The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egyptian Architecture

By Larkin, Diana Wolfe | African Studies Review, December 2003 | Go to article overview

The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egyptian Architecture


Larkin, Diana Wolfe, African Studies Review


Dieter Arnold. The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egyptian Architecture. Translated by Sabine H. Gardiner and Helen Strudwick. Edited by Nigel Strudwick and Helen Strudwick. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003. 288 pp. Illustrations. Maps. Glossary. Chronological Table. Bibliography. $39.95. Cloth.

Warm applause is due for the English edition of Dieter Arnold's Encyclopedia of Ancient Egyptian Architecture, by far the most comprehensive reference work on this subject to date, and one that will give its readers new respect for the richness of Egypt's architectural heritage. From pyramids to obelisks, from flagpoles to drainage systems, from stone-working techniques to scaffolding, almost any topic one might want to look up relating to architectural design and construction in the ancient Nile valley is clearly and concisely explained in this volume. Arnold's useful book consists of short, alphabetically arranged entries featuring diverse aspects of architecture along with individual monuments and sites. Building types appear under broad and narrow headings such as "Temple," "Tomb," "House," and "Fortress," or "Kiosk," "Grain store," and the like. Other entries cover architectural elements and technical details. Building materials such as basalt and sandstone receive handy discussions, telling where the materials were obtained and how they were used. A few important abstract topics, such as "Style" and "Symbolism," also appear. Entries on individual monuments describe significant features of their design, while sections on sites survey notable buildings at a location. Each entry is accompanied by a bibliography, and the text is interspersed with more than three hundred illustrations, consisting of black and white photographs, plans, reconstructions, and other explanatory drawings.

A leading authority on Egyptian architecture and a curator at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, Arnold brought strong qualifications to the writing of his Encyclopedia. For his entries on construction techniques, he had his own landmark study, Building in Egypt: Pharaonic Stone Masonry (Oxford, 1991) to draw upon. For other subjects, his experience preparing Die Tempel Ägyptens (Zurich, 1992) and many scholarly articles gave him a core body of knowledge to work from. he is the author, too, of monographs on monuments at Dahshur, Lisht, and Deir el-Bahari, where he has conducted fieldwork. …

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