Historians consider the ancient Egyptians to be the first builders known to mankind. They were meticulous architects, using ground plans, including contours drawn with grid lines. It's through the Egyptians that the modern world learnt basic design in erecting buildings. Ancient Egyptian buildings were made of sun-baked bricks, straw and mud from the Nile River. Tombs and temples, which were made of stone, lasted longer, but also deteriorated over the course of time because of earthquakes and other acts of nature.
Ancient Egypt was a civilisation that thrived for more than 2,000 years starting with the Old Kingdom around 2650 B.C. The time period includes various dynasties, including when the ancient Egyptians were conquered by the Assyrians (700 B.C.) and when Persia defeated them in 525 B.C. In 332 B.C., they were defeated by Alexander the Great.
There are three categories of ancient Egyptian architecture: buildings for the living, buildings to house the dead and religious buildings such as temples and shrines. Some of the world's most identifiable structures come from ancient Egypt, such as the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The region's lack of rain and wood, coupled with much sunshine, made adobe the best building material in ancient Egypt. Nile mud, when mixed with straw, produced strong bricks. Houses were made of river mud. Stone was also used, although not as much as river mud. Stone was typically used for building temples and tombs, while bricks were used in building royal palaces and fortresses. Because there wasn't much wood available, it was rarely a source for building materials.
Most historians believe the pyramids of ancient Egypt were tombs for Egypt's pharaohs during both the Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom periods. Other theories claim the pyramids were used as sundials or giant geometric puzzles. The largest of the pyramids, built around 2530 B.C., was for the final resting place of Pharaoh Khufu. Until the early 1900s, it was the largest building on Earth.
Ancient Egyptians viewed their temples as homes to their gods. Temples could be either single buildings or huge complexes. The most important part of the temple was the shrine, or innermost cult chamber. It was there that the image of a god was housed. Many of the temples of ancient Egypt became complex building systems.
Architecture of ancient Egypt is known for its elegant columns, which were elaborately adorned with coloured depictions of Egyptian life. Column shafts are some of ancient Egypt's most intriguing architectural structures. Temples had columned halls with colourful painted and relief-carved artwork. According to the Tour Egypt.com website, more than 30 different column forms have been found from various time periods, with the most noted being the lotus- and papyrus-formed columns.