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Tell el-Amarna

Located some 400 km (250 miles) north of Thebes on the eastern bank of the Nile still lie the ruins of the ancient Egyptian city “Achetaton”, known today by its Arabic name of “Tell el-Amarna“. Built in only a few years, the new royal city with its large temple sites was intended to render homage to the new sun religion of the Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (1351 - 1334 BC). By extolling Aten as the one and only God, he was the first person in the history of mankind to proclaim a practically monotheistic religion. Following the relocation to Achetaton in ca. 1343 BC, Amenhotep IV took the name “Akhenaten” (in English: “one who is pleasing to Aten”).

The new capital was characterised by the magnificent palaces of the royal family and the sanctuaries such as the “Small” and the “Large Aten Temples”. The centre of the city was adjoined on the north and south sides by suburbs. Up to 30,000 people lived here in the heyday of the city.

The theological reforms and the new faith are also reflected in the contemporary art and architecture of the city. A break with the traditional art form takes place – especially in the depiction of the royal family with delicate and elongated limbs, narrow ribs, wide hips and prominent belly.

The numerous representations of fauna and flora from the palace and residential architecture, preserved in paintings or as coloured faience insets, point in terms of content to the creational aspect of Aten as the God of Light.   

Under the extremely young Pharaoh Tutankhamun (1333–1323 BC), a smooth transition to the return of the former religious traditions took place. In a process that had already begun in 1331, the city of Achetaton was gradually abandoned. Successive Pharaohs then initiated a targeted policy of persecution and destruction of the images of Akhenaten and Aten.