Gaston Camille Charles Maspero.

Manual of Egyptian Archaeology and Guide to the Study of Antiquities in Egypt online

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is popularly supposed. The first plan was as regular as the most
symmetrically-minded designer could wish; but it became necessary to adapt
it to the requirements of the site, and the architects were thenceforth
chiefly concerned to make the best of the irregularities to which they were
condemned by the configuration of the ground. Such difficulties were, in
fact, a frequent source of inspiration; and Philae shows with what skill
the Egyptians extracted every element of beauty and picturesqueness from
enforced disorder.

[Illustration: Fig. 88. - Plan of Speos, Kalaat Addah, Nubia.]

[Illustration: Fig, 89. - Plan of Speos, Gebel Silsileh.]

[Illustration: Fig. 90. - Plan of the Great Speos, Abû Simbel.]

[Illustration: Fig. 91. - Speos of Hathor, Abû Simbel.]

[Illustration: Fig. 92. - Plan of the upper portion of the temple of Deir el
Baharî, showing the state of the excavations, the Speos of Hathor (A); the
rock-cut sanctuary (B); the rock-cut funerary chapel of Thothmes I. (C);
the Speos of Anubis (D); and the excavated niches of the northern
colonnade. Reproduced from Plate III. of the _Archaeological Report of the
Egypt Exploration Fund_ for 1893-4.]

[Illustration: Fig. 93. - Plan of temple of Seti I., at Abydos.]

The idea of the rock-cut temple must have occurred to the Egyptians at an
early period. They carved the houses of the dead in the mountain side; why,
therefore, should they not in like manner carve the houses of the gods? Yet
the earliest known Speos-sanctuaries date from only the beginning of the
Eighteenth Dynasty. They are generally found in those parts of the valley
where the cultivable land is narrowest, as near Beni Hasan, at Gebel
Silsileh, and in Nubia. All varieties of the constructed temple are found
in the rock-cut temple, though more or less modified by local conditions.
The Speos Artemidos is approached by a pillared portico, but contains only
a square chamber with a niche at the end for the statue of the goddess
Pakhet. At Kalaat Addah (fig. 88), a flat narrow façade (A) faces the
river, and is reached by a steep flight of steps; next comes a hypostyle
hall (B), flanked by two dark chambers (C), and lastly a sanctuary in two
storeys, one above the other (D). The chapel of Horemheb (fig. 89), at
Gebel Silsileh, is formed of a gallery parallel to the river (A), supported
by four massive pillars left in the rock. From this gallery, the sanctuary
chamber opens at right angles. At Abû Simbel, the two temples are excavated
entirely in the cliff. The front of the great speos (fig. 90) imitates a
sloping pylon crowned with a cornice, and guarded as usual by four seated
colossi flanked by smaller statues. These colossi are sixty-six feet high.
The doorway passed, there comes a first hall measuring 130 feet in length
by 60 feet in width, which corresponds to the usual peristyle. Eight
Osiride statues backed by as many square pillars, seem to bear the
mountain on their heads. Beyond this come (1) a hypostyle hall; (2) a
transverse gallery, isolating the sanctuary, and (3) the sanctuary itself,
between two smaller chambers. Eight crypts, sunk at a somewhat lower level
than that of the main excavation, are unequally distributed to right and
left of the peristyle. The whole excavation measures 180 feet from the
doorway to the end of the sanctuary. The small speos of Hathor, about a
hundred paces to the northward, is of smaller dimensions. The façade is
adorned with six standing colossi, four representing Rameses II., and two
his wife, Nefertari. The peristyle and the crypts are lacking (fig. 91),
and the small chambers are placed at either end of the transverse passage,
instead of being parallel with the sanctuary. The hypostyle hall, however,
is supported by six Hathor-headed pillars. Where space permitted, the rock-
cut temple was but partly excavated in the cliff, the forepart being
constructed outside with blocks cut and dressed, and becoming half grotto,
half building. In the hemi-speos at Derr, the peristyle is external to the
cliff; at Beit el Wally, the pylon and court are built; at Gerf Husein and
Wady Sabûah, pylon, court, and hypostyle hall are all outside the mountain,
The most celebrated and original hemi-speos is that built by Queen
Hatshepsût, at Deir el Baharî, in the Theban necropolis (fig. 92),[19] The
sanctuary and chapels which, as usual, accompany it, were cut about 100 ft.
above the level of the valley. In order to arrive at that height, slopes
were made and terraces laid out according to a plan which was not
understood until the site was thoroughly excavated.

Between the hemi-speos and the isolated temple, the Egyptians created yet
another variety, namely, the built temple backed by, but not carried into,
the cliff. The temple of the sphinx at Gizeh, and the temple of Seti I. at
Abydos, may be cited as two good examples. I have already described the
former; the area of the latter (fig. 93) was cleared in a narrow and
shallow belt of sand, which here divides the plain from the desert. It was
sunk up to the roof, the tops of the walls but just showing above the level
of the ground. The staircase which led up to the terraced roof led also to
the top of the hill. The front, which stood completely out, seemed in
nowise extraordinary. It was approached by two pylons, two courts, and a
shallow portico supported on square pillars. The unusual part of the
building only began beyond this point. First, there were two hypostyle
halls instead of one. These are separated by a wall with seven doorways.
There is no nave, and the sanctuary opens direct from the second hall.
This, as usual, consists of an oblong chamber with a door at each end; but
the rooms by which it is usually surrounded are here placed side by side in
a line, two to the right and four to the left; further, they are covered by
"corbelled" vaults, and are lighted only from the doors. Behind the
sanctuary are further novelties. Another hypostyle hall (K) abuts on the
end wall, and its dependencies are unequally distributed to right and left.
As if this were not enough, the architect also constructed, to the left of
the main building, a court, five chambers of columns, various passages and
dark chambers - in short, an entire wing branching off at right angles to
the axis of the temple proper, with no counterbalancing structures on the
other side. These irregularities become intelligible when the site is
examined. The cliff is shallow at this part, and the smaller hypostyle hall
is backed by only a thin partition of rock. If the usual plan had been
followed, it would have been necessary to cut the cliff entirely away, and
the structure would have forfeited its special characteristic - that of a
temple backed by a cliff - as desired by the founder. The architect,
therefore, distributed in width those portions of the edifice which he
could not carry out in length; and he even threw out a wing. Some years
later, when Rameses II. constructed a monument to his own memory, about a
hundred yards to the northward of the older building, he was careful not to
follow in his father's footsteps. Built on the top of an elevation, his
temple had sufficient space for development, and the conventional plan was
followed in all its strictness.

[Illustration: Fig. 94. - Crio-sphinx from Wady Es Sabûah.]

[Illustration: Fig. 95. - Couchant ram, with statuette of royal founder,
restored from the Avenue of Sphinxes at Karnak.]

Most temples, even the smallest, should be surrounded by a square
enclosure or temenos.[20] At Medinet Habu, this enclosure wall is of
sandstone - low, and embattled. The innovation is due to a whim of Rameses
III., who, in giving to his monument the outward appearance of a fortress,
sought to commemorate his Syrian victories. Elsewhere, the doorways are of
stone, and the walls are built in irregular courses of crude bricks. The
great enclosure wall was not, as frequently stated, intended to isolate the
temple and screen the priestly ceremonies from eyes profane. It marked the
limits of the divine dwelling, and served, when needful, to resist the
attacks of enemies whose cupidity might be excited by the accumulated
riches of the sanctuary. As at Karnak, avenues of sphinxes and series of
pylons led up to the various gates, and formed triumphal approaches. The
rest of the ground was in part occupied by stables, cellarage, granaries,
and private houses. Just as in Europe during the Middle Ages the population
crowded most densely round about the churches and abbeys, so in Egypt they
swarmed around the temples, profiting by that security which the terror of
his name and the solidity of his ramparts ensured to the local deity. A
clear space was at first reserved round the pylons and the walls; but in
course of time the houses encroached upon this ground, and were even built
up against the boundary wall. Destroyed and rebuilt century after century
upon the self-same spot, the _débris_ of these surrounding dwellings so
raised the level of the soil, that the temples ended for the most part by
being gradually buried in a hollow formed by the artificial elevation of
the surrounding city. Herodotus noticed this at Bubastis, and on
examination it is seen to have been the same in many other localities. At
Ombos, at Edfû, at Denderah, the whole city nestled inside the precincts of
the divine dwelling. At El Kab, where the temple temenos formed a separate
enclosure within the boundary of the city walls, it served as a sort of
donjon, or keep, in which the garrison could seek a last refuge. At Memphis
and at Thebes, there were as many keeps as there were great temples, and
these sacred fortresses, each at first standing alone in the midst of
houses, were, from the time of the Eighteenth Dynasty, connected each with
each by avenues of sphinxes. These were commonly andro-sphinxes, combining
the head of a man and the body of a lion; but we also find crio-sphinxes,
which united a ram's head with a lion's body (fig. 94). Elsewhere, in
places where the local worship admitted of such substitution, a couchant
ram, holding a statuette of the royal founder between his bent forelegs,
takes the place of the conventional sphinx (fig. 95). The avenue leading
from Luxor to Karnak was composed of these diverse elements. It was one
mile and a quarter in length, and there were many bends in it; but this
fact affords no fresh proof of Egyptian "symmetrophobia." The enclosures of
the two temples were not oriented alike, and the avenues which started
squarely from the fronts of each could never have met had they not deviated
from their first course. Finally, it may be said that the inhabitants of
Thebes saw about as much of their temples as we see at the present day. The
sanctuary and its immediate surroundings were closed against them; but they
had access to the façades, the courts, and even the hypostyle halls, and
might admire the masterpieces of their architects as freely as we admire
them now.


[14] _Hor-shesû_, "followers," or "servants of Horus," are mentioned
in the Turin papyrus as the predecessors of Mena, and are referred to
in monumental inscriptions as representing the pre-historic people of
Egypt. It is to the Hor-shesû that Professors Maspero and Mariette
attribute the making of the Great Sphinx. - A.B.E.

[15] For a full description of the oldest funerary chapel known, that of
King Sneferû, see W.M.F. Petrie's _Medum_.

[16] Conf. Mr. Petrie's plan of this temple in _Pyramids and Temples of
Gizeh_, Plate VI. - A.B.E.

[17] That is to say, the wall is vertical on the inside; but is
built much thicker at the bottom than at the top, so that on the
outside it presents a sloping surface, retiring with the height of
the wall. - A.B.E.

[18] "Hatshepsût," more commonly known as "Hatasû;" the new reading is,
however, more correct. Professor Maspero thinks that it was pronounced
"Hatshopsitû." - A.B.E.

[19] For full illustrated account of the complete excavation of this
temple, see the _Deir el Baharî_ publications of the Egypt
Exploration Fund.

[20] Temenos, _i.e._, the enclosure wall of the Temple, within which
all was holy ground. - A.B.E.




3. - DECORATION.

[Illustration: Figs. 96 to 101. - DECORATIVE DESIGNS, FROM DENDERAH.]

[Illustration: Fig. 96.]

[Illustration: Fig. 97.]

[Illustration: Fig. 98.]

[Illustration: Fig. 99.]

[Illustration: Fig. 100.]

[Illustration: Fig. 101.]

[Illustration: Fig. 102. - Two Nile-gods, bearing lotus flowers and libation
vases.]

[Illustration: Fig. 103. - Dado decoration, hall of Thothmes III., Karnak.]

[Illustration: Fig. 104. - Ceiling decoration, from tomb of Bakenrenf
(Bocchoris), Sakkarah, Twenty-sixth Dynasty.]


Ancient tradition affirmed that the earliest Egyptian temples contained
neither sculptured images, inscriptions, nor symbols; and in point of fact,
the Temple of the Sphinx is bare. But this is a unique example. The
fragments of architraves and masonry bearing the name of Khafra, which were
used for building material in the northern pyramid of Lisht, show that this
primitive simplicity had already been abandoned by the time of the Fourth
Dynasty. During the Theban period, all smooth surfaces, all pylons, wall-
faces, and shafts of columns, were covered with figure-groups and
inscriptions. Under the Ptolemies and the Caesars, figures and hieroglyphs
became so crowded that the stone on which they are sculptured seems to be
lost under the masses of ornament with which it is charged. We recognise at
a glance that these scenes are not placed at random. They follow in
sequence, are interlinked, and form as it were a great mystic book in which
the official relations between gods and men, as well as between men and
gods, are clearly set forth for such as are skilled to read them. The
temple was built in the likeness of the world, as the world was known to
the Egyptians. The earth, as they believed, was a flat and shallow plane,
longer than its width. The sky, according to some, extended overhead like
an immense iron ceiling, and according to others, like a huge shallow
vault. As it could not remain suspended in space without some support, they
imagined it to be held in place by four immense props or pillars. The floor
of the temple naturally represented the earth. The columns, and if needful
the four corners of the chambers, stood for the pillars. The roof, vaulted
at Abydos, flat elsewhere, corresponded exactly with the Egyptian idea of
the sky. Each of these parts was, therefore, decorated in consonance with
its meaning. Those next to the ground were clothed with vegetation. The
bases of the columns were surrounded by leaves, and the lower parts of the
walls were adorned with long stems of lotus or papyrus (fig. 96), in the
midst of which animals were occasionally depicted. Bouquets of water-plants
emerging from the water (fig. 97), enlivened the bottom of the wall-space
in certain chambers. Elsewhere, we find full-blown flowers interspersed
with buds (fig. 98), or tied together with cords (fig. 99); or those
emblematic plants which symbolise the union of Upper and Lower Egypt under
the rule of a single Pharaoh (fig. 100); or birds with human hands and
arms, perched in an attitude of adoration on the sign which represents a
solemn festival; or kneeling prisoners tied to the stake in couples, each
couple consisting of an Asiatic and a negro (fig. 101). Male and female
Niles (fig. 102), laden with flowers and fruits, either kneel, or advance
in majestic procession, along the ground level. These are the nomes, lakes,
and districts of Egypt, bringing offerings of their products to the god.
In one instance, at Karnak, Thothmes III. caused the fruits, flowers, and
animals indigenous to the foreign lands which he had conquered, to be
sculptured on the lower courses of his walls (fig. 103). The ceilings were
painted blue, and sprinkled with five-pointed stars painted yellow,
occasionally interspersed with the cartouches of the royal founder. The
monotony of this Egyptian heaven was also relieved by long bands of
hieroglyphic inscriptions. The vultures of Nekheb and Ûati, the goddesses
of the south and north, crowned and armed with divine emblems (fig. 104),
hovered above the nave of the hypostyle halls, and on the under side of the
lintels of the great doors, above the head of the king as he passed through
on his way to the sanctuary. At the Ramesseum, at Edfû, at Philae, at
Denderah, at Ombos, at Esneh, the depths of the firmament seemed to open to
the eyes of the faithful, revealing the dwellers therein. There the
celestial ocean poured forth its floods navigated by the sun and moon with
their attendant escort of planets, constellations, and decani; and there
also the genii of the months and days marched in long procession. In the
Ptolemaic age, zodiacs fashioned after Greek models were sculptured side by
side with astronomical tables of purely native origin (fig. 105). The
decoration of the architraves which supported the massive roofing slabs was
entirely independent of that of the ceiling itself. On these were wrought
nothing save boldly cut inscriptions, in which the beauty of the temple,
the names of the builder-kings who had erected it, and the glory of the
gods to whom it was consecrated, are emphatically celebrated. Finally, the
decoration of the lowest part of the walls and of the ceiling was
restricted to a small number of subjects, which were always similar: the
most important and varied scenes being suspended, as it were, between earth
and heaven, on the sides of the chambers and the pylons.

[Illustration: Fig. 105. - Zodiacal circle of Denderah.]

These scenes illustrate the official relations which subsisted between
Egypt and the gods. The people had no right of direct intercourse with the
deities. They needed a mediator, who, partaking of both human and divine
nature, was qualified to communicate with both. The king alone, Son of the
Sun, was of sufficiently high descent to contemplate the god in his temple,
to serve him, and to speak with him face to face. Sacrifices could be
offered only by him, or through him, and in his name. Even the customary
offerings to the dead were supposed to pass through his hands, and the
family availed themselves of his name in the formula _sûten ta hotep_ to
forward them to the other world. The king is seen, therefore, in all parts
of the temple, standing, seated, kneeling, slaying the victim, presenting
the parts, pouring out the wine, the milk, and the oil, and burning the
incense. All humankind acts through him, and through him performs its duty
towards the gods. When the ceremonies to be performed required the
assistance of many persons, then alone did mortal subordinates (consisting,
as much as possible, of his own family) appear by his side. The queen,
standing behind him like Isis behind Osiris, uplifts her hand to protect
him, shakes the sistrum, beats the tambourine to dispel evil spirits, or
holds the libation vase or bouquet. The eldest son carries the net or
lassoes the bull, and recites the prayer while his father successively
presents to the god each object prescribed by the ritual. A priest may
occasionally act as substitute for the prince, but other men perform only
the most menial offices. They are slaughterers or servants, or they bear
the boat or canopy of the god. The god, for his part, is not always alone.
He has his wife and his son by his side; next after them the gods of the
neighbouring homes, and, in a general way, all the gods of Egypt. From the
moment that the temple is regarded as representing the world, it must, like
the world, contain all gods, both great and small. They are most frequently
ranged behind the principal god, seated or standing; and with him they
share in the homage paid by the king. Sometimes, however, they take an
active part in the ceremonies. The spirits of On and Khonû[21] kneel before
the sun, and proclaim his praise. Hor, Set, or Thoth conducts Pharaoh into
the presence of his father Amen Ra, or performs the functions elsewhere
assigned to the prince or the priest. They help him to overthrow the victim
or to snare birds for the sacrifice; and in order to wash away his
impurities, they pour upon his head the waters of youth and life. The
position and functions of these co-operating gods were strictly defined in
the theology. The sun, travelling from east to west, divided the universe
into two worlds, the world of the north and the world of the south. The
temple, like the universe, was double, and an imaginary line passing
through the axis of the sanctuary divided it into two temples - the temple
of the south on the right hand, and the temple of the north on the left.
The gods and their various manifestations were divided between these two
temples, according as they belonged to the northern or southern hemisphere.
This fiction of duality was carried yet further. Each chamber was divided,
in imitation of the temple, into two halves, the right half belonging to
the south, and the left half to the north. The royal homage, to be
complete, must be rendered in the temples of the south and of the north,
and to the gods of the south and of the north, and with the products of the
south and of the north. Each sculptured tableau must, therefore, be
repeated at least twice in each temple - on a right wall and on a left wall.
Amen, on the right, receives the corn, the wine, the liquids of the south;
while on the left he receives the corn, the wine, and the liquids of the
north. As with Amen, so with Maut, Khonsû, Mentû, and many other gods. Want
of space frequently frustrated the due execution of this scheme, and we
often meet with a tableau in which the products of north and south together
are placed before an Amen who represents both Amen of the south and Amen of
the north. These departures from decorative usage are, however,
exceptional, and the dual symmetry is always observed where space permits.

[Illustration: Fig. 106. - Frieze of uraei and cartouches.]

In Pharaonic times, the tableaux were not over-crowded. The wall-surface
intended to be covered was marked off below by a line carried just above
the ground level decoration, and was bounded above by the usual cornice, or
by a frieze. This frieze might be composed of uraei, or of bunches of
lotus; or of royal cartouches (fig. 106) supported on either side by divine
symbols; or of emblems borrowed from the local cult (by heads of Hathor,
for instance, in a temple dedicated to Hathor); or of a horizontal line of
dedicatory inscription engraved in large and deeply-cut hieroglyphs. The
wall space thus framed in contained sometimes a single scene and sometimes
two scenes, one above the other. The wall must be very lofty, if this
number is exceeded. Figures and inscriptions were widely spaced, and the
scenes succeeded one another with scarcely a break. The spectator had to
discover for himself where they began or ended. The head of the king was
always studied from the life, and the faces of the gods reproduced the
royal portrait as closely as possible. As Pharaoh was the son of the gods,
the surest way to obtain portraits of the gods was to model their faces
after the face of the king. The secondary figures were no less carefully
wrought; but when these were very numerous, they were arranged on two or
three levels, the total height of which never exceeded that of the
principal personages. The offerings, the sceptres, the jewels, the
vestments, the head-dresses, and all the accessories were treated with a
genuine feeling for elegance and truth. The colours, moreover, were so
combined as to produce in each tableau the effect of one general and
prevailing tone; so that in many temples there were chambers which can be
justly distinguished as the Blue Hall, the Red Hall, or the Golden Hall. So
much for the classical period of decoration.

[Illustration: Fig. 107. - Wall of a chamber at Denderah, to show the
arrangement of the tableaux.]

As we come down to later times, these tableaux are multiplied, and under
the Greeks and Romans they become so numerous that the smallest wall
contained not less than four (fig. 107), five, six, or even eight
registers. The principal figures are, as it were, compressed, so as to
occupy less room, and all the intermediate space is crowded with thousands
of tiny hieroglyphs. The gods and kings are no longer portraits of the
reigning sovereign, but mere conventional types without vigour or life. As
for the secondary figures and accessories, the sculptor's only care is to
crowd in as many as possible. This was not due to a defect of taste, and to


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Online LibraryGaston Camille Charles MasperoManual of Egyptian Archaeology and Guide to the Study of Antiquities in Egypt → online text (page 6 of 21)