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Tell el Amarna: c.1350-1336 BC

The city constructed at Tell el Amarna from about 1350 BC is of special interest because it is laid out as a new town.

North and south through the centre of the city runs a broad straight avenue. To the east of this, at the northern end, is the great temple to Aten - a series of open courtyards, suitable for the worship of the sun (and very different from the dark inner recesses of the temples at Thebes, where Amen is worshipped).

South of the temple is the large private residence of the royal family. On the opposite side of the avenue is the government building. A bridge, crossing the central avenue, links the two. Upon this bridge the pharaoh appears to give public audience to his nobles.

The nobles themselves live in large villas with gardens, since space is not in short supply in this new town. The labourers have rows of simple cottages. From palace to cottage, the building material is sun-dried brick.

Two archaeological finds provide a particular insight into life in Akhenaten's city. One is his archive of state documents, written in cuneiform on some 350 clay tablets. They are letters from officials and vassal princes in the regions of Palestine and Phoenicia (until recently part of an extended Egyptian empire) and from kings of Babylon and Assyria. They reveal a steady decline in Egypt's power and influence in this area, accentuated no doubt by Akhenaten's greater interest in religion and town planning.

The other important discovery is a collection of impressive sculptures.

The sculptures found in the house of Thutmose, court sculptor at Tell el Amarna, reveal the level of realism achieved in 14th century Egypt - inspired by the instruction of the pharaoh, Akhenaten, that the artist should aim for truthfulness.

Best known are the various heads of Akhenaten's wife, Nefertiti. One in particular (now in Berlin) has become perhaps the most famous of ancient Egyptian sculptures.

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