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Reconstructing the reliefwork
at Kom el-Nana

Jacquelyn Williamson

The site of Kom el-Nana, in the southern region of Amarna, shows evidence for both Coptic and Amarna Period occupation. Begun in 2005, this project studies the carved stone fragments from the Amarna Period structures.

The stone fragments were discovered in association with the north and south ‘shrines’ that are located within the Amarna Period enclosure. These two shrines show the only evidence for stone architecture at the site, so they were most likely significant locales within the complex.

The first season of analysis of the stone fragments demonstrated that they were left by the demolition team who dismantled the site in the later 18th–19th Dynasties, when the city was abandoned and its buildings used as a cheap source of pre-quarried stone. Although the demolition team removed the main decorated blocks, they left stone chippings that fell to the ground not far from their original locations. These provide the first evidence for an intact artistic temple program from the Amarna Period.

This work primarily focuses on reconstructing that artistic program. A first-stage analysis has been completed on the program of the North Shrine, and the fragments are being reconstructed into line drawings that illustrate the original decoration. When that work is completed and published, the fieldwork will turn its focus to the South Shrine.

Kom el Nana 1Kom el Nana 1 (Click to view PDF)

The project has discovered several hieroglyphic texts that confirm some speculations made about the area when it was first discovered. For example, in 1995, Barry Kemp (1995: 457–61) tentatively suggested that the site, based on its general similarity to the Maru Aten in ground plan and location, could have been a sun temple structure called a ‘Sunshade of Re’.

Sunshade of Re structures, first seen in the earlier 18th Dynasty, were usually dedicated to the manifestation of the sun god with cosmogonic associations. The title Sunshade of Re implies not actual shade but rather indicates that the sun disk hovering overhead provided the worshiper overarching attention. Akhenaten’s interest in the Aten made these structures particularly appealing to him, and he dedicated a series of them to the royal women at Amarna.

Several fragments of inscription have been discovered in the process of this project that preserve the title Sunshade of Re and so prove that Kom el-Nana was a sunshade structure; an example is illustrated (image right). Kom el-Nana can, therefore, be confidently identified as a sun temple similar to the Maru Aten.

Barry Kemp (1995: 457–61) also postulated that the sunshade at Kom el-Nana may have originally been dedicated to Nefertiti. Several of Akhenaten’s Boundary Stelae mention a Sunshade of Re structure belonging to the great royal wife, but its location was unknown. However, it was mentioned on the stelae in association with several other buildings, laying out what could be Akhenaten’s agenda for his first wave of construction at Tell el-Amarna.

Kom el Nana 2Kom el Nana 2 (Click to view PDF)

Secondary analysis suggests Kom el-Nana is likely this Sunshade of Re of the royal wife as mentioned on the Boundary Stele. Although other locales cannot be discounted, such as el-Mangara, Kom el-Nana has the most substantive evidence to support that identification. The site is located on the axis of the royal road, which indicates the structure was one of the first built on the Amarna plain, as the early Boundary Stelae implied. Second, Kom el-Nana contained an industrial-scale bakery with ample evidence of conical bread moulds. Only two other areas at Tell el-Amarna have similar bakeries and bread moulds: the large and small Aten temples. As those two temples are mentioned on the boundary stele in association with the Sunshade of Re of the royal wife, Kom el-Nana is likely to be that structure. Furthermore, reconstruction of the figural decoration of the site has found prevalent images of Nefertiti and frequent images of her cartouche and royal titles.

Also discovered in the process of this project is the name of a structure that was previously known only from both hieratic dockets and a brief inscription in the Tomb of Aye. Called the rwd ankhw Itn, in Ancient Egyptian, evidence for this structure and the reconstruction (shown right) was discovered in collaboration with Marc Gabolde. This could be the name of the entire enclosure that contained the Sunshade.

Further reading

Kemp, B.J., 1995. Outlying temples at Amarna. Amarna Reports VI. London: Egypt Exploration Society. 411–62.

Williamson, J., forthcoming. The Sunshade of Nefertiti in Tell el-Amarna. Leiden Egyptology Publications.

Williamson, J., forthcoming. Hieroglyphic inscriptions from Kom el-Nana: finding the rwd ankhw and reconstructing the titles of the Sunshade Temple of Nefertiti’ Proceedings of the Montpellier Amarna Conference: The Buildings from the Reign of Amenhotep IV- Akhenaten: urbanism and renewal, to be published in Les Cahiers Égypte Nilotique et Méditérranéenne.

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