In April I discussed the Ancient Egyptian architect Imhotep, and how he conceived the idea for Egypt’s first pyramid. Like the blocks of the pyramid’s apex are built upon the blocks of the base, the idea for the pyramid was built upon the designs of the earlier Egyptian tombs called mastabas. And although the simpler mastaba remained the most prevalent tomb design for much of Ancient Egypt’s history, following the innovation of Imhotep, many of the pharaohs who succeeded Djoser would emulate the original design. Today the remains of more than one hundred pyramids have been found in Egypt,the largest and most well-known of Egypt’s pyramids is the Great Pyramid of khufu, which was completed around 2650 BC near Giza. Listed among the largest structures ever built by the hands of man, the Great Pyramid is built of more than two million stone blocks and has an estimated mass of more than six million tons. When completed it stood more than four hundred and eighty feet tall and each of its four sides were more than seven hundred and fifty feet long. It is believed to have been built over a period of ten to twenty years and to have employed tens of thousands of workmen during construction. Equally impressive to it’s scope is the precision with which it was assembled, with the average gap between its casing stones estimated at one-fiftieth of an inch. Like all of Egypt’s pyramids, the Great Pyramid was built west of the Nile, which the Ancient Egyptian’s considered the side of the dead. Conversely, east of the Nile was the side of the living and was where the Ancient Egyptians dwelt. When referring to a deceased friend or relative, it was an expression of the Ancient Egyptians to metaphorically say that the deceased individual had “gone west.” Like the Great Pyramid, Egyptian culture endured for millennia, perhaps longer than any other in human history. The culture of Ancient Egypt was carefully preserved by the ancients, who adhered to rigid guidelines for the appearance and proportions of their artwork. Their adherence to that system of art resulted in the ubiquitous uniformity which makes elements of their culture so easily recognizable, even elements far removed from one another by time. And while it served to preserve their culture for thousands of years it also undoubtedly arrested it’s development as well, and pointedly illustrates the fate of a people who value stability over liberty. I will close this discussion of Ancient Egypt with a short Egyptian poem believed to be from the thirteenth century BC: God is a Master Craftsman (Ancient Egyptian Poem, circa 1238 BC)
God is a master craftsman;
Yet none can draw the lines of his Person. Fair features first came into being in the hushed dark where he mused alone; He forged his own figure there, hammered his likeness out of himself All powerful one (yet kindly, whose heart would lie open to men). He mingled his heavenly god-seed with the inmost parts of his being. Planting his image there in the unknown depths of his mystery. He cared, and the sacred form took shape and contour, splendid at birth! God, skilled in the intricate ways of the craftsman, first fashioned Himself to perfection.
John Paul Aglione
W.B. James P. Aglione Worshipful Master 2018