Egyptian Culture & Architecture During the Bronze Age

Egyptian Culture & Architecture During the Bronze Age
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  • 0:02 Welcome to Egypt
  • 1:43 Egyptian Architecture
  • 3:19 Egyptian Art & Culture
  • 5:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

From pyramids to papyrus, the ancient Egyptians produced some of the most remarkable cultural treasures in human history. This lesson examines how Egyptian art changed throughout that culture's evolution.

Welcome to Egypt

Located at the delta of the Nile River, as well as along its shores for several hundred miles inland, Egypt was one of the first civilizations to really develop, beyond scattered villages, into a full-blown civilization. By 3100 B.C., the whole river valley, from the Mediterranean to the first rapids of the Nile, was united under one culture. While a number of dynasties would change the ruling families, this first period of Egyptian history, known as the Predynastic Period, would last until 2686 B.C., when the Old Kingdom was established. Historians and archaeologists typically refer to this time period as the Bronze Age.

For many of us, when we think of Egypt, we think of the achievements of the Old Kingdom. This was the time of the pyramids and the Great Sphinx, after all. The Old Kingdom lasted for just over 500 years, and the 100-year First Intermediate Period separated it from the Middle Kingdom.

It was during the Middle Kingdom, which lasted from 2055-1650 B.C., that the Egyptian kingdom grew so large as to require provincial leaders. Another intermediate period lasted from 1650-1550 B.C., but then the New Kingdom ruled from 1550-1069 B.C. This was another high point of Egyptian history. After all, this was the time of King Tutankhamen, as well as the rule of one of Egypt's greatest pharaohs, Ramses II.

Egyptian Architecture

For centuries, the only real evidence we had of the ancient Egyptians was the architecture that they left behind. Indeed, it served as inspiration for artists of all types. The most monumental of the Egyptian buildings are certainly the pyramids. These buildings are inspired from earlier tombs known as mastabas. Mastabas were short brick structures that served as tombs. However, during the Old Kingdom, a court official named Imhotep got the idea of stacking even smaller mastabas on top of each other and to make them out of stone. The Stepped Pyramid at Saqqara was the result. Other pharaohs would continue designing pyramids with some mistakes, such as the Collapsed Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid. However, the form reached its ideal with the Great Pyramid of Khufu in Giza. For millennia it was the world's largest building.

However, pyramids were not the only architectural masterpieces of the Egyptians. The ruins of their temples are witness to massive open enclosures supported by columns the size of trees. Much of Egyptian architecture is stone-based, due to the great expense of having lumber imported from faraway Lebanon. As a result, it has withstood thousands of years of history. That said, more common structures were often mud brick. Finally, the Egyptians also built numerous obelisks, or large pillars with a square base, throughout the country.

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