New Kingdom Temples - Ancient Egypt
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New Kingdom Temples

Amon-Luxor temple
The Temple of Amon at Luxor

By the time of the New Kingdom, about 1500 BC, nobody was building pyramids anymore (that's how we know that if the Jews were slaves in Egypt, they certainly weren't building pyramids). Pharaohs still had big, beautiful tombs, but they were long, low buildings, not pyramids.

Obelisk luxor
Obelisk from Luxor

But mostly people in New Kingdom Egypt were building temples to the gods. Architects had learned to how to build big open buildings with columns and roofs - they didn't need to build solid pyramids anymore.

Egyptians thought of these temples as houses for their gods. They put statues of gods inside the temple, and treated them like people - they dressed them in beautiful clothes every morning, brought them meals, took them out for walks and boat rides, and asked them for help with their problems.

Luxor temple entrance
Luxor temple entrance

Mostly only priests and temple slaves went inside the actual temples, so they were mainly designed to be impressive from the outside. Egyptians built many temples out of limestone or sandstone. Usually an Egyptian temple had two rows of columns leading up to a very impressive entrance, often with obelisks or giant statues, or both, and a big solid wall.

Courtyard at Luxor
Courtyard at Luxor

Once you were through the gate, you were in a courtyard, and across the courtyard there was another door, and another courtyard with a row of columns holding up a roof all around the edge. After that courtyard, you came to another double row of columns, which led to yet another courtyard with a roofed porch around the edge, and finally to the inner hall of the god, which was filled with a forest of columns. But mostly ordinary people had to stay outside the temple altogether, and even rich people only got to the first couple of courtyards.

Learn by doing: Writing Hieroglyphs
The end of the New Kingdom in Egypt - the Dark Ages

Bibliography and further reading about Egyptian architecture:

pyramidpyramidegypt art

Pyramid, by David Macaulay (1982). His architectural drawings are great, and his explanations are simple and clear. Easy reading.

Eyewitness: Pyramid, by James Putnam (2000). Easy reading. Good photographs.

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). Standard college textbook.

More on the New Kingdom in Egypt
More Egyptian Architecture
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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