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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Amarna: Private and Royal Tombs


The monumental rock-cut tombs of Tell el-Amarna were constructed for members of the elite and for Pharaoh Akhenaten with his family. These monuments are reckoned to be a main source for studying the religion of the so-called “Amarna Period”, their walls bearing for example the widely known “hymns to the Aten”. All tombs are located on the east bank of the Nile, the private tombs in the limestone cliffs and foothills surrounding the city of Akhetaten to the east. Their outline encompasses one to three rooms furnished with columns, statues and reliefs. The burial was foreseen underneath those rooms, following a sloping passage or a shaft. The royal tombs were constructed in remote wadis behind the cliffs, their main axes being sloping passages themselves. The rooms for the burial of the royal family were decorated with relief, too, but special architectural features are limited to pillars. Due to the comparatively short period of occupation of the city, most of the tomb structures have not been completed and not been used for burial.

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