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Karnak Temple Complex - Table of Contents........................Egyptian / Egyptian Revival Architecture - Table of Contents

Relief Sculpture, Temple of Amon-Ra
Karnak Temple Complex
Near Luxor, Egypt

Hieroglyphics: Ancient system of writing based on symbols or pictures to denote objects, concepts, or sounds, originally and especially in the writing system of ancient Egypt.

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Hypostyle Hall outer wall

Hypostyle Hall outer wall

Hypostyle Hall outer wall

Hypostyle Hall outer wall

Hypostyle Hall, looking out

Falcon-headed Horus in center

Winged solar disk as a symbol of protection

Trabeated, doorway spanned with a massive lintel

Vulture Goddess Nekhbet


Sekhmet ... Thoth,



Temple walls were immensely thick, of limestone, sandstone, or more rarely of granite. The wall faces slope inwards or batter externally towards the top, giving a massive appearance. Authorities trace the origin of this inclination either to the employment of mud for walls of early buildings or because this form of wall was better able to resist earthquakes.

Columns, which are the leading external features of Greek architecture, are not used externally in Egyptian buildings, which normally have a massive blank wall crowned with the characteristic "gorge" cornice of roll and hollow moulding. Walls, even when of granite, wer egenerally carved in low relief [bas-relief], sometimes coated with a thin skin of stucco, about the thickness of a sheet of paper, to receive the colour. Simplicity, solidity, and grandeur, obtained by broad masses of unbroken walling, are the chief characteristics of the style.


Colonnades and doorways, in a style which was essentially trabeated, were usually square-headed and spanned with massive lintels [ see above].

Windows are seldom found in temples ... as light was admitted through clearstory screens ... Pierced stone window-panels of various patterns have been found and small slit-openings were also used in roofs and walls to light rooms and staircases.


This important element in the style was often symbolical, including such features as the solar disc or globe and vulture with outspread wings (see above) as a symbol of protection; while diaper patterns, spirals and the feather ornament were largely used.

The decoration of temple walls consisted largely of representations of acts of adoration of the monarch to his gods, to whom he ascribed all his success in war (see above). The Egyptians, masters in the use of colour, carried out their schemes of decoration chiefly in blue, red, and yellow (see above). The wall to be decorated was probably prepared as follows:

(a) the surface was first chiselled smooth and rubbed down;

(b) the figures or hieroglyphics were then drawn with a red line by an artist and corrected with a black line by the chief artist;

(c) the sculptor made his carvings in low relief or incised the outline, slightly rounding the enclosed form towards its boundaries;

(d) a thin skin of stucco was probably applied to receive the colour, and the painter carried out his work in thestrong hues of the primary colours.

The hieroglyphics were sometimes incised direct on the stone or granite and then coloured...

The Egyptians possessed great power of conventionalising natural objects and they took the lotus, palm, and papyrus as motifs for design. These were nature symbols of the fertility given to the country by the overflowing Nile, and as such they continually appear both in construction and ornament.

- A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method, by Sir Banister-Fletcher, New York, 1950, pp. 41-42

Photos and their arrangement © 2009 Chuck LaChiusa
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