Papyrus (open)

Papyrus (closed)







Egyptian architectural columns can be more or less divided into two basic classes. The first type are polygonal columns which, over a period of time, increased its number of sides from four to sixteen. The second class are stone imitations of plants such as the papyrus, palm and lotus. It is possible that these imitations are a reflection of earlier times when structures were supported by bundles of plant material and palm logs, perhaps bound together with ropes, animal hide and mud.

In any ancient Egyptian hall, such as a Hypostyle Hall, it is often said that one cannot see the hall for the columns. This is the case because, due to the absence of the load-bearing arch in ancient Egypt, it was difficult to span large aerial distances with stone - hence the need for a large number of support columns to support the roof.

Just as the temple walls were dressed and decorated from the top down, so too were the temple columns. First of all the blocks were put into place, and as the column rose, a mud ramp was built to help place the higher blocks. Once completed, the capital was dressed and as the mud ramp was removed, so the lower blocks were dressed and decorated (see picture below). On occasion the dressing was so perfect that it would appear as though the column was made of one single piece of rock.

Listed to the left are the main subgroups of columns - each page will have a brief description of the type of column chosen together with some drawings and pictures.

Unfinished column, Court of Sheshonq I, Karnak   Building Columns