Temple and Tomb

Photo courtesy of Roemer und Pelizaeus Museum
Funerary stela of the Lady Cherdankh
Graeco-Roman Period, 332 B.C. - A.D. 330
Granodiorite, findspot not known

One of the most salient characteristics of ancient Egyptian temple architecture is its insistence on rooms of progressively smaller size as one moves from the entrance to the inner sanctum.

This diminution of space is accompanied both by a concomitant lowering of the heights of the ceilings and a rise in the levels of the floors.

Such a design has a two-fold purpose. First, it restricts the number of priests who were permitted to confront the image of the deity in the inner sanctum, thereby reinforcing the hierarchy inherent in the stratification of ancient Egypt's elite society. Second, this progression replicated the effect of a mound of creation which rose up from the watery abyss on the first day of creation.

The design of many tombs adheres to a similar plan, the function of which was to suggest the passage of the deceased through the nocturnal perils en route to resurrection. This and several of the preceding galleries through which you, the visitor, have walked have been designed to provide you with a vicarious experience of proceeding through such ancient Egyptian architectural environments.

Generally speaking, the walls of temples and tombs were decorated with two-dimensional representations and their rooms were adorned with sculptures. As you continue your visit, try to imagine what it must have been like in ancient times to walk through such a space so lavishly decorated.

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