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Amarna Stela Reproduction: Akhenaten, Nefertiti and Family Beneath the Aten

Updated: Feb 15



Reproduction Details

Type: Stela

Date: Dynasty 18, reign of Akhenaten, c. 1352-1338 BC

Findspot: Q47.16, Main City, Tell-el Amarna

Materials: Limestone

Size: H. 43.5cm; W. 39cm; D. 6.5cm

Current location: Egyptian Museum, Cairo

Object number: JE 44865

Print Reference: DP58A

Description

This stela was discovered by a team led by German Egyptology Ludwig Borchardt in the rubble behind the back wall of house Q47.16 in the Main City district of Amarna. Dating to the reign of the heretical king Akhenaten in Dynasty 18, this icon would have been kept in a private chapel of an Amarna house and used to worship the sun-god Aten, the king and his holy family.

Akhenaten and his wife Queen Nefertiti are shown seated on cushioned stools bearing the sema-tawy symbol, denoting the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. Between them stands their eldest daughter, Meritaten, who is receiving a golden earring from her father, who has another earring and two golden collars on his lap. Sat on Nefertiti’s lap are the royal couple’s younger daughters, Meketaten and Ankhesenpaaten (Tutankhamun’s future wife). Above the royal family is the red disk of the sun god Aten, whose rays reach out towards the family and end in hands holding Ankhs, the symbol of life. Surrounding the scene are three bands of hieroglyphs that dedicate the stela to Aten, Akhenaten and Nefertiti.

The entire composition forms the shape of the hieroglyph Akhet meanings ‘horizon’, comprised of a sun (Aten) rising between two mountains (Akhenaten and Nefertiti). The Akhet symbol can also be found in the centre of the scene, where Akhenaten is offering a golden earring with dangling beads symbolising the Aten to his daughter Meritaten. His hands mimic those of the Aten which offer life symbols, and his daughter’s upturned hands form the shape of the horizon.

The family are portrayed with the characteristic features typical of Amarna period art, such as wide hips, sagging bellies, exaggerated heads and elongated, fluid limbs. Akhenaten is wearing the blue crown known as a Khopresh and a pleated kilt, whilst Nefertiti wears her characteristic high crown and a traditional robe held in place with a belt. Their daughters are portrayed naked with side-locks of hair to distinguish them as children.



Translation

Though the original stela is now damaged and worn by time, it is possible to reconstruct the outer bands of hieroglyphs using comparative sources such as a watercolour reproduction made by Alfred Bollacher in the 1920s and the Great Hymn to the Aten. If you spot any mistakes, please let me know!


Horizontal column

The horizontal column at the top contains a mirror image of a dedication of offerings to the god Aten and should be read from the centre outwards in either direction:

Anx itn

The living Aten,

[Cartouche 1]

“The living Re-Horakhty rejoicing in the Horizon”

[Cartouche 2]

"In his name as Shu, who is in the Aten"

Htp Dt tA nHH

Given life for ever and ever.


Vertical Columns

The vertical columns of hieroglyphs to the left and right of the scene are mirror images of each other and should be read from top to bottom. They contain dedications to the king and queen which can also be found in the Great Hymn to the Aten, the longest of the Dynasty 18 hymn-poems written to the sun-disk deity Aten:


nsw bity anx mAat nb tAwy

King of Upper and Lower Egypt. Living in righteousness, lord of the two lands.

(nfr-xprw-ra-wa-n-ra) sA

“The beautiful one of the manifestations of Ra, the unique one of Ra”, son of Re,

anx mAat nb Axtw (itn Ax n)

living in righteousness, lord of the crowns, “Living spirit of the Aten”

aA m aHa.f Hmt mryt.f

great of his lifetime. His beloved wife

(nfr-nfrw-itn nfrt-iiti)

“Beauty of beauties of Aten beauty has come”.

anxt ti Dt tA nHH

Live in health for ever and ever.


Cartouches


Aten

The two cartouches of Aten in the top register give early forms of the names of the god Aten. We can use these to date the stela to the earlier part of Akhenaten’s reign, as the name of the Aten changed over time. In the beginning, Aten was one god amongst many and his name referenced other gods such as Re-Horakhty and Shu. However, as he promoted his worship of a single god, Akhenaten removed all traces of other gods from the Aten’s name in later art.

“The living Re-Horakhty rejoicing in the Horizon”

"In his name as Shu, who is in the Aten"


Akhenaten

Nefer-kheperu-ra

“The beautiful one of the manifestations of Ra, the unique one of Ra”

Akh-en-Aten

“Living spirit of the Aten”


Nefertiti

Nefer-neferu-Aten

“Beautiful are the beauties of Aten, the beautiful one has come”


Similar Objects

Ägyptisches Museum (ÄM 14145) - Stela depicting Akhenaten, Nefertiti and three princesses, thought to have originated from Tell-el Amarna.

Musée du Louvre (E 11624) - Stela depicting the queen, and at least two princesses, seated on the king’s lap.

British Museum (EA 24431) - Stela fragment depicting a royal figure, probably Akhenaten, seated beneath the Aten.


Further Reading

For royal names, titles and cartouches of royalty, see The Name of the Pharaohs.

Allen, J. P. (1988). Two Altered Inscriptions of the Late Amarna Period. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, 25, 117–126 (page 120).

Borchardt, L. (1923). Portràts der Kônigin Nofret-ete aus den Grabungen 1912/13 in Tell el-Amama, WVDOG, 44 (plate 1).

Darnell, J. C. (2016). The Rituals of Love in Ancient Egypt: Festival Songs of the Eighteenth Dynasty and the Ramesside Love Poetry. Die Welt Des Orients, 46(1), 22–61 (page 35).

Davis, W. (1978). Two Compositional Tendencies in Amarna Relief. American Journal of Archaeology, 82(3), 387–394 (page 389).

Friedman, F. (1986). ȝḫ in the Amarna Period. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, 23, 99–106 (page 102).

Gunn, B. (1923). Notes on the Aten and His Names. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 9(3/4), 168–176 (page 168).


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