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Notes on cities in ancient Egypt

Early Egyptian Kingdom: Cities of builders of Pyramids

Here we start a new series of articles concerned as usual with what the masters have done. This time we shed light on a macro-level achievement of the Egyptian, nämlich Stadtplannung. Allerdings fangen wir die Reihen mit workmen cities an.


tombs around the pyramids

Archaeologists have found a dwelling of the craftsmen very close to the pyramids. The nearby cemetery shows that they were not slaves. There is no life after death for slaves.

They must have been labourers, in the king's service.

The Pyramids of Giza were built as tombs for the kings, and the kings did it with care. Instead of levying the tax, they demanded labor services during the four months when the Nile flooded the fields. During this time, the farmers could not work. That was the opportunity to unite them, and also to keep them away from the inns, so they wouldn't sit there together over beers and rumble: Oh. the government is very bad. Instead they worked together instead they worked together a kind of team-building measure it was about building a nation that might be the first to try this kind of thing

In addition to their tombstone near the pharaoh, the workers also receive good pay. Grains in the form of bread or beer serve as currency, because beer was one of the staple foods of the Egyptians at that time to ensure the ability to work, there is also first-class medical care.

Politics of the city and the Civic spirit of king, nobels, and people like you.

Egyptian text mentioning that no slaves were forced in the construction

'' I have never slaved anyone there,

all people there I have satisfied,

I have given clothes to the naked, bread to the hungry and beer to everyone, I am beloved from everyone'' This is ascribed to Nekhbo construction leader of King Pipi the first

"I possessed beautiful ponds and high sycamores. I created for myself a vast domain in my city and I excavated a rock-cut tomb in my mountain. I organized a water supply for my city and let my fellow citizens cross [the Nile] in my boat." Samentuser - intendant and chief of the kitchens in the domain of Montu.

The chief treasurer Tjetji under Pharaoh Wah'ankh Intef II mentiones that "he made a barque for the city and a ship for following my lord."

Khnumhotep I of Beni Hassan says: "I benefited my people."
Ameny, his successor, organized food supplies during a famine.
The vizier Mentuhotep called himself "Pilot of the people"
Prince Khnumhotep II claimed that "His first virtue was in adorning his city."

Citiy planning In the Language

Symbole of Egyptian city written in Hieroglyphics and hiratic

city in Hieroglypgics

The word nywt, whose generic sense is "urban settlement" and which has been rendered by "village, town" does not intrinsically infer the conformance to urbanistic principles, especially so since it seems sometimes to designate a rural nucleus, perhaps in the shape of a farmstead (Arabic 'ezba).

different writing options for city in ancient Egypt
P350 Budge. An egyptian hieroglyphic dictionary.vol.1

A rather radical definition is however supplemented to the sense of the word by its determinative, whose only two known forms, occurring from the early kingdom Period and perhaps even in Predynastic times represent the plan of a circular enclosure wall around houses or blocks of houses set along a system of streets on an orthogonal or axial pattern

The engraved sign of the city has been recorded in different styles which brings me to the question: was the difference a reflection of the variety of designs we had within a circular design? was it an expression of the artist who wrote it? This point is yet to be explored

Different shapes of city determinative

district in Hieroglyphics

Spaat. district

'..took his donkeys away and drove them to his district'


Hieratic ancient Egyptian language
I found, linen, on the cart, on the road,

Lost in Translation - Notes on meaning between the letter carved and standardized It was during searching this topic that it came to my notice how different the signs that we see on the standardized hieroglyphic list from the real sign. This difference affects our research and understanding. Take for instance the pictures here below: the sign as carved in the wall showes 3 thin lines and between them number of blocks that do not perfectly match in size

on the other picture we have a simplified sign that should represent the original shape. the reduction of the sign deform the meaning.

click on the picture to extend

Reading Philipp Vandenberg; Nofretete Page 72 'Die Väter Der Ägyptologie' it came to my understanding the role of copying and its importance and hence the result built upon a small mistake or an oversimplified sign.

''He -Lepsuis- became a professor and director of the Berlin Museum.From 1842 to 1845, as already mentioned, he led an expedition to Egypt and the Sudan whose mission was to copy ancient inscriptions and record historical monuments. In doing so, Lepsius developed his typical Malvitian research method, which was later dubbed “the German one”. It consisted of copying, sketching, drawing and noting on the spot, but the actual scientific work was done at home at the desk. The French and British have often criticized this “armchair archaeology.” They were of the opinion that serious research could only be carried out “on site”.'' Vandenberg


Town design


In a paper by A. Badawy1, he recognise two different forms of Hieroglyph representing city planning (orthogonal , axial )

In the picture bellow is how A. Badawy recorded the space in a circular shape which I still yet to find the source that A. Badawy draw his copy from.

egyptian city signs in hieroglyphics

The sign NIWT represents a round settlement, walled and divided by a network of roads. This sign is a very simplified version, reduced to the two principal axes. Even in this form, it is documented as one of the oldest hieroglyphs.

Excavations have revealed settlements like this in Upper Egypt, dating from the oldest epochs of urbanization.

On pre-dynastic palettes, the cities conquered or founded by the pharaohs are illustrated as round-ed squares or ovals, with outlines showing characteristic buttresses that clearly indicate fortified settlements.

The fact that inside these signs, in an approximately round form, are protohiero-glyphs-evidently designating the name of each city shows that the images are not purely pictorial but are actual graphemes, from which the more regular NIWTwould later develop.

The constant presence of the city wall, together with the emphasis that art of the period placed on war and violence, reveals the turbulent nature of the era in which the the Egyptian state began [7]

distict in egyptian language

A third shape with perpendicular lines equally distributed.

local nomand - district in ancient Egypt

Shap that we find in cities like LAhun and Diel Al Madienh; cities that were built for Pyramid workers

This figure was uploaded by Domen Zupančič
copyrights for Domen Zupančič

cities in Egypt

Spaat. district

hieroglyphics sentence abour district

'..took his donkeys away and drove them to his district'

road in Hieroglyphics

WAT means road. the even perfect lines of the road complete the idea of grid planning. The idea that the Egyptians used a street line to say road can tell us that this is the abstract which the Egyptians used to indicate the road but the case was not always straight lines as we also see other excavated clusters or cities in Egypt. [To do: have a list of all sites which were found until today and their plans]


Towns as a rule grow northward because of the prevailing north breeze 6

streets and open space

Die Straßen hatten flache Steinkanäle, die zur Entwässerung entlang der Mitte verliefern

Für Gärten war innerhalb der Stadtmauern nicht mehr viel Platz. Das gesamte gebiet war mit straßen und lehmziegelgebäuden bedeckt. notes on Lahun from 26.05.2021

Lahun. Footprints of the founders Wir können genau die gleichen Prinzipien eines sehr dichten Lebens sehen, engem Straßen sehen. Es gibt kein wirkliche Anforderung, dass sie so eng sind.Da es dort keine Verteidigungsprogramme gibt, gehe ich daran aus, dass diese thermischer Komfort ist. [1]

Die identische Planung der Straßen sowohl in Viertel der Kleinen Häuser als auch im Viertel der größen Häuser sollte die Idea ausschließen, dass die engen Straßen nur aus economischen Gründen, oder als Straße mit geringer Plannungsqualität für die unteren Klassen gebaut wurden.

In der Tat kann das größere Haus die Erfüllung der Kundenbedürfnisse sein, wenn man bedenkt, dass der Eigentümer dieses Hauses möglicherweise eine größere Anzahl von Familien mitgliedern und Bediensteten hat, die größe Unterbringungsmöglichkeiten benötigen.

Im Gegensatz zu dem Arbeiter, der vielleicht nur für kurze Zeit in die Stadt gezogen ist, um eine Aufgabe zu erledigen und zu gehen, oder einer Arbeiterfamilie, die aus einer beträchtlichen Anzahl von Personen besteht. Darüber hinaus wurden Beweise für Veränderungen innerhalb der Häuser gefunden, um ein neues Mitglied in das Haus zu passen.[2]

Redesign the space

Even after the construction was finished the town continued to be inhabited, Though its character seemed to change. Some of the smaller homes were expanded to house the growing families of the laborers, but so were the homes of the middle-class families who inhabited medium-sized residences, while royal officials, including the mayor, lived in larger mansions. P14 The setting

Ich muss noch die Person pro Zimmernummer recherchieren[3]

Houses (material, construction)

The homes of Lahun were built of dried mud-brick. They would have been roofed with wooden beams and poles, and straw or reed tied to the poles. Plastered with mud on the inside and the outside, and sometimes supported by a column, the flat roof may have been used as an extension of the living space P 16

Space arrangement inside houses

End und abandon For whatever reason the inhabitants vacated their town, they left within it many of their household goods, the tools of their trades, their personal possessions, and the caches of documents. From these, we can attempt to reconstruct a picture of what their daily life might have been like. P14 The setting

Interpretation as a tool _ interpretation as a product

So far, almost half of the city lies below the surface of the earth

uncompleted shapes

Interpreting incomplete historical artifacts often tells us more about the person interpreting than about the artifact itself. This is particularly true in the case of EL-Lahun excavations in Egypt. In a city where much remains undiscovered beneath the earth, people have been quick to form opinions about the social structure of the ancient society, including speculating about the existence of a ghetto. However, in the areas not yet fully excavated, smaller homes are found adjacent to larger palaces, challenging the notion of a segregated community.

These initial judgments are frequently influenced by the individual's own background and preconceptions. For example, if someone has been educated to believe that slaves were the main workforce in ancient Egypt, they may prematurely conclude that certain segregated areas were ghettos, even before the excavation is fully completed.

In contrast, an impartial observer would likely reserve judgment until a thorough archaeological investigation has been conducted.

Similarly, an Egyptian architect, well-versed in the historical emphasis on virtue and worker welfare, might offer a different interpretation of the city's layout. He could hypothesize that the city was initially designed to house a specific number of officials and laborers. As the labor demand grew, the city expanded beyond its original boundaries, accounting for the newer sections built outside the initial city limits. The fact that the shape is not closed will motivate the reader in history to close it, to create a compleate image.. it is here that the interpretation will tell you more about the interpreter than the object in study.


* All pictures shall be linked to the source were it was taken from 6 Architecture in Ancient Egypt and the near east A.B. [1]YouTube: Thermal design of historic earth buildings, Paul Jaquin 06.10.2020 [2] Building Materials and Tools in Ancient Egyptian Inscriptions and Texts مواد وأدوات البناء في المناظر والنصوص المصرية القديمة, محمد مبارك محمد محمود

[3] Breasted, j H., Ancient Records of Egypt, in 5 Vols, Chicago, 1906. [4] A histroy of Egyptian Architectuer Vol 2, Alexander Badawy 10,11

[5] Sir Alan Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (Oxford, 1961)

[6] Alexander Badawy, Orthogonal and Axial Town Planning in Egypt

[7]Hieroglyphics : the writings of ancient Egypt by Betrò, Maria C



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