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The survey team with the differential GPS unit above the Workmen's Village.

Survey Background

Helen Fenwick
Much of the previous survey work undertaken at Amarna has concentrated on the Central City, Workman’s Village or the tombs. The area in between these sites has been largely ignored. This is partly due to the immense task of locating any features in the featureless desert area with any sense of accuracy. With the advent of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) it was possible to begin the survey of this large area, with the same accuracy as was achieved on the survey of the Central City (Kemp and Garfi 1993). The survey began in 2001, in the area of the North Tombs and the Desert Altars, and is ongoing.

In the first season, the survey was undertaken using a Geotronics Geotracer System 2000 L1-RTK differential Global Positioning System (GPS), but subsequently has used a Leica System 500 GPS. This equipment receives information from satellites orbiting the earth which allows a fixed position to be recorded. One receiver is set-up as a base station and continually collects data during the survey. Another receiver is part of a staff which is carried from point to point to take readings. Using the equipment in such a way produces readings with sub-centimetre accuracy, not only for location but also height readings. Whilst systematically surveying the desert area, we are also undertaking a walk-over survey of this large area which is constantly revealing new sites.

The main aims of the survey are to record all visible features within the area to the east of the city, and to produce a topographic model of the area. With both these elements recorded, a detailed analysis of the use of the Amarna landscape can be conducted.
Complimentary to the topographic survey is the making of an aerial photographic record of selected parts of the site, including those during the course of excavation. This is done by means of a radio-controlled camera slung beneath a helium-filled balloon. The aerial photographic survey is directed by Gwil Owen.

Transporting the photographic balloon in the vicinity of the North City.
Transporting the photographic balloon in the vicinity of the North City.


  • Kemp, B.J. and S. Garfi, 1993. A survey of the ancient city of El-'Amarna. Occasional Publications 9. London: Egypt Exploration Society.

Desert Hinterland Map


Website first posted September 2000; last updated October 2017 | enquiries concerning website: email bjk2@cam.ac.uk