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"The Dazzling Aten"

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

In 2020, during a search for the pharaoh Tutankhamun’s mortuary temple, archaeologists discovered “The Dazzling Aten”, a long-forgotten Ancient Egyptian city on the Nile’s West Bank.

Seals on mudbricks and other finds show the founder was King Amenhotep III of the XVIII Dynasty, who ruled from 1391-1353 BC. Aten was a large settlement and craft center, enclosed at least in part by mud brick walls 3 meters high.

After seven months of excavations, several districts have come to light. A bakery and large kitchen complete with ovens and clay vessels must have fed numerous workers. A second walled area with larger buildings may have been a residential and administrative district, accessible through a single gate. A third district housed workshops that produced the mud bricks for temples and outbuildings. The bricks bear the cartouche of Amenhotep III- Neb-Maat-Re (The Lord of Maat is Re. Ma’at was the personification of harmony and rightness). Other workshops produced amulets and decorative adornments for temples and tombs, also textiles. Interestingly, a seal found in the site nears the word “gm-pa Aton”. This was a district in the Temple of the Sun God Amun at Karnak, built by Akhenaten and dedicated to Aten.

A year after this seal was produced, the city was abandoned, and the capital moved to a new capital downstream at El-Amarna. The excavations at Aten have hardly begun, with numerous burials awaiting investigation. But the Egyptologists hope that further excavations will throw light on why Akhenaten moved his capital downstream, one of the mysteries of Ancient Egyptian history.

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