Monumental Architecture In Mesopotamia

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The essay will study the role of monumental architecture in the creation and affirmation of ideology and leadership during the development of early civilisations. After a brief presentation of social theories attempting to explain the origins of complexity through the contribution of ideology, the essay will investigate the archaeological record to assess the presence and the importance of monumental architecture – especially in Egypt and in Mesopotamia. The essay will finally argue that monumental architecture played a major role to impress people and to legitimate leadership, and was therefore a critical factor in the development of complex states. Ideology is usually considered as a crucial element in the social theories attempting to explain…show more content…
Leadership and ideology in Egypt were strongly linked, with rulers being presented as divine and the heirs of the previous rulers, the gods (RoS 2014:234). The hieroglyphic term for ruler was ‘nswt’ and the term for the king of the gods was ‘nswt ntrw’ – the ‘nswt’ ruled by right not only Egypt but the entire world and was responsible for maintaining both the social order and the cosmic balance (Trigger 2003:72). Rulers were considered as deities and thus immortal, and although they might succumb to physical death, this was not total death – as the ka of the leader was able to remain above ground, while the funerary rites enabled the soul to enter the underworld (RoS 2014:203-4). Egyptian elite developed a sophisticated ideology of kingship portraying the pharaoh as the point of connection between human society, the gods and the wider cosmos (Baines 1995:95). Beyond his ideological role, the king was both a soldier (head of the army) and a priest (chief priest of all the temples) – the military and the priesthood can thus not be dissociated from the kingship (Exell & Naunton 2007:93) His status was expressed and reinforced through various strategies: royal dress, iconography, myths, rituals, propagandistic texts and monumental architecture (Goebs 2007:275). The Royal Tomb in the form of the pyramid is probably the most impressive of Egyptian monuments conveying the supremacy of the Pharaohs, and is a public statement about their…show more content…
The walls of the tombs were highly decorated with paintings and sculptures, providing a lot of information about daily life in Old Kingdom Egypt (RoS 2014:202). Pyramids have been interpreted as symbols of the sun and as a means of linking royalty to the sun and its divine powers (RoS 2014:202). The Great Pyramids of Giza represent the culmination of a process that began in late pre-dynastic times: the tombs became increasingly monumental, while the power of the king became greater and greater, taking on divine dimensions until the pharaoh became akin to the Supreme God – the increasing divinisation of the ruler finds visual expression though the evolution of the royal tombs (Assmann 1996:62). Giza also boasts the biggest ancient sculpture, the Sphinx – carved from limestone during the 4th Dynasty; little is known about its purpose, but the lion body and human head with its royal headdress might have been a picture of power, strength and rule, and possibly the guardian of the gates to the underworld (RoS 2014:203). As the state provides the immense forces and organisational
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