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Tell el-Amarna, Egypt

Repairs to the northern mud-brick pylon of the Great Aten Temple and re-creation of the stone threshold

Repairs to the northern mud-brick pylon of the Great Aten Temple and re-creation of the stone threshold. Photograph by Barry Kemp

The city of Akhetaten, built as the capital of the pharaoh and religious reformer Akhenaten and inhabited from 1347 B.C., was abandoned not too long after his death in 1336. Although those opposed to the king dismantled the city's temples and palaces, what remains provides a remarkable snapshot of an ancient city and the lives of its inhabitants.

Excavation and study of the site began with Flinders Petrie in 1891–92, continued with the Deutsches Orient Gesellschaft from 1911 to 1914, and the Egypt Exploration Society from 1921 to 1936. Since 1977, the Egypt Exploration Society and now the Amarna Project have conducted broad-ranging continuous investigations directed by Barry Kemp to explore the unique testimony presented by this ancient site. The Museum has large and important Amarna collections, including statuary fragments from the Great Aten Temple, so continuing work at the site has been of great relevance.

Fragments of incense recovered from one of the deep pits at the site of the stela in the rear part of the Great Aten Temple

Fragments of incense recovered from one of the deep pits at the site of the stela in the rear part of the Great Aten Temple. The filament shapes probably resulted from pouring viscous incense through a strainer (an explanation provided by Margaret Serpico). Photo by Teresa Wilson for the Amarna Project.

In early 2012 the Amarna Project began re-clearance work at the Great Aten Temple with the goal of marking particular areas for better preservation, investigating phases of construction, and planning certain areas inadequately excavated or unexcavated in the past. With the exception of a small excavation at the Stela Site in 2012, work over the past three seasons has been concentrated in the front part of the temple. One of the results is that three phases of rebuilding in the front part of the temple can be recognized—rather than two as long believed. Modifications to our understandings of the temple's layout and of its statuary and relief decoration at a given time begin to emerge and will be refined in future seasons. The Museum participates in this work, with Marsha Hill, curator in the Department of Egyptian Art, joining the team to study the statuary fragments that emerge from the excavations relative to their original appearance and any clues to production and placement.

Current reports and downloadable resources, including the quarterly newsletter Horizons, are available on the Amarna Project website.

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