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Author Topic: AKHENATEN  (Read 1090 times)
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« Reply #15 on: September 09, 2007, 06:48:42 am »

T H E   R E L I G I O U S   B A C K G R O U N D

THE ROYAL 'SED' FESTIVAL                                                                                         continued

Dja-rukha, the residential palace complex built by Amenhotep III early in his long reign is located at Malkata (Malqata) on the West Bank of the Nile River at Thebes. It was here that Akhenaten spent his youth and where he may have ruled as co-regent, where Amenhotep III celebrated his three jubilee sed-festivals and where his reign came to an end. Over three and a half thousand years later, Dja-rukha lies in ruins, its once beautifully decorated mudbrick buildings transformed into colourful rubble easily crushed underfoot.

Known in Amenhotep’s time as pr Haj or ‘House of Rejoicing’ and also as the Palace of the Dazzling Aten, Dja-rukha was the king’s permanent Theban base. Covering over 80 hectares, the complex included four palaces, accommodation for relatives of the king and their large retinues, accommodation for the vizier and other high-ranking officials, three audience halls, parade grounds, a temple of Amun, an administrative section (the West Villas), at least two village areas for palace workmen and other buildings. His mortuary temple, no longer in existence, lay about a mile south-west of the complex. Dja-rukha was used by Amenhotep on an intermittent basis until the king 'retired' there in regnal year 29 ten years before he died.
The residential palace was serviced by its own large artificial harbour now known as the Birket Habu, a 200,000 square metre harbour basin, built by Amenhotep to enable easy passage to Waset across the Nile. The artificial hills still in existence around the Birket Habu are evidence of the massive undertaking to create it. The harbour also formed the part of the setting for Amenhotep’s Sed-festival which was celebrated three times in his reign, the first of which marked his newly deified state as Aten Tjehen or the Dazzling Aten. The desert altar at Kom al-Samak, which was probably connected to the residential palace by a causeway, was integral to the king’s Sed-festivals.


Dja-rukha’s location on the West Bank was probably a strategic one. Unlike other rulers who had taken up temporary residence in courts connected with Karnak when festive and sacred occasions required their attendance, Amenhotep went against established custom by building a permanent residence across the river. Its location may have signified a calculated move to distance himself from the interference in his affairs by the increasingly powerful sect of Amun.

Due to Amenhotep’s practice of marrying foreign princesses to consolidate Egypt’s relations with its neighbours, the court would have been a relatively cosmopolitan one. Wives of royal birth such as the Mitannian princesses Gilukhepa and Tadukhepa brought with them hundreds of attendants. In addition, artisans from the Aegean islands who left a lasting legacy in the new stylistic conventions evidenced in the palace’s elegant murals must have brought with them other cultural influences. Combined, these things may have contributed to a polyglot domestic environment that affected the nature of the court at Dja-rukha in many subtle ways.

Built of painted mudbrick with wooden columns and roof beams, with stone used sparingly for the flooring of baths, column bases and door sills, the palace featured plastered walls that, in some rooms, were painted with murals depicting plants, animals and decorative motifs, their naturalistic style suggesting a direct Minoan influence. Existing fragments of the brilliantly coloured decorative murals that once graced the walls and now-fallen ceilings of the palace still suggest its beauty and elegance. Spiral patterns, rosettes and other repeating motifs hint at the Egyptian love of pattern and order.

Known in Arabic as the ‘place of debris’, the Malkata site was relatively intact until 1888. Poorly handled excavations at that time and the removal of much material between 1910 and 1920 by New York’s Metropolitan Museum seriously impoverished the site. Further excavation occurred in the 1970s under the aegis of the University of Pennsylvania. From the mid 1980’s, a team from Waseda University in Japan re-excavated a number of the rooms including the Pharaoh's bedchamber in the main palace. Some sections of the site are still to be investigated. In time no doubt others will come to prise yet a little more information from the dust and the cracked mud remains.
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