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PETRIE'S "ARTS AND CRAFTS OF ANCIENT 

EGYPT" 

The World of Art Series. Arts and Crafts of Ancient Egypt. 
By W. M. Funders PetriE, D. C. L., F. R. S., etc., Chicago: 
A. C. McCtURG & Co.; Edinburgh: T. N. Fouus, 1910. pp. 
xvi -f 158. 148 illustrations. 

The distinguished Egyptologist, Professor Petrie, has pre- 
pared for this series a handbook to aid in the understanding of 
Egyptian art. He lays down the rule that to understand any art 
we must grasp its conditions and its contrasts. The essential 
conditions in Egypt are an overwhelming sunshine and its strongest 
contrasts are between the desert and the prolific verdure of the 
narrow plain. The brilliancy of light led to adopting an archi- 
tecture of blank walls without windows, and the results of this 
system were that the walls were dominated by the scenes that 
were carved upon them. While the Egyptians were familiar with 
the arch and used it in brick construction on a large scale, they 
never employed it on stone buildings. 

They built for endurance and worked the hardest rocks, and 
their structures are characterized by strength, permanence, majesty, 
harmony tempered with sympathy and kindliness. 

In Egyptian art we have to deal with seven revolutions of 
civilizations and thousands of years. The prehistoric work (8000 
to 5500 B. C.) shows more mechanical than artistic ability. This 
earlier prehistoric civilization was probably connected with Libya 
and was superseded by a race which came from the East coseval 
with the first dynasty about 5500 B. C. and gives evidence of a 
new spirit. The art is no longer clumsy and spiritless but presents 
vigorous forms full of life and character. 



251 



252 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

The pyramid ages (4700 to 4000 B. C.) brought in fresh ideals. 
The chieftainship had expanded into a kingdom. The early 
pyramid kings created a social organism, massive and strong, which 
expressed itself in gigantic pyramids to this day unsurpassed in 
bulk and accuracy of workmanship. Many royal tombs were 
sculptured, which constitute a larger treasure of artistic work than 
remains of any other period of the world's history. 

From the sixth to the eleventh dynasty was a period of 
degeneration, and the monuments show coarseness. At the close 
of the eleventh dynasty a revival took place, its characteristic 
being the use of very low relief with faint but clear outlines. 

The eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties are the best known 
ages of the art because of the great quantity of remains at Thebes 
accessible to travelers and tourists. 

Statuary began at an early period probably at the second stage 
of the prehistoric age. Ivory, limestone, slate, pottery, stick, and 
paste are the materials used. The earliest dynastic age shows 
spirited drawings of animals, and just before the first dynasty 
there are many fine figures of men and women in ivory. To the 
third dynasty belongs the well known Sheik-el-Beled, one of the 
best known of the small Egyptian sculptures. The statue of 
Khafra carved in diorite is one of the grandest works in Egypt. 
Gradually the work became less conventional and more naturalistic, 
a movement which reached its culmination under Akhenaten which 
period showed a distinct revolution probably stimulated by the 
influence of the contemporary art of Crete and Greece. With 
the Ramessides an age of decadence set in. 

From the point of view of naturalistic art the reliefs are 
greatly inferior to the statuary. Highly conventional in the 
eleventh dynasty, there begins a new school showing better figure 
work and more action. The eighteenth dynasty exhibited another 
revival of the art which continued development until the twenty- 
sixth dynasty when there set in a deliberate imitation of the work 
of the Old Kingdom. 

Painting was undoubtedly the earliest art of Egypt, but, being 
more perishable than sculpture, many of its periods are without 



PETRIE'S "ARTS 0$ ANCIENT EGYPT — ADLER 253 

remains. As far as we know, the great age of painting was the 
eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties when the painting of scenes 
in tombs became very common. In outline drawing, too, the 
Egyptians had great facility. 

Egyptian architecture has never as yet been systematically 
studied. The earliest construction was of bricks or of palm sticks 
interwoven. Another form of construction was with papyrus 
stems, the stems being tied above and below to hold them. The 
row of heads thus created was copied as an ornament along the 
tops of walls and was continued in use down to the latest times. 
The outer form of a temple was always a blank wall on all sides. 
Originally the granite temples had massive pillars which gave 
place to more ornamental forms, the principal kind being the palm 
and lotus and later the papyrus. 

The labor of stone working was never shirked. Limestone 
and soft sand stone were commonly used, but red granite, basalt, 
alabaster, and diorite were also worked. The quarrying and trans- 
portation of the great stones and obelisks has excited the admira- 
tion of all ages and the method of raising such stones is partly 
explained to us by extant reliefs. 

Although the supply of gold is probably now exhausted in 
Mediterranean lands, it was found and used for jewelry in the 
earliest times and was set in beautiful forms with precious stones. 
We find bracelets, gold seals, chains, pectoral ornaments, crowns, 
daggers, earrings, in fact every form of gold jewelry which the 
modern world knows, and occasionally gold statuettes and silver 
bowls. 

But metals were used for other than ornamental work. Copper 
was worked from the beginning of prehistoric civilization, and we 
find pins, chisels, adzes, harpoons, needles, and larger tools at the 
close of the prehistoric age. All of this copper was shaped by 
hammering. Later, copper ewers and basins were made. Bronze 
was found as far back as the third dynasty, but it only came 
regularly into use in the eighteenth dynasty, 1600 B. C. The 
source of the tin is unknown. It is probable that it was not from 
Cornwall and that there were other sources which have been 
exhausted as in the case of the gold deposits. Lead was worked 



254 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

in prehistoric times in the form of small figures and other objects 
and was probably brought from Syria. Antimony was very rare 
and continues so until about 800 B. C. 

Glazed ware begins far back in the prehistoric ages, thousands 
of years before any examples of glass are known. -In spite of 
statements to the contrary, blown glass is unknown in Egypt before 
Roman times, the earliest working of any glass materials being 
about 600 B. C. 

Pottery is common from the prehistoric age to the later times, 
and thousands of forms are known. 

The elephant was probably still abundant in southern Egypt 
in prehistoric times and ivory was much used. Wood was much 
more common in Egypt than now. The early royal tombs make 
a large use of wood and beautiful pieces of furniture, chairs, 
caskets, and beds in wood, have been found. Plaster was con- 
stantly used in masonry to fill joints and to level up hollows. It 
was also used for casting in molds and for making molds. While 
leather was undoubtedly the earliest form of clothing, linen cloth 
goes back to prehistoric times and is frequently found wrapped 
around bodies. Looms were known and on them beautiful tapes- 
tries were woven in red, green, blue, brown, and gray. 

We have sketched in the briefest outline a work which is in 
itself an outline, but which indicates the truth of the author's 
statement that scholars would be amply repaid if they would 
devote themselves to the collection of materials of the art and 
technical work of ancient Egypt. A careful study based upon such 
collections would yield adequate results and would be of the 
highest importace for the history of art and industry in the other 
countries of the Mediterranean and the West which were at so 
early a period and for so long a time associated with Egypt.