THE PALACE OF AMENHOTEP III AND NEW KINGDOM DOMESTIC ARCHITECTURE
WE have seen that it was impossible to gain a clear idea of the domestic architecture of the Old Kingdom from the few preserved ground-plans of buildings, which were generally concerned with the administration of the cemeteries, and from the highly schernatized pictures on the walls of tombs. The material was more abundant for the Middle Kingdom, with the very instructive town-site of Kahun, which served the Pyramid of Sesostris II at Lahun in Dynasty XII, supplemented by the as yet insufficiently studied material from the cataract forts. Models of buildings are very helpful, as is the fact that the Middle Kingdom artist began to make a more varied use of architectural details to accompany the groups of figures in his wall-scenes. This gradual expansion of scenic accessories gathered momentum in the New Kingdom, when we find remarkable attempts to portray architecture and its physical setting. However difficult this may be for the modern mind to understand, as in the case of the many representations of the royal palace and temples at Tell el Amarna which have proved so puzzling when compared feature by feature with the actual excavated remains of these buildings, nonetheless it is an immense stride forward in the recording attempts of an extraordinarily observant people and provides us with an incomparably richer picture of the way in which they lived.
For the first time in Dynasty XVIII we can examine the actual structures in which the royal family lived. At Thebes we can look into the handsomely decorated bed-chamber of Amenhotep III, or see how at Amarna in Middle Egypt the official residence of Akhenaten was laid out in relation to a city. At the little known site of Deir el Ballas, on the edge of the western desert, across the river from the important town of Coptos, some 30 miles north of Thebes and hardly 10 miles from Denderah, there were two palaces of a type otherwise unknown (Figures 51 and 52). Both have preserved the foundations for a high central structure, accompanied by columned courts on a lower level. The effect produced is that of a tower or keep. The Northern Palace lies on a low mound inside a rectangular walled enclosure about 500 feet wide and probably twice that long. The southern building occupies an area 327 feet by 144 feet on the top of a high projection of the desert hills. No enclosure wall was found, but the sturdy foundations give even more the impression of a fortified building. A well-preserved staircase (Plate 120A) leading to the upper level has no exact parallel in Egypt, although it is reminiscent of the stairs giving access to the higher level of the chief building in the Middle Kingdom town of Kahun and the stairway in the Kerma fort. In the area between the two Ballas palaces, which are about half a mile apart, lay a small village with winding streets and a number of outlying groups of houses, one of which was immediately west of the North Palace. These outlying houses were evidently of the New Kingdom, but the village was earlier,