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Al Amarna


Built on virgin ground roughly between the old capitals of Memphis and Thebes,some 10 km south of modern Mallawi, El-Amarna was the ancient Akhetaten or ‘’ Horizon of the Aten’’ the short-lived capital and cult centre of the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten (1353-1333)for much of his reign. Because of its physical location and the absence of modern buildings in the area, it is one of the few ancient Egyptian towns which it has proved possible to excavate, and the site has been investigated by a succession of archaeologists including Petrie, Bouriant, Barsanti, Borchardt, Woolley, Frankfort and Pendlebury.More recently,since 1977,various areas of the site have been excavated and studied by Barry Kemp for the Egypt Exploration society.In addition to two temples proper,two other complexes of more doubtful cultic nature have also been discovered at el-Amarna. The Great Temple. The largest single structure and certainly one of the most important buildings of El-Amarna was the per-Aten-m-Akhetaten,’’The House of the Sun Disc in Akhetaten’ or the Great Temple as it is called.The enormous enclosure -760 m long and 290 m wide stood at the northern edge of the central city which was the official heart of Akhetaten. Unlike orthodox Egyptian temples in almost every way, the reconstructed plan of this great enclosure appears relatively empty due to its largely open-air design, yet it contained a number of discrete temple structures. Within the entrance was a narrow hypostyle hall, the house of rejoicing which opened to the Gem-aten,’The sun disc is found a series of six diminishing courts that were flanked by a forest of open air altars(365 on each side,one for each day of the solar year).At the eastern end of the enclosure stood the focal Hutbenben, a round-topped stela on a raised dais, with its associated slaughterhouse and various cult chambers .Set in the northern side of the enclosure wall was a large altar-the so called hall of foreign tribute. To the south and outside the compound proper stood buildings housing the various offices and storerooms associated with the temple. Suffering the brunt of thorough destruction after the close of the Amarna period, the Great temple now retains little to even hint at the impressive complex it must once have been. Some at least of the decorated blocks which were taken from the site have been recovered in excavations at Hermopolis Ashmunein, and allow a partial reconstruction of the types of decoration chosen by Akhenaten for this temple.There were scenes depicting the king and members of the royal family offering to the sun disc and engaged in various other activities ,as well as depictions of royal apartments, cult chambers and storehouses- not unlike scenes from Akhenaten’s earlier temples at Thebes. And despite the often cheap and hurried construction methods utilized in the construction of the buildings them selves the Amarna scenes were usually carved on limestone facing blocks in a style more developed and refined than that of any of the king’s earlier sandstone temples. Small Aten temple. To the south and adjacent to the king’s house in central Amarana stood the Hut-aten or ‘mansion of the son disc’ often referred to as the ‘small Aten temple’ as its dimensions were considerably less than those of the Great temple approximately it has long been thought that this structure served as a kind of private chapel for the royal family ,but there is no evidence for this, and it is perhaps more likely, given its name ,that it was built as a mortuary temple for the king-it does also appear to have been aligned with his tomb .Best preserved of the Amarna temples,the Hut-aten has a partially surviving mud-brick entrance pylon with vertical flagpole channels, though the interior of the structure ,with columned courts and stone sanctuary, has disappeared recently ,however, kemp has directed the laying in of new stone blocks to preserve the original plan of the temple ,and to provide bases upon which surviving sections of columns have been set up. River temple. A complex discovered in 1922 on the southern side of Amarna near the village of el-Hagg Qandil and close to the river included what has been termed the ‘river temple’ though the original function of this structure is in doubt, built on a layer of sand, the site seems to show a stratified building sequence with recent work placing it after the Amarna period. Maru temple. Located in the southern area of Akhetaten, between the modern villages of el-Hawata and el-Amariya, the scant remains of an unusual complex were excavated by leonard woolley in 1921 and identified by him as the surviving features of a maruor ‘viewig’ temple in which members of the Amarna royal family might be rejuvenated by the sun’s rays .The complex consisted of gardens, walkways and pools in addition to various chambers and open-air kiosks some of which had been constructed of very fine materials including calcite ,sandstone and granite inlaid with faience and coloured stones. While undoubtedly cultic, the real purpose of this temple if it may be called such –is not known, and the site no longer exists.