Ancient Egyptian Architecture

Ancient Egyptian Architecture is architecture of Egypt during the pharaonic period. Ancient Egyptian Architecture is varied from temples, enclosed cities, canals, and dams. 

Methods, techniques, materials, tools

Initially, Egyptians built with mud. Mud was formed into mudbricks. Mudbricks were dried and hardened in the sun. Structures built with mudbricks would later be plastered with gypsum, giving a fresh shinning white finish. Later, Egyptians would become masters in stones. Limestone would be the material most used. Troyu and the Moqattam Hills, east of Cairo, were the source of numerous quarries from which limestone was cut. Granite was also used for the interior of tombs. Granite was quarried from Swenet, in modern day Aswan. Canals were usually dug to the construction site. Stones weighing tons were ferried on barges to the building sites. Levers and ramps were used to get the stones on sleds. Giant ropes of palm fibers and reeds were made to pull these giant stones in place. Manpower, not slaves but voluntary workers, were used for construction. Oxens were sometimes used for muscle, instead of human.

Egyptians made extensive use of the corbelled arch, which is layering where each top layer overhangs the one below.

Copper was the metal used to make tools. Diorite, hard stone, was used to cut, quarry limestone. Sleds without rollers were used to move large stones. During the Old Kingdom, the age of pyramid buildings, reliefs show 172 men moving a 60 ton statue on sleds without rollers.


Pharaohs built numerous palaces. Palaces were meant to last the lifetime of the pharaohs. They were not meant to last forever like tombs. They weren't built with stones. They were typically built with mudbricks. Because they were built with mudbricks, they did not survive antiquity. The Palaces were rectangular in shape.


The first recorded engineering fit of the Egyptians was the building of the walls surrounding  the city of Memphis. Memphis was the capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom.


The Egyptians were the first to engineer canals on a massive scale. Egyptians dug water-ways that run for kilometers used for both transportation and irrigation(Engineering an Empire: Egypt). 


Because of flooding, Egyptians built dams. The Menes Dam, built to protect the city of Memphis is the first recorded dam in history. It did not survive antiquity
(Engineering an Empire: Egypt). 

Tombs and Pyramids

Tomb engineering was a major endeavor and lead to major architectural innovations. Initially tombs were made of mudbricks called mustabas. Mustabas consisted of surface level structure with different rooms and underground tombs cut out of bedrock. The structures were the beginning evolution of the pyramids. The first attemp at the building of a pyramid was the step pyramid at Saqqara by Pharaoh Djoser. Saqqara represent the first time in history stone architecture is used in the building of a major edifice. The complex consisted of a palace to the north and two buildings representing upper and lower Egypt. The pyramid complex was enclosed by a 3 story limestone wall. It's entranceway was lined with 40 stone columns, 33 ft high. The columns were the first 40 stone columns in recorded history. Later, Snefru , Djoser's heir attempted to build the first true pyramids. His first experiment was the Meydum Pyramid and later the Dashur Pyramid or Bent Pyramid. The first true pyramid was Snefru's Red Pyramid. Later, the largest and tallest pyramid the Great Pyramid of Giza would be built based on the earlier experiments
(Engineering an Empire: Egypt). 


Fortification was a major aspect of Egyptian architecture. To retain territory and deal with threats from the south, Nubia, Pharaoh Sesotris built eight super-forts at Aswan,  from Semna to Buhen, the first type architectural structures in the world on par with later Roman and European forts. The most famous was the Buhen Fort, which now resides under Lake Nasser. It could hold 1,000 soldiers. It comprised of multilayer wall and moat; first  exterior wall, then moat, second wall with sections for archers. The forts were made of mudbricks
(Engineering an Empire: Egypt). 


Numerous temples were built by the Egyptians, famous among them was the Temple of Deir El-Bahri built  to honor Queen Hatshepsut (18th Dynasty), by architect Senimut. It's a three layered temple connected by ramps. Each layer is donned with colonnades. The third layer consist of a sanctuary with two chapels. Another was the rock carved temple at Abu-Simbel, built by Ramses II, consisting of  two atrium, the first atrium consisting of 8 giant statues, then a sanctuary, and side rooms. All were constructed by cutting one giant rock. The Karnak Temple built by Seti, contains 144 columns, seven stories high, with Great Hypostle Hall (Engineering an Empire: Egypt).

Related Article: Common Coptic Names, List of Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt,  African Architecture ,Mangbetu Palace ,Ngundeng Pyramid ,Nsude Pyramid

Works Cited

Engineering an Empire: Egypt. Peter Weller(host). Egineering an Empire. Discovery Channel.

L. Sprague De Camp(1963). The Ancient Engineers. MIT Press. SBN 26254008 8(paperback). Library of Congress Card Number: 76-95278.