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The Akhenaten Temple Project

Horemheb, upon claiming the throne in Egypt several years after Akhenaten's death, removed all traces of Akhenaten's buildings and monuments at Thebes, where Akhenaten had resided for the first few years of his reign. Consequently, little or nothing was known to scholars until the discovery of numerous talatat, or small blocks of stone, in and around the Temple of Amun at Karnak. These stones, the dismantled pieces of Akhenaten's temples, had been used by later Pharaohs as filler in their additions to the Temple of Amun.

The more interesting stones were scattered around the world by antiquities collectors, while many others were spilling from the damaged pylons of the temple. Still more were still hiding in foundations and pylons of the rest of the temple. Many were collected and housed in storehouses, but no attempt was made on the obvious puzzle.

This was the state of affairs when Ray Winfield Smith came across them. In his own words: "I was dumbfounded. That such a mine of beauty and historical lore should lie neglected seemed unthinkable." (Smith, National Geographic, p. 636)

This was the birth of the Akhenaten Temple Project. With the help of photography and computers, and many other scholars, the tens of thousands of small blocks are still being matched. Many impressive scenes have been put together, showing Akhenaten (then Amenophis IV) and Nefertiti, the Aten, and worshippers, dancers and barges, to name a few.

And with the talatat has come new insights into the temples of Aten at Karnak and Akhenaten's years in Thebes. There appear to be four distinct temples. The Gem-pa-Aten appears to be the earliest, judging by the artistic style and composition (Redford, p. 71). Later came two others and finally the Hwt-Bnbn. These can be put in approximate order by the appearances of Akhenaten's daughters (Redford, p. 71). This last temple was discovered to depict only Nefertiti, in the role of priest, often facing her own image across the offering table. Nowhere is Akhenaten to be seen (Redford, p. 78).

References:

Donald B. Redford, Akhenaten: The Heretic King, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987

Ray Winfield Smith, Emory Kristof, "Computer Helps Scholars Re-Create an Egyptian Temple", National Geographic, November 1970, Vol. 138, No. 5, pp. 593-655.

Source of Images: Smith, National Geographic, p. 640 and 646.

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maintained by Kate Stange (email / webpage)
Content Copyright 1996-2000.
Last updated March 1, 2000.