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Ancient garden plots at Kom el-Nana.

Kom El-Nana


This local name is given to an enclosure south of the main city and to the east of the modern village of el-Hagg Qandil, originally built by Akhenaten probably as a sun temple. Between 1988 and 2000 the Egypt Exploration Society excavated key areas as part of an attempt (so far successful) to prevent the site falling under cultivation. Most of the excavations have been filled in.

A single large brick enclosure (228 x 213 metres), its walls reinforced with thick external buttresses, had been divided into two unequal parts by an east–west dividing wall and had been entered by pylon-flanked gateways probably on all four sides. The northern portion had contained a set of parallel brick chambers provided with ovens. Excavated evidence (including pottery bread moulds) suggests a combined brewery and bakery. Beside it a depression in the desert probably marks the presence of a well. Traces were also found of a gypsum foundation for a stone building (the North Shrine).

Plan of a section of the enclosure wall, showing the pylon base on the east side and the isolated set of garden plots Plan of a section of the enclosure wall, showing the pylon base on the east side and the isolated set of garden plots

Bakery/brewery chambers in the course of excavation, 1994
Bakery/brewery chambers in the course of excavation, 1994

Ovens at the rear of one of the bakery/brewery chambers
Ovens at the rear of one of the bakery/brewery chambers

The Amarna Period remains in this part had, however, been overbuilt by an early Christian monastery of the 5th and 6th centuries AD that had, in part, re-used the earlier walls, so disguising or destroying the nature of the original buildings. A portion of the monastery, including both the church and domestic/industrial quarters, has been excavated.

The southern portion had remained largely outside the monastery perimeter, and the Amarna Period buildings had survived better, although still significantly denuded and also affected by the later digging out of bricks. A series of buildings had lain on a south-north axis, as follows:

  • A major pylon in the enclosure wall, the wide gateway space floored with stone.
  • The South Pavilion, a narrow rectangular building with stepped entrances on south, west and east. A central columned building opened on to sunken gardens on the east and west sides, the gardens laid out for plants set in a cubit-sized grid.

View towards the west of the South Pavilion at the end of the excavation
View towards the west of the South Pavilion at the end of the excavation

Sunken garden divided into cubit-sized plots in the South Pavilion
Sunken garden divided into cubit-sized plots in the South Pavilion

Sunken garden, the plots still filled with dark alluvial soil
Sunken garden, the plots still filled with dark alluvial soil

Fragments of painted gypsum pavement from the South Pavilion, found loose in the fill of the sunken gardens
Fragments of painted gypsum pavement from the South Pavilion, found loose in the fill of the sunken gardens

  • The Central Platform, a square podium supporting a series of rooms, some of them columned, the largest being a wide columned hall provided with a stepped dais on all three sides. The possibility should entertained that one or all of them communicated to the outside by means of Windows of Appearance. The platform had been reached by ramps on the north and south, and perhaps by another pair attached to the ends of the east side.
View to the north-west of the Central Platform at the end of excavation.
View to the north-west of the Central Platform at the end of excavation.

The west (front) part of the Central Platform at the end of excavation
The west (front) part of the Central Platform at the end of excavation

Reconstruction of the Central Platform Reconstruction of the Central Platform
  • The South Shrine, its position and outline plan given by a gypsum foundation platform on which remained many marks from the lowest course of blocks. It seems to have consisted of a series of chambers on the east and a portico of columns on the west.

Gypsum foundation layer at the South Shrine, viewed towards the west
Gypsum foundation layer at the South Shrine, viewed towards the west

Reconstruction of the Central Platform Plan of a portion of the gypsum foundation layer, showing individual impressions of limestone blocks

Part of the gypsum foundation layer, showing block impressions
Part of the gypsum foundation layer, showing block impressions

Limestone block with head of a princess
Limestone block with head of a princess

Large sandstone jamb carved with hieroglyphs
Large sandstone jamb carved with hieroglyphs

Sandstone architrave block carved with poorly executed cartouches of Akhenaten
Sandstone architrave block carved with poorly executed cartouches of Akhenaten

Limestone block bearing part of the cartouche of Nefertiti on a large scale
Limestone block bearing part of the cartouche of Nefertiti on a large scale

Painted limestone cornice
Painted limestone cornice

Part of a papyrus-bundle column made from limestone blocks
Part of a papyrus-bundle column made from limestone blocks

Also in the southern portion was a group of houses in the south-east corner, arranged in two sets facing each other across a court; a set of cubit-sized garden plots was laid out at ground level in the north-east corner.

A group of houses in the south-east corner of Kom el-Nana, viewed to the south
A group of houses in the south-east corner of Kom el-Nana, viewed to the south

Set of garden plots in the north-east corner of the south enclosure
Set of garden plots in the north-east corner of the south enclosure

Detail of the garden plots with ancient soil removed
Detail of the garden plots with ancient soil removed

The whole ensemble has a broad resemblance to Maru-Aten. Recent work on the relief fragments from the site (Williamson 2008) has confirmed an earlier proposal (Kemp 2005: 457–61) that the complex included a solar shrine of the kind that the Egyptians called a ‘sunshade’, and which was probably dedicated to Queen Nefertiti.

References

Kemp, B. J., 1995. The Kom el-Nana enclosure at Amarna. Egyptian Archaeology 6, 8–9.

Kemp, B.J., ed., 1995. Amarna Reports VI. London, Egypt Exploration Society, 433–8, 453.

At the end of the first two seasons (1988 and 1989) lengthy illustrated reports were prepared for publication. It is planned to include these as pdf files in the next update of the website.

The Late Roman part of the site, belonging to the monastery, has so far produced two volumes of reports:

Faiers, J., (with contributions from S. Clarkson, B. Kemp, G. Pyke and R. Reece) 2005. Late Roman Pottery at Amarna and Related Studies. Seventy-second Excavation Memoir. London: Egypt Exploration Society.

Smith, W., 2003. Archaeobotanical investigations of agriculture at Late Antique Kom el-Nana (Tell el-Amarna). Seventieth Excavation Memoir. London: Egypt Exploration Society.

Williamson, J., 2008. The Sunshade of Nefertiti. Egyptian Archaeology 33, 5–7.

Aerial photograph


Aerial photograph taken in 1923, before the extension of agriculture, showing Kom el-Nana as an isolated desert site
click to enlarge

 
 

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