A Model of Tell El-Amarna

Article excerpt

Tell el-Amarna, the short-lived capital built by the pharaoh Akhenaten around 1350 BC, remains the largest ancient city in Egypt which is still above ground. Over the last century a succession of archaeological expeditions has revealed large areas of its plan. During 1999 the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, in connection with a temporary exhibition of Amarna art, commissioned a 1:400-scale model of a major part of the city, based on the survey which, in recent years, the Egypt Exploration Society has carried out. It was designed by Mallinson Architects, with advice from Barry Kemp, field director of the EES expedition to Amarna, and built by a Clapham firm of architectural model-makers, Tetra (Andy Ingham Associates). The completed model measures 12 x 10 feet (3.7 x 3.0 metres).

Roughly one half is devoted to the royal buildings of the Central City (FIGURE 1). These stand out on account of their size, formal arrangement, and the fact that they were made of stone, in contrast to the mud brick of much of the city. The elevations of the two temples are restored from detailed tomb scenes; those of the Great Palace beside the river of necessity owe rather more to the imagination. Temples and palace provided the setting for the ritual and pageantry of the life which surrounded the royal family, but never far away were the mud-brick rooms and enclosures in which variously the empire was administered, a troop of soldiery was housed, and food was prepared and stored in huge quantitites.


The population needed to maintain the court and to run the administration lived in sprawling suburbs, one of which occupies the other half of the model. …