A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Architecture

By Gwendolyn Leick | Go to book overview

E

Ebla see TELL MARDIKH

Edfu

Egypt, see map p. xvi. The present town of Edfu is built on top of a tell, the multiple accumulated layers of earlier settlements, going back to the beginning of Egyptian history. The only conspicuous ancient monument, however, is the Temple of Horus, which was built during the Ptolemaic period (in this case exactly dateable because of building inscriptions; the first phase lasted from 237 to 212 BC and it was completed in 142 BC).

The temple is entered through a massive pylon decorated with sunken reliefs, which depict the pharaoh slaying his enemies. A perimeter wall of stone surrounds the whole temple complex and a narrow ambulatory separates the temple from this wall. The large rectangular first courtyard is surrounded on three sides by covered colonnades with composite floral capitals. The first hypostyle hall has a screen wall facade typical for the Late Period. The layout of the inner sanctuary resembles that of other Ptolemaic CULT TEMPLES (eg DENDERA), with its succession of two hypostyle halls (the second gives access to the temple roof, which here too was used for ritual functions), flanked by service chambers, two transverse vestibules and the oblong inner shrine which still contains the original naos of polished granite. A narrow corridor behind it leads to small lateral chapels reserved for various other deities.

The ‘Birth house’ (see MAMISSI) is from the same period and consists of the single chamber or ‘birth room’, decorated with the traditional reliefs. The ambulatory has low screen-walls between the columns.

Lacau, P., Annales du Service des Antiquités de l’Egypte 52 (Cairo 1952) 215-221

Egyptian architecture

Egyptian, like Mesopotamian architecture, developed over some 3,000 years. Egypt’s geographical position across the Red Sea, protected by the barriers of mountain-ridges and deserts, made the country comparatively secure from external aggression which was such a constant threat to most other Ancient Near Eastern countries. This isolation helped to consolidate a civilisation which had its roots as much in the African continent as in the Fertile Crescent that surrounds the Arabian desert.

The country was united into the ‘Kingdom of Upper and Lower Egypt’ at an early stage in its history (around 3100 BC). The pharaoh was considered to be of such importance, being ultimately responsible for the prosperity of the country and its people, that his efficacy could not cease with his death. There arose the belief in the immortality of the

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