‘People at Amarna’ – links & further reading

UPDATE 22 APRIL 2020: For anyone who missed the live performances of this talk online, a recorded version is now available via the Egypt Exploration Society’s YouTube channel and here (see below):

For those who joined me for the online lecture about ‘People at Amarna’ this is the little guide to further reading and other resources online which I promised to share, should you wish to take your interest in any of the topics I covered further.

Screenshot 2020-04-14 at 10.40.41

Tell el-Amarna is the name we give to the site of Akhetaten, the city founded by the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten as the capital of his new Egypt. His story has proven to be one of the most captivating from anywhere in the ancient world and yet it was almost completely unknown until less than two hundred years ago. Various travellers, expeditions and archaeologists have helped reveal the evidence for what happened in the relatively brief period of the city’s existence, and the contribution of the various EES expeditions in this is immense. In this talk we’ll look at the site, some of its history and the work of those who have revealed Amarna to be one of the most important ancient sites in the world.

My slides are available here so that you can go back through the presentation step by step should you wish to.

The links below appear in the order in which I mentioned them in the talk; I hope that’s the best way of doing things but if it makes it difficult to find the one thing that most interested you, or if I’ve missed anything, or if you just have a question please let me know via this page.


The blog post that this talk is partly based on, ‘Amarna, place and people’ is here.

The boundary stelae which Akhenaten carved into the living rock in a huge ring around the land on which he would build his new capital city are dealt with in detail on the Amarna Project website here, and also in Murnane and van Siclen’s classic study, The Boundary Stelae Of Akhentaten, which is available as an e-book here.

DSC_0964 ED 1024px
Boundary Stela ‘B’

John Gardner Wilkinson’s Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians is available for free via archive.org here.

My blog post on ‘Searching for Smenkhkare’ in the tomb of Meryra (ii) which features the drawings made by the artists working for Robert Hay and the Prussian expedition led by Lepsius is here.

The post was partly inspired by a slightly madcap visit to the tomb in 2018, captured in this film:

The plates from Lepsius’ monumental publication, the Denkmäler, have been made freely available by the New York Public Library here.

Lepsius’ letters, which are a less formal account of the expedition’s work are also available as an e-book here or here.

The Royal Tomb at Amarna and the whereabouts of the burials of Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Smenkhkare and others form the third chapter of my book, Searching for the Lost Tombs of Egypt, which is available as an e-book here, or in print via Thames & Hudson’s current ‘Top 5 Egyptology’ promotion (along with four other great titles!) – EES members get 20% off by using the code ‘EES20’ at the checkout (go here).

Screenshot 2020-04-14 at 18.08.18
Who was buried in the Royal Tomb at Amarna? Akhenaten? Nefertiti? Their daughter, Meketaten (and/or any of the other royal princesses?)? Akhenaten’s mother, Queen Tiye? Searching for the Lost Tombs of Egypt attempts to answer the question.

Flinders Petrie’s report on a typically heroic season of excavations at Amarna, including his report on the painted pavements I mentioned is freely available via archive.org, here.

The most iconic of the paintings Petrie found, the ‘princess fresco’, is featured on the Ashmolean Museum’s website, here.

The ‘princess fresco’, now in the Ashmolean Museum (image from here).

The German DOG (Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft) excavations and the things they discovered, including the famous bust of Nefertiti, all feature in the lavish catalogue published to go along with the exhibition ‘In the Light of Amarna’. There’s no e-book but I notice you can get the printed version very cheaply over at Oxbow Books at the moment, see here.

Online Resources:

On the city / archaeological site of Amarna, the best place to start is of course the website of the current Amarna Project.

I mentioned that you can help the Project in its efforts to rebuild the Great Aten Temple by buying a block which they then inscribe with your name. Fantastic idea and a great way to support the work – more info here.


The EES has made a huge amount of incredible archival material available via Flickr, including ALL the photos and beautiful, unpublished, object cards – you could easily lose a few hours sifting through everything – see here.

Screenshot 2020-04-13 at 18.07.14.png
Screenshot from the EES’ profile at flickr.com where the archival images are kept

The film footage made during John Pendlebury’s tenure as Director of the EES’ Amarna Expedition is available in the form of two short films on the Society’s YouTube channel, one on Pendlebury and his colleagues (here and below) and a second on the discovery of the decorated lintel of Hatiay (here).

Pendlebury is one of the most celebrated characters in the history of Egyptology. Imogen Grundon’s The Rash Adventurer: A Life of John Pendlebury is the definitive biography and an excellent read.

Mary Chubb’s brilliantly readable account of life with the Amarna Expedition, Nefertiti Lived Here, is out of print, but second hand copies can be found online e.g. here.

The EES is an incredible organisation with a very rich history and all the work it does, in the field in Egypt and in preserving and making accessible its incredible archives, is funded by members subscriptions and donations. I strongly urge everyone interested in Egyptology to become a member (here) or to make a contribution, however small (here). It’s a great way to play in part in Egyptology.

Further reading:

Perhaps the best recent overview of the site and what the current project has discovered is The City of Akhenaten and Nefertiti by the expedition’s director for more than 40 years, Professor Barry Kemp. Unfortunately there’s no e-book and it’s out of print (I’ll be having a word with the publisher about this) but you should be able to find second hand copies on Amazon, Abebooks etc.

A new guide to the site, Amarna: A Guide to the Ancient City of Akhetaten edited by Project Deputy Director, Anna Stevens, is due to be published later this year (Sept 2020). You can pre-order a copy here.

There are a number of good overviews of the story of Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Smenkhkare and the history of the period in general. In particular I would recommend the following (all e-books):

  • Two volumes by Aidan Dodson, the first, Amarna Sunrise, on the genesis of Akhenaten’s heresy, and the second, Amarna Sunset, on his final years and those that followed, including the debate around who succeeded him.
  • Another of the leading scholars on the subject is Nicholas Reeves who offers a subtly different version of events from Dodson in Akhenaten: Egypt’s False Prophet which has just been published in a new edition
  • Finally, Joyce Tyldesley’s, Nefertiti: Egypt’s Sun Queen offers yet another view on what happened after Akhenaten’s death and the identity of his successor.

In addition, Dominic Montserrat’s book, Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt is a brilliant assessment of the history of the discovery of Akhenaten and Amarna and the impact of the Amarna story on Egyptology and the wider public. Why are we so fascinated by this brief period in history? This is a great response to that question.

Lastly, all the explorers, artists, archaeologists and Egyptologists mentioned in the talk – Napoleon’s savants, John Gardner Wilkinson, Robert Hay, James, Burton, Lepsius, Flinders Petrie, John Pendlebury and Mary Chubb – appear in my book, Egyptologists’ Notebooks, which, all being well, will be out in September this year – for more info or to pre-order, see here.

02915 200dpi