Where is Amarna?

(El) Amarna is a city in Middle Egypt between Cairo and Luxor. The archaeological site near the modern city, called Tell El-Amarna (The hill at El-Amarna) is the remains of the ancient Egyptian capital Akhetaten which thrived for a brief period in the 1300s BCE. It was the new capital of the famous religious reformer (or “heretic king,” depending on your stance), Pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenophis/Amenhotep/Amenhotpe IV, 1350-1334 BCE) and his father Amenophis/Amenhotep/Amenhotpe III (1386-49 BCE). Akhenaten’s wife was the beautiful Nefertiti. Akhetaten was the Washington or Berlin of its era, involved in international diplomacy far beyond the borders of Ancient Egypt, especially with weaker kingdoms in the Levant that were vassals of powerful Egypt. The city came to an end within a dozen years after the death of Akhenaten in 1334 or so, although his successors Smenkhkareand Tutankhamun (“King Tut”) lived there for a short time before returning the capital to Luxor.

The building where the tablets were housed lay behind the Pharaoh’s palace and was called “the place of the letters of the Pharaoh.” In addition to this relatively small library of “foreign” documents, the archive housed a larger number of Egyptian texts.

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