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Tell el-Amarna

The Society’s first expedition to Tell el-Amarna, in Middle Egypt, was mounted between 1901 and 1907 when Norman de Garis Davies recorded the nobles’ tombs and the boundary stelae of Akhenaten for the Archaeological Survey. Excavation proper began in 1920 and continued until 1936, under a series of highly-skilled Field Directors, revealing the plan of the temples and houses of this unique ancient city.

The first Director was Leonard Woolley, later to become renowned as the excavator of Ur. He was succeeded by Francis Newton and Henri Frankfort, before direction of the excavation passed in 1931 into the gifted hands of John Pendlebury, curator of the site of Knossos in Crete.

The discovery of the decorated lintel of Hatiay during the 1930-31 dig season, see film footage below.

In addition to continuing the excavation of the town, the Society’s team also worked in the Royal Tomb, prepared for Akhenaten and his family in a nearby desert wadi.

The excavation of the town was published in three detailed volumes but the Royal Tomb records languished in the Society’s archives until, supplemented by his own research, they were prepared for publication by Geoffrey Martin in the 1970s and 80s.

The lighting system set up in the royal tomb to record the decoration preserved

In 1977 the Society returned to Amarna, under the directorship of Barry Kemp, to undertake a detailed survey of the site and prepare accurate plans of the area. These were published by the Society in 1993. From this survey work, the EES team moved on to excavate the Workman’s Village and, in more recent years, areas of the central city and Kom el-Nana, which is under threat from cultivation. The current Amarna expedition (now a project of The Amarna Trust) has also become a focus for research-based projects into aspects of ancient Egyptian life, such as brewing, baking and glass-making.

Today the Society's excavations at Amarna are one of the best represented in our archive collections, attracting researchers from all across the world. The thousands of objects discovered during the 15 years of excavations between 1920 and 1936 were each recorded on individual record cards, all of which have now been digitised and made available via Flickr (click here). The 1930-32 seasons were written about by Mary Chubb (assistant secretary of the Society, and excavator at Amarna on these seasons) in her memoir, Nefertiti Lived Here. In this she discusses life on site, the dig houses, recording of objects, the dig team and the discoveries made - including the 'crock of gold'.  

The crock of gold when just discovered in 1931


Archive footage of the Egypt Exploration Society excavations at Tell el-Amarna, 1930-33


Archive footage of the discovery of a lintel during the excavation of house T34.1 in the north suburb of the city. The house had been built by Akhenaten's overseer of works, Hatiay, and was notable for its series of doorways built in stone rather than mudbrick, one of which was found to be ' simply smothered in inscriptions'.


The Delta and Deir el-Bahari Tell el-Amarna
The Archaeological Survey Nubia
The Graeco-Roman Branch Saqqara and Memphis
Abydos and Armant Further information

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