Egyptian Architecture as Cultural Expression

Egyptian Architecture as Cultural Expression

Egyptian Architecture as Cultural Expression

Egyptian Architecture as Cultural Expression

Excerpt

Ancient buildings, in spite of their appeal to the imagination and at times their real beauty, are little more than a series of unexplained phenomena until they have been brought into a comprehensible relationship and given environmental significance as the embodiment of social needs, conventions, and aspirations. As a tangible record of human endeavour they are a form of history. History has been defined as "an imposition of form upon the otherwise meaningless images of the past." In this book a form, or a unifying pattern of interpretation, has undoubtedly been imposed upon the disconnected ruins of Egyptian architecture. It is to be hoped that the author has been successful in presenting a clear verbal distinction between possibility, probability, and actuality. Exactly how objective and historically justified his interpretations may be, it remains for the illustrations and inscriptions to prove and for the reader to judge.

No one book can be all things to all men. Certain specific aspects of Egyptian architecture have been more or less excluded, partly because they represent a highly specialized interest in the subject, but primarily because they have been adequately presented in a few recently published and accessible volumes. Details of Egyptian masonry are thoroughly treated in Clarke and Engelbach Ancient Egyptian Masonry, 1930; the origin and development of various architectural elements are competently handled in G. Jéquier Manuel d'archéologie Égyptienne, 1924; and excellent large size illustrations of the buildings are available in the three folios of G. Jéquier, L'architecture et la décoration dans l'ancienne Égypte, 1920-1924.

My indebtedness to Egyptologists for materials and ideas I hope is fully indicated by the bibliography in the notes. References, however, cannot express my obligation to H. E. Winlock and his colleagues in the Egyptian Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who have been so generous with their advice and assistance. It was W. C. Hayes who, without regard for time, season, or the annoyance of our respective wives, took me and my manuscript in hand and in more ways than I can enumerate contributed to whatever value the book may prove to have. In the process he tactfully reversed an earlier relationship of student and teacher, transforming a community of interests into a permanent friendship.

In Egypt my studies were not only greatly aided but made most pleasant by the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Davies and Mr. and Mrs. Burton. Also I wish to thank Dr. Nelson for extending to me the privileges of the Library of the Institute of Oriental Studies at Luxor. Both in Egypt and in Princeton Donald Wilber has been a valuable friend and helpful critic, even assisting me with the lettering of plates when he felt dissatisfied with my results. In more ways than I can express in words I am deeply indebted to my colleagues, Professors Friend, Stillwell, Forsyth, and Egbert. It is not . . .

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