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Akhetaten, Horizon of the Aten

Amarna - Capital Cities

Who: Conceptualised and built by Pharaoh Akhenaten

What: Capital city of Egypt and became home to 30,000 people

When: 18th Dynasty – Built between 1348 – 1344 BC: Abandoned after Pharaoh Akhenaten’s death 1336 BC

Called: Tell el-Amarna or Amarna : named after the Beni Arman Tribe that lived in the region when it was discovered

Why: Primarily to dedicate a new City to his “revised religion” of the Aten, the one God instead the many

Where: East bank of the Nile: 194 miles/312km South of Cairo and 250 miles/402km north of Luxor

Destroyed under Order of
Pharaoh Horemheb 1320 – 1292 BC

Timeline of Akhetaten

How did Pharaoh choose this Area?

Pharaoh himself wrote on Stelae discovered in Akhetaten that he was, “led there by God Aten” and that his “God could not be jealous or depressed or angry or act on impulse; he simply existed and, by that existence, caused all else to exist“

Aten was so powerful required a new city built solely for his honour and worshipping

Therefore, Pharaoh needed a place where he could pursue his vision of a society dedicated to the cult of the God Aten which had never been used before in Egypt and was “clean” from the worship of any other Gods or Goddess in his view

Akhetaten was built for the sole purpose of providing a sacred space for the God Aten 

Pharaoh Akhenaten saw his building projects in the new city as being of benefit to the collective nation and not just the Pharaoh or the Royal Family


Pharaoh commenced construction in Regnal Year 5 and was completed approx. in Year 9. The Pharaoh moved in to the new Capital in year 7 of his reign.

It was constructed over 6 miles along the Nile to the Pharaoh’s own Plan as he confirmed in his Boundary Stelae; he further intimated that he refused all advice regarding the architecture, including some given to him by his Chief Royal Wife, Nefertiti.

14 Boundary Stelae encircled the Capital.

For ease, most buildings which were constructed were made out of mud-brick and then white-washed; Palaces and Temples were faced with local stone as is found in the majority of Egypt’s Capital Cities.

Akhetaten included

  • Temples and Palaces;
  • Gardens often with Pools
  • A Zoo;
  • Bath Houses
  • Cemeteries
  • Distinct roadways on a grid with divided zones as per their function including:
  • Government Buildings & Quay side and supporting warehouses
  • Worker’s Living Quarters & Industrial areas
  • Artist’s Studios and Quarters & Suburbs for residential use 
  • Administrative areas – one building known as the “Record Office”


There are 4 Districts to the city which are now known – for ease of reference – as:

North City; constructed around the Northern Palace. The Royal Family lived to the rear; the remainder of the Palace was open air to celebrate the God Aten and was reserved for the greeting of guests – ambassadors and emissaries from abroad – and where God Aten was worshipped

Central City; designed around the Great Temple and the Small Temple of God Aten; and tended to be used for the administrative working centre of Akhetaten, along with the quarters for those workers

Southern Suburbs; the residential suburbs for the Nobles and wealthier Egyptians with large House and Estates. Such as Vizier Nakhtpaaten, Noble Ranefer, Panehesy; High Priest of the Aten, and Ramose; Master of Horses

Outskirtslived in by the Farmers to provide the City with their food and the home of the Tombs of the Royal Family

Boundary Stelae

14 Boundary Stelae encircled the Capital. The earliest remaining Stelae that exists is Boundary Stelae K which has been dated to Year 5, IV Peret (Month 8), Day 13 of Akhenaten’s Reign


“His Majesty mounted a great chariot of electrum, like the Aten when He rises on the horizon and fills the land with His love, and took a goodly road to Akhetaten, the place of origin, which the Aten had created for Himself that he might be happy therein. It was His son Akhenaten who founded it for Him as His monument when His Father commanded him to make it. Heaven was joyful, the earth was glad every heart was filled with delight when they beheld him………This is the theme of the occasion which is illustrated in the lunettes of the stelae where he stands with his queen and eldest daughter before an altar heaped with offerings under the Aten, while it shines upon him rejuvenating his body with its rays”


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