Ancient Egyptian Architecture

The Ancient Egyptians are famed for their architecture.

Just like the Greeks and Romans, the Ancient Egyptians had many wonderful architects who built structures that are still around today, like the Great Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Sphinx of Giza.

The architecture of Ancient Egyptian structures was supposed to mirror how important their gods were.

The gods were thought to have provided a perfect world for the people of ancient Egypt, especially in the afterlife.

It’s no wonder they would have wanted to honor them! The architecture of Ancient Egypt tells the story of the people’s relationship with their gods.

The structures and buildings of Ancient Egypt were constructed to reflect the concept of balance and harmony (“Ma’at”) which was the most important element of Egyptian religious belief.

Egyptian Tombs

The first homes and tombs of Ancient Egypt were built with bricks made of mud that were dried in the sun.

Houses were thatched with reeds. Early Egyptian houses were circular or oval before bricks started to be used, and then they became rectangular or square.

As time passed, the architecture of Egypt began to advance, and soon houses started to have windows.

Wood started to get more common in Egypt around this time, but there still wasn’t enough for it to be an important building material.

Over time, the mud-brick circular house became the square home with a vaulted (curved) roof, garden, and courtyard.

Egyptian Obelisk

In around 2600 B.C, “obelisks” began to appear in the cities of Ancient Egypt. Obelisks were large, upright monuments with four sides and a tapered (sloping) top.

Obelisks are one of the most important examples of Egyptian architecture, as they reflect the relationship between the gods and the people.

Obelisks were always built in pairs. The Egyptians believed that obelisks built on Earth were a matching pair to obelisks built in heaven.

Carving, shaping and transporting the obelisks required a lot of skill, and this taught the Egyptians how to work in stone and move heavy objects over long distances.

Mastering this kind of stonework is what prepared them for the next step in Egyptian architecture: the Pyramids.

The Pyramids

Pyramids were generally built to be tombs.

A pyramid is a triangular, three-dimensional stone structure that symbolizes (or stands for) how the Ancient Egyptians were trying to reach the heavens.

Pharaohs and other Egyptian rulers, such as high priests and viziers, were buried in pyramids.

For example, the oldest pyramid still remaining is the Step Pyramid at Saqqara.  It was built in 2630 B.C, and was the burial place of the Egyptian King Djoser.

The construction of the pyramids is one of the world’s greatest mysteries.

Nobody really knows how they were built, or how the Egyptians moved all that stone over such long distances.

Despite the fact that the Ancient Egyptians left so many paintings showing daily life, none show the construction of the pyramids.

What has Survived

Most buildings in Ancient Egypt were made from Nile mud baked in the sun – however, the biggest and grandest structures of Ancient Egypt were made from stone, which is why they’ve lasted so long and are still around today!

Many ancient Egyptian structures were built to align with the sun or stars in some way. For example, the Temple of Ramses II at a place called Abu Simbel was designed to light up only twice a year: on the anniversary of the day he became king, and on his birthday.

Other structures were built to line up perfectly with constellations. The Ancient Egyptians were highly skilled architects, as we can see by how long their structures have survived!

Ancient Egyptian Architecture Facts for Kids

  • The first Ancient Egyptian houses were built of mud bricks baked in the sun.
  • The structures of Ancient Egypt were built to represent the relationship between people and the gods.
  • An obelisk was a large, upright monument with four sides and a sloping top. They were often built to honor the gods.
  • The pyramids of Egypt were three-dimensional, triangular structures which were tombs for the wealthy of Ancient Egypt.
  • Nobody knows how exactly the pyramids were built.
  • Many Ancient Egyptian structures were built to align with the sun and stars in some way. Some structures only lit up on certain days of the year, or were built to line up with a specific constellation.

What did you learn?

What was the concept of “Ma’at” in Egyptian culture and architecture?
“Ma’at” was the concept of balance or harmony.

What was the name given to the three-dimensional, triangle based structure used as a tomb?
They were called pyramids.

What do you call the large, upright, four-sided stone monuments built by the Ancient Egyptians?
An obelisk.

Why did the Ancient Egyptians base their architecture on the position of the sun and stars?
To honor the gods and the heavens.