One of the most curious ancient Egyptian megastructures - the Bent Pyramid. Credit: Yann Arthus-Bertrand

10 Ancient Egyptian Megastructures You Probably Didn’t Know About

How many of these ancient Egyptian monuments have you heard about already?

Everyone thinks of the Pyramids of Giza or the Valley of the Kings when it comes to Egypt. And it is normal – these are some of the most iconic symbols of ancient history. However, there are hundreds of other ancient Egyptian megastructures that often remain in the shadow of popular tourist locations. 

We have selected several important sites that should be on anybody’s bucket list but rarely get the attention they deserve.

The Bent Pyramid of Sneferu

Sneferu is not one of the well-known pharaohs but he issued the construction of several pyramids in Dashur during his reign. The first one to be built is also one of the most unusual pyramids in Egypt due to its strange shape.

As you see from the featured image of the article above, the pyramid was built in several stages and in different angles. The lower courses were built at an angle of about 55 degrees and it is believed that that the angle was then reduced because Sneferu thought that it was too steep. The upper courses were then built at an angle of about 43 degrees.

Red Pyramid of Sneferu

Pharaoh Sneferu built several other pyramids during his time after the Bent Pyramid we already discussed above. It is believed that he was displeased with the unusual appearance of the previous construction and wanted to have a “true” pyramid. In the case of the Red Pyramid, the building angle was around 43 degrees for the entire monument.

The Red Pyramid of Sneferu. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Red Pyramid of Sneferu. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Red Pyramid is the third-largest in Egypt. Like the ones in Giza, it was once clad with white limestone which was later taken down and used for construction in Cairo. While this is unfortunate, it became the reason how it got its modern name due to its reddish appearance.

Pyramid of Meidum

The Pyramid of Meidum was built in several stages and started as a Step Pyramid before it was turned into the first true pyramid. Unfortunately, most of the structure has collapsed, and nowadays, it is hard to tell that it was ever a pyramid.

The remaining structure from the Pyramid of Meidum. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The remaining structure from the Pyramid of Meidum. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

All that remains is a three-stepped tower/structure that was once inside the pyramid. This one was also completed by Pharaoh Sneferu and it is believed that it began collapsing during his reign too. Historians theorize that this could be the reason for the change of angles in the Bent Pyramid.

The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut

The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut is one of the most spectacular ancient Egyptian megastructures. It was built over another temple dedicated to Amenhotep I.

Much in the layout and decoration was borrowed from the funeral temple of Mentuhotep II. Both temples are located on three terraces, the horizontal lines of which are combined with the vertical lines of the porticoes.

The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut. Credit: Jumpstory
The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut. Credit: Jumpstory

The austere appearance of the monumental structures is emphasized by the surrounding rocky landscape. But unlike the Mentuhotep temple, there was no burial in the Hatshepsut temple, and its decoration was incomparably more luxurious.

The Temple of Horus at Edfu

Over the centuries, the Temple of Horus at Edfu remained buried at a depth of 12 meters under sands. Locals had actually begun building homes on top of the ancient Egyptian megastructure before it was identified by a French expedition in 1798.

One of the most fascinating ancient Egyptian megastructures - the Temple of Edfu. Credit: Jumpstory
One of the most fascinating ancient Egyptian megastructures – the Temple of Edfu. Credit: Jumpstory

After it was excavated more than 60 years later, it became clear that the Temple of Edfu was almost entirely intact. The archaeological value of this ancient Egyptian megastructure makes it one of the most popular historical landmarks in Egypt and a frequent stop for many of the Nile tourist cruises. The temple is the largest dedicated to the god Horus and Hathor of Dendera, and in ancient times was a center for worship and celebration.

Temple of Kom Ombo

The Temple of Kom Ombo has a unique design because it is a rare example of a temple equally divided into two halves. Each part was dedicated to a different god while all the internal structures were also completely symmetrical. It is believed that the current temple replaced an older temple on the site, as reused blocks were found in the structure of the temple.

One of the most beautiful ancient Egyptian megastructures - the Great Temple of Kom Ombo. Credit: Planetware
One of the most beautiful ancient Egyptian megastructures – the Great Temple of Kom Ombo. Credit: Planetware

The temple is unusual because it is dedicated to two main deities who were worshiped in two halves of the temple building. The main deity of the northern half of the temple is Horus, the ancient Egyptian god of the sky, hunting, and war.

The southern part of the Temple of Kom Ombo is dedicated to Sobek, the ancient Egyptian god of fertility. Often portrayed as a crocodile-headed man, Sobek is also considered the creator of the world.

Temple of Seti I

This temple has never been a religious center. Its purpose was purely political – to equate Seti I with the gods. Therefore, in the temple, in addition to sculptures of deities associated with resurrection, death, and the afterlife, there is also a statue of the pharaoh. Thus, the Ramses dynasty (19th dynasty) legitimized its supposedly divine origin, although its first representatives were simple warriors.

The Temple of Seti I in Abydos. Credit: HappyEgypt
The Temple of Seti I in Abydos. Credit: HappyEgypt

The Temple of Seti I in Abydos attracts tourists not by its colossal size, but by the reliefs on the walls, or rather by the incredible technique of their execution. According to many experts, these works of art are the finest in all of Egypt. In the masterpieces belonging to the era of the New Kingdom, one can see the return of artists to the canons of the Old Kingdom.

Temple of Hathor

The temple of the goddess Hathor is located just 52 miles north of Luxor on the west bank of the Nile. It is incredibly well preserved and free of crazy crowds. Hathor is said to be the consort of Horus and is depicted as a cow or woman wearing cow horns and a sun disc. Hathor is a significant figure in Egyptian mythology, hence the large temple dedicated to her.

This marvelous ancient Egyptian megastructure is the Temple of Hathor. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
This marvelous ancient Egyptian megastructure is the Temple of Hathor. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The temple is composed of several elements. The first is the Great Hypostyle Hall with 18 columns decorated with the head of Hathor. These columns supported the roof with was divided into 7 parts, each decorated with astronomical scenes.

The second Hypostyle Hall consists of 6 columns with richly decorated capitals. Three small compartments on each side of the temple were used for storage. There are also an antechamber, a sanctuary, and underground chambers.

Colossi of Memnon

The Colossi of Memnon are two enormous statues depicting the revered Pharaoh Amenhotep III and installed at the entrance to the Memorial Temple of the pharaoh which, unfortunately, is no longer standing.

The height of the columns is about 20 meters and are composed of enormous sandstone blocks that were transported from more than 60 kilometers. It is miraculous how the colossi survived and the temple did not but they are also being systematically destroyed by the overflowing water of the Nile.

The Colossi of Memnon. Credit: Jumpstory
The Colossi of Memnon. Credit: Jumpstory

Temple of Esna

The 2,000-year-old Temple of Esna was opened by the French about 200 years ago under Napoleon. It is famous for its “astronomical” ceiling and unusual hieroglyphic inscriptions.

These texts describe in detail the religious movements of that time and the cult events that took place in the region. Their uniqueness is given by the fact that the texts are interconnected – in fact, the temple is decorated with one long chronicle, the creation of which, according to scientists, took about two centuries.

The Temple of Esna. Credit: Ahmed Amin
The Temple of Esna. Credit: Ahmed Amin

The temple also differs from other ancient Egyptian megastructures in its architecture. For example, a well-preserved vestibule called the pronaos has survived to this day. The facility was built from sandstone. Its length was 37 meters, width – 20 meters, and height – 15 meters. The pronaos was located directly in front of the entrance to the temple, which was erected under the Roman emperor Claudius (41-54 AD).

The roof was supported by 24 columns, and the capitals of 18 free-standing columns were decorated with various floral ornaments. According to Egyptologists, this is an absolute exception in Egyptian temple architecture.


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Sources:

American Research Center in Egypt. (n.d.). The Mortuary Temple of Seti I in Abydos. ARCE.
Encyclopædia Britannica. (n.d.). Pyramid. Encyclopædia Britannica.
Kinnaer, J. (n.d.). The Ancient Egypt Site. Meidum Pyramid | The Ancient Egypt Site.
Lonely Planet. (2021, March 17). Temple of Horus: Edfu, Egypt Attractions. Lonely Planet.
Lonely Planet. (2021, March 17). Temple of Kom Ombo & Crocodile Museum: Kom Ombo, Egypt Attractions. Lonely Planet.
Mark, J. J. (2021, May 12). The Temple of Hatshepsut. World History Encyclopedia.
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Wikipedia. (2021, February 7). Dendera Temple complex. Wikipedia.
Wolfe, K. (2018, March 7). The Singing Statues of Ancient Egypt. Atlas Obscura.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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