Pyramids and Houses - Ancient Egypt's Buildings
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Egyptian Architecture

pyramids
Pyramids at Giza

People tend to think that Egyptian building styles stayed the same for the whole period of Ancient Egypt, from the beginning of the Old Kingdom to the end of the New Kingdom two thousand years later, but that's not true. The Egyptians built different kinds of buildings at different times, just like any other group of people.

In the early part of the Old Kingdom, the Egyptians built mainly mastabas, a kind of tomb with a flat roof like a house. Then throughout most of the Old Kingdom, the Egyptians built the pyramid tombs which are now so famous. Of course they also built smaller buildings like houses and butcher shops.

In the Middle Kingdom, the mastaba tomb came back again, although in a more elaborate form for the Pharaohs. None of them built any more pyramids.

egypt temple amon luxor
New Kingdom temple of Amon at Luxor

Then in the New Kingdom there was a lot of building that was not tombs: temples for the gods especially, but also palaces for the Pharaohs. You could compare these New Kingdom temples, with their columns mainly on the inside of the walls, to buildings from Shang Dynasty China, about the same time, where the columns are around the outside.

Old Kingdom Egyptian architecture

Bibliography and further reading about Egyptian architecture:

Make This Egyptian Temple (Usborne Cut-Out Models), by Iain Ashman (1999)

Pyramid, by David Macaulay (1982).

The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt (Yale University Press Pelican History of Art), by William Stevenson Smith and William Kelly Simpson (revised edition 1999). The standard for college courses.

More about Ancient Egypt
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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