REVIEW BY JPP
This relatively slim volume (with only 109 pages) is full of insightful analysis, tracing the development of architecture throughout the entire span of ancient Egyptian civilisation, from the Predynastic Period to the Graeco-Roman era. The author has selected 15 examples of buildings to illustrate major changesin architectural design, and in each case shows how they reflect the corresponding changes in the country’s political situation.
For example, he points out that the per-wer shrines constructed in the Predynastic Period took the form of a predatory animal, so harnessing animal power on behalf of the ruler to whom the shrine belonged. Then, when Egypt became unified under a single ruler, the massive outer walls of the Shunet el-Zebib, and the layout of the small palace building within the enclosure, emphasised the desire of the pharaoh to be a remote figure, and so to maintain an aura of power.
Arnold continues with examples of Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, New Kingdom, and Late Period architecture, concluding with a discussion of the Temple of Edfu, which, like most of the surviving temples in Egypt, was (re-)built in the Ptolemaic Period.
The book is beautifully presented and illustrated in black and white: great care has been taken over its layout and it is printed on heavy-grade glossy paper that will ensure that it graces bookshelves for many years to come. I was gratified to notice that my own work, The Columns of Egypt, is included in the extensive bibliography, albeit with an unfortunate proofreading error that has converted my name from Phillips, J Peter, to Peters, J Phillips. There are only two instances where Arnold’s opinions diverge from my own regarding the use of columns. In his analysis of Sahura’s mortuary temple at Abusir, he identifies the columns in the courtyard as palmiform. I have argued that they may in fact represent ostrich feathers tied around a wooden shaft, but Arnold points out that their identification as representations of palm trees sits well within the other elements of the decorative scheme of the temple, so contradicting my theory. He also takes the commonly held view that the campaniform papyrus columns on the axis of the Hypostyle Hall of the Temple of Amun at Karnak were erected during the reign of Sety I, whereas I am of the opinion that they were erected by Amenhotep III as a colonnade matching his colonnade at Luxor Temple, and later decorated by Sety I when the other columns of the hall were erected.
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN ARCHITECTURE IN 15 MONUMENTS by Felix Arnold The American University in Cairo Press, 2022 ISBN 978-1-617-97283-6 Hardback £69.95