ancient egyptian architecture

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The Ancient faces of the Fayum mummy portraits

Egypt


Mummy portraits or Fayum mummy portraits (also Faiyum mummy portraits) is the modern term given to a type of naturalistic painted portrait on wooden boards attached to Egyptian mummies from the Coptic period. They belong to the tradition of panel painting, one of the most highly regarded forms of art in the Classical world. In fact, the Fayum portraits are the only large body of art from that tradition to have survived.

 Mummy portraits have been found across Egypt, but are most common in the Faiyum Basin, particularly from Hawara in the Fayum Basin (hence the common name) and the Hadrianic Roman city Antinoopolis. “Faiyum Portraits” is generally thought of as a stylistic, rather than a geographic, description. While painted cartonnage mummy cases date back to pharaonic times, the Faiyum mummy portraits were an innovation dating to the Coptic period at the time of the Roman occupation of Egypt.

 They date to the Roman period, from the late 1st century BC or the early 1st century AD onwards. It is not clear when their production ended, but recent research suggests the middle of the 3rd century. They are among the largest groups among the very few survivors of the highly prestigious panel painting tradition of the classical world, which was continued into Byzantine and Western traditions in the post-classical world, including the local tradition of Coptic iconography in Egypt.

 The portraits covered the faces of bodies that were mummified for burial. Extant examples indicate that they were mounted into the bands of cloth that were used to wrap the bodies. Almost all have now been detached from the mummies. They usually depict a single person, showing the head, or head and upper chest, viewed frontally. In terms of artistic tradition, the images clearly derive more from Graeco-Roman traditions than Egyptian ones.

 Two groups of portraits can be distinguished by technique: one of encaustic (wax) paintings, the other in tempera. The former are usually of higher quality. About 900 mummy portraits are known at present. The majority were found in the necropoleis of Faiyum. Due to the hot dry Egyptian climate, the paintings are frequently very well preserved, often retaining their brilliant colours seemingly unfaded by time.

Personally I`ve seen some at the Museum and was stunned and hypnotized by the ancient 2000 year-old faces looking at me as if they were there with me.

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Egypt photo please

We have posted many times about Egypt and made a feature post of Cairo. But Ancient Egyptian Architecture is one of the most important and influential in history. Most of us know the Giza Pyramids complex but the shores of the Nile are full of incredible structures created by the Egyptians. Here are some of my favorite:

Temple of Queen Hatshepsut

Keep reading

Architecture (Part 8): Greco-Roman Temples

A Hellenistic Macedonian family ruled Egypt during the Ptolemaic Dynasty (305-30 BC).  Under their rule, a revival of Egyptian traditions & forms occurred, but with a change – instead of the temples’ previous “public majesty”, they were now darkened and mysterious.  Large building projects were carried out, temples were rebuilt or enlarged, and Egyptian religious beliefs were preserved by the foreigners.

The basic elements of temple construction & room arrangement were still used, with the pronaos and a free-standing central sanctuary (instead of against the back wall) added to them.  Under the later kings of this dynasty, the temples still provided a strong social function, serving as the town’s focus, and giving it administrative & economic value as well as spiritual value.

The Temple of Edfu was built from sandstone on the Nile’s west bank in Edfu, over a period of 180 years.  Its layout was complex, but streamlined.

Temple of Edfu.

Statues of Horus outside the entrance (close-up).

Stairways inside the pylons led to the roof.  The entrance led to a large courtyard, after which was the pronaos, hypostyle hall, small antechamber, and finally a free-standing sanctuary, surrounded by a corridor.

Decorative hieroglyphic texts state that the temple was built according to the ancient ideal, which re-emphasized its dedication to the cult.

Edfu was dedicated to Horus (the falcon god), and displays all the typical major temple elements: broken-lintel doorway (two partial lintels reach only a short way, with a large gap in the middle); elaborate column capitals; a screen wall across the hypostyle hall; and the roof was used for ritual.

A winged sun-disc over the pylon entrance represented Behdet, the creator & protector of the world.  The courtyard is flanked by colonnaded porticoes.  It gave an impressive public aspect to the temple, with elaborate, brightly-decorated capitals, and the large statue of Horus as a falcon at the back.

Courtyard (looking back to the pylons).

The pronaos was also called the Hall before the Great Seat”. This is the temple’s fore-hall (i.e. before the hypostyle hall).  It has three rows of six columns each.  The only light came in through a square aperture in the roof, thus emphasizing the transition between the physical & spiritual worlds.

Behind the first row of columns is a screen wall, to restrict the amount of light entering the pronaos.  This created an environment for cleansing before approaching the sanctuary.  The screen wall is made of thin stone, and is highly-decorated with images of the king & queen, cult themes, and mythological motifs, thus emphasizing the cult of the pharaoh.

In the courtyard, looking to the first row of columns.

Hypostyle hall.

The Temple of Hathor in the Dendera Temple Complex was built during the 00’s BC.  The columns supporting its hypostyle hall were crowned with 4-sided Hathor-head capitals.  The upper part of the capitals depicted the mammisi (birth house), which was identified with divine descent.  Hathor was the goddess of love.

Temple of Hathor.

Columns in the hypostyle hall.

The cornice was a projecting ornamental moulding, on along the top of pylons and temple walls.  It was a standard part of Egyptian decoration.  The earliest designs were simple mud-brick and reed, and later elaborate designs were of detailed cult symbolism, such as the striking cobra and sun-disc.  Cornices gave elegance to monumental structures.