Page images
PDF
EPUB

186

ANCIENT EGYPTIAN BUILDINGS,

SCULPTURE, PAINTING, ETC. The oldest buildings in Egypt are Tombs, and whether large or small they reflect in every age the religious ideas of those who built them. The excavations made in recent years show that the Egyptian tomb in the first instance was an oval hollow, either dug in the sand, or roughly cut in the limestone, and when the body had been laid therein, it was covered over with sand. It was, however, soon found that the wild animals scratched away the sand, and dragged out the bodies and devoured them ; to prevent this the friends of the dead laid slabs of stone loosely over the hollow in the ground. As time went on these slabs of stone were better fitted and plaster was used to keep them together, and finally the sides and bottom of the grave were lined with mud bricks or stone slabs. Thus the stone (or brick) lined grave is the oldest building in Egypt, and the Egyptians made it as a result of their belief in the resurrection of the body. But even at this early period there must have been numbers of the dead who were laid to their rest in the sand. After a further lapse of time and as a result of the development of religious ideas, men began to raise stone structures over the graves, whereon they might lay their offerings to the dead, and hold some kind of intercourse with them. What the earliest structures were like we do not know, but in the earlier part of the historic period the kings, and nobles, and high officials, were buried in chambers cut in the solid rock several yards below the surface of the ground, and rectangular chambers made of stones were built over them. The tops of such structures were perfectly flat, and the sides sloped outwards very slightly; a building of this kind is commonly called Masțăba, because it resembles a bench. They did not

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

resemble portions of pyramids, but, as Mariette said, a maşțăba somewhat resembles a section cut horizontally out of an obelisk, supposing the obelisk to have a rectangular base. The walls are of varying thickness, and few are built in exactly the same way; it is a common characteristic of them all that the cores are made of very poor materials. It is hard to understand why the builders, who gave so much time and attention and labour to such buildings, did not go a step further and build their walls solidly throughout. Mașțăba tombs were oriented towards the north. They vary in length and breadth, but all consist of a hall for prayer and sacrifice, of a shaft or pit leading to the chamber where the mummy lies, and of the muinmy chamber. The entrance to the mașțăba is through an opening on the eastern side, and this opening is often quite plain. Above the opening is a lintel, a fortion of which is rounded, and Door from a mașțăba tomb at here is found the name of the Memphis.

(After Prisse d'Avennes.) deceased; occasionally the open- ' ing is sunk in the wall to a considerable depth, and a kind of small portico, with square pillars, appears in front. The interior of the mașțăba may be divided into chambers, the number of these varying according to the size of the monument and the fancy of the builder ; usually, however, a mașțăba contains only one. On the ground inside a stele, or tombstone, which always faces the east, is found ; at its foot stands an altar or table intended for offerings, and near it is a chamber in which a statue of the deceased was placed. The pit leading to the mummy chamber was square or

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

rectangular, and, when the dead body had been laid away in its coffin or sarcophagus, was filled up once and for all. The mastăbas were built in rows and stood close together, having narrow passages between them. Contemporary with the mașțăbas are the tombs which

were built in the form of pyramids, but which preserved all the main features of the mașțăba as far as religious ideas were concerned. For various reasons it was found impossible to build a hall inside a great pyramid sufficiently large to accommodate all those who would bring offerings and pray for the deceased buried below; therefore a hall was built outside in the form of a chapel. Instead of descending perpendicularly, the shaft which led to the mummy chamber beneath the pyramid is

sometimes diagonal, in which case Royal pyramid with rows heavy sarcophagi were more easily of maştăba tombs behind it. lowered down it. It is probable that step-pyramids, which are after all only modifications of mașțăbas,are older than the true pyramid, and it is also probable that they fell into disuse because they could be more easily 2 wrecked. Well built stone pyra

The Great Pyramid, showing passages and mids with the steps

mummy chambers.

[graphic]

filled up by stones that fitted closely have proved to be almost indestructible, especially if built on a grand scale. Examples of the step-pyramid are found at Şaķķâra and Mêdûm, in Egypt, and at Gebel Barkal, Nûri, and to the east of the

[graphic][merged small]

site of the ancient city of Meroë, where Candace ruled ; the so-called Blunted Pyramid at Dahshûr is the unique example of a most unusual type of pyramid, for about half way up the side of each face the inclination shanges, and while the lower portion of the face forms an angle of 54° ví' with the horizon, the angle which the The Blunted Pyramid at Dahshûr. upper portion makes with the horizon is only 42° 59'.

The pyramids of the Sûdân form a class by themselves. The outsides are built of well cut stones, carefully laid

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

in their places, but the insides are filled with masons' rubbish and sand. In the upper part of the east face is an opening, and the door faces the east nearly. Each has a chapel, or hall for offerings, in front of it.

The stone pyramid was, in the Early Empire, usually the tomb of a king or royal personage, but in later times both kings and priestly or military officials, while adopting the form, built their tombs of brick; this class formed the next development in the architecture of the tomb, and is characteristic of the XIIth and following dynasties. The pyramidal tombs of this period are usually from fifteen to twenty feet high, and the bricks are made of unbaked mud; when they stood anywhere on ground

which was tolerably level they were surrounded by a wall. On one side of the pyramid is a sepulchral stele or a small rectangular building which served the purpose of the chapel to a large pyramid, for here the funeral ceremonies were performed, and offerings made, and

prayers said on behalf of the dead. Pyramid and chapel at

The oldest examples of this class Gebel Barkal. of tomb are at Abydos ; they date (After Prisse d'Avennes.) from the VIth to the XIIth dynasty. The next step in the development of the tomb was the building it in the mountains on one side or the other of the Nile, where the hall, shaft, and mummy chamber were hewn out of the living rock. A small portico is often formed by means of two or more square or rectangular pillars cut out of the rock, also an entablature which consists of an architrave and a kind of cornice. When space permitted a portion of the hill or mountain immediately in front of the tomb was levelled, and served to accommodate the visitors who went to the tomb. Passing between the

« PreviousContinue »