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The Columns of Ancient Egypt



When thinking about Egyptian temples, one chief architectural element that one can see is columns. Imagining the temple Karnak without its vision of obelisks, pylons, columns, and statues is impossible. Column shafts in ancient Egypt were adorned with colorful depictions in carved relief, painted and seem to be the masterpiece in architectural elements in the Egyptian culture. The Egyptian columns can include everything from column in the ancient Egyptian era to the modern one inspired by idea and innovations.


In the most ancient times, Columns in Egypt were crafted from a single large monothilic block. But, later on, it changed into the use of sectional blocks for the purpose. But after painting, it seemed difficult to judge that whether the column was cut from a single or sectioned pieces.

During the era from 3050 B.C. till 900 B.C. when the great kings of Egypt ruled, the earliest builders made columns from large blocks of sandstone, limestone and red granite, later on, the idea of using stacks of stone disks was introduced. Egyptian columns are diverse and range from 16 sides polygon to circular columns. Imhotep, the ancient Egyptian architect was known to carve stone columns resembling bundled reeds and other plants. The columns were placed closer to ensure they can carry the heavy weight of the stone roof beams.


  • The stone shafts were carved in a way that they resembled bundled reeds, tree trunks or plants stem
  • Capital was bud-shaped or bell-shaped, campaniform
  • Motifs on the capitals/ tops were lily, palm, lotus or papyrus plant
  • Decorations usually were bright painted carved relief decorations


Plant Style Columns, which consist of:

Fluted Columns
This early form of column resembled bundled reeds or plants stems but was sometimes made as polygonal shafts as well. Referred to as most interesting fluted columns in Egypt, this where the first stone columns on earth and lost their charm when the new styles emerged which depicted a more complex structure.

Lotiform columns
Used in non-secular buildings, but rarely in religious architectures, this resembles a simple lotus bud form and finds ample use in old and middle kingdom temples. In the new kingdom, there use declined, the ribbed shafts represent lotus stems and capitals are made in the form of a closed bud or open lotus flower. Lotus here refers to a type of water lily.

Palmiform columns
These were used in the earlier times in Egypt and were at the inner side of the court. The columns depicted a palm tree motif, but not the tree and eight palm fronts were lashed to a pole.

Papyriform column
The column was made in several variations some in a circular form representing the single plant, while others as ribbed with multiple stems. The capitals were closed buds or open bell-shaped form. These are not free-standing columns and found ample use in Egyptian history and during the new kingdom as well.

Coniform columns
The column form was not so popular and used in later temples. It has a fluted shaft surmounted by top resembling branches of a conifer tree.

Tent Pole columns
Constructed of brick, these are a stone representation of wooden poles used for supporting tents, kiosks, shrines or ship cabins. Earliest of Egypt’s structures, but there use is still mystical.

Composite columns
Common during Greco-Roman era, these depicted an evolutionary extension with capital decorations in floral patterns and even imagined plants. The variations are endless and were different from the Egyptian variety of columns.

Campaniform columns
The many forms included floral columns or pillars, circular, square or ribbed pillars and a flower-shaped capital seemed common. These column types were rare but the stylized versions could be seen during the Greco-Roman period.

In addition to plant styled columns, there were no plant style columns in ancient Egypt which represented deities or their attributes. The two most common types included Hathoric Columns and Osiride Pillars.

Egyptian columns in the western world
With the onset of Classical Orders of Architecture, Greek and Roman ideas and innovations were used in Egyptian column styles leading to an evolution in the western world. About 2000 years later, the architect was borrowed by Europe and United States to add those exquisites look and architectural addition.

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