the religious changes of Akhenaten, and tens of thousands of talatat blocks have been found in modern times within the foundations and cores of later constructions, including the second, ninth, and tenth pylons.28 Sacred lake Many Egyptian temple precincts included a lake, often artificial, with built steps to reach the water where a variety of practical and cultic activities took place. Water related activities not only included purification of the priests and the temple, but could have other functions as well. At the Amun temple, a building located directly to the south of the lake seems to have held sacred geese that spent their days floating on the lake s surface.29 At south Karnak, a horse-shoe shaped sacred lake, probably the remnant of an ancient branch of the Nile, partly encircled the temple of the goddess Mut. A New Kingdom tomb painting shows the sailing of sacred barks on its waters.30 A general view showing the Sacred Lake with Pylon VIII and Pylon IX in the distance. Catacomb Catacombs are galleries of subterranean rooms and niches designed for the interment of humans or animals.31 A recently re-investigated part of the Karnak complex devoted to the god Osiris has allowed the reconstruction of one such structure. It consisted of a series of three galleries, each with a vaulted ceiling, containing hundreds of small niches along the walls. Instead of holding animal remains however, these openings were for the placement of small figures of Osiris.32 Sullivan 2008, Architectural Features. Digital Karnak. 5 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 Arnold 1991 Arnold 2003 Redford 1984 Arnold 2003 Redford 1984 Lauffray 1979 Cabrol 1995 Ching et al. 2007 Coulon, Le Clére and Marchand 1995; Leclére 1996 Architectural Features Obelisk Egyptian obelisks were standing stone monoliths, carved with four flat sides that slightly tapered upward from the base. They culminated in a pyramid-shaped tip called a pyramidion (Greek for small pyramid ) sometimes gilded to reflect the sun s rays. Obelisks were generally erected in pairs, although a single obelisk is known from the eastern section of Karnak temple. Scholars usually trace the origin of their form to the benben stone, a stone with a pointed tip linked to the mound of creation in Egyptian mythology, in which the first land rising above the primordial waters was touched by the light of the sun.33 Peristyle court A series of columns or pillars encircling a court creates a peristyle.34 At Karnak, king Thutmose IV erected a series of beautifully carved and painted square pillars ringing the festival hall of king Thutmose II. This was subsequently removed by his son Amenhotep III, but part of the building has been reconstructed today in the temple s Open Air museum. The only two standing obelisks at Karnak today. The left one belongs to Thutmose I and the right one to Hatshepsut. Sanctuary The sanctuary consists of the inner-most section of rooms within the Egyptian temple. Typically, it was the darkest and highest part of the temple proper, as the floor and ceiling of the temple sloped in as one progressed inward. It was here that the statue of the god would be kept secure within the naos and attended by the priests during multiple daily ceremonies. In some temples, a bark chapel was included in the rooms of the sanctuary to accommodate the boat of the god when his or her statue was placed within for festival processions.35 Naos (cella, shrine) The statues of Egyptian gods were protected not only within the temple s walls, but also within a small, rectangular shrine called the naos. This structure, usually located in the innermost room of the temple s core, was equipped with doors to guard the god from interaction with the profane.36 Columns Egyptian architecture included a variety of different column forms. Important types and associated architectural elements found at Karnak include: Open papyrus form column This type of column echoes the form of a papyrus plant with an open flower. The most impressive examples from Karnak stand in the great hypostyle hall. These Sullivan 2008, Architectural Features. Digital Karnak. 6 33 34 35 36 Habachi and Van Siclen 1977 Ching et al. 2007 Badawy 1968 Arnold 2003 Architectural Features have circular shafts with a slight ridging in imitation of the triangular shape of the actual plant s stem.37 The inverted bell-shaped capital is adorned with colorfully painted leaf designs representing the petals of the papyrus. Abacus The stone support that stands directly atop the shaft (and capital) of a column is the abacus.38 These are usually simple, undecorated squares, but a number of examples at Karnak include pictorial or textual decoration. Shaft The shaft is the body of the column. In Egyptian structures, these are often highly decorated, with inscribed and painted text and imagery. While the ancient Greeks often designed their column shafts with a slight convexity to correct for the optical illusion straight shafts gave of concavity,39 the Egyptians preferred straight shafts.40 Plinth/base The stone support that stands directly beneath the shaft of a column is the plinth or base.41 An open papyrus column with abacus on top. The column is the only example from the Taharqo kiosk standing to its full height today. Pillar Pillars are square, rectangular, or octagon-shaped supports, and serve the same function as rounded or fluted columns.42 In Egyptian architecture, colossal royal statues are often carved directly from the stone blocks of the pillar, half of which still forms the backing of the statue and roof support. In the court of the temple of Ramesses III at Karnak, one can still see preserved examples of this type of royal statue pillar. Fluted/fasciculated column Fluted columns have shafts decorated with a series of 16 or more facets or sides. Examples with vertical bands of inscription running down one or more sides of the column are known. While sometimes referred to a proto-Doric, these columns are not related to the development of the fluted Greek column.43 Examples from Karnak occur in the Akhmenu festival hall of Thutmose III, the temple of Ptah, and the Wadjet festival hall of Thutmose I. Tent-pole form column These columns, a form only rarely preserved from ancient Egypt, mimic in stone the wooden poles used to support lightweight tents or reed shelters. The king 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 Brand 2004 Ching et al. 2007 Ching et al. 2007 Arnold 2003 Ching et al. 2007 Arnold 2003 Arnold 2003 Sullivan 2008, Architectural Features. Digital Karnak. 7 Architectural Features and his entourage seemingly carried such portable structures when on military campaign. The poles may have served to hold up sed-festival kiosks as well. Widening as they rise, the column shafts culminating in a bell-shaped top. Beautiful stone examples of these columns with polychrome paint adorn the interior hall of the Akhmenu festival hall at Karnak. These may have been selected to evoke the many military successes of Thutmose III.44 closed papyrus form column This type of column depicts the papyrus plant with a closed umbel (Cyperus papyrus). Examples in the botanical room at the Akhmenu at Karnak have shafts designed as bundles of multiple plant stems (with slight bulging at the base) and representations of closed papyrus flowers as capitals. Those in the great hypostyle hall are more stylized, with straight shafts and slightly angled capitals. Their bases were originally decorated with triangular representations of papyrus leaves.45 Closed papyrus form columns from the Akhmenu’s “botanical room.” On the right are an example of fluted/fasciculated columns. Hathor-headed composite column Composite columns, commonly found in Greco-Roman period temples, have capitals adorned with a combination of a number of typ...
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