Reproduction of an Ancient Egyptian stela from Amarna, depicting King Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti worshipping the sun-disk Aten

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This stela was discovered by a team led by German Egyptology Ludwig Borchardt in the rubble behind the back wall of house Q47.16 in the Main City district of Amarna. Dating to the reign of the heretical king Akhenaten in Dynasty 18, this icon would have been kept in a private chapel of an Amarna house and used to worship the sun-god Aten, the king and his holy family.

Akhenaten and his wife Queen Nefertiti are shown seated on cushioned stools bearing the sema-tawy symbol, denoting the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. Between them stands their eldest daughter, Meritaten, who is receiving a golden earring from her father, who has another earring and two golden collars on his lap. Sat on Nefertiti’s lap are the royal couple’s younger daughters, Meketaten and Ankhesenpaaten (Tutankhamun’s future wife). Above the royal family is the red disk of the sun god Aten, whose rays reach out towards the family and end in hands holding Ankhs, the symbol of life. Surrounding the scene are three bands of hieroglyphs that dedicate the stela to Aten, Akhenaten and Nefertiti.

The entire composition forms the shape of the hieroglyph Akhet meanings ‘horizon’, comprised of a sun (Aten) rising between two mountains (Akhenaten and Nefertiti). The Akhet symbol can also be found in the centre of the scene, where Akhenaten is offering a golden earring with dangling beads symbolising the Aten to his daughter Meritaten. His hands mimic those of the Aten which offer life symbols, and his daughter’s upturned hands form the shape of the horizon.

The family are portrayed with the characteristic features typical of Amarna period art, such as wide hips, sagging bellies, exaggerated heads and elongated, fluid limbs. Akhenaten is wearing the blue crown known as a Khopresh and a pleated kilt, whilst Nefertiti wears her characteristic high crown and a traditional robe held in place with a belt. Their daughters are portrayed naked with side-locks of hair to distinguish them as children

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