Peter Lacovara and Tony Crosby
In today’s world of computer-aided design we often don’t realize how ad hoc earlier construction was. From ancient Egypt we have very few surviving “blueprints.” These are mostly rough sketches on limestone flakes or pottery sherds known as ostraca. In Egyptian temples one can sometimes see lines cut into the paving indicating where stone blocks for walls should be placed. It has been harder to figure out how mud brick buildings were laid out.
In cleaning the walls in the King’s Palace at Malqata we began to see small, rough limestone rocks in the ground below where corners of walls meet. These turned up at the corner beside the entrance corridor and the continuation of the enclosure wall, at the intersection of magazine M3 and room R4, and in the northeast corner of the great court (H). There may be others that we will find as we do further cleaning of the walls and floors. But from what we have seen so far we think that these must relate to the initial layout and construction of the Palace. The ancient architects must have indicated where the major wall junctures were to be, probably pacing or stringing off the design, much like our builders do now.
Although we don’t have the complete body of evidence for planning, design and construction, we do have the remains of the product of their efforts. We have mentioned in past blogs that the actual construction of walls in the Palace was “casual,” to say the least, with various sizes of bricks, different bonding patterns, less than stellar masonry quality, and varying quality of bricks and mortar. However, the relationships between rooms and open spaces, the often complex pedestrian routes for accessing different areas of the Palace, the consistency in the layout, and the relationships between rooms of different functions certainly reflect a sophisticated planning process.
January 24, 2016