Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Page 6: Introduction: Temple, Land and Cosmos

The ruins of the mortuary temple of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep, Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III at the foot of the cliffs at Deir el Bahari, western Thebes, a site long considered sacred tot he goddess Hathor.
The temples of ancient Egypt are without doubt among the most impressive monuments to have survived from the ancient world. Once-shining cities whose towers and gates 'pierced the sky' and whose gold and bronze-capped monuments shone 'like the sun in its rising', many of these structures still rank among the greatest architectural accomplishments of human history.

Already ancient and a source of wonder in Greek and Roman times, Egypt's temples continued to amaze conquerors, explorers and travellers long after the civilization which created them had vanished. For centuries, monuments such as the Great Temple of Amun at Karnak - the largest religious structure the world has ever known - have continued to astound those who have seen them, through the richness of their architectural design and decoration, their colossal statues and obelisks, and often through the sheer vastness of their scale alone.

But there is more than this. Beyond the physical stone of Egypt's temples we may still sense much of the symbolic nature of these structures, the deeper reasons for their construction. So well-fitted to their purpose were these buildings that even now, thousands of years since the chanting processions of priests were halted and the music of singers stilled, it is difficult to walk through the great courts, pillared halls and porticoes of some of these structures and not sense once more something of their original life and presence.

No other ancient culture produced temples in such numbers, and although the remaining monuments may represent perhaps only a fraction of the