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Ancient Egyptian Architecture (New Kingdom)

Ancient Egyptian Architecture (New Kingdom)

Author: Ian McConnell

Understand some of the architectural elements that are associated with the New Kingdom

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An overview of the architecture and history of the New Kingdom in ancient Egypt.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell. Today's lesson is about architecture from the New Kingdom.

As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as many times as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives, or the things you are going to learn today, are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you will be able to identify and define today's key terms, explain some of the historical events that led to the rise of the New Kingdom, describe some of the architectural elements that are associated with the New Kingdom, and explain the historical importance of Queen Hatshepsut.

Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is pylon temple-- in architecture, i.e., Egyptian temple or large opening, doorway, or entrance. Clerestory is a part of a building that rises above the roofs, basically windows above eye level, primarily allowing light and ventilation.

Hypostyle is a form of architecture that has a roof supported by columns. Axial plan is the horizontal arrangements of the elements of a building or town across a central axis. And colonnade is a series of columns.

Big idea for today is that the New kingdom in ancient Egypt marked the final expulsion of the Hyksos and the introduction of new architectural elements. And a side note. This lesson has required artwork, which is listed in purple.

Now, the New Kingdom Period, which we're looking at today, begins with Pharaoh Ahmose I in 1550 BC and ends in 1069 BC. Quick geography lesson. We're looking at the location of Thebes today. Here is ancient Egypt at its greatest expanse. And if we zoom in on the Nile, here's the location of Thebes.

Now, the Old and New Kingdoms of ancient Egypt are separated by the Middle Kingdom, as well as a few intermediary periods, that are periods of disorder within ancient Egypt. Now, one of these periods was a time of rule by non-native Egyptians, a band of people from the near Middle East called Hykson, or shepherd kings. Now, this picture of Ahmose I. He was the first ruler of the 18th dynasty, and he was the one that was responsible for finally ridding Egypt of the Hyksos or who remained who were non-native Egyptians. And he restored native Egyptian rule.

So we care because these were an assortment of people from Syrian and Mesopotamian uplands. And eventually rose to power and ruled Egypt for a short period of time. About the 15th dynasty is attributed to the Hyksos rulers.

One of the important things they introduced, in addition to some innovations in weaponry and weapons, was the introduction of the horse to ancient Egypt. And their hold on Egypt was short lived. The last of them finally dispatched around 1555 by the first ruler of the 18th dynasty, which I've mentioned before and the New Kingdom the Pharaoh Ahmose I.

Now, the start of the New Kingdom also brought with it a change of location for the capital of the Egyptian kingdom to Thebes. This change of venue resulted in some religious changes as well.

The patron god of Thebes was named Amun, or Ammon, who, along with his wife Mut and their son Khonsu, quickly became principal deities throughout the kingdom. In fact, Amun also became known as the King of the gods and eventually melded with the sun god Ra to become Amun-Ra. Now, this blending of gods isn't unique to Egypt. It was a practice that we tend to see throughout history as cultures blend together.

So who is the Queen Hatshepsut? And why do we care? There is a statute of her on the right.

Her reign was from around 1479 to 1458 BC. Now, the 18th dynasty pharaoh Thutmos II was married to the queen. And they had a son and heir to the throne named Thutmos III. Upon the death of Thutmos II, Hatshepsut became queen regnant due to the young age of Thutmos III. He would have been a child at that time.

She eventually declared herself pharaoh. And this is important, because it marks the first time in recorded history that a female ruled absolutely, meaning that she wasn't just a regnant. She was pharaoh. She was in charge.

Now, her reign lasted approximately 22 years. And during her reign, she rebuilt some of the major trade routes that had been damaged during the time of the Hyksos. And she also commissioned some major construction projects.

This is a statute of Hatshepsut with offering jars. Now part of her claim to the throne was that she said her husband Thutmos II had intended to pass succession to her. Now, it would have been a strategic undertaking, I imagine, to maintain the legitimacy of her claim to the throne under those conditions. Part of that could be seen in this sculpture and the way she's dressed as a male pharaoh complete with the headdress and, originally, the false beard, which looks like it was broken up. Now, there are also inscriptions calling her his majesty, as opposed to her majesty, which is interesting and sort of revealing.

Now, Hatshepsut mortuary temple is a beautiful example of a royal funerary complex. And the colonnades are clearly visible, as well as the access ramps that run along the central axis in the temple. Now, what can't be seen are the reliefs showing important moments from her life, such as her divine birth and her crowning, which would have served to help legitimize her ascent or her keeping her hold on the throne of Egypt.

Across the river from Hatshepsut's mortuary temple on the eastern side of the Nile near Thebes is the temple city of Luxor. And the surviving temple of Amun-Mut-Khonsu remains one of the best preserved examples of New Kingdom architecture. It was a large structure laid out on an axial plan.

This first image is an example of part of what's referred to as a pylon temple. And pylons are the tower shapes on either side of the opening. In addition to creating a gateway and processional pathway, the pylons would be adorned with historical reliefs from Egypt's past.

The tall structure upfront is called an obelisk. It's important architectural element that has been used throughout time-- our own Washington Monument is an obelisk-- that's often taken as symbolic of the rays or ray of the sun. It's a rectangular structure with a pyramid shape on top.

This next image is of the interior courtyard at the temple complex. The colonnade or row of columns would have supported a roof. This type of architecture is called a hypostyle.

What's really amazing about the construction of the ancient Egyptian architecture is that they didn't use cement. That hadn't been invented yet. The strength and stability of the structure came from the precise cutting and interlocking of the stone.

Now, this last slide is a diagram of a hypostyle hall, so that I can illustrate another one of our key terms. A clerestory is a part of the structure that rises above the roofs, pointed here. So we're looking at a cross section. And they're openings to allow for ventilation and light to enter. So you can see with my little purple man at the bottom there.

They're different from windows in that they aren't intended for outdoor viewing. See, they're well above his eye line. They're just intended to allow in sunlight and air for ventilation.

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives to see how we did. Now that you've seen the lesson, are able to identify and define today's key terms?

Can you explain some of the historical events that led to the rise of the New Kingdom? Can you describe some of the architectural elements that are associated with the New Kingdom? And can you explain the historical importance of Queen Hatshepsut?

Once again, the big idea for today is that the New Kingdom in ancient Egypt marked the final expulsion of Hyksos and the introduction of new architectural elements. And there you go. Thank you for joining me today. I'll see you next time.


Image of Pylon Temple Creative Commons; Image of Colonnade Public Domain; Image of Hatshepsut with Offering Jars, Creative Commons,; Image of Hatshepsut Creative Commons; Image of Hatshepsut Mortuary Temple Creative Commons; Image of Amun Creative Commons; Image of Mut Creative Commons; Image of Khonsu Creative Commons

Terms to Know
Axial Plan

The horizontal arrangement of the elements of a building or town along a central axis.


A part of a building that rises above the roofs--basically windows above eye-level primarily allowing light and ventilation.


A series of columns.


A form of architecture that has a roof supported by columns.

Pylon Temple

In architecture, i.e. Egyptian temple, a large opening, doorway or entrance.