Wednesday,14 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1363, (5 - 11 October 2017)
Wednesday,14 November, 2018
Issue 1363, (5 - 11 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Akhenaten head uncovered

A newly unearthed gypsum head of the Pharaoh Akhenaten has revealed further secrets from the Amarna Period. reports Nevine El-Aref


Akhenaten head
Akhenaten head

A British-Egyptian archaeological mission from Cambridge University in the UK has unearthed the gypsum head from a statue of the Pharaoh Akhenaten dating to around 1300 BC during excavation work at the Tel Al-Amarna archaeological site in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Minya.

Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mustafa Waziri said the head probably belonged to a small statue, as it is 9cm tall, 13.5cm long and 8cm wide. It was unearthed during excavation work in the first hall of the Great Temple of Aten in Tel Al-Amarna.

Waziri described the discovery as “important” because it sheds more light on the city that was Egypt’s capital during the reign of the monotheistic Pharaoh Akhenaten, the 10th of the 18th Dynasty, whose reign was among the most controversial in ancient Egyptian history.

The Cambridge University mission is led by archaeologist Barry Kemp, who started excavations in Tel Al-Amarna in 1977 at sites including the Great Temple, the Al-Ahgar village, the northern palace, and the Re and Banehsi houses. The mission has also carried out restoration work at the Small Aten Temple and the northern palace.

Tel Al-Amarna, which lies around 12km to the southwest of Minya, contains the ruins of the ancient city constructed by Akhenaten and his wife Queen Nefertiti to be the home of the cult of the sun god Aten. ‎

The ruins of this great city include magnificent temples, palaces and tombs. It was a short-lived capital, however, and was abandoned shortly after Akhenaten’s death. It was here that he pursued his vision of a society dedicated to the cult of one god, the sun god Aten.

In addition to its religious interest, Amarna remains one of the largest readily accessible sites from ancient Egypt. The Great Temple of Aten is located just north of the centre, and its construction was accomplished in a series of steps. It was separated from the palace by storehouses, while its western entrance stretched along the royal road that ran through the city parallel to the Nile River.

 Soon after the death of Akhenaten, the temple was dismantled and some of its blocks were later used in the construction of other ancient or Islamic structures. Much of the temple was covered in sand and paved over, but this has preserved the site better than might otherwise have been the case for archaeologists today.

The temple consists of two main structures, the Gem-Aten, a long building preceded by a court, and the sanctuary, which were separated by about 300m. It was open-aired and had no roof, so that people could worship the sun overhead as it travelled from east to west.

In 1890, UK archaeologists Flinders Petrie and Howard Carter excavated in the sanctuary area, with permission from the then Egyptian Antiquities Service. Later the Egyptologist John Pendlebury fully mapped the area during excavations in 1935. The Egyptian Exploration Society later started its Amarna Survey Project, re-excavating the site and correcting some mistakes in the mapping.

Scenes of the Great Temple have been found in private tomb decorations in Amarna, making the reconstruction of a large part of the temple possible.

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