Amarna was an ancient Egyptian city located in the Nile Delta, near present-day el-Amarna. It was the capital of Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled from around 1353 to 1336 BCE.
Amarna was founded by Akhenaten as a new capital city, in order to break with traditional Egyptian religious practices and establish a new monotheistic religion centered around the worship of the sun god Aten. The city was designed to reflect this new religious ideology, with large-scale building projects and monumental artwork depicting the pharaoh and his family in a more naturalistic and realistic style.
One of the most famous features of Amarna is the “Amarna Letters,” a collection of around 300 letters and diplomatic correspondence that were found in the city and date from the reign of Akhenaten and his successors. The letters provide valuable insights into the political and social history of the time, as well as the relationships between Egypt and its neighboring states.
Children with pens and papyrus scrolls. Relief from Amarna
While the reforms of Akhenaten are generally believed to have been oriented towards a sort of monothesim. Or perhaps more accurately, monolatrism, archaeological evidence shows other deities were also revered. Even at the centre of the Aten cult – if not officially. Then at least by the people who lived and worked there.
… at Akhetaten itself, recent excavation by Kemp (2008: 41–46) has shown the presence of objects that depict gods, goddesses and symbols that belong to the traditional field of personal belief. So many examples of Bes, the grotesque dwarf figure who warded off evil spirits, have been found, as well as of the goddess-monster, Taweret, part crocodile, part hippopotamus, who was associated with childbirth. Also in the royal workmen’s village at Akhetaten, stelae dedicated to Isis and Shed have been discovered (Watterson 1984: 158 & 208).
Amarna was abandoned shortly after the death of Akhenaten, and was largely forgotten until its rediscovery in the 19th century. Today, the city is an important archaeological site. And its ruins and artifacts provide valuable insights into the history and culture of ancient Egypt.