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Limestone pilaster block decorated with lotus flowers on long stalks.

Maru-Aten


Maru-Aten is the ancient name for a building that stood in the desert to the south of the main city, near the modern village of El-Hawata. It was briefly explored by the Egypt Exploration Society in 1922.

Aerial photograph of the site of Maru-Aten taken on 10 March 1932
Aerial photograph of the site of Maru-Aten taken on 10 March 1932

It consisted of twin enclosures surrounded by buttressed brick walls, one of the enclosures larger than the other. Both enclosures seem to have been largely given over to shallow pools or lakes and to gardens planted with trees, with small pavilions of various kinds set around the edges, some of brick and some of stone. A long narrow stone causeway and pier, with a decorated kiosk at the end, projected out into the larger lake.

Excavator’s photograph of Building MIV, towards the west
Excavator’s photograph of Building MIV, towards the west

Excavator’s photograph of Building MIV, towards the east
Excavator’s photograph of Building MIV, towards the east

The most distinctive part to have survived lay in the north-east corner of the larger enclosure. A square artificial island surrounded by a ditch supported a stone platform. Behind it and occupying the corner of the enclosure was a long pillared construction that shaded a series of interlocking T-shaped water basins. These were surrounded by a gypsum pavement painted with designs from nature, divided into panels. Fragments of carved stone from the buildings also celebrate nature through the use of plant motifs.

A section of the T-shaped water basins surrounded by the gypsum pavement painted with panels illustrating nature. A section of the T-shaped water basins surrounded by the gypsum pavement painted with panels illustrating nature.

Examples of the painted panels adjacent to the T-shaped water basins Reconstruction of a painted column in building M VIII  
Examples of the painted panels adjacent to the T-shaped water basins Reconstruction of a painted column in building M VIII  

The inscribed stonework preserved the name of the place as Maru-Aten, identified it as an example of a solar temple (‘Sunshade’), and recorded the name of Akhenaten’s eldest daughter and heiress, Meritaten. Her name had, however, been carved over an earlier female royal name. At first this was thought to have been Nefertiti. It is generally concluded now that the original name was that of Kiya, an earlier queen of Akhenaten.

Object 22/273: fragment of red granite stela showing Akhenaten adoring the Aten. The hieroglyphic text records the name of the place ‘the Sunshade of the King’s daughter Meretaten in Maru-Aten in Akhetaten’. Meretaten’s name replaces another name. Object 22/273: fragment of red granite stela showing Akhenaten adoring the Aten. The hieroglyphic text records the name of the place ‘the Sunshade of the King’s daughter Meritaten in Maru-Aten in Akhetaten’. Meritaten’s name replaces another name.


Maru-Aten, both in its design and in its name, reflect the search for tranquillity to be found in sunlit gardens where shrines add a spiritual presence.

Maru-Aten was wholly destroyed in the 1960s and 70s when a huge government irrigation scheme was laid out to the north and east of El-Hawata.

The last traces of Maru-Aten, photographed in 1978. In the foreground are the remains of the 1922 spoil heaps that ran along the outside of the enclosure wall on the east
The last traces of Maru-Aten, photographed in 1978. In the foreground are the remains of the 1922 spoil heaps that ran along the outside of the enclosure wall on the east

References

The report on the excavation of Maru-Aten is contained within the single-volume, T.E. Peet and C.L. Woolley, The City of Akhenaten, Part I. Excavations of 1921 and 1922 at El-‘Amarneh (London, Egypt Exploration Society 1923), Chapter V.

Some further details are added in B.J. Kemp, ed., Amarna Reports VI (London, Egypt Exploration Society 1995), 416–32.

Map of Maru-Aten


Map of Maru-Aten
click to enlarge

 
 

Website first posted September 2000; last updated November 2010 | enquiries concerning website: email bjk2@cam.ac.uk