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The influence of Ancient Egyptian gardens

Archaeology reveals the garden tradition of Ancient Egypt to have developed over 3,000
years. One cannot detail its influence on Europe, nor can one doubt it. The features listed
below are common to the Egyptian and Graeco-Roman traditions. Some may have originated
in Mesopotamia and some may have been reinvented.

Domestic gardens

Use: Small domestic gardens functioned as part of the dwelling, meriting the description
‘outdoor rooms’. Garden pools held fish and served as a water supply.Climbers and trees were
needed for shade.
Form: House and garden walls were made of mud brick. Outdoor stairs led to flat roofs with
rush sunshades. The roof space could be used for cooking, eating and sleeping. Since
dwellings were on higher land, to avoid the floods, water had to be carried in or drawn from
wells.

Palace gardens

Use: Egyptian palace gardens appear to have been more domestic than courtly. They were
used for relaxation, outdoor eating, children’s play and the cultivation of plants, both beautiful
and edible. Our knowledge of palace gardens comes from tomb paintings, made so that
pharaohs could enjoy in the
afterlife comforts similar to those enjoyed in the earthly phase of their existence.
Form: Palace compounds, like temple compounds, were rectangular enclosures bounded by
high walls. Tomb paintings show gardens with fruit trees, flowers, pools, pot plants, vine-clad
pergolas and places to sit in winter sun or summer shade.
Excavations reveal substantial buildings with internal courts that are likely to have been
treated in this way. The geometry of gardens is more symmetrical than that of temples but this
may indicate only the way they were drawn: regularity comes naturally to the draughtsman
and less easily to those who work directly on the ground. The diagram shows a building with
an internal court (based on Sennufer’s garden).