TELL- El-AMARNA (Arabic: تل العمارنة)
Access: By road or rail to Deir-Mawas, 11 K.M south of Mallawi; then by car
to the ferry crossing to the eastern bank of the Nile.
The site of "Tell El-Amarna", with its rock tombs and other remains,
lies some 9 K.M southeast of Mallawi at the mouth of a valley on the eastern
bank of the Nile. This all that is left of the city of Akhetaten "Horizon of the
Aten", the new capital founded by Amenophis IV, who later took the name of
Akhenaton , and dedicated it to the Aten or Sun god. The present name comes
from that of a local Bedouin tribe, the Amarna.
When Akhenaton became devoted to the exclusive worship of the Sun
and abjured the ancient gods of Egypt, he withdrew from the old capital at
Thebes and established his residence in an area in the Hermopolitan nome
lying on both sides of the Nile. The boundaries of his new capital are still
marked by 14 stelae covered on rock faces at El-Hawata close to the southern
and northern cemeteries of El-Amarna, at Sheikh Said on the eastern bank, and
at tuna-El-Gabal, Dirwa and Gilda on the western bank. The royal residence
was on the eastern bank, where a new town rapidly sprang up. Temples and
palaces were built, the mansions of high dignitaries clustered around the
sumptuous royal palace, and magnificent tombs were constructed for the king
and his favorites.The reign of Akhenaton saw not only a religious but also an artistic
revolution, reflected in the emergence of the Amarna style which continued to
be influential during the reigns of successors Smenkhare, Tutankhamen and
Aye. Under the new creed the artists of the period enjoyed greater freedom in
their treatment of ancient traditions, and the previous stylized and symbolic
presentation gave place to an artistic realism and idealism which sometimes,
particularly in depicting the emaciated figure of the king himself, fell into
exaggeration. Characteristic of this period is the many representations of
nature which in Akhenaton's monotheist and Universalist religion and
philosophy was venerated as divine. The reliefs in the tombs of Tel-El-
Amarna provide the finest examples of this important new artistic trend.
From Minia , it is one hour's ride to the extensive remains and
Akhenaton's Royal Palace at Tel-El-Amarna ,in which the fine stucco
pavements were ruthlessly destroyed in 1912 (fragments in the Egyptian
Museum , Cairo ) .
To the south of the palace are the remains of brick pillars, perhaps
belonging to the palace vineyard. To the east of the palace were the archives,
in which large numbers of clay tablets with Babylonian cuneiform inscriptions
(nowin the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the British Museum in London,andmuseums in Berlin) were found in 1888. Letters from Babylonian andother
kings of Western Asia and Syrian Phoenician vassals to Amenophis III and IV
are of great historical importance.
To the north of El-Tel was the Northern palace, dating from the end of
Akhenaton's reign. The Sikket El-Sultan, the track which runs south from El-
Tel to El-Hag Qandil , leads to the excavated part of the ancient city , which
was traversed by three main streets running N-S and a number of cross streets.
The ground plans of many houses can still be clearly identified. Particularly
notable are the house of the Vizier Nakht, the house of the high priest Pewoh,
a very typical example of the house of a high official, and the house of the
sculptor Tuthmosis , with workshops in which many fine pieces of sculpture
were found ( now in the museums of Cairo and Berlin ) . Here, too, was found
the famous painted limestone bust of Nefertiti, Akhenaton's beautiful queen,
which is now in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin.
The rock tombs of Tel-El-Amarna
These tombs are similar in form to those of Abd-El-Ouma in western Thebes.
In front of each tomb is a fore court, which in most cases was probably
enclosed by a brick wall. The wide doorway frequently opens into a pillared
chamber, from which a doorway or passage leads into a narrow antechamber,
beyond which is a chamber containing a statue of the dead man. Many tombs
were left unfinished when the capital was moved back to Thebes. The tombs
are numbered in black from 1 to 25, going from north to south.
NO.1 Tomb of Huye: Superintendent of the Royal Harem and steward to the
Queen mother, Tiy.
NO.2 Tomb of Merire: He was also Superintendent of the Royal Harem. It is
of particular interest because work on the tomb continued during the reign of
Akhenaton's son-in-law and successor Smenkhare.
NO.4 Tomb of Merire: A high priest of the sun. It is one of the largest and
most interesting in the group.
NO.5 Tomb of Pentu: The owner of that tomb was a physician. It is much
damaged. In the entrance doorway, on the right and left, the dead man is
shown at prayer. In front of him an inscription (a hymen to the sun). On the
left hand- wall of the first chamber, the king and Queen are depicted praying
to the sun, above the pylon of the temple. In a side passage on the right is a
deep mummy-shaft. The statue of the dead man, which stood in the rear
chamber, has been chiseled away.
To the SE, a short distance away, is NO.6, the tomb of Penehse. Half an hour's
ride E of tomb 6, carved on a rock face, is one of the 14 stelae which marked
the boundaries of the city of Akhenaton.
Half way between the northern and southern groups of tombs, outside
the city , on a spur of hills to the E, are the remains of a walled settlement in
which the workmen constructing the tombs and looking after the cemetery
were housed. Nearby is a cemetery with brick-built chapels.
Half an hour's ride south of the northern group of tombs, in the lower
slopes of Gebel Abu Hasah, is the southern group of tombs.
NO.8 Tomb of Tutu: On the doorjambs the dead man is depicted in prayer,
above him his names and titles. In the doorway, on the right, the King and
Queen are making offerings to the sun, with dead man kneeling in prayer
below; on the left, the dead man in prayer. The main chamber originally had
12 columns in two rows of which eight remain. The columns in the rear row
are linked by screens, and between the two middle columns is a low doorway,
of a type usually found only in the Ptolemaic period. Steps, on the left, lead
into the tomb chamber. In the two end walls are small unfinished niches
containing statues. Right-hand entrance wall; the King and Queen look out of
a palace window as Tutu is decorated with gold chains; below the King and
Queenseated in the palace, with Tutu and other courtiers inrespectfulattitudes before them; below, the dead man is praying. Thecorridor is
NO.9 Tomb of Mahu: A highly military officer. A short flight of steps leads
down to the entrance. In the doorway, on the lefts, are the King, holding the
hieroglyph for "truth "towards the sun, the king and a Princess , with sister , in
the presence of the sun, below, the dead man is kneeling with the text of his
prayer in front of him, on the right, the dead man is praying. Main chamber,
left –hand entrance wall, the King at a window in the palace (preliminary
sketch in black pigment)
NO.10 Tomb of Epei: An unfinished tomb. King and Queen present two
pictures to the sun.
NO.11 Tomb of Ramose: In the entrance doorway, on the left, the King and
Queen, accompanied by a Princess, receive the hieroglyph for "life" from the
hands of the Aten. In the niche are seated figures of the dead man and his wife.
NO.14 Tomb of Mnei: A steward and Scribe in the royal household. It differs
in form from the other tombs.
NO.25 Tomb of Aye: Tutankhamen's successor as King. Like many other
tombs, it was left unfinished when the capital was moved back to Thebes
(where Aye had a new tomb constructed for him). In a palace window, the
Queen and her three small daughters are standing, with the sun above them. In
the courtyard of the palace the royal retinue (charioteers, scribes, fan-bearers,
and soldiers) raise their hands in homage. Below, boys are capering in delight.
On the right, Aye is seen leaving the place and receiving congratulations of his
retainers, who raise their hands in exultation; servants carry the gifts away,
and in the top row the palace doorkeepers with some small boys observe the
About 11k.m from Tell-El-Amarna, in the Darb El-Hamzawi or Darb
El-Melek; a valley running east between the northern and southern groups of
tombs, are a number of rock tombs without relief or inscriptions and one
(NO.26) which has interesting relief but is unfortunately much damaged. This
is the family tomb of Amenophis IV / Akhenaton, long thought erroneously, to
be the tomb of Akhenaton himself, who was buried in the tomb of his mother
Tiy in the Valley of Kings.