Art and Architecture in the New Kingdom
As historian Cyril Aldred has said, the civilization of the New Kingdom seems the most golden of all the epochs of Egyptian history, perhaps because so much of its wealth remains. The rich store of treasures from the tomb of Tutankhamen (1347-1337 B.C.) gives us a glimpse of the dazzling court art of the period and the skills of the artisans of the day.
One of the innovations of the period was the construction of rock tombs for the pharaohs and the elite. Around 1500 B.C., Pharaoh Amenophis I abandoned the pyramid in favor of a rock-hewn tomb in the crags of western Thebes (present-day Luxor). His example was followed by his successors, who for the next four centuries cut their tombs in the Valley of the Kings and built their mortuary temples on the plain below. Other wadis or river valleys were subsequently used for the tombs of queens and princes.
Another New Kingdom innovation was temple building, which began with Queen Hatshepsut, who as the heiress queen seized power in default of male claimants to the throne. She was particularly devoted to the worship of the god Amun, whose cult was centered at Thebes. She built a splendid temple dedicated to him and to her own funerary cult at Dayr al Bahri in western Thebes.
One of the greatest temples still standing is that of Pharaoh Amenophis III at Thebes. With Amenophis III, statuary on an enormous scale makes its appearance. The most notable is the pair of colossi, the so-called Colossi of Memnon, which still dominate the Theban plain before the vanished portal of his funerary temple.
Ramesses II was the most vigorous builder to wear the double crown of Egypt. Nearly half the temples remaining in Egypt date from his reign. Some of his constructions include his mortuary temple at Thebes, popularly known as the Ramesseum; the huge hypostyle hall at Karnak, the rock-hewn temple at Abu Simbel (Abu Sunbul); and his new capital city of Pi Ramesses.
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