A city of temples, royal palaces, civic offices, and elite tombs—and of small-scale mud-brick dwellings too—Amarna was an urban village where most of its citizens were only two or three steps removed in the social scale from the king. Barry Kemp evokes the sights and smells of Amarna itself, bringing to life its people—not only the royal family, but also prominent citizens such as the high priest Panehsy, the vizier Nakht, the general Ramose, and the sculptor Thutmose, whose bust of Nefertiti is one of the masterpieces of ancient art.
The excavations reveal that, although Akhenaten had overturned the old religion and introduced worship of the Aten, the sun’s disk, beneath the surface the old belief in the traditional Egyptian gods continued. Likewise themes of abundance and prosperity depicted in the art are contradicted by new cemetery evidence showing malnutrition in childhood, skeletal injuries, and early death. Insights such as these, together with the beautiful and profuse illustrations, make this volume essential reading for anyone interested in the history of urbanism, the mysterious Amarna interlude, and the enigmatic Akhenaten and Nefertiti, who have fascinated writers as diverse as Sigmund Freud and Noel Coward.
Barry Kemp is Emeritus Professor of Egyptology at Cambridge University and has been conducting research and excavation at Amarna since 1977. He lives in England.