August 30, 2013

Tel El Amarna (akhet-aten ‘the Horizon Of Aten’)

Background
On the eastern bank of the Nile, across the river from the modern village of Deir Mawas, is a large crescent-shaped plain over four kilometres long and about 800 metres broad. This was the site of Akhet-Aten, ‘The Horizon of Aten’, chosen by the pharaoh Akhenaten (c. 1375-1350 BC) for his new capital. It was a site that had no history of cult activity. That is to say, there was no earlier settlement or existing priesthood.

Tel El Amarna

Unlike other cities in ancient Egypt, Akhet-Aten was built not in the fertile valley but on a barren plain. The agricultural land lay on the western bank of the Nile. The city had no enclosure wall. Yet it is evident from tomb reliefs that there were strong detachments of troops who guarded the royal family and undoubtedly patrolled the desert slopes.

Tel El Amarna
The three main streets of the city ran parallel to the river. The central quarter, which spread southwards from the modern village of el-Till to that of el-Hag Kandil, was the main residential area and also the site of the temple of the Aten. To the north and south were habitations for officials and priests. The side streets contained smaller houses for the middle class and for servants. The working class, especially those employed on the necropolis, lived in special compounds to the east of the plain. They were built on parallel streets and were uniform and comfortable, with one larger house to each compound. This probably belonged to the supervisor.

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