The inscribed remains of four structures built by Akhenaten and dedicated to the solar god Aten have been recovered from Karnak. The in-situ remains of one of these buildings, the Gem-pa-Aten (“the sun disk is found”), were found east of the Amun-Ra temple precinct. The temple was fronted by an open court with a colonnade of square pillars, against which rested alternating colossal statues of king Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) and his queen Nefertiti. Carved and painted decoration on the walls of this courtyard depicted the king and queen during various parts of the royal jubilee festival as they entered and exited the palace and as they made offerings to the gods. The eastern section of the temple has not been excavated, and therefore its ground plan and exact size remain unknown. The complex was enclosed with a mud brick wall.
Measurements: The estimated size of the Gem-pa-Aten is 130m x 216m. The court walls rose approximately 7m in height. The “talatat” blocks used to build the structure were roughly 52cm long by 26cm wide and 22cm height.
Phases of Construction
Akhenaten built the Gem-pa-Aten in the third year of his reign to celebrate his jubilee festival (the heb-sed). By year six of his reign, however, Akhenaten had moved the court and royal palace to a new city in Middle Egypt, modern Tell el-Amarna. The extent to which the Gem-pa-Aten and the other structures dedicated to the Aten at Thebes functioned during the king’s hiatus is unknown.
Construction materials: sandstone “talatat” blocks, mudbrick
About the reconstruction model of Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten
The reconstruction of the first court of the Gem-pa-Aten was based on the excavation plans and reconstructive drawings published by Redford (1984: 87, 103; 1999: fig. 50).
The stone patterning for the colonnade of the first court was based on the drawings of Redford (1984: 103) and the dimensions of “talatat” blocks. A plain sandstone color was added to the blocks to approximate the original appearance.
None of the colorfully decorated relief scenes from the colonnade were reconstructed on the model.
Horemheb dismantled the Gem-pa-Aten and other Aten temples and used the “talatat” blocks as fill in pylons two, nine and ten. Ramesses II used additional blocks from the temples as fill in the pylon of Luxor Temple. The colossi in the Gem-pa-Aten’s court were knocked down and left in-situ.
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