The Book

(Please note this is not a book published for profit. I make no money from this publication and I am only concerned to see the information it contains more widely circulated).
Egyptian Tomb Architecture:
The Archaeological Facts of Pharaonic Circular Symbolism
By David I Lightbody
British Archaeological Reports
International Series S1852
ISBN 978 1 4073 0339 0

Oxbow books have reviewed as follows:

“This thesis, sure to prove controversial, examines the geometry of Old Kingdom Royal tomb architecture, arguing for far greater levels of mathematical sophistication than hitherto admitted. Adding his own contribution to the Black Athena debate, Lightbody also claims that the debts in measurement, geometry and mathematics which the Greeks owe to the Egyptians has also not been fully recognised, not least due to an overfocusing on philological evidence.”


More Detail:

Egyptian Tomb Architecture:
The Archaeological Facts of Pharaonic Circular Symbolism

This book explains how and why the Egyptians incorporated circular proportions, symbolised by the shen ring, into their tombs and pyramids. First, the report presents the architectural and archaeological data showing how this was done, and then it goes on to explain what the symbolism meant in some depth.

The general subject matter is the pharaonic funerary architecture of Old Kingdom Egypt, and the work focuses specifically on the circular proportions deliberately incorporated into the tomb designs by the architects. In 1940, the famous Egyptologist Professor Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie wrote, regarding these proportions that: ‘these relations of area and of circular ratios are so systematic that we should grant they were in the builder’s design’ (Petrie: Wisdom of the Egyptians 1940: 30). So Petrie concluded that the circular proportions in the funerary monuments were deliberate, yet he never ventured an explanation for the phenomenon.

An explanation for the phenomena observed has hitherto remained elusive. The data is derived from the royal funerary architecture from the Old Kingdom, and illustrates the underlying systems of measurement and geometry that were employed therein. As well as providing a description and explanation for the data, this work also has the objective of providing the first synthesis of related cultural information drawn from several different textual and archaeological resources.

The underlying symbolism expressed in these proportions, and deliberately included in the primary dimensions of the monuments by the architects, was that of the ‘shen ring’ symbol, and this was closely associated with the royal patron god Horus.The shen ring represented ‘eternal encircling protection’, and by including this symbolism into the architecture, at the sarcophagus, tomb and overall structure levels, the Egyptians were incorporating a protective perimeter around the pharaonic burial place in a symbolic form.

The more familiar ‘cartouche’ is a rounded oval shape always shown protecting the pharaoh’s name, and this is in fact a modified shen ring, and so we can see that the related ideas of pharaonic protection extended from the hieroglyphs naming the living king,to his funerary architecture, and yet represented the same ideas of encircling protection for the ruler.

The book details all of the supporting facts and evidence for the first time, and critiques all existing publications that have not reached this conclusion previously. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the subject matter, additional effort has been made to ensure that the data and discussion is accessible to scholars and keen amateurs from all related disciplines.

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This publication is available from Archaeopress / British Archaeological Reports (BAR) from Oxford, or from the British Library as an digital file for download.

Egyptian Tomb Architecture:
The Archaeological Facts of Pharaonic Circular Symbolism
By David I Lightbody
British Archaeological Reports
International Series S1852
ISBN 978 1 4073 0339 0

This book can also be downloaded from the British Library directly

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