Tell El Amarna, the City of Akhenaton
Tell El Amarna
Who was King Akhenaton?
Akhenaton or Amenhotep VI was the 10th Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty that belonged to the period of the New Kingdom in ancient Egypt. Akhenaton ruled Egypt from in the period from the year 1352 till 1336 BC and his ruling period was among the most controversial periods of the ancient Egyptian history.
The Father of Akhenaton was Amenhotep III who ruled Egypt from 1390 till 1352 BC and his mother was called Tepi and she came from a common family in contradiction with the ancestors of many kings and Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Maybe this was why Akhenaton thought in a different way other than any of his forbears.
Akhenaton, who ruled the country for around 20 years tried to unify the multi gods system that was spread all over Egypt in the period of the Old Kingdom and even afterwards to the worship of one god, the sun god, Aten.
Akhenaton had also transferred the traditional capital of Egypt at the time from Thebes to his new city Akhet Aten, located near the city of El Minya today.
The new king was too busy with the religious reforms he was trying to initiate that he neglected the relations with his neighboring countries and the administration of his empire that extended from Nubia in the South to Syria in the East.
Unfortunately, even the religious reforms of Akhenaton were all reversed after his death and when his son, the famous Tut Ankh Amun became the ruler of Egypt, everything went back to normal in Egypt before just the same before Akhenaton appeared. The capital went back to Thebes and people went back to their multi gods system.
The reign of Akhenaton and his Religious Reforms
In 1380, the King of Egypt at the time, Amenhotep III passed away after a long period of prosperity and greatness and his son, Akhenaton became his successor and nobody knew at the time that the new king would be an important historical character afterwards.
Due to a statue that was found in Tell El Amarna, where the new Capital of Akhenaton was located, we were able to know that the king extremely thin, in contradiction with many of the kings and pharaohs of ancient Egypt who usually had strong powerful bodies.
Akhenaton was a sensitive person and he was a poet who had contributed a lot to a new style of literature that was created in his reign.
During the first years of his reign, Akhenaton rebelled against the rituals of the cult of the king Amun in Thebes. Akhenaton felt disgusted because of the so called magic that was practiced by the priests of Amun and how unethical they were.
The priests of Amun used the prophecies of Amun as a tool to pressure the people in the name of the gods and to spread the political and administration corruption in the country.
Akhenaton was brave enough to inform his people that all the rituals carried out in the temples of Amun and all the statues that his people used to worship for a very long period of time were all pagan and decadent.
The new king declared that there was only one god, Aten, the god of the sun. Akhenaton found out, the same as Akbar 30 centuries afterwards in India, that divinity does not exist on earth and it centers in the sun, the only source of light over our planet.
Akhenaton at that pointed changed his name from Amenhotep VI to Akhenaton, the satisfied worshiper of the god Aten and he created some hymns to be practiced during the worship of the god Aten.
The new reforms led by Akhenaton, that were reflected in the style of life and not the religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, were met by strong objection of many sectors especially the priests of the temples of Amun and the royal family who used to live in Thebes.
This was why they fought as hard as they can to get back the conditions that Akhenaton had changed and just after his death, when King Tut, his son, became the king of Egypt, he was titled Tut Ankh Amun, or the true worshiper of the god Amun and the priests of Amun regained their power and importance.
Tell El Amarna Today
Tell El Amarna is where the ruins of the city that was constructed by Akhenaton and his wife Queen Nefertiti built there city to be the center of the cult of the sun god, Aten.
Situated around 12 kilometers to the South West of the city of Al Minya, a little remain today of this great city that once extended over a surface area of around 15 kilometers from the South to the North and contained many magnificent temples and palaces.
The ruins and the remains of the city of Akhenaton are scattered over a large area of land with the River Nile situated to its West and the desert cliffs of Upper Egypt located to its South.
This piece of land hosted the Great Temple of Aten which is now covered by a cemetery. The Great Temple of the god Aten had a distinctive style and architecture
For example, the temples of ancient Egypt generally had roofed chambers and sanctuaries, while the Temple of Aten had roofless sanctuary to allow the sun rays to enter inside the complex this was because it was constructed for the cult of the sun god, Aten.
Situated to the South of the Great Temple of Aten, lies the smaller Temple of the god Aten which is now being restored and maybe during a little period of time, guests from all over the world would able to view the great unique art of the period of Akhenaton.
A better preserved complex is the Northern Palace of Nefertiti where the layout of the structure can still be observed beside some of the wonderful mosaic floors of the Palace
The Tombs of Tell El Amarna
The most interesting sections of the historical site of Tell El Amarna today are the two sets of cliff tombs situated at each end of the ancient city of Akhet Aton.
These tombs display some wall paintings and carvings that are extremely interesting and matchless all over Egypt as it gives the guests the chance to view the distinctive art of this period of the New Kingdom in ancient Egypt where many features of the classical art that was practiced in the Old and the Middle Kingdom were modified and transformed
The Tomb of Huya
The Northern section tombs of Tell El Amarna host some wonderfully decorated tombs. There is the wonderful tomb of Huya, the superintendent of the Royal Harem and steward to the mother of Akhenaton, Tiye.
This magnificent tomb has some of the most remarkable royal banquet scenes of the owner of the tomb serving the royal family. One of the most notable scenes located inside the tomb of Huya, the Tomb number one in Tell El Amarna, displays the king Akhenaton dinning with his mother and enjoying himself.
The Tomb of Mery-Re I
This tomb is one of the finest decorated tombs of Tell El Amarna and it is famous for its wonderful colors that seem as if it was never created more than 3500 years in the past.
Some of the scenes displayed in the Tomb of Mery-Re, the High Priest of the Temple of the Sun God Aten, I include Akhenaton presenting the owner of the tomb with golden collar as a reward for his achievements in the temple of Aten.
On the Eastern section of the walls of the tomb, other reliefs display Akhenaton carrying out the religious rituals of the worship of the sun god in the Great Temple of Aten which enables us to have a view of how wonderful this temple once was.
The Tomb of Aye
Situated at the Northern section of the ruins of Tell El Amarna, there is the other section that hosts the royal tombs of this historical site. These tombs are far less accessible than the others in the Southern section but never less rewarding.
Aye was the vizier during the period of King Akhenaton and he was one of the most favorite royal officials to the king and this was why his tomb is considered to be the most beautiful in Tell El Amarna.
Many fascinating paintings are spread all over the inner walls of the Tomb of Aye. These include some scenes showing Aye and his wife receiving the ceremonial golden collar from the King Akhenaton and his wife, Nefertiti.