Ancient Egypt: The art of immortalization

Graphic by Noemi Gonzalez.

Graphic by Noemi Gonzalez.

The Ancient Egyptians are most famous for their pyramids in Giza and their proud Sphinx. But there is more to these ancient people than their great artisanal skills.The ancient Egyptians had a profound obsession with immortality. It’s almost as bad as the current obsession with being young. Pharaohs building tombs to satisfy his or her need to immortalize himself or herself is comparable to middle-aged women receiving Botox injections. This is the very reason that the style of Egyptian art never changed. They followed a standard of beauty in their art. For this reason, all of their art is highly stylized and symbolic. Their art strictly adhered to a formula for representing the human figure. Nowhere can we find a naturalistic representation of the human body. Most sculptures of the pharaohs, usually men, have broad shoulders, narrow waists and with one foot forward. The closest that comes to a more naturalistic representation is Queen Nefertiti’s bust.

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The Egyptian state sustained its dynasty for over three millennia while other civilizations rose and fell. Egypt developed a ruling style and culture so that they could remain permanent. This need for immortality and permanence is seen in their art, especially in their architecture. The Egyptian rulers were seen as divine beings. The Pharaoh’s “ka,” or spirit, was thought to be immortal and so elaborate that tombs were created to hold the ka. The obsession with immortalization spilled into the material they chose for their statues. These statues that are created for the tombs are usually made of granite or diorite. This is because these types of stone are extremely durable. Since these statues are intended to last eternally, the stone must match the need.

 

 

The clearest example of their obsession with immortality is their construction of tombs. One of the best-known tombs is the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, located on the west bank of the Nile near the Valley of the Kings. This temple is dedicated to Amon-Ra and is the final resting place for Queen Hatshepsut. So much work and craftsmanship went in to creating this great tomb, all because of the drive to be immortal.

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