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An important means of preserving brickwork is to lay courses of new bricks on top of the old (here at the Small Aten Temple).

Small Aten Temple


The Small Aten Temple was excavated and planned in 1931 by the EES expedition directed by John Pendlebury. The temple consists of a large rectangular enclosure surrounded by a thick mud-brick wall strengthened with external buttresses. It was divided into three parts by cross-walls. The outer enclosure wall and the two internal cross-walls were pierced with gateways, the principal ones being on the main central east-west axis of the temple. Each of these central gateways was flanked with pylon towers, also built from mud-bricks.


The third court at the rear of the temple contained the Sanctuary, which had been built from stone laid over the characteristic gypsum-concrete foundation layer which preserved impressions from the lowest course of blocks. The Sanctuary had been fronted by a large stone pylon and colossal columns.

Pendlebury had used the open spaces as suitable ground for heaping the spoil from the excavation. Before the current work began in 1987, therefore, it was not possible to gain a clear picture of the layout of the temple, and its emphasis upon large open spaces. In the early seasons of the current work much effort was expended upon removing these dumps (sieving them for archaeological material at the same time). The largest dump, which separated the stone Sanctuary from the rest of the temple, was removed with the aid of a mechanical conveyor belt (provided by the good offices of Alf Baxendale and donated by British Coal). It is now possible to view the temple as a coherent single building.

The mud-brickwork of the temple has been treated in a similar fashion to that at the North Palace (and was begun earlier, in 1988). The scheme of consolidation, capping and replacement of missing parts has been applied to the enclosure wall, the pylon towers and parts of the interior dividing walls, and to the so-called ‘priest’s house’ which stands in front of the southern tower of the third pylon. The outline of a large mud-brick altar or offering-platform in the outer court has been remade in new bricks, and a token number of small brick offering-tables have been rebuilt beside it.

The mud bricks made in the early years of the current work represented experiments, and some of them now need to be replaced by more weather-resistant bricks made to the current formula.

The Small Aten Temple viewed to the north-east. The wall in the foreground is the south enclosure wall which had been strengthened by external buttresses. The outline of the wall and of the buttresses has been completed in new bricks.
The Small Aten Temple viewed to the north-east. The wall in the foreground is the south enclosure wall which had been strengthened by external buttresses. The outline of the wall and of the buttresses has been completed in new bricks.


Stonework

The Sanctuary of the Small Aten Temple was originally built from stone blocks and covered with carved and painted scenes. Most of the blocks appear to have been of limestone but some at least were of sandstone, as were the doorframes and gigantic columns which stood in front of the Sanctuary. The floor level of the Sanctuary had apparently been made up with stone rubble and gypsum to a depth of around one metre.

Since the outline plan of the Sanctuary is recorded in the fragments of the gypsum foundation layer it is possible to mark out on the ground the lines of the original walls. This has been done in new limestone blocks laid over a protective bed of sand. The main walls of the Sanctuary were about two metres thick. In the modern replacements only the edges of the wall have been recreated in stone. The intervening space has been filled with the pale chippings and dust from the original foundation platform. This same material also forms the current ground inside the Sanctuary.

Aerial photograph of the Sanctuary of the Small Aten Temple at the completion of the laying out of the Sanctuary outline in new limestone blocks. The new stone flooring of the gateways between the pylons had not been completed when the photograph was taken.
Aerial photograph of the Sanctuary of the Small Aten Temple at the completion of the laying out of the Sanctuary outline in new limestone blocks. The new stone flooring of the gateways between the pylons had not been completed when the photograph was taken.

In front of the Sanctuary Pendlebury found many large pieces from sandstone columns. These have been set upright in the approximate positions of the original columns. Enough pieces remained to allow for a reconstruction of the whole shape. A segment of the column was reproduced in the UK in modelling clay by sculptor Simon Bradley. From this he made a series of rigid moulds. These were brought to Egypt and a series of casts made in glass-reinforced concrete at a factory in New Salhiya. The casts were erected by Simon Bradley around a central framework of welded ironwork in the 1994 season, using welding equipment and scaffolding loaned from Richard Keen of Keminco.

Many pieces of the original sandstone columns remain on the site. From their designs and dimensions a replica column has been made and set up in order to bring a sense of the original height of the buildings. The replica column is made from a series of panels in glass-fibre reinforced concrete, cast from a clay mould of a segment of the column. Many pieces of the original sandstone columns remain on the site. From their designs and dimensions a replica column has been made and set up in order to bring a sense of the original height of the buildings. The replica column is made from a series of panels in glass-fibre reinforced concrete, cast from a clay mould of a segment of the column.

The broad doorways between the three brick pylons were originally floored with limestone blocks. The gypsum plaster foundations for these survive and have been planned in detail. They have been covered with sand to protect them, and a new single layer of limestone blocks has been laid over the top. These replacement floors create a clear horizontal ground line which helps visitors to appreciate the fact that the temple was built on rising ground. They also advertise the fact that there were originally monumental stone doorways between the brick pylon towers. In the case of the first pylon, which formed the front entrance to the temple, the original gypsum layer was itself on two levels, implying that a raised portion had stood in the middle. We interpret this as evidence that a platform or pedestal, perhaps reached by stairs, stood in the middle of the gateway. The shape of this central feature has been reproduced in a second layer of limestone blocks.

The gateway in the first pylon after re-excavation in 1987. The original gypsum-concrete layer has been exposed. It is this which provides the authority for restoring the pavement in new limestone blocks. Note the central raised part, which must have supported stonework at a higher level, probably a stone platform.
The gateway in the first pylon after re-excavation in 1987. The original gypsum-concrete layer has been exposed. It is this which provides the authority for restoring the pavement in new limestone blocks. Note the central raised part, which must have supported stonework at a higher level, probably a stone platform.

Laying the stone floor in the gateway of the first pylon
Laying the stone floor in the gateway of the first pylon

Laying the stone floor in the gateway of the first pylon. The upper layer is probably the base of a low platform with its own ramps or stairways. The evidence for its existance was preserved in the underlying gypsum-concrete foundation layer, which was on two levels.
Laying the stone floor in the gateway of the first pylon. The upper layer is probably the base of a low platform with its own ramps or stairways. The evidence for its existance was preserved in the underlying gypsum-concrete foundation layer, which was on two levels.

Gateway in the third brick pylon which gives access to the court containing the Sanctuary. The gateway was originally floored with limestone blocks laid on a bed of gypsum concrete. The present stonework is a modern replacement of the original blocks which were removed at the end of the Amarna Period. A shallow ramp originally lay in front of the stone floor.
Gateway in the third brick pylon which gives access to the court containing the Sanctuary. The gateway was originally floored with limestone blocks laid on a bed of gypsum concrete. The present stonework is a modern replacement of the original blocks which were removed at the end of the Amarna Period. A shallow ramp originally lay in front of the stone floor.

Gateway in the third brick pylon which gives access to the court containing the Sanctuary. The gateway was originally floored with limestone blocks laid on a bed of gypsum concrete. The present stonework is a modern replacement of the original blocks which were removed at the end of the Amarna Period. A shallow ramp originally lay in front of the stone floor.
View along the axis of the temple, from the stone pavement in the first pylon. The stone pavements in the gateways of the second and third pylons (in the middle distance) emphasise the rising ground level from west to east.
 
 

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