Ancient Egyptian Religion Seen Through Art and Architecture
These compositions demonstrated not only a style of art never before seen, but they also showed innovative techniques that have been duplicated for centuries. Although these works, which consisted mostly of pottery and wall murals, seem to be quite simple to the untrained eye, they were what most consider to be a stylized portrait of the times. J. R. Harris comments on this in his book, The Legacy of Egypt, purported lack of grace and charm, unnatural stylization–these were not shortcomings, but essential manifestations of Ancient Egyptian arts specific nature (194).
Another unique aspect of the Ancient Egyptian culture was the construction of elaborate, and sometimes enormous, works of architecture. This is due to the great care that the Ancient Egyptian populace took in constructing the temples, tombs, and halls of their period. In construction, the perfect knowledge of geometry of the architects is fully demonstrated (Howell 41). Ancient Egypt’s buildings were, in their time, the most remarkable landmarks known to man. Also, the ability of the architects of Ancient Egypt to include decorations into the edifices they constructed was highly developed.
Tombs and temples alike were greatly adorned with colorful paintings, hieroglyphs, and symbols that added to their beauty. The earliest known art of the Ancient Egyptians was believed to have been very undefined and unskilled, according to Elizabeth Payne in her book, The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. Crudely at first, they began drawing the duck and the fish on the sides of their pottery bowls. Then, little by little, over the long years, their skill as artists increased and their everyday objects became as beautiful as they were useful (27).
After this eventual increase in the artistic talent of the people, new practices came in to use by which Ancient Egyptians expressed themselves. For example, tombs went from being mere pits and hollows in the sand to being quite complex. These structures have become what the world knows today as the Pyramids of Giza. A main characteristic of their religion was the fact that they believed in numerous gods which each had a special power or purpose. The gods personified everything the Egyptians wondered about or feared or hoped for. Reigning supreme over this multitude was Ra, the great god of the sun (Howell 51).
Each entity was constructed his or her own temple so that the people could worship there. Also, the priests made sacrifices to the entities and bathed and anointed golden figures of them. The gods were often represented by animals and specialized symbols. The religion, art, and architecture of the Ancient Egyptians were so closely tied to one another that it is sometimes hard to distinguish between them. In fact, the Ancient Egyptians religion was the most common subject matter of their sculptures, paintings, and structures. For example, the prominent area of construction was that for temples and tombs.
Such edifices were skillfully painted with murals to depict the purpose of the room or section; a temple would have pictures of the gods, and a tomb would have art showing a burial or death. In addition, ancient mythological texts were beautifully carved and painted on these walls. Although these were all applications of art and architecture in religion, the most prominent is most likely the funerary art of the Ancient Egyptians. Although the Ancient Egyptians religion has been fully demonstrated through Egyptian art and architecture the influence of their beliefs has extended far beyond what is imaginable.
According to Noel Q. King, author of Religions of Africa, Egyptian religion of old has had one of the greatest effects upon Africa’s modern religions (47-48). For example, the multiple gods that the Ancient Egyptians adopted into their theism so long ago are still today present in many African tribes. In addition, the methods used in ancient mummification are the root of corpse preservation in modern society. Such contributions of the Ancient Egyptians have been adapted into methods used by today’s populace in many instances.
This is because the culture of Ancient Egypt has provided a stimulus which creates the desire to live, to succeed, and to be remembered in history (Showker 156). ? Works Cited Harris, J. R. The Legacy of Egypt. 2nd ed. Glasgow: Oxford University Press, 1971. Howell, J. Morton. Egypt’s Past, Present and Future. Ohio: Service Publishing Company, 1929. King, Noel Q. Religions of Africa. New York: Harper and Row Publishing Company, 1970. Payne, Elizabeth. The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. New York: Random House Publishing Company, 1964. Showker, Kay. Egypt: A Complete Guide with Nile Cruises and Visits to the Pyramids. New York: Fodor’s, 1992.