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Malqata, Egypt

The Joint Mission to Malqata

Sponsored by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

Amun Temple

Site of the Amun Temple at Malqata, Joint Mission to Malqata, February 2010

Malqata is located on the west bank of the Nile opposite the modern city of Luxor. The site preserves ruins of a mud-brick palace-city constructed by the Eighteenth Dynasty pharaoh Amenhotep III (ca. 1390–1353 B.C.) for his first Heb-Sed, a rejuvenation festival that traditionally took place in year thirty of a king's reign and periodically thereafter. Amenhotep celebrated three festivals, all at Malqata, which was redesigned or refurbished for each jubilee. The city, used only for the festivals, was abandoned after the king's death. It is one of the few surviving town sites from ancient Egypt that date to a single reign.

The Egyptian Expedition of the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Egyptian Art began excavating at Malqata in the fall of 1910 in cooperation with the Egyptian Antiquities Service (Service des Antiquités de l'Égypte). During six seasons, which ended in 1920, Museum archaeologists investigated several palaces, some large villas, and a temple dedicated to the god Amun. They also located two village sites that housed the workforce that serviced the royal court during the months-long celebrations. In the division of finds with the Antiquities Service, the Museum received artworks that are now displayed in Egyptian galleries 119 and 120.

Left: Menat Necklace. New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep III (ca. 1390–1353 B.C.). From Malqata, Birket Habu Mound B1, Private House B. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1911 (11.215.450); Right: Ceiling Decoration. New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep III (ca. 1390–1353 B.C.). From Malqata, Palace of Amenhotep III. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1911 (11.215.451)

The Joint Mission to Malqata returned to the site in 2008 in order to collect more information to supplement earlier archaeological excavations. The purpose of this new work is twofold: first, to better understand the city in its surrounding landscape and interpret what Amenhotep III intended when he commissioned the palace-city and its adjoining harbor, the Birket Habu; second, to study urban zones, such as the workmen's villages.

The first step was a survey of Malqata in December 2008 that allowed the team to create an overall map of the site. This map integrates plans from the archives of the Department of Egyptian Art that were made almost a century ago by the original expedition.

Palace City of Amenhotep

Map of the Palace City of Amenhotep III at Malqata, created by Joel Paulson using plans from the Egyptian Expedition archives and satellite imagery courtesy of Digitalglobal and MapMart, Inc.

In February 2010, the Joint Mission looked more carefully at two areas on the site: the relatively well preserved Temple of Amun; and the North Village, which has been badly denuded over the past century. The excavation team recorded and published aspects of this trip on http://imalqata.wordpress.com/.

Work planned for the next season will include a magnetometer survey of several areas around the ancient city. The information from this survey will help us assess what may be buried beneath the surface and will allow us to plan the future work of mission.

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