Ancient Egyptian Architecture: History, Characteristics & Influences

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Iron vs. Bronze: History of Metallurgy

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:05 Ancient Egyptian Architecture
  • 1:04 The Old Kingdom
  • 2:34 The Middle Kingdom
  • 2:57 The New Kingdom
  • 3:42 Temple Complexes at…
  • 4:52 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Elam Miller

Jessica has taught college History and has a Master of Arts in History

This lesson explores the architectural wonders of ancient Egypt. Some of these structures include temples, pyramids and monumental statues constructed long ago and surviving into modern times.

Ancient Egyptian Architecture

Most Egyptian buildings had flat roofs supported by external walls and columns
Egyptian Architecture Style

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of ancient Egypt? For most people, it's the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx of Giza. Ancient Egyptian architecture displays some of the most impressive and exquisite works of art in history. Understanding the motivation behind the construction of these monumental structures is imperative to understanding the culture of the ancient Egyptians.

Much of the art and architecture in ancient Egypt represents the belief in life after death and veneration of the gods. Because there was very little wood available, stone and mud brick were used to construct of the most buildings. Stone was generally preferred for temples and pyramids. Houses were usually made out of mud brick.

Most buildings contain flat roofs supported by external walls and columns. Walls and columns were often covered in hieroglyphics, the writing system used in ancient Egypt. Hieroglyphics consisted of pictures that represented sounds or words.

The Old Kingdom

A mastaba was built above a burial tomb and contained a chapel and statue of the dead

Ancient Egyptian culture can be divided into several time periods, although historians often disagree on the exact dates. We will now examine some architectural qualities from a few of these time periods. The first is referred to as the Old Kingdom and spans from around 2649 BCE to 2150 BCE. It was during this time that some of the most famous structures were constructed, setting a standard for Egyptian art and for centuries to come. It was during this time period that the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx were built.

Structures called mastabas were built above underground burial tombs. These structures were a single story with a flat top. Mastabas also contained a chapel and a statue of the dead it housed. These buildings would eventually be replaced by intricate pyramids to house the remains of the dead.

An architect named Imhotep created the first version of a pyramid. This pyramid is known as a step pyramid. It was designed as several mastabas stacked on top of each other. Step pyramids eventually developed into geometric pyramids.

Giza held three pyramids: the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre and the Pyramid of Menkaure. The Great Pyramid was the largest of the three. The Sphinx is situated on the east side of the complex.

The Middle Kingdom

Many Egyptian temples contained courtyards, hallways and other pathways

The Middle Kingdom refers to the years around 2030 BCE to 1640 BCE. During this time, pyramid-building remained popular. Pharaohs, the ruling kings over Egypt, built pyramids to hold their elaborate tombs. Like all Egyptians, pharaohs wanted to ensure they would be able to sustain their life in the afterlife.

The New Kingdom

The New Kingdom time period spanned from about 1550 BCE to 1070 BCE. As Egypt gained more control over its landholdings, prosperity inspired the construction of monuments. Much of this construction occurred in the current capital city of Thebes. The most popular structure was the temple, as it represented the power of the priest class.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account