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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

Egyptian Art                           91
 i. The Mortuary Realm of Zoser
Stretching along the desert plateau of Saqqara may be seen
great limestone walls, surrounding a sacred enclosure measuring
490 by 295 yards. This huge barrier, constructed of perfectly
matched blocks, offers to the view, on its outer side, a compli-
cated pattern of salients and recesses which enhances its massive
appearance; its design is inspired by that of the timber con-
struction of the royal palaces. In the centre rises a pyramid of
seven stages, which covers a granite chamber. In this chamber
lies the mummified body of a mighty ruler of the Third Dynasty.
This unique burial-place is really a city of palaces and
sanctuaries. The entrance is by a long corridor (Fig. i) in the
south-east wall, which forms the sole means of access to this
realm of death. The columns of the propylaea are shaped like
a cluster of papyrus, tapering off in a style not found in later
Egyptian architecture. The first impression, as one enters, is of
the exquisite quality of the masonry, the harmonious propor-
tions, the simplicity of the ornament. Here and there, carved
in stone, are imitation half-open doors, showing that the main
feature of this architecture is its translation into the language
of stone of a method of construction designed for less durable
materials.
In the south-east part of the enclosure stand the facades of
two buildings with concave cornice, and showing engaged
columns of a polygonal, fluted design, which are the forerunners,
if not the actual predecessors, of the Doric columns with which
the architects of Greece, two thousand years later, wrought such
marvels.
The funeral shrine itself, projecting from the north face of
the pyramid, is formed of two symmetrical blocks whose courts,
with engaged and fluted columns, achieve an effect of truly
classic harmony.
In the vaults, whose walls are clothed with faience decoration,