Tell el-Amarna, Egypt

Tell el-Amarna

A balloon view of the excavation at the stele site at the end of the season. Photography by Gwil Owen

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 English 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.

In early 2012 the Amarna Project began reclearance 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. The Museum participated in this work, particularly at the site of the platform presumed to be for a great stela depicted in a number of private tombs. Efforts have so far revealed an unexpectedly busy and complex area surrounding the platform, including remains of structures and a number of closed deposits including incense and pottery fragments. The association of the latter with an area of ritual character reinforces their interest.

Mary Shepperson was the archaeologist at the stela site, and Marsha Hill, curator in the Department of Egyptian Art, worked with her as Egyptologist.

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