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University of Haifa Library
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Reviewed by:
Sumaiya Hamdani
George Mason University
September 2003

This project, established for a course on the History of Ancient and Classical Art at Haifa University in Israel, provides access to information and images of ancient sites in Egypt, Iraq, and Greece. The goal is to help students understand ancient buildings and their construction, especially those of Egypt and ancient Mesopotamia.

Featured buildings include three pyramids in Egypt, three ziggurats (or temple complexes) in Iraq, and a smaller temple in Greece. The main page explains links to pyramids, ziggurats, and Mycenean palace pages, as well as to a comparison of ancient buildings, and a bibliography focused on ancient Egyptian and Myceanean architecture. It also notes that computer reconstruction of pyramids were acquired from the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (the premier institution for the study of ancient Egypt in the U.S.), which has its own mapping project for the Giza plateau with Egypt’s most famous three pyramids.

The building links (pyramids, ziggurats, and Mycenean palace) lead to maps of ancient Egypt, Iraq, and Greece respectively, and a menu of the examples of each building form. For instance, “pyramids” provides a map illustrating sites and links to three pyramids: Djoser’s pyramid in Saqqara, Snefru’s in Maydun, and Cheops’ in Giza. All three pyramids were built in the third millennium BCE and are located in the vicinity of Cairo. Each pyramid link provides a brief description of date and significance and a list of images that illustrate the building of the pyramid.

For example, the Djoser pyramid page provides four photographic views of the pyramid and its complex, four computer models of the complex’s reconstruction, a ground plan, a section plan, three illustrations of the stages of construction, illustrations of the alignment of the brickwork in various parts of the pyramid, and two photographic illustrations of surviving decorative elements. Similarly, the Snefru pyramid page provides 14 images or illustrations, the Cheops pyramid page provides 20 images and illustrations, including one on the many stages of the pyramid’s evolution in the 20 years it took to build. There is also an inactive link to Egyptian Internet Resources.

“Ziggurats” offers three examples of ziggurat complexes in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq): the White Temple at Warka, the Ur-Nammu temple, and the ruins of Marduk (or the Tower of Babel) built by Hammurabi and expanded by Nebuchadenezer. Each ziggurat page includes a description and a list of images and illustrations similar to those for pyramids. The White temple ziggurat page provides seven images/illustrations, the Ur-Nammu 16, and the Marduk, nine. The Mycenean palace page includes a map and link to 17 illustrations of the Temple of Nestor in modern-day Greece.

“Ancient Buildings in Comparison” provides three illustrations comparing different pyramids, and one comparing pyramids and ziggurats (which here greatly resemble ancient Mayan pyramids in Mexico and Central America).

Although this site is small, limited in scope, and rather outmoded (last updated in 1997), it provides valuable resources. Other websites now offer higher quality photographs, but the illustrations and computer reconstructions of these ancient buildings and sites remain very helpful to classroom instruction on how these structures were built given the technology of the time, the building materials, and the functions of these complexes. The illustrations and ground plans are sometimes crude, but they enhance student understanding of the massiveness of some of these structures, the difficulty in building them, and the extent of the projects.

The ground plan and cross-section for Djoser’s pyramid for example, illustrate the depth of the structure and the many narrow passageways and scaffoldings that must have been built in order to add stone after stone to such a thick building. The illustrations of brickwork at the Maydun pyramid reveal the different ways of stacking bricks in the interior and exterior of the pyramid to enhance its stability, and the chronological development illustrations for the Cheops pyramid allows students to note that the base of the pyramid was larger at the outset of its building than when it was finished. All these illustrations can therefore raise interesting questions for students about why and how ancient structures were built, and can be easily applied to assignments on ancient civilizations.

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