The Archaeology and Ideology of a Short-lived Egyptian Capital

Image: A stone relief of Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and three of their daughters - the Amarna royal family (ÄM 14145; © Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)

Recordings will be made available for those unable to attend the live sessions!

The fascinating and short-lived Amarna Period (c. 1351-1334 BCE) of Egypt saw drastic changes in multiple aspects of Egyptian culture. Egypt’s main religion changed from a pantheon of gods to a single solar deity, its art radically deviated from the traditional norms used throughout pharaonic history, and its capital city moved to a previously unknown location in Middle Egypt, far from the known hubs of Memphis and Thebes. This new capital, el-Amarna, was built and abandoned all within a span of less than twenty years. What remains at this site are glimpses into all aspects of life during the Amarna Period – from the labourers to the very royals who founded the city.  

This course will cover the unique archaeology, art, and history of the Amarna Period by investigating the factors that led up to the rise of the cult of the Aten and the pharaoh Akhenaten’s religious reforms. Special emphasis will be placed on the archaeology of the ancient city of Akhetaten (el-Amarna), the capital city in middle Egypt created by Akhenaten, by looking at the EES excavation archive and the current archaeological work by the Amarna Project.

Image: Negative from the work at the Royal Tomb of Amarna from the Society's work in the 1930s (EES TA-RT.NEG.34-35.023)

Some knowledge of Egyptology, including the history, religion and archaeology of ancient Egypt, is recommended for this course.



Dr Stephanie Boonstra is the Collections Manager at the Egypt Exploration Society and thus oversees the archive, library, Special Collections, papyri, and cartonnage of the Society. She is also the Managing Editor of the Society’s Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. Her research focusses on both the archives of the Society’s 1930s work at Amarna and on evidence for production in ancient Egypt, particularly of vitreous objects during the second millennium BCE. She completed her PhD at the University of Birmingham in 2019 on scarab amulet production in the early 18th Dynasty Egypt and is a member of the Amarna Project archaeological team.

 Image: Model of the Great Palace at Amarna on the banks of the Nile (© The Amarna Project)

Course Outline

Thursday 3rd November, 18:00-19:30 (UK time)
Week One - The foundations of the Amarna Period
The Amarna Period is a unique, short-lived era of ancient Egypt. In this introductory week, we will cover the key characters of the period and the geopolitics of the 18th Dynasty will be discussed to set the foundation for the Amarna Period. We’ll look at the factors that led to Akhenaten’s selection of the middle Egypt site to set the scene for our investigation of the archaeology of the city in the following weeks.

Thursday 10th November, 18:00-19:30 (UK time)
Week Two - Building a new ‘capital’
How is a brand new city created? This week will focus on the evidence for the ‘stately’ buildings at Amarna, particularly in the so-called Central City. The temples, palaces, and administrative buildings will be discussed.

Thursday 17th November, 18:00-19:30 (UK time)
Week Three - Living and working at Amarna
There are few places in pharaonic Egypt that provide such a wealth of archaeological evidence for daily life as at Amarna. This week we’ll look at how the citizens of Amarna lived and worked within the city.

Thursday 24th November, 18:00-19:30 (UK time)
Week Four - Death at Amarna
Surrounding the vast ancient city is the evidence for the final resting places of the citizens of Amarna. The beautiful rock-cut tombs of the elite will be discussed alongside the humble burials of the lower class.

Thursday 1st December, 18:00-19:30 (UK time)
Week Five - The aftermath
In the final week, we’ll discuss the end of the short-lived Amarna Period and the abandonment of ancient Akhetaten. We’ll have a look at the confusing succession of 18th Dynasty pharaohs after Akhenaten and the subsequent erasure of the Amarna Period.

 Image: The Small Aten Temple facing east to frame the Royal Wadi on the horizon (photo: Stephanie Boonstra, 2022)


Members of the Egypt Exploration Society can book at a heavily discounted rate. If you’re not yet a member but would like to join in order to receive this discount, then please ensure that you have already joined here. Subscriptions from members include a donation to support and promote Egypt’s cultural heritage. If you are a Cairo Associate, then please contact our Cairo Office to reserve your discounted tickets: [email protected] 

Register for your place in advance using the links below. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the course. Links for joining the event will be sent by email. If you do not receive your email, then please check your junk folders before contacting the Egypt Exploration Society. The course will be held on our Zoom platform and attendees will be able to interact by asking questions, using the chat and polls. It is not necessary to have a working webcam or microphone for this course. The online course will be complemented by Google Drive, where resources will be uploaded.

Please ensure that you have read our guide to attending EES online events before the course begins.

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