Have questions about terms you encounter around our blog? The Nile Scribes have put together some definitions for your reference.



augering – An archaeological technique that extracts conical layers of earth with a drill-like tool. It is used widely by archaeologists to better understand the geological make-up of the soil as well as its climate and environment.

aspective style – An art historical term coined by Egyptologist E. Brunner-Traut used to refer to the Egyptian artistic style of representing the subject through stressing the different aspects of its form. Aspective style (as opposed to perspective style) portrays the most characteristic views of each element of a subject in combination with each other.


experimental archaeology – A practice of experiential learning by participating in ancient methods to prove or disprove theories (such as feasibility or process) otherwise difficult to evaluate. Examples in Egyptology include the production of bread or beer using Egyptian techniques, or replicating embalming practices to create a mummy.


false door – An architectural element within a tomb, which often resembles a niche in the wall. It is a symbolic doorway, which connects the realm of the living with that of teh dead. Visitors to the tomb would often leave offerings for the deceased. A well-known example is the false door within the tomb of Mereruka (Sixth Dynasty) at Saqqara, where the tomb-owner is shown coming out of the door.


mortuary temple – A temple, sometimes also called a memorial temple, usually located on the west bank of the Nile, in which the cult of the deceased king is performed. During the Pyramid Age, it was attached to the eastern side of the pyramid, which housed the burial of the king. In the New Kingdom, it was separated from the tomb and built in much grander complexes.


pylon – A Greek term for the towers on either side of the main gate through which one enters a temple especially characteristic of New Kingdom temples. Its shape resembles the hieroglyph for 3ḫ.t, meaning horizon, and may reflect the sun rising in the east between the mountains. In front of the pylon on either side of the entryway were niches for flag poles.


stratigraphy – The study of natural and man-made layers that accumulate overtime on a site is a commonly used relative dating method for archaeologists to reconstruct the site’s occupation. The basic rule-of-thumb of stratigraphy stipulates that a layer of sediment, which is on top of another layer, is more recent in time than the one below. While this “rule” may not apply always, it is a useful guide in archaeological reconstructions. Using this information along with observing these changes all over the site, a better understanding of the site’s occupation can be established.