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The north-east corner of the North Palace, viewed to the north, after repairs ( photographed in 2006).

North Palace


An isolated rectangular building, in modern times called the North Palace, stands between the North Suburb and the North City, facing west towards the river and standing perpendicularly on a line a little back from the prolongation of Royal Road. It was excavated in 1923 and 1924, and parts were re-examined in the 1990s.


It was built along three sides of a long open space, itself divided into two parts by a wall and pylon, the individual elements respecting a symmetry around the central east-west axis. The individual parts comprise:

Aerial photograph of the front (western) portions of the North Palace
Aerial photograph of the front (western) portions of the North Palace

  • An entrance in the west façade between two short pylons into an open court.

View of the altar court after excavation in 1923, towards the south
View of the altar court after excavation in 1923, towards the south

Reconstruction of the altar group Reconstruction of the altar group


The western line of storerooms in the altar court. The piece of stone door jamb bore the name of the princess Meritaten
The western line of storerooms in the altar court. The piece of stone door jamb bore the name of the princess Meritaten

  • On the north side of the court a wide space leading up to a group of three stepped platforms originally built of stone upon a gypsum base and facing towards the local north direction. The central and largest was flanked with two rows of four offering-tables. The east and west sides of the space were each occupied by a row of parallel chambers, perhaps storage magazines.
  • On the south side of the court a narrower space was surrounded with the foundations of brick buildings that seem to have included magazines surrounded by colonnades.
  • The remains of a monumental entrance to the main inner court, consisting of two masses of brickwork, like pylons, flanking a wide area of gypsum foundation that had originally supported columns as well as a stone pavement. Two narrower entrances also with stone pavements flanked the outer ends of the pylons. In front of each of these was a pair of square gypsum foundations for a free-standing object, perhaps statues. One interpretation of the central stonework is that it formed a Window of Appearance directed towards the west.
  • The main inner court is marked by a large depression that seems to have had a rectangular outline at ground level, with a row of tree pits on the north side. Excavation and drilling with a light auger have failed to establish how deeply the depression is filled with debris although the auger reached a depth of eight metres below the present ground level. Rather than being a lake or sunken garden the depression seems to mark the presence of a deep and large well. It was the source of water for the sunken garden in the north-east corner of the palace, a buried limestone conduit linking the two.

Row of earth-filled tree pits along the north side of the central depression, as first revealed in 1923, view to the west
Row of earth-filled tree pits along the north side of the central depression, as first revealed in 1923, view to the west

  • The north side of this inner court is divided into three similar building units, combining a central open space and roofed areas supported on square brick pillars. The easternmost has additional features, in the form of two sets of limestone feeding-troughs for animals combined with tethering-stones. Those in the inner compartment were larger and decorated with carvings of oxen. The smaller troughs, in the outer compartment, were decorated with horned desert animals. The group of three building units were thus intended for the housing of different kinds of animals.

Excavation photograph of 1923 showing the limestone mangers depicting cattle, view to the north
Excavation photograph of 1923 showing the limestone mangers depicting cattle, view to the north

Photograph of the cattle mangers in 1984. The carved blocks had been removed for donation to museums in 1923.
Photograph of the cattle mangers in 1984. The carved blocks had been removed for donation to museums in 1923.

Carved manger blocks Carved manger blocks

Carved manger blocks Carved manger blocks

  • On the south side the equivalent space was filled with what look like service buildings: houses, probably a bakery, and kilns where perhaps faience jewellery was produced.

Aerial photograph of the central rear (eastern) part of the North Palace
Aerial photograph of the central rear (eastern) part of the North Palace

General view of the rear part of the North Palace, viewed to the north-east
General view of the rear part of the North Palace, viewed to the north-east

  • The rear part of the palace was a continuous run of buildings. That in the centre was the main part of the palace. At the very rear lay a tiny throne room on the central axis. In front of this was a transverse hall of columns (the column bases are the originals) that led to a large many-columned hall, the central feature of the palace. The positions of these column bases are now marked in modern cement. They have an unusual arrangement in that in the outer row the columns were more closely spaced than was the case with those in the centre, presumably indicating that the central part of the roof was raised up taller on broader and hence more widely spaced columns. In front of this hall was a stone terrace that supported a canopy on stone columns. It was reached by a staircase or ramp that extended back into the hall. The positions of the ramp and the terrace are now marked with modern stone blocks, following the lines of the original foundations. Immediately to the south of the hall was the principal bedroom and bathroom for the palace’s owner. Other spaces were occupied by storerooms and perhaps accommodation for attendants.

Excavation photograph of 1923, to the south, showing the bathroom (right) and the remains of the adjacent bedroom (left)
Excavation photograph of 1923, viewed to the south, showing the bathroom (right) and the remains of the adjacent bedroom (left)

Excavation photograph of 1923, viewed to the south, showing the bathroom, with limestone floor, sandstone tank, and gypsum covering of the walls
Excavation photograph of 1923, viewed to the south, showing the bathroom, with limestone floor, sandstone tank, and gypsum covering of the walls

  • The north section of the rear part was a garden court occupying the north-east corner of the building. When excavated, the walls of the surrounding chambers still bore areas of painted plaster. The central room on the north side, the ‘Green Room’, was painted with a continuous frieze depicting the natural life of the marshes. Each chamber on the east possessed a window through which the central garden, sunk beneath the level of the pavement, could by viewed.

The garden court of the North Palace, viewed to the north, after repairs in 1999
The garden court of the North Palace, viewed to the north, after repairs in 1999

Row of chambers with windows on the east side of the garden court, viewed to the south
Row of chambers with windows on the east side of the garden court, viewed to the south

Pilaster carved with plant design at the end of the eastern colonnade in front of the eastern row of chambers in the garden court
Pilaster carved with plant design at the end of the eastern colonnade in front of the eastern row of chambers in the garden court

One of the windows in the eastern chambers, Note the remains of wall painting on the outside surface
One of the windows in the eastern chambers. Note the remains of wall painting on the outside surface

Central sunken garden in the garden court, subdivided by mud ridges into cubit-sized plots
Central sunken garden in the garden court, subdivided by mud ridges into cubit-sized plots

View of the garden court showing the location (restored) of one of the paintings of the ‘Green Room’
View of the garden court showing the location (restored) of one of the paintings of the ‘Green Room’

Reconstructed placing of the decorative scheme of the ‘Green Room’. The version of the painting is a recreation by F. Weatherhead
Reconstructed placing of the decorative scheme of the ‘Green Room’. The version of the painting is a recreation by F. Weatherhead

Watercolour copy of one of the ‘Green Room’ paintings, by N. de G. Davies
Watercolour copy of one of the ‘Green Room’ paintings, by N. de G. Davies

Watercolour copies of paintings around the garden court, by F. G. Newton
Watercolour copies of paintings around the garden court, by F. G. Newton

One of the chambers on the west side of the garden court, on which, in 1923, the painting was discovered depicting a goose feeding from a pottery jar
One of the chambers on the west side of the garden court, on which, in 1923, the painting was discovered depicting a goose feeding from a pottery jar

Watercolour copy of a painting depicting a goose feeding from a pottery jar Watercolour copy of a painting depicting a goose feeding from a pottery jar

  • The corresponding section in the south-east corner was at first filled with storerooms and with a large roofed space supported on brick pillars. During the life of the building the storerooms were converted into houses and the pillared hall subdivided by partition walls.

Several staircases were built into the rear of the palace, raising the possibility that, apart from the central part, a second storey might have been present, including over the rooms surrounding the garden court.

Many inscriptions found in the North Palace show that, whilst it may have been originally made for Nefertiti or Kiya (a queen prominent in the earlier part of Akhenaten's reign) it was later converted into a palace for the eldest daughter and heiress, Princess Meritaten.

Limestone door jamb from the western storerooms of the altar court. The name of the king’s daughter Meritaten has been carved over an earlier name
Limestone door jamb from the western storerooms of the altar court. The name of the king’s daughter Meritaten has been carved over an earlier name

Reconstruction of one of the limestone columns from the eastern part of the palace. The texts name the king’s daughter Meritaten after the name of Akhenaten Reconstruction of one of the limestone columns from the eastern part of the palace. The texts name the king’s daughter Meritaten after the name of Akhenaten

Copy of a fragment of column drum in the British Museum. Traces of hieroglyphs beneath the name Meritaten seem to be consistent with name of Kiya. Copy by N. Reeves
Copy of a fragment of column drum in the British Museum. Traces of hieroglyphs beneath the name Meritaten seem to be consistent with name of Kiya. Copy by N. Reeves.

References


Newton, F.G., 1924. Excavations at El-‘Amarnah, 1923–24. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 10, 289–98.

Whittemore, T., 1926. The excavations at El-‘Amarnah, season 1924–5. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 12, 3–12.

Frankfort, H., ed., 1929. The mural paintings of El-‘Amarneh. London, Egypt Exploration Society.

Reeves, C.N., 1988. New light on Kiya from texts in the British Museum. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 74, 91–101.

Spence, K., 1999. The North Palace at Amarna. Egyptian Archaeology 15, 14–16.

Plan of the
North Palace


Plan of the North Palace
click to enlarge

 
 

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