Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Page 24: Ancient Egypt's New Kingdom Temples

<<Page 23...
A New Kingdom drawing of a temple facade. The double rows
of columns represent a kiosk before the pylon with its flagpoles,
from which pennants fly.
The expansion of ancient Egypt's political and economic power during its New Kingdom age of empire led to both the building of numerous new temples and the expansion of many which already existed. Individual kings strove to outdo their predecessors, not only in the construction of their own mortuary temples but also in the further development of major cult centers and in the building of ancient Egyptian temples dedicated to established deities as well as those that had not previously enjoyed formal cults.

Temple construction in the New Kingdom reached its high points under Amenophis III in the 18th Dynasty and Ramesses II in the 19th Dynasty, and did not really decline until several hundred years later. In terms of development also the Egyptian temple may be said to have reached its apogee in this period. Costly and magnificent religious structures were produced on a regular basis, and many if not most temples were constructed almost entirely of stone. The so-called 'standard' temple plan was established, in which an entrance pylon gave access to open court followed by a columned hall and finally the sanctuary itself. Although it might be varied, and was certainly elaborated in many cases, this standard form persisted all the way through the Graeco-Roman Period, and is the plan of most of the ancient Egyptian temples that have survived relatively intact till modern times.

The standard plan was used, in fact, not only for the divine cult temples but also for the mortuary temples of the rulers of the New Kingdom. The kings of this period abandoned the pyramid complex of earlier ages and - doubtless for the purposes of security  - constructed their tombs in the Valley of the Kings, in the hidden reaches of the Theban mountains well away from their mortuary temples. This move eliminated the pyramid itself - the focal points of the earlier funerary complexes - and as a result the royal mortuary temples of the New Kingdom were free to follow the standard plan already utilized for the divine temples.
The tripartite layout of the classic ancient Egyptian temple - open courtyard, columnar hall and inner sanctuary - had begun to develop in the Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom but became standard in the New Kingdom and later periods. It is the form found in most temples surviving today.