The Rise and Development of the Solar Cult and Architecture in Third Millennium BC Egypt

Czech Science Foundation (GAČR) project no. 17-10799S

Principal investigator: PhDr. Massimiliano Nuzzolo, Ph.D. (Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Arts, Czech Institute of Egyptology)


This project aims at investigating and mapping the development, and the main characteristics, of the sun cult and architecture in Old Kingdom Egypt, Third Millennium BC, the period of formation of Egyptian civilization. Within this general framework, a well-defined study case will be put into focus, namely the Fifth Dynasty royal necropolis of Abusir/Abu Ghurab, on account of its centrality for the study of the sun cult and architecture in Third Millennium BC Egypt, as well as its pivotal influence on later development of Ancient Egyptian culture and religion. Moreover, the site offers scholars an incredibly unique case of investigation of ancient sacred landscapes because of its geo-morphological uniformity and the chronologically limited use in a time span of around one hundred years, corresponding approximately to the core of the fifth dynasty, when the main architectural features of the site were shaped and arranged in the natural setting, and no longer significantly affected for the coming millennia.

Special attention will be given to the study and contextualization of the sun temples, which particularly characterized the religious and architectural landscape of the Fifth Dynasty, as well as to the search for those sanctuaries which have not yet been located. Their localization—and possible unearthing—may in fact contribute significantly to a better comprehension of the above issues connected to the solar religion and architecture. This search will be done thanks to a combined investigation of traditional archaeological, historical and epigraphic data, and innovative methods of analysis and interpretation of remote sensed data, crossed with topographical and cartographical information. An extensive field-work in the area of Abu Ghurab, and especially at the sun temple of Niuserre—the only sun temple which is currently preserved and still widely readable—is also included in the project and will be achieved thanks to the interaction between the university of Prague and the university of Naples L‘Orientale, which is working in the site since 2010. Finally, the project also includes a re-evaluation of the main historical sources of the Fifth Dynasty (Palermo Stone) as well as a reassessment of entire decorative program of the sun temples (scenes of the nature and the Sed Festival) in the attempt at reconstructing the whole original context of the solar sanctuaries and the interaction among solar religion, royal architecture and decoration, and cult rituals and symbolism.

The final project’s outcome is to create an open-source Web-„Historical Geographical Information System (HGIS) on the development of the sun and architecture in Old Kingdom Egypt, where information extracted from the analysis of diversified categories of material and conceptual data can interact with one another, and be presented on both a geographical and historical base.

Project members: Doc. Mgr. Jaromir Krejci, Mgr. Katarina Arias Kytnarova, Mgr. Marie Peterkova Hlouchova, Mgr. Jan Turek, Ing. Vladimir Bruna, Prof. Rosanna Pirelli (Italy), Doc. Mgr. Andrea D’Andrea (Italy), Ing. Patrizia Zanfagna (Italy)

Project duration: 2017–2019

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