Difference between Mesopotamia and Egypt Architecture

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Table of contents

  1. Summary of Mesopotamian Architectural Characteristics
  2. Pyramids of Giza
  3. Canopic jars.
  4. Works Cited

History of architecture refers to a record of man’s effort to build beautifully. It was organized along a global timeline, a global history of architecture (Francis et al; Michael et al) presents an innovative approach to the study of architectural history which spans from 3500 BCE to the present. This unique guide was written by a group of architectural experts who emphasize the connection, contrast, and influences of architectural movements throughout the span of history, such influences are geographical, geological, climatic, religious, political, social, and historical with the aim of satisfying the client’s need. It traces the origin; growth; historical style (particular method, characteristics); great construction principles (such as post and lintel, arch and vault, corbel and cantilever, trussed construction), and the beginning of architecture mainly emphasizes prehistory, construction of ziggurat and megalith, Mesopotamia, and Egyptian pyramids and kingdoms.

According to the authors, prehistoric architecture starts as early 3500 BCE and spans about 3000 BCE in the land of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the period before the written records and the details about the buildings, human settlements, and the reconstruction based on post-hole or masonry foundations and it has the constructional system existing or excavated caves, megalith, tombs, circular form of huge stone called stone henge. The architectural characteristics of this period are bricks made of mad and sun-dried or kiln-fired and; murals of decorative continuous stone and the only material available was (clay, soil, and reeds).

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The data set also demonstrates that Mesopotamia(meaning between two rivers), the fertile land surrounded by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and is the region corresponding to modern Iraq, and parts of Iran(-in particular, is referred to as the cradle of the civilization ( Sumerian, Assyrians Akkadian, and Babylonians) and history of architecture also Mesopotamians are noted for developing one of the first written scripts achieved by Sumerian around 3500 BCE who worshiped multiple gods of diverse rank and represented them in their art and the Sumerian temple consists of a cult statue, altars, and niches laid up in sun-baked bricks on a ziggurat.

“Mesopotamia is widely considered to have fueled some of the most crucial inventions in human history, ranging from the cursive script, advanced astronomy to complex mathematics (Bannerjee, 2017).” The Sumerians invented the wheel, turned time into seconds, opened up the first trade routes, and formed the first known irrigation systems. The Sumerians also invented the concept of contracts. Cylinder seals were impression stamps used as a means of authenticating identity. They were used by everyone, from royals to slaves. These seals were worn by their owners on strings of leather or other material around the neck or wrist or pinned to a garment. The purpose of seals was the service as a personal signature on a document or package to guarantee the authenticity or legitimize a business deal; in the same way one signs a letter or form today or writes one’s return address on an envelope or package to be mailed (Mark, 2015). These cylinder seals were created in 2300 BC.

Mesopotamian interiors consisted of wall paintings, and decorative motifs, and were bright and colorful. Anthropomorphic (mixed image) sculptures were popular. Lamassu’s (winged bull, human head) were served to guard entrances. This civilization noticed the lion as a symbol of power and protection, as we still do today.

  • Low Relief carvings – slightly protruding, very close to the surface
  • High Relief carvings – projecting out from the surface, highly protruding elements

The Ziggurat is a perfect example of how history has taken a building constructed thousands of years ago and modified it to adapt to modern cultures. “Mesopotamian ziggurats were the precursors of church steeples and towers beginning in the Middle Ages. A number of twentieth-century buildings employed the ziggurat concept (Ireland, p. 29.)” This monumental architecture was a very large multi-storied tower that was created to be the home of the God or Goddess of the city. The word ziggurat means raised area. Broad at the bottom, these pyramid-shaped buildings had two to seven tiers, with each ascending tier smaller than the one under it. The top of the building was flat, and on it was a shrine or temple to God where only priests could go. The entire building was made of sun-dried bricks in all the interior areas, with glazed fire-dried bricks facing outward. The facing bricks on each successive tier were glazed a different color. A series of staircases led to the top of the ziggurat for priests to use (Mesopotamia: Overview and Summary).

Summary of Mesopotamian Architectural Characteristics

  • Adobe brick construction with some use of fired brick or stone
  • Glazed brick and tiles for external facings• Surfaces covered with relief sculpture
  • Sculpted anthropomorphic figures used as guardians at gates • Ziggurats • Monumental stairways and gateways
  • Walls surrounding cities, temples, and palaces
  • Alternating projections and recesses along walls (Ireland, p.30).

The dominant visible legacy of ancient Egypt is in works of architecture and representational art. Until the Middle Kingdom, most of these were mortuary: royal tomb complexes, including pyramids and mortuary temples, and private tombs (Samuel et al., 2019). During the Old Kingdom, 2650 - 2180 BC, the Pyramids at Giza were built as well at the Great Sphinx. The pyramids served as tombs for the Pharaohs of Egypt. Originally, these pyramids were covered with smooth, white limestone and were finished with gold capstones.

Because the afterlife was most important to the Egyptians, their tombs were built to last for eternity, and it is those structures that have remained mostly intact. Since the afterlife was perceived to be a replica of life on earth, the Egyptians assumed the spirit would need the same things it enjoyed in life— food, furnishings, servants for doing manual labor, and the ability to participate in activities such as hunting and fishing. Paintings, models, and sculptures were thought to become real and provided all the needs of the deceased (Ireland, p.40). The paintings inside of the tombs depicted scenes from real-life events and portrayed activities that may have been favored.

The Step Pyramid of King Zoser c. 2750 BCE, located 15 miles SW of Cairo, was built by Zoser’s grand visier, Imhotep. Imhotep designed this pyramid to have six steps, resembling King Zoser’s past stacked on top of each other to form a staircase to the heavens. Imhotep was the very first architect in recorded history. He was also a priest, scribe, and physician. The Step Pyramid of Kind Zoser stood 33 feet tall and had 13 false doors to keep grave robbers away from the tomb.

The Pyramids of Giza - one of the seven wonders of the world

  • Menkure c. 2500 BC - 200 ft high
  • Khafre c. 2530 BC - 470 ft high
  • Khufu c. 2570 BC - 475 ft high

Pyramids of Giza

As one of the world’s largest monuments, measuring in at 230 feet long and 65 feet high, the Great Sphinx acted as a spiritual guardian for the pyramids. The Great Sphinx is one of the most recognizable historical remains of the ancient Egyptians. The Sphinx is a monolithic structure, meaning a single stone.

During the Middle Kingdom (2134 BC - 1786 BC), Egyptian art began to focus primarily on daily life and common surroundings. New techniques were developed during this time and images were designed to be sharper, realistic, life-like creations. The Ankh was a symbol of life everlasting and was used throughout paintings in Egyptian times. They introduced rock-cut tombs that were cut into the hillsides of the land.

During the New Kingdom (1550 BC - 1070 BC), the daughter of King Thutmose I, Hatshepsut, became queen around the age of 12. She married her half-brother to keep the royal bloodline pure. Queen Hatshepsut became pharaoh and co-ruler of Egypt around 1473 BC. She extended Egyptian trade and oversaw plenty of building projects during her time as Pharaoh. Scholars of ancient Egypt only knew little of her existence until 1822. In 1903, Howard Carter discovered Queen Hatshepsut’s sarcophagus, which was empty but after launching a new search in 2005, a team of archaeologists discovered her mummy in 2007 (Editors, H).

The Valley of the Kings contained incredible temples. The tomb of King Tutankhamen was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter. King Tut was mummified according to Egyptian religious tradition and an embalmer removed his organs and placed them in canopic jars, which were carved in ivory and 12 to 14 inches tall. He was laid in a series of nested containers and his solid gold burial mask weighed approximately 25 pounds. There were roughly 5,000 items found in the tomb. The items included in the discovery were abundant amounts of artifacts, furniture, chariots, clothes, weapons, and 130 walking sticks. King Tutankhamun's tomb was the most intact ever found (Editors, H).

Canopic jars.

Sculptures and paintings of Egyptian Gods and figures were very easy to decipher. Pharaohs were the largest, exuding dominance and power. Men outside were red, women inside were yellow. The feet were in profile view, as well as their heads. The torso faced forward as well as the very large eyes. Egyptian paintings had no horizon or vanishing point. Registers were used to separate different scenes.

Although Egypt was a literate civilization, in the sense that it was a civilization that had the use of writing, only a small percentage of the population was actually literate. The fact that so few people had the ability to read and write means that the literary sources available originate from a small proportion of the population (Baines 2007, 35), it is because of this that the sources may only present a view of the elite few, with sources such as letters being focused on their life experiences. Consequently, literary sources may not always present a complete view of Egyptian society, and as a result, archaeology is not unnecessary as it enables us to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the whole of Egyptian society providing us with a piece of more detailed and unbiased information on all aspects of life in Ancient Egypt such as diet, the health of the people, domestic life, farming methods, building techniques, and architecture, etc enabling us to form a more holistic view of life in ancient Egypt than that which we can draw from written sources.

Works Cited

  1. Mesopotamia: Overview and Summary. (2018, July 02). Retrieved from http:// www.historyonthenet.com/mesopotamia
  2. Ireland, J. (2014). History of Interior Design. New York: Bloomsbury, Fairchild Books.
  3. Bannerjee, Alok. (2018, July 10). 12 Fascinating Ancient Mesopotamian Inventions You Should Know About. Retrieved from http://www.realmofhistory.com/2017/08/24/12-ancientmesopotamian-inventions-facts/
  4. Mark, J. J. (2019, March 02). Cylinder Seal. https://www.ancient.eu/cylinder_seal/
  5. Mark, J. J. (2018, March 15). Cuneiform. Ancient History Encyclopedia. https://www.ancient.eu/ cunieform
  6. Britannica, T. E. (2016, February 26). Knossos. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/place/ knossos
  7. Bowman, A. K., Wente, E. F., Dorman, P. F., Baines, J. R., & Samuel, A. E. (2019, February 28). Ancient Egypt. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/place/ancient-egypt
  8. Editors, H. (2009, December 16). Hatshepsut. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/ ancient-history/hatshepsut
  9. Editors, H. (2009, November 09). Tutankhamen. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/topics/ ancient-history/tutankhamen
  10. The Standard of Ur. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ancient.eu/image/501/the-standard-of-ur/ Egyptian Ceramics Ceramics arts ordinary soft potter coarse gritty compound strong glaze enamel. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ancientegyptianfacts.com/ancient-egyptianceramics.html
  11. Tikkanen, A. (2017, December 28). Great Sphinx of Giza. Retrieved from https:// www.britannica.com/topic/Great-Sphinx
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Difference between Mesopotamia and Egypt Architecture. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/difference-between-mesopotamia-and-egypt-architecture/
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