Spring Digs Discover a New Ancient Egyptian Aten Temple

The Amarna Project, chaired by Professor Barry Kemp, is concluding their Spring 2014 dig season at Tel-el-Amarna; known in ancient times as Akhet-Aten, the capital city founded by Pharaoh Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti during Ancient Egypt’s 18th Dynasty. Previous discoveries at the site included two sets of gypsum-lined basins that had been arranged around a central rectangular island, and this year a third set of basins was uncovered that seemed to have been filled in during the later Amarna time frame. This year’s dig also revealed a gypsum concrete layer that is thought to have been a ‘causeway’ that existed between four large columns set on a concrete foundation.

Building Mudbricks, Courtesy of Barry Kemp

Building Mudbricks, Courtesy of Barry Kemp

Further work was done to restore The Great Aten Temple, which was dedicated to the one god Aten, portrayed as the sun disc with extended hands often seen holding ankhs, a symbol for life. New excavations by Kemp’s team this year have taken them to the edge of the area where Pendlebury, in 1932, uncovered a large amount of offering tables made out of limestone blocks and estimated there were 920 more made from mud bricks. Careful examination of an unpublished photograph of Pendlebury’s revealed that his reconstruction of the second phase Temple built on top of the original was wrong, and in fact the plethora of offering tables were limited to the earlier temple layout, and they would have been buried underground and invisible by the time the second incarnation of the temple was built.

A bit towards the south some marvelous discoveries have been unearthed. First, pieces of sandstone columns and a cornice that bears the cartouches of the Aten have been found, along with various other interesting stonework which were discovered in the rubble. Second, they uncovered a mid-section of a royal woman’s figure clad in an elegantly pleated garment that is about 2/3 life size. Damage done to the statue could have been accidental when the large stone work was demolished, but the other broken finds seem to have been deliberately broken in small pieces perhaps when this city was evacuated and ransacked.

Repairs to the access ramp to the mud-brick pylon entrance, and laying the stones of the new threshold, Courtesy of Barry Kemp

Repairs to the access ramp to the mud-brick pylon entrance, and laying the stones of the new
threshold, Courtesy of Barry Kemp

What we are learning is that there were two temples built. The first was constructed along classic lines on a grand scale and runs symmetrically on an east-west axis. Next, there appears to have been a remodeling phase that included the colossal sandstone columns in front of a stone façade of the renovated temple. Finds included a large gypsum foundation in the Great Aten Temple, and not present in the nearby Small Aten Temple, may have been erected due to structural weaknesses, or due to a collapse of supporting columns that could possibly be attributed to water erosion.

The second temple, built late in the Amarna period, appears to be of a more formal layout. This other temple begs us to ask the question about its use. Could it have been used for ceremonial events? Was it open for worship only by the royal family or was it used publicly? That this large mud brick enclosure may have been for ritual performances is beyond our understanding as of yet.

New reconstruction laid down this year by a team of mud brick makers and builders created a low stone retaining wall around the edge of the excavation on the west. The past season’s work at Amarna has been very productive, and we look forward to many years of new discoveries and improvements to both our understanding of, and the reconstructed appearance of, the Great Aten Temple.

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Ancient Egyptians Loved Beautiful Ornaments

Ancient Egyptian OrnamentsMerit-Aten continues…

Today, I spied upon the ‘Royal Ornaments,’ the foreign women who were sent as gifts to my Grandfather Amunhotep III at the Malkata Palace in Thebes. They wore exotic clothes with wrists full of jangling gold bangles and woven shawls from their homelands. All of them were beautiful and smelled of costly perfumes.

My Bath Mistress was aghast. “Those foreigners cling to their traditions and language like trunks of possessions from a land that has already forgotten their faces.” She hugged the folded towels to her breasts, imitating the haughty women who paraded around the palace refusing to learn our language. ” I swear they are panthers with hidden claws coming to scratch out more of our land and our men.”

My dwarf nurse-maid, Hep-Mut argued, “I am happy every time the Pharaoh marries another daughter of one of his enemies. Less barbarians crossing our Egyptian borders to rape us and pillage our villages.”

As I stood on my tiptoes, staring out the window, I counted forty new attendants. The entourage of the Mitannian king’s daughter headed toward the harem, the private quarters for the women and children. I knew that if the Pharaoh kept collecting these Ornaments, he’d have to build more rooms. I bet they had never seen our indoor toilets. The Harem attendant hated it when the newcomers would use our royal shrubbery to pee behind.

Author note: Merit-Aten begins her life in Book 1 of the The Shadow Saga series – Shadow of the Sun, and her story continues in Book 2 – Stealing the Shadow of Death.

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Where Does Every Egyptian Child’s First Lessons Begin?

Merit-Aten says…..

Where Does Every Egyptian Child’s First Lessons BeginAs the first akh, or child Queen Nefertiti, of course she was hopeful that I would be a girl. In ancient Egypt, all mothers hope for a female heir to pass on property because the society was matrilineal. Akh also means that I was the shadow of my mother, because I would follow her around and learn my early lessons at her knee. The first born child was also expected to take care of her elder parents so she would be expected to work.

Being a princess having to work was not a concern of mine. I remember my birth in the Per-Akh, House of Childbirth at Denderah on the Nile. It was the day that the lion roared his hot breath across the land. Little orange lights flickered from amber beeswax candles. The royal chantresses were called to do the sacred utterances that would help my soul ease me into this temporal world.

My mother, Nefertiti learned how to turn her labor contractions into orgasmic bliss, which eliminated my fear, and made me so happy that she wasn’t afraid to try to turn her pain into pleasure. I did not want to hurt my mother. The moment she decided to open to the expansions rather than close and fight the contractions, was when I was able to soar with heavenly delight. From the moment I came into this world I could see colored auras around people, and talk to animals.

I remember my birth, do you?

Author note: Merit-Aten begins her life in Book 1 of the The Shadow Saga series – Shadow of the Sun, and her story continues in Book 2 – Stealing the Shadow of Death.

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Who is Merit-Aten?

Merit-Aten Ancient Egypt During 18th DynastyI, Merit-Aten, am the eldest daughter of Queen Nefertiti and Pharaoh Akhenaten who ruled ancient Egypt during the 18th Dynasty.

When I came into this world I made an agreement with the Celestial Lords to remember three words:

Ego. Salvation. Revelation.

All of my life’s lessons are based around these words.

I admit that my curiosity, mixed with my gift of knowledge got me into a great deal of trouble. When I was young, my dwarf nurse-maid, Hep-Mut, momentarily left me alone in the palace garden to retrieve my kohl eye-liner. A Hoopoe bird talked to me and convinced me to explore further as it flew from branch to branch, beckoning me, urging me on. I chased that naughty bird and came upon a niche in the wall that held a golden statue of a god named Amun. The sun reflected off that gilded god and I had to cover my eyes for fear of being blinded. In front of the altar was a beautiful tray with all my favorite food and a glass of beer. I ate the delicacies and drank that beer, for I had imagined that someone had the foresight to leave me a picnic. You can imagine my great aunt, Sit-Amun’s wrath to discover that her offering to the god had been consumed. Worst of all, she was enraged that I stole something she treasured. Drinking that adult beer made me light-headed and that is how the fire was started. When I wandered into her red tent and witnessed a terrible sight, I accidentally knocked over a candlestick.

Have you ever made a mistake?

Author note:  Merit-Aten begins her life in Book 1 of the The Shadow Saga series – Shadow of the Sun, and her story continues in Book 2 – Stealing the Shadow of Death.

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The Christ and Crocodile Fat

It is a bright and beautiful Easter morning here in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Of course that made me ponder the correlations of this holiday to the ancient civilization of Egypt. The Hebrew word Messiah is derived from the Egyptian word –MeSSeh, meaning the Anointed One. MeSSeh was the Egyptian word for crocodile. The ancients used to anoint with crocodile fat. The image of two crocodiles formed the title of the Egyptian king, which was given to him at the time of his coronation. The letter ‘s’ in Egyptian is equivalent to ‘sh’ in Hebrew and Aramaic. It is therefore evident the biblical word ‘Messiah’ originated from mesheeh, the ancient Egyptian word signifying the ritual anointing of the king.

The Jewish community included pouring oil upon the head of the high priest after he had put on his entire dress, with the mitre and crown. Anointing of the Egyptian priests and kings also commenced after they were attired in their full robes, with the cap and crown upon their head.

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One Billion and One Rising

I celebrate the One Billion Rising campaign sweeping the world today.  The goddesses are banding together and using our voices to make a difference in the world. We must stop the violence towards children and women. If we truly honor the sacred, then we understand that all life is sacred. In the ancient civilization of Egypt, women were considered to be the Hemeti, meaning the heads of the household, and She Who Has The Last Word.  The world is returning to balance.  It is our time! Let’s celebrate.

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Ancient Civilization Digged the Coneheads

Alien-shaped skulls have been discovered in an old Mexican burial site. Workers happened upon these 1000 year old bones in Sonora, Mexico while they were trying to put in an irrigation system.  Dating between 940-1308 A.D., these elongated skulls could have been a ritualistic practice because they appear to be ‘intentionally deformed.’

During the Amarna period in the 18th Dynasty, Pharaoh Akhenaten created a new form of art that portrayed the royal family with elongated heads.  This new stylized art was a dramatic difference to the posed, beautiful 20 year old pharaoh’s of the past.


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NOVA Replays “Riddles Of The Sphinx” Tonight

NOVA logo An encore presentation of NOVA’s documentary, Riddles Of The Sphinx airs tonight, Wednesday 19, on PBS at 9:00pm  Mountain Time, and it features AERA Director Dr. Mark Lehner. Ever wonder how the Great Sphinx was built or what the half-human, half-lion monument represents? Did you know that it stands as tall as the White House and stretches nearly as long as a football field?

NOVA attempts to unsolve the mystery of the monument in this documentary. Filmed by Providence Pictures producer Gary Glassman, Riddles Of The Sphinx finds Dr. Lehner joining NOVA’s team of archaeologists to help unveil the people who built this massive statue and the incredible labor that went into its construction.

For more information on this documentary, visit NOVA’s web site.

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The Great Aten Temple Rises Again

Ariel Photograph of the Great Aten east court

“copyright 2012, The Amarna Project.” Ariel Photograph of the Great Aten east court.

Famed Egyptologist Professor Barry Kemp came to Colorado to address The Amarna Research Foundation members and the Egyptian Study Society. He presented his current work on the reclamation of the Great Aten Temple at Amarna (Akhetaten) current day El-Till once built by Pharaoh Akhenaten in the 18th Dynasty. Starting in the Spring of 2012, the team excavated the area and painstakingly cleared the area of rubble  from the previous 1932 Pendlebury expedition only  to discover the gypsum concrete foundation and the northern mud brick pylon.

Although the villagers of El-Till have erected a brick wall enclosing a cemetery near the once magnificent Aten Temple and have used this area for rubbish, the Ministry of State for Antiquities approved The Amarna Foundation’s clean up.  Imagine using a sieve to save the broken fragments from ancient statues and columns lead by Kristin Thompson.  There was a tremendous amount of red quartzite, black granite and purple sandstone fragments discovered along with red incense lumps.  After the area was cleaned a group of local construction workers started to lay new courses of limestone blocks upon the gypsum mortar foundation and sand bed.

The Amarna Project." The northern view of the excavations, with the brick pylon at the left. In the foreground the brick ramp inside the pylon threshold.

“copyright 2012, The Amarna Project.” The northern view of the excavations, with the brick pylon at the left. In the foreground the brick ramp inside the pylon threshold.

Evidence of the grandeur of the Great Aten Temple with its entry pylon and 5 flagpoles exists in the tomb of  Panehsy, the High Priest of Amarna. In Mery-Ra’s tomb there was a depiction of offering tables piled high with food. The 920 limestone bases of the offering tables have also been recently discovered. Pharaoh Akhenaten decreed on his Boundary Stelae that the ‘House of the Aten’ would be the first construction that he would create in his new city of the sun.

It is a great historic event to witness this undertaking.  Funds are encouraged to continue the preservation of the Great Aten Temple and the cataloging of the statuary fragments. To make a donation or to become a member: http://theamarnaresearchfoundation.org/events.html

Barry Kemp and Merrie P Wycoff at The Amarna Research Foundation

Barry Kemp and Merrie P Wycoff at The Amarna Research Foundation event in Colorado-September 2012

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Twitter Party

Twitter Party to Celebrate Shadow of the Sun Book Release

I’m having a party! A Twitter party, that is, to celebrate the release of my new book Shadow of the Sun. We’ll talk about the magic and mystery of Ancient Egypt, the story of Merit-Aten and all the historical characters that make the tale come alive, and answer questions about the book, the author, and the writing process. Participants have a chance to win prizes including signed copies of the book.

When:                               Thursday, August 23 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. MDT

Hosts:                               Merrie P. Wycoff, Author @MerriePWycoff

Melody Jones, Party Moderator @SocMediaMelody

Hashtag:                           #shadowofthesun

Follow:                                            @MerriePWycoff

Winner Selection:

  1. Only those following @MerriePWycoff are eligible.
  2. Two party participants will be selected by random drawing within 24 hours of party.
  3. Winners notified via Twitter.
  4. Winners must DM @MerriePWycoff within 24 hours of notification to claim, and must provide information: name, mailing address, and preferred email.
  5. Alternate winners will be selected in the event that original winners do not DM within the time frame required.
  6. Prizes will be mailed to winners within 72 hours of providing information requested.
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