Amarna

The Great Temple of Aton in AmarnaTell el-Amarna or (el-) Amarna is the site of the ancient city Akhetaton ("Horizon of the Aten") in Middle Egypt, 312 km south of Cairo. The city was founded by pharaoh Akhenaten of the 18th dynasty, in year 5 of his reign. The time when the court resided at Akhetaton is often called the Amarna period, and its artistic mannerism the Amarna style.

The original Residence at Thebes (the city of the god Amun) was left by the King and his courtiers, in favour of the purposely built capital dedicated to the sole god Aten. According to several boundary stelae of the city, the site was selected and dedicated by Akhenaten himself, as his "father" Aten had recommended it to him. The site was chosen (1) because it did not yet belong to any other god or goddess; (2) because its agricultural area could feed a large population; (3) because a depression in the rocky slope bordering the city in the east presented some similarity to the hieroglyph for 'horizon', in which the sun (Aten) rose.

One of the boundary stelaeThe city was made up of several areas of habitation, temples, palaces, public and government buildings, facilities such as grain silos and bakeries, necropoleis, a workmen's village and places of leisure. Its main buildings stretched on the east bank of the Nile along the 'royal road'. The city appears to have been completely abandoned not long after Akhenaten's death, although widespread habitation into the 2nd year of Tutankhamun is proven. In subsequent periods the city was partially demolished, the stones being reused as building material elsewhere. Some areas were reused for habitation. Nowadays little more than outlines of structures can be seen. The site is partially covered by modern cultivation.

In 1887 a peasant woman found some 379 clay tablets at Amarna, known as the 'Amarna Letters'. These comprise the diplomatic correspondence, written in cuneiform, between foreign rulers and Amenhotep III, Akhenaten and Tutankhamun. The most famous object found at Amarna is the bust of Nefertiti, currently in Berlin.