Throughout history, we see a lot of manmade structures, some are strange and awe-inspiring, especially in the world of art. More precisely, we have encountered the art and science of building a structure of any physical structure is reflected in the beauty of art. Architectural involves both the process and product of designing a space which reflects the functional, aesthetic, or environmental factors. Architecture in the past, often regarded as not only a work of art, but also as a cultural and political symbol.
In 1963, about 80 kilometers south of the town of Aswan, a Nubian temple was gingerly removed from its site in Tuzis, or what is now known as Dendur. This is done in order to save it from one day being fully submerged by the construction of the Aswan High Dam, a dam built to help regulate the ever-present flooding of the Nile River. Today that large structure is known as the Temple of Dendur. The Nubian temple was originally commissioned by the Emperor Augustus of Rome and was dedicated to Isis, Osiris, and the two deified sons of a local Nubian chieftan, Pediese and Pihor. Since the United States had assisted so greatly in preserving other monuments affected by the dam, the temple was presented to them as a gift. A nice detail to note is that during the time that the U.S. was vying for this priceless artifact between three locations, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York itself, journalists wittingly dubbed this race the ‘Dendur Derby.’ New York won due to the fact that it offered to construct an enclosed sanctuary for the temple, rather than placing it near a body of water as the other sites had intended. Situating it an open area would not be acceptable since the sandstone it was constructed of would have fallen prey to those outdoor conditions.
It currently resides in the Sackler Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where it has been since it was moved in 1978. Visitors can see both the inside and the outside of the temple. The temple is surrounded by dozen statues that looks like they are guarding the temple, and there is also a waterway around the temple. Overall, it is a massive structure, and it’s in a very good condition for this kind massive structure. However, many corner of the block of stones are cracked, and some of the carvings were not as clear as some others. The lines within the structure are mostly rectilinear, except for the carvings on the stones, and the shape of the temple looks like they are all most a perfect symmetrical. Also, the temple is put at a very strategic place and well protected.
In an attempt to accommodate this sizeable temple, architects designed its new home with a reflective pool in front of it and a sloping wall at its rear, made to represent the Nile River and the cliffs of the original location. The glass on the ceiling and the North Wall of the Sackler Wing is stippled, diffusing the lighting and imitating the lighting in Nubia. The temple itself, which was erected around 20 BC by the Roman governor of Egypt, Petronius, is made of sandstone and measures 25 meters from the front stone gate to its rear. The actual structure is isolated from the both the Nile River and its 30 meter wide cult terrace, by two contiguous walls which begin at its gate. The two columns on the porch rise toward the sky like tall bundles of papyrus stalks with lotus blossoms bound to them.
The Temple of Dendur has a lot of ancient carvings and designs on it, the exterior and interior walls, as well as the columns and piers, were covered with hieroglyphics. All the carvings on the blocks are very lively, and there are many types of them once you go up close to the temple. By examine the carvings on the block and the color difference of the stones, it could be assumed that the room was painted in vivid colors, and the carvings are indicating people’s daily life activities, such as, eating, working, trading, slaves, guards, and religious practices. Aslo, the bases of the outside of the temple are carvings of plants, and those plants looks like that they are growing out from the water.
Once you experienced the Temple of Dendur, you notice that the structure of the temple is not just a simple designed temple, but it serves some kind meaning and purpose. The artist or the architect who design the temple are not trading it to be just a building, but a medium for sculpture, which the building itself is a showcase of the decorations. Which the decorations indicates that it is not just a place for the prayer, but a as a path between this world and the next where the prayer could pass through and reach to the gods.
Since lumber was rare in Egypt, the two principal building materials used were sun-baked mud brick and stone. Although mainly limestone was used, other stones such as sandstone and granite were also utilized greatly. During the Old Kingdom and onward, stone was normally employed for tombs and temples while bricks were reserved for things such as royal palaces. Although the use of the arch was developed during the fourth dynasty, all monumental buildings are post and lintel constructions, with flat roofs constructed of huge stone blocks supported by the external walls and the closely spaced columns. The exterior and interior walls, as well as the columns and piers, were covered with hieroglyphics and columns, more than often, were found adorning the majority of Egyptian architecture.
Speaking of columns, it’s really quite difficult to imagine an Egyptian temple devoid of their presence. Specifically, in the case of the Temple of Dendur, the pillars most applied were those of the Campaniform columns. This type of column incorporates numerous variations. Sometimes they would take the shape of a floral column, which contained either circular, ribbed or square shafts and all included some kind of flower-shaped capital. Two of the best known of this particular pillar are situated at the Hall of Annals of Tuthmosis III at Karnak. At this temple there are two types of columns, one signifying the symbolic plant of Lower Egypt, the papyrus, and one representing the heraldic plant of Upper Egypt, the Lotus. These specific types of columns are rare, but their more stylized forms appear most frequently in the Greco-Roman Period. However it is important to note that Lotus plants particularly are not present in the previous ancient times of Egypt, but rather the flower that we refer to as a Lotus is essentially some sort of water lily.
Another discernible feature of this majestic temple is its front entrance, flanked by the previously mentioned columns. This entrance is normally referred to as a pylon, which is a Greek term for a monumental gateway to any Egyptian temple. This doorway is compromised of two narrowing pillars, each of which is surmounted by a cornice. A cornice is a horizontal molded protrusion which completes a building or wall, and oddly enough comes from an Italian word meaning ‘ledge.’ The columns and cornice are then joined by a less prominent segment which enfolds the opening between them. In ancient Egyptian spirituality the Pylon reflected the hieroglyph for horizon- generally depicted with two hills between which the sun rose and set. This is also true for the Temple of Dendur, as that is one of the foremost images noticed upon viewing the structure, although that is a topic intended for a completely different subject matter.
In 1819, while the Temple was being scrutinized, it was noticed that there was something unusual about its rear wall, since it was somewhat thicker than its other interior and exterior walls. While most of the temple is constructed with two working blocks wide, this particular wall was made with three. It was then surmised that this additional thickness was due to a secret chamber, which was forcibly opened since there was no visual means of an entrance, and later found to be not only empty but undecorated as well, its walls bearing no carvings whatsoever. Many scholars believe this small chamber was initially created as a crypt, although this space has often been labeled as a storeroom for cult status as well as a tomb for either one of or both of the brothers to whom the temple was partially dedicated to.
Although nowadays the architecture of this wonderful sanctuary is less frequently discussed than its symbolic meaning and its inscribed hieroglyphs, the most captivating thing about it isn’t what it symbolizes but its dominating presence when you enter the room it is housed in its large stature and steep columns take over anywhere the temple may be located and speak more about the actual structure than any hieroglyph could. Even on its large scale, its grace and mysteriousness cannot be ignored or masked, only explored and appreciated.
The temple is also showing the simplicity, because the building are successful with the sums of the parts are being put together, and it is not just that one or two individual aspects. It is challenge to evaluate that piece to an objective, and a modern perspective. Because this piece of work clearly shows it is a religious piece from an era that buried long time ago.