[Chp. 3: Ancient Egypt]

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[Chp. 3: Ancient Egypt]


Chapter Goals

After reading the chapter, you should be able to do the following:

  • Identify the works and define the terms featured in the chapter

  • List the Egyptian gods and their functions

  • Describe iconography, convention, and style, giving works of the chapter as examples

  • Discuss the main architectural and sculptural types and their purposes

  • Discuss the role of the Nile in Egyptian culture, art, and religion

  • Describe the process of mummification, and the Egyptian view of the afterlife

  • Recognize the texts quoted in the chapter

  • Locate, on a map of Egypt, the main Egyptian sites

  • Describe the proportional grid system used for Egyptian sculpture

  • Draw and label the plan and façade of a typical pylon temple

  • Describe the Amarna style and the philosophy behind it

  • Compare the Amarna style with that of the Old Kingdom

  • Describe the role of Nubia in Egyptian history

  • Discuss the Nubian assimilation of Egyptian art and culture

Ancient Egypt ( c. 5450- 31 BCE)

Predynastic (5450–3100 B.C.)

  • Unification of Upper and Lower Egypt (3100 B.C.)

  • Palette of Narmer: pharaonic rule; polytheism

Old Kingdom (2649–2150 B.C.)

Middle Kingdom (c. 1991–1700 B.C.)

New Kingdom (1550–1070 B.C.)

  • Amarna period (c. 1349–1336 B.C.)

  • Akhenaten's monotheism: worship of the Aten

  • Nubia: cross-cultural influences

Key Terms

Ashlar masonry




a set of rules, principles, or standards used to establish scales or proportions.

canopic jars

a vessel in which ancient Egyptians preserved the viscera of the dead


layers of linen or papyrus glued together and usually coated with stucco



the upper part of the main outer wall of a building (especially a church), located above an adjoining roof and admitting light through a row of windows.


brick or masonry courses, each projecting beyond, and supported by, the one below it; the meeting of two corbels would create an arch or vault.

engaged column

a column, decorative in purpose, that is attached to a supporting wall.


a technique (also known as buon fresco) of painting on the plaster surface of a wall or ceiling while it is still damp, so that the pigments become fused with the plaster as it dries.

Fresco secco


(a) the central section of the entablature in the Classical Orders; (b) any horizontal decorative band


a white coating made of chalk, plaster, and size that is spread over a surface to make it more receptive to paint and smoother


hypostyle hall

a hall with a roof supported by rows of columns.



a rectangular burial monument in ancient Egypt.



a tall, four-sided stone, usually monolithic, that tapers toward the top and is capped by a pyramidion.


(a) a plant found in ancient Egypt and neighboring countries; (b) a paperlike writing material made from the pith of the plant.


a vertical support used to bear loads in an arched or vaulted structure


a flattened, rectangular version of a column, sometimes load-bearing, but often purely decorative.


a pair of truncated, pyramidal towers flanking the entrance to an Egyptian temple


a stone coffin, sometimes decorated with a relief sculpture


in ancient Egypt, a creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human, an animal, or a bird.

step pyramid

a pyramid constructed of mastaba forms of successively decreasing size.


a cream-colored, smooth surface for painting or writing, prepared from calfskin.

Study Questions


Identify the general features and characteristics of the Predynastic Period, Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, New Kingdom, and the Amarna Period. Make a chart! Pick at least one artwork for each period and describe how it specifically describes the uniqueness of each period.

Why do we look mainly at ancient Egyptian funerary architecture and not at domestic architecture? To which did the ancient Egyptians give a higher importance––and how can we prove this?


  1. The Palette of Narmer, which was created about 3000B.C.E., is extremely important in Egyptian history and art for several reasons.

  2. What does it document politically?

  3. Describe the iconography of each side.

  4. What did the object function as?

  5. What does the object tell us about religion and the king?

  6. Why is this object considered the earliest historical artwork preserved?

  • Palette of King Narmer, from Hierakonpolis, Egypt, Predynastic, ca. 3000–2920 BCE. Slate, 2’ 1” high.

  • IMHOTEP, Stepped Pyramid and mortuary precinct of Djoser, Saqqara, Egypt, Third Dynasty, ca. 2630–2611 BCE.

Palette of Narmer,
Hierakonpolis, c. 3100 B.C.
Egyptian Museum, Cairo Photo© LaCour Slide Library
Living With Art Slide Set


Old Kingdom

  • Great Pyramids, Gizeh, Egypt, Fourth Dynasty. From bottom: Pyramids of Menkaure, ca. 2490–2472 BCE; Khafre, ca. 2520–2494 BCE; and Khufu, ca. 2551–2528 BCE.

  • Great Sphinx (with Pyramid of Khafre in the background at left), Gizeh, Egypt, Fourth Dynasty, ca. 2520–2494 BCE. Sandstone, 65’ X 240’.

  • Khafre enthroned, from Gizeh, Egypt, Fourth Dynasty, ca. 2520–2494 BCE. Diorite, 5’ 6” high. Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

  • Seated scribe, from Saqqara, Egypt, Fourth Dynasty, ca. 2500 BCE. Painted limestone, 1’ 9” high.

  • Ti watching a hippopotamus hunt, relief in the mastaba of Ti, Saqqara, Egypt, Fifth

New Kingdom

  • Temple at Luxor

Photo© LaCour Slide Library
Living With Art Slide Set

Great Pyramids, Gizeh, Dynasty IV. From left: Pyramids of Menkaure, ca. 2490-2472 B.C.; Khafre, ca. 2520-2494.; and Khufu,
ca. 2551-2528 B.C..
Photo: LaCour Slide Library
Art Across Time Slide Set (wncc)

lwa-14-13-egypt-funerary-temple-of-queen-hatshepsutx.jpgHatshepsut's Mortuary Temple
(c. 1480 BCE).
18th Dynasty, Dier El Bahari
Photo© LaCour Slide Libraryc

Akhenaton, from the temple of Amen-Re, Karnak, Dynasty XVIII, ca. 1353-1335 B.C. Sandstone, approx. 13' high. Egyptian Museum, Cairo.
Photo© LaCour Slide Library
Gardner- Art Through the Ages Set

New Kingdom (Amarna Period)

  • Akhenaton, from the temple of Aton, Karnak, Egypt, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1353–1335 BCE. Sandstone, 13’ high.

  • THUTMOSE, Nefertiti, from Amarna, Egypt, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1353–1335 BCE. Painted limestone, approx. 1’ 8” high.

Queen Nefertiti. c.1360 BC,
State Museums, Berlin
Photo© LaCour Slide Library
Gardner- Art Through the Ages Set

Study Questions


  1. What was the significance of the Rosetta Stone? Who deduced it had hieroglyphics and established the field of Egyptology?

  2. What is meant by the term the Egyptian “canon of human proportions.”. Explain the conventions for representation of the human body in painting in sculpture from the Old Kingdom to the end of the New Kingdom:

  • Ground line

  • Hierarchical representation

  • Head

  • Eye

  • Chest

  • Hips

  • Legs

  • Feet

  • Posture

  • Colors (male/female)

  • “Cubic” sculpture

Which of the above conventions do you notice on the Palette of Narmer?

  1. Discuss the role that death played in Egyptian art. What relation did it have to the development of portraiture?



  1. Describe the function and structures of the mastaba. You may draw and label one, if you like.

  2. Who was Imhotep and what was considered to have been his most important accomplishment?

  3. Compare the Egyptian pyramid of Djoser with the White Temple of Uruk. In what ways are they similar? How do they differ? What was the function of each?

Old Kingdom

  1. Who was Re and what relationship was he supposed to have had to the Egyptian pharaohs?

  2. In what way do the pyramids of Gizeh differ from King Djoser’s pyramid at Saqqara?

  3. How were the Great Pyramids thought to have been build? From what materials?

  4. What is thought to be the function of the Great Sphinx?

  5. Describe the iconography of the statue of Khafre.

  6. What is the hawk a symbol for?

  7. How does the statue Khafre portray the king’s power and authority?

  8. What stylistic features of the statue of Menkaure and Khamerernebty help to create a sense of timelessness?

  9. List 2 subjects that were commonly depicted in Egyptians tombs and explain their purpose

Seated statue of Khafre, from Gizeh, Dynasty IV, ca. 2520-2494 B.C. Diorite, approx. 5' 6" high. Egyptian Museum, Cairo.
Gardner- Art Through the Ages Set

Middle Kingdom

  1. ________________________ tombs in the Middle Kingdom replaced pyramid tombs so popular during the Old Kingdom. Why?

Sesostris I, Lisht, 12th Dynasty, c. 1971 – 1926 B.C.
Photo: LaCour Slide Library
Art Across Time Slide Set (wncc)

New Kingdom

  1. Senmut, chancellor, architect and engineer, built a vast mortuary temple for ___________________ at __________________.

  2. How does the portrayal of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut compare to other royal statues?

  3. The figures on the façade of the mortuary temple of ___________________, originally build at Abu Simbel are approximately ______________ feet tall.

  4. Describe the two types of capital used at Karnak and Luxor, as seen here:

  1. What was the purpose of a pylon temple?

  2. Identify the parts of this typical pylon temple.






    6. Colossal statues of the Pharaoh

    7. Obelisks

    8. Avenue of the sphinxes

  3. Identify the following temple architectural terms:



    Hypostyle hall


    Girdle wall


    Post and lintel




    Sunken (intaglio) relief

    Living rock

  4. What is the shape of Senmut with Princess Nefrua, and what name is given to the type?

Potential Exam Essay Questions

  1. Trace the change of style from Old to New Kingdom. Use as examples the seated statue of Khafre, the head of Sesostris III, and the figure of Akhenaten. Include the Egyptian proportional system and give some examples of how it is used in painting and sculpture.

  2. Discuss the differences in style, convention, and medium between Egyptian and Aegean wall painting. Give examples from Knossos and Thera.

  1. Describe the process of mummification and discuss its meaning in ancient Egyptian religion.

  2. Describe the changes introduced by Akhenaten and their effect on Egyptian art.

  3. Explain the steps taken by Hatshepsut to confirm her legitimacy as pharaoh of Egypt.

  4. Describe the Egyptian proportional system and give some examples of how it is used in painting and sculpture.

  5. Discuss the Egyptian view of the afterlife and its manifestations in art.

  6. Trace the changes in style from Old to New Kingdom. Use as examples the statues of Menkaure and Queen Khamerernebty, Lady Senuwy, Hatshepsut, and the bust of Nefertiti.

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