Tell el Amarna - Akhenaten

(Tell) el- (anc. Akhetaten) Site of a city, located about 280 km south of Cairo, founded by the pharaoh Akhenaten (1352-1336 BC). Abruptly abandoned following Akhenaten's death, after an occupation of only about twenty-five to thirty years, el-Amarna is the best-preserved example of an Egyptian settlement of the New Kingdom, including temples, palaces and large areas of mud-brick private housing. There are also two groups of rock-tombs (largely unfinished) at the northern and southern ends of the semicircular bay of cliffs to the east of the city; these were built for the high officials of the city, such as the priest Panehsy and chief of police Mahu. The plundered and vandalized remains of the royal tombs of Akhenaten and his family, several kilometers to the east of the cliffs, were rediscovered in the late 1880s.

Unfortunately, because of the peculiarities of the site's historical background, the city of Akhetaten is unlikely to have been typical of Egyptian cities; nevertheless it presents an invaluable opportunity to study the patterning of urban life in Egypt during the fourteenth century BC. It was founded in about 1350 BC and abandoned about twenty years later; the dearth of subsequent settlement has ensured remarkable preservation of the city plan. The site as a whole is contained within a semicircular bay of cliffs approximately 10 km long and a maximum of 5 km wide; the city itself stretches for about 7 km along the eastern bank of the Nile. The total population of the main city at el-Amarna has been estimated at between twenty thousand and fifty thousand.
Much of the western side of the city, including houses, harbours and the main palace of the king, has now vanished under the modern cultivation. However, a large number of structures have been preserved in the desert to the east, along with the wells, grain-silos, bakeries and refuse dumps that comprise the basic framework of production and consumption throughout the community. The nucleus of the city, the main components of which are described in contemporary inscriptions at the site, was a set of official buildings - principally temples, palaces and magazines - called the 'Island of Aten Distinguished in Jubilees'.

The three main residential zones of the city (the so-called north suburb, south suburb and north city) are characterized by a much more haphazard layout than the carefully planned central city; the manner in which they developed, with the spaces between the earliest large houses gradually being filled up with smaller clusters of houses, is usually describe as 'organic'. There are also three small areas of planned settlement at el-Amarna: a block of terraced buildings in the centre of the city (known as the 'clerks' houses'), a rectangular walled settlement located in relative isolation, more than a kilometer to the east of the main city (the Workmen’s village') and an area of dry stone temporary accommodation situated about halfway between the latter and the cliffs (the 'stone village').
Over the last hundred years the site has been examined by a succession of excavators, including Flinders Petrie, Howard Carter and Leonard Woolley. Since the late 1970s and expedition from the Egypt Exploration Society has produced the first detailed survey plan of the entire site, as well as excavating and reexamining a number of parts of the city, including the workmen's village, the small Aten temple and the newly identified Amarna-period temple of Kom el-Nana.

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