Amarna is the modern Arabic name for the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Akhetaten, capital of the country under the reign of Akhenaten (1353-1336 BCE). The site is officially known as Tell el-Amarna, so-named for the Beni Amran tribe who were living in the area when it was discovered.

A 'tell' in archaeology is a mound created by the remains of successive human habitation of an area over a given number of years. As each new generation builds on the ruins of the previous one, their buildings rise in elevation to create an artificial hill. Amarna differs from the usual 'tell' in that it did not fall to a foreign power or earthquake and was never built over in antiquity; it was instead destroyed by order of the pharaoh Horemheb (c. 1320-1292 BCE) who sought to erase Akhenaten's name and accomplishments from history; afterwards its ruins lay in the plain by the Nile River for centuries and gradually was built on by others who lived nearby.

When he came to power, Akhenaten was a powerful king entrusted – as all kings were – with the maintenance of ma'at (harmony and balance) in the land. Ma'at was the central value of the culture which allowed all aspects of life to function harmoniously as they should. It came into being at the beginning of creation and so, naturally, a king's observance and maintenance of ma'at relied heavily on the proper veneration of the gods through traditional rites and rituals.

Akhenaten's one true god was light, the light of the sun, which sustained all life.

Although Akhenaten initially kept to this practice, in around the fifth year of his reign (c. 1348 BCE) he abolished the ancient Egyptian religion, closed the temples, and imposed his own monotheistic vision on the people. This innovation, though hailed by monotheists for the last hundred years, crippled the Egyptian economy (which relied heavily on the temples), distracted the king from foreign affairs, stagnated the military, and resulted in Egypt's significant loss of status among neighboring lands.

It is for these reasons that Akhenaten's son and successor, Tutankhamun (c. 1336-1327 BCE), returned Egypt to traditional religious practices and rejected the monotheism of his father. He did not live long enough to complete the restoration of Egypt, however, and so this was accomplished by Horemheb. This era in Egypt's history is known as the Amarna Period and is usually dated from Akhenaten's reforms to Horemheb's reign: c. 1348 - c. 1320 BCE.

The City of the God

The god Akhenaten chose to replace all the others was not his own creation. Aten was a minor solar deity who personified the light of the sun. Egyptologist David P. Silverman points out how all Akhenaten did was elevate this god to the level of a supreme being and attribute to him the qualities once associated with Amun but without any of that god's personal characteristics. Silverman writes:

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Unlike traditional deities, this god could not be depicted: the symbol of the sun disc with rays, dominating Amarna art, is nothing more than a large-scale version of the hieroglyph for 'light'. (128)

Akhenaten's one true god was light, the light of the sun, which sustained all life. Unlike the other gods, Aten was above human concerns and possessed no human weaknesses. As Akhenaten expresses in his Great Hymn to the Aten, his god could not be jealous or depressed or angry or act on impulse; he simply existed and, by that existence, caused all else to exist. A god this powerful and awe-inspiring could not be worshiped at any other god's repurposed temple nor even in any city which had known the worship of other deities; he required a new city built solely for his honor and adoration.

This city was Akhetaten, built midway between the traditional capitals of Memphis in the north and Thebes in the south. Boundary steles were erected at intervals around its perimeter which told the story of its founding. On one, Akhenaten records the nature of the site he chose:

Behold, it is Pharaoh, who found it – not being the property of a god, not being the property of a goddess, not being the property of a male ruler, not being the property of a female ruler, and not being the property of any people. (Snape, 155)

Other stelae and inscriptions make clear that the foundation of the city was entirely Akhenaten's initiative as an individual, not as a king of Egypt. A pharaoh of the New Kingdom of Egypt (c. 1570 - c. 1069 BCE) would issue a commission for the building of a city or temple or erection of obelisks or monuments in his royal name and for the glory of his particular god, but these projects were to benefit the nation collectively, not just the king. Akhenaten's city was built for the sole purpose of providing him with an elaborate sacred precinct for his god.

Design & Layout

Akhetaten was laid out over six miles on the east bank of the Nile between the shore and the cliffs above Assiut. Some boundary stelae were carved directly into the cliffs with others free-standing on the far side of the city. The four main districts were the North City, Central City, Southern Suburbs, and Outskirts; none of these names were used to designate the locales in antiquity.

The North City was constructed around the Northern Palace where guests were received and Aten was worshiped. The royal family lived in apartments to the rear of the palace and the most opulent rooms, painted with outdoor scenes depicting the fertility of the Delta region, were dedicated to Aten who was thought to inhabit them. The palace had no roof – a common feature of the buildings at Akhetaten – as a gesture of welcome to Aten.

The Central City was designed around the Great Temple of Aten and the Small Temple of Aten. This was the bureaucratic center of the city where the administrators worked and lived. The Southern Suburbs was the residential district for the wealthy elite and featured large estates and monuments. The Outskirts were inhabited by the peasant farmers who worked the fields and on the tombs of the necropolis.

Akhenaten himself designed the city for his god, as his boundary stelae make clear, and refused suggestions or advice from anyone else, even his wife Nefertiti (c. 1370 - c. 1336 BCE). Precisely what kind of suggestions she may have made is unknown, but the fact that Akhenaten makes a point of stating that he did not listen to her advice would seem to indicate they were significant. Egyptologist Steven Snape comments:

It is obvious that the 'prospectus' for the new city carved on the boundary stelae is deeply concerned with describing the provision that will be made for the king, his immediate family, the god Aten, and those religious officials who were to be involved with the cult of the Aten. It is equally obvious that it utterly ignores the needs of the vast majority of the population of Amarna, people who would have been moved (possibly unwillingly) from their homes to inhabit the new city. (158)

Once Akhenaten moved his capital to Akhetaten, he focused his attention on the adoration of Aten and increasingly ignored affairs of state as well as the condition of the country outside of the city which was slipping into decline.

Akhenaten's Reign & Amarna Letters

The Amarna Letters are cuneiform tablets discovered at Akhetaten in 1887 CE by a local woman who was digging for fertilizer. They are the correspondence found between the kings of Egypt and those of foreign nations as well as official documents from the period. The majority of these letters demonstrate that Akhenaten was an able administrator when a situation interested him personally but also that as his reign progressed he cared less and less for the responsibilities of a monarch.

In one letter, he strongly rebukes the foreign ruler Abdiashirta for his actions against another, Ribaddi (who was killed), and for his friendship with the Hittites who were then Egypt's enemy. This no doubt had more to do with his desire to keep friendly the buffer states between Egypt and the Land of the Hatti - Canaan and Syria, for example, which were under Abdiashirta's influence - than any sense of justice for the death of Ribaddi and the taking of Byblos.

There is no doubt that his attention to this problem served the interests of the state but, as other similar issues were ignored, it seems that he only chose to address issues which affected him personally. Akhenaten had Abdiashirta brought to Egypt and imprisoned for a year until Hittite advances in the north compelled his release but there seems a marked difference between his letters dealing with this situation and other king's correspondence on similar matters.

While there are examples like this one of Akhenaten looking after state affairs, there are more which provide evidence of his disregard for anything other than his religious reforms and life in the palace. It should be noted, however, that this is a point often – and hotly - debated among scholars in the modern day, as is the whole of the so-called Amarna Period of Akhenaten's rule. Regarding this, Dr. Zahi Hawass writes:

More has been written on this period in Egyptian history than any other and scholars have been known to come to blows, or at least to major episodes of impoliteness, over their conflicting opinions. (35)

The preponderance of the evidence, both from the Amarna letters and from Tutankhamun's later decree, as well as archaeological indications, strongly suggests that Akhenaten was a very poor ruler as far as his subjects and vassal states were concerned and his reign, in the words of Hawass, was "an inward-focused regime that had lost interest in its foreign policy" (45).

Akhenaten saw himself and his wife not just as servants of the gods but the incarnation of the light of Aten. The art of the period depicts the royal family as strangely elongated and narrow and, while this has been interpreted by some as "realism" it is far more likely symbolism. To Akhenaten, the god Aten was unlike any other – invisible, all-powerful, omniscient, and transformative – and the art from the period would seem to reflect this belief in the curiously tall and thin figures depicted: they have been transformed by the touch of Aten.

Destruction of the City

The city flourished until Akhenaten's death; afterwards, Tutankhamun moved the capital back to Memphis and then to Thebes. Tutankhamun initiated the measures to reverse his father's policies and return Egypt to the former beliefs and practices which had maintained the culture and helped it develop for almost 2,000 years. Temples were reopened, and the businesses which depended upon them were renewed.

Tutankhamun died before he could finish these reforms, and they were carried on by his successor, the former vizier Ay, and then by Horemheb. Horemheb had been a general under Akhenaten and served him faithfully but disagreed vehemently with his religious reforms. When Horemheb came to the throne, Akhetaten was still standing (as evidenced by a shrine to him built there at this time) but it would not remain intact for long. He ordered the city razed and its remains dumped as fill for his own projects.

Horemheb was so dedicated to erasing the name and accomplishments of Akhenaten that he does not appear in any of Egypt's later historical records. Where he had to be cited it is only as "the heretic of Akhetaten" but never named and no reference made to his position as pharaoh.

Discovery & Preservation

The ruins of the city were first mapped and drawn in the 18th century CE by the French priest Claude Sicard. Other Europeans visited the site afterwards, and interest in the area was piqued after the discovery of the Amarna Letters. It was further explored and mapped in the late 19th century CE by Napoleon's corps of engineers during his Egyptian campaign, and this work attracted the attention of other archaeologists once the Rosetta Stone was deciphered and ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics could be read in c. 1824 CE. Akhenaten's name was therefore known but not his significance. It was not until archeologists in the early 20th century CE found the ruins Horemheb had dumped as fill that the story of Akhenaten was finally put together.

In the present day, the site is a wide, barren, expanse of ruined foundations which is being preserved and excavated by The Amarna Project. Unlike the ruins of Thebes or the village of Deir el-Medina, there is little left of Akhetaten for a visitor to admire. Egyptologist Steven Snape comments, "apart from the modest reconstructions of parts of the city by modern archaeologists, there is virtually nothing to be seen of the city of Amarna" (154). This is not unusual as the cities of Memphis and Per-Ramesses, both also capitals of ancient Egypt – as well as many others – are largely vacant lots today with far fewer monuments than those extant at Amarna.

What makes Amarna a special case in this regard is that the city was not leveled by time nor by an invading army but by the successor of the king who built it. At no other time in Egypt's ancient history was a city destroyed by a king's successor to blot out his name. To remove one's name from a temple or monument or tomb was to condemn them for eternity, but in this instance, only the removal of an entire city would satisfy Horemheb's sense of justice.

The Egyptians believed one had to be remembered by the living in order to continue one's eternal journey in the afterlife. In Akhenaten's case, it was not just a tomb or temple which was defaced but the totality of his life and reign. All of his monuments, in every city across Egypt, were torn down and every inscription bearing his name or that of his god was edited with chisels. Akhenaten's heresy was considered so serious, and the damage done to the country so severe, that he was thought to have earned the worst punishment that could be meted out in ancient Egypt: non-existence.

History of the Seven Villages

The history of Amana Colonies, a National Historic Landmark and one of America’s longest-lived communal societies, begins in 1714 in the villages of Germany and continues today on the Iowa prairie.

In the turbulent 18th century, Germany in the midst of a religious movement called Pietism, two men, Eberhard Ludwig Gruber, and Johann Friedrich Rock, advocated faith renewal through reflection, prayer and Bible study. Their belief, one shared by many other Pietists, was that God, through the Holy Spirit, may inspire individuals to speak. This gift of inspiration was the basis for a religious group that began meeting in 1714 and became known as the Community of True Inspiration. Though the Inspirationists sought to avoid conflict, they were persecuted for their beliefs. Eventually, the Inspirationists found refuge in central Germany settling in several estates, including the 13th-century Ronneburg castle.

Seeking Freedom
Persecution and an economic depression in Germany forced the community to begin searching for a new home. Led by Christian Metz, they hoped to find religious freedom in America and left Germany in 1843-44. Community members pooled their resources and purchased 5,000 acres near Buffalo, New York. By working cooperatively and sharing their property, the community, now numbering some 1,200 people, was able to carve a relatively comfortable living. They called their community the “Ebenezer Society” and adopted a constitution that formalized their communal way of life.

When more farmland was needed for the growing community, the Inspirationists looked to Iowa where attractively priced land was available. Land in the Iowa River valley was particularly promising. Here was fertile soil, stone, wood, and water enough to build the community of their dreams.

Remaining True

In 1855 they arrived in Iowa. After an inspired testimony directed the people to call their village, “Bleibtreu” or “remain faithful” the leaders chose the name Amana from the Song of Solomon 4:8. Amana means to “remain true.” Six villages were established, a mile or two apart, across a river valley tract of some 26,000 acres – Amana, East Amana, West Amana, South Amana, High Amana, and Middle Amana. The village of Homestead was added in 1861, giving the Colony access to the railroad.

Communal Life
In the seven villages, residents received a home, medical care, meals, all household necessities, and schooling for their children. Property and resources were shared. Men and women were assigned jobs by their village council of brethren. No one received a wage. No one needed one.

Farming and the production of wool and calico supported the community, but village enterprises, everything from clock making to brewing, were vital and well-crafted products became a hallmark of the Amanas. Craftsmen took special pride in their work as a testament of both their faith and their community spirit.

Up before dawn, called to work by the gentle tolling of the bell in the village tower, the unhurried routine of life in old Amana was paced very differently than today. Amana churches, located in the center of each village, built of brick or stone, have no stained glass windows, no steeple or spire, and reflect the ethos of simplicity and humility. Inspirationists attended worship services 11 times a week their quiet worship punctuating the days.

Over 50 communal kitchens provided three daily meals as well as a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack to all Colonists. These kitchens were operated by the women of the Colony and well supplied by the village smokehouse, bakery, ice house and dairy, and by the huge gardens, orchards and vineyards maintained by the villagers.

Children attended school, six days a week, year-round until the age of 14. Boys were assigned jobs on the farm or in the craft shops, while girls were assigned to a communal kitchen or garden. A few boys were sent to college for training as teachers, doctors, and dentists.

In 1932, amidst America’s Great Depression, Amana set aside its communal way of life. A ruinous farm market and changes in the rural economy contributed, but what finally propelled the change was a strong desire on the part of residents to maintain their community. By 1932, the communal way of life was seen as a barrier to achieving individual goals, so rather than leave or watch their children leave, they changed. They established the Amana Society, Inc. a profit-sharing corporation to manage the farmland, the mills, and the larger enterprises. Private enterprise was encouraged. The Amana Church was maintained.

Amana Colonies Today
Today the seven villages of the Amana Colonies represent an American dream come true a thriving community founded by religious faith and community spirit. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965, the Amana Colonies attract hundreds of thousands of visitors annually all of whom come to see and enjoy a place where the past is cherished and where hospitality is a way of life.

Evocative of another age, the streets of the Amana Colonies with their historic brick, stone and clapboard homes, their flower and vegetable gardens, their lanterns and walkways recall Amana yesterday. But a vibrant community, celebrating both its past and its future, is here today for you to experience.

The desolation of Amarna

The archaeological discoveries at Amarna revealed a major temple and palace at the center of the site, surrounded by houses. The temple consisted of multiple rooms for offerings, baking, crowd space, amongst others. The city had its very own faience and glass factory, as well as pottery. Every house had its own temple in its courtyard — a testament to how religious the people of Amarna were. However, all these were not the most interesting thing at all. The most interesting aspect was that every single building had been deliberately destroyed, and the area looked like it had been abandoned in a rush.

What could be the reason for leaving the city so urgently, destroying everything they had built? The records kept at the time as well as the Amarna Letters held the answer. These letters were mostly about political relationships with other societies of the Near and Middle East. They held information about marriage alliances, ambassadorships, gifts from the states of Amarna, wars, and so on. However, they also helped us understand the reason why Amarna was deserted after eleven years of rule under Akhenaten.

In the ninth year of Akhenaten’s rule, his wife (the famous Queen Nefertiti) and daughters died due to an illness — possibly plague or avian flu. This illness prevailed in Amarna for two years, eventually killing Akhenaten himself. After his death, the people of Amarna decided that the city was cursed by the old gods, so they went back to their previous religion. However, while doing that, they destroyed everything that showed any evidence of Atenism — temples, hieroglyphic inscription reliefs, records — all of it.

The excavations at the site revealed damaged inscription reliefs depicting Akhenaten and Nefertiti worshipping Aten — who is depicted as the sun. The tomb of Akhenaten was damaged severely too. In fact, his body was taken back to Thebes and his sarcophagus was shattered.

One finding of major importance was made in 1912 by Ludwig Borchardt, the Nefertiti Bust. The bust was found almost completely unharmed in the workplace of Thutmose, the king’s favorite sculptor. It is one of the few objects recovered undamaged from Amarna.

Amarna - History

Learning cycles

Swings in the economy are related to waves of technological advance. A new technology is invented, undergoes rapid improvement, then reaches a stage of maturity after which there is little further refinement. Meanwhile, the invention is incorporated into an innovative product that is adopted by users at an accelerating rate until almost everyone who wants one has one, and new customers are rare. The initial explosive growth of invention and innovation produces an economic boom. The subsequent stagnation results in a bust. Since the industrial revolution there has been a series of such waves. In each successive wave, the time from boom to bust has decreased by a factor of √2, but the centres of the waves have been regularly spaced. Cesare Marchetti. 1980. Society as a Learning System: Discovery, Invention and Innovation Cycles Revisited. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 18.

Social macrodynamics

World population follows a hyperbolic curve that can be explained by a simple model. Let P = population and T = technology. Assume that population is limited by the technology, i.e. better technology makes possible a larger population. This can be expressed as P = a T, where a is some constant of proportionality. Assume the growth of technology is increased by both the population (more potential inventors) and the technology already in existence (facilitating the spread and recombination of ideas). This can be expressed as dT/dt = b P T, where b is a constant. We can therefore write dP/dt =a dT/dt = a b P T, and since a T = P, this becomes dP/dt = b P 2 . The solution to this equation is P = c / (t0 - t) where c = 1 / b, t0 = 1 / (b P0 ), and P0 = starting population. This is the equation of a hyperbola. With suitable estimates of c and P0, it fits the observed growth of world population to an accuracy of 99.6%. Andrey Korotayev, Artemy Malkov & Daria Khaltourina. 2006. Introduction to Social Macrodynamics: Compact Macromodels of the World System Growth. URSS.

Structural-demographic theory

Civil war and rebellion become likely when 3 conditions are met:
1. Popular discontent and volatility, due to falling incomes, urban growth and a youthful population
2. Intra-elite conflict, when there are more candidates for elite status (e.g. university graduates) than there are positions for them to occupy
3. A fiscal crisis, in which the state's credit has run out and it can no longer meet its financial obligations
There is a cycle. Population growth outstrips technology, causing general impoverishment. Elites exploit this cheap labour to expand, and divide into rival factions. Elite expansion increases the state's obligations while general impoverishment reduces its revenues, and its authority breaks down. Elite factions then mobilise the populace to fight over a new order. This produces social and economic innovation so that living conditions improve, and the cycle starts over. Jack Goldstone. 1991. Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World. Univ. of California Press. Peter Turchin and Sergey Nefedov. 2009. Secular Cycles. Princeton Univ. Press.

The generational cycle

People born in a similar era, and exposed to similar influences, develop similar attitudes and behaviours in later life. Since they partly emulate and partly react against their parents, the result is a cycle of generations in which the same attitudes come round roughly every 80 years, the length of a long human life. The cycle involves two forms of upheaval, a political-economic crisis and a cultural awakening, each returning as memory of the last one fades. Before the crisis is an unravelling and after it a high. The generations divide into four types, defined by their differing experiences of these phases:
Nomads: entrepreneurial survivors neglected as children and in old age.
Heroes: can-do team players young adults during the crisis.
Artists: efficient, cultured technocrats, with an ever-youthful outlook.
Prophets: radicals and visionaries young adults during the awakening.
Neil Howe and William Strauss. 1991. Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069. William Morrow & Company. Neil Howe and William Strauss. 1997. The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny. Broadway Books.

The hegemonic cycle

In The Peloponnesian War, the Greek historian Thucydides says that, while there were many specific reasons why war broke out, the ultimate cause was "the rise of Athens, and the fear this caused in Sparta". This was an example of a recurrent syndrome in international affairs: the rise of a challenger to the current hegemon, where the clash between the ambitions of the challenger and the desire of the hegemon to hold on to power eventually leads to a contest of arms. In recent history, this syndrome has followed a cycle with a period of about 100 years. Usually, the challenger is defeated in the war but the hegemon is so exhausted by it that it loses its leading position to a third party. The current cycle, with the United States as hegemon, began with the ending of World War 2 and is expected to culminate in the next few decades. George Modelski. 1999. From Leadership to Organization. In V. Borschier and C. Chase-Dunn (eds.), The Future Of Global Conflict. Sage.

The dynastic cycle

The Arab historian, Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) found that dynasties go through a rise and fall that lasts four generations or 120 years. The first generation comes to power on the basis of strong asabiya, Ibn Khaldun's word for 'solidarity' or 'social cohesion', among and with its supporters. Over time, the dynasty loses its war-like character and asabiya declines as the rulers take their position for granted and develop a taste for luxury. Early on, taxes are light and easily raised. Later, they become heavy and hard to raise. Overall tax revenues hardly increase, but a growing proportion is squandered. Asabiya disappears fastest at the periphery, where a new, more vigorous contender arises then comes to conquer the core, and the cycle begins again. There are 5 stages: conquest, consolidation, leisure, peace, waste. Ibn Khaldun, tr. F. Rosenthal. 2005. The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History. Princeton University Press. Peter Turchin. 2003. Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall. Princeton University Press.

Cultural dynamics

Fundamental cultural beliefs, as expressed in the works of artists, writers and philosophers, change over time. In just one of many examples, western civilisation since the Renaissance has seen an irregular swing between eternalism, the belief that change is an illusion, and temporalism, the belief that change is everywhere and all is change. Furthermore, the switch from temporalism to eternalism has been associated with civilisational crises that brought permanent changes in political, economic and social structures. Other kinds of belief show similar fluctuations, while different civilisations may be at different stages in these long-term dynamics. Pitirim Sorokin. 1957. Social and Cultural Dynamics: A Study of Change in Major Systems of Art, Truth, Ethics, Law and Social Relationships. Peter Owen.

The civilisational year

According to Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), civilisations follow a lifecycle with seasons like the year, undergoing the same experiences in the same sequence. Once they have passed through all four seasons, over a period of 1000-2000 years, they enter an arrested, unchanging state, or they are swept away altogether. Each civilisation is formed around a core set of ideas that appears in all of its art, philosophy and science. Western civilisation is formed around the ideas of infinite extension and human autonomy, and this is seen in its invention of perspective, its cosmological picture of galaxies at vast distances, its adoption of the Faust myth, and its Darwinian belief in a natural world of struggle and competition. Arabian civilisation, of which Islam is a product, is formed around the ideas of the cavern and human helplessness in relation to the divine will. While the West is entering its winter, Arabian civilisation has already ended and has no more potential for development. Oswald Spengler. 2014 (1926 and 1928). The Decline of the West. Random Shack.

The lifecycle of civilisations

According to Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975), the history of a civilisation exhibits “three and a half beats”, i.e. three cycles of boom and bust, then one final peak before the civilisation fades away. The driving mechanism for this is challenge and response, which means that the civilisation has some characteristic problem—such as population pressure or a difficult climate—that underlies everything it does. Toynbee believes that every civilisation constructs a Universal State—i.e. it imposes on the world its monolithic vision of how society should be ordered—and a Universal Church—i.e. it adopts a dominant religion. Its growth phase is presided over by a creative minority, and its decline by a dominant minority. Furthermore, the civilisation’s development is affected not only by the behaviour of its internal proletariat but also by its relationship with the external proletariat, i.e. those outside the civilisation who are influenced by it and provide it with labour. Arnold Toynbee. 1972. A Study of History: The New One-Volume Edition. Thames and Hudson. Stephen Blaha. 2002. The Life Cycle of Civilizations. Pingree-Hill Publishing.

Zipf's law

Many sociological quantities obey approximate power laws, whose signature is the tendency to produce a straight line on a logarithmic plot. For example, with cities there is a power law such that cities half as large as a given size are twice as numerous. This phenomenon is named after George Zipf (1902-1950) who studied it in city populations, linguistics, personal incomes and other areas. The power law tendency can be used to infer the whole from a part, and so to detect fraud or missing data. Deviations from power law behaviour may also highlight particular factors or processes that inhibit the normal tendency. For example, city sizes are the outcome of a historical evolution responding to political, economic and social forces, and the power law distribution tells us about these forces and evolutionary mechanisms. For a simple explanation of Zipf's Law, assume that the city size distribution is stable and unchanging while every city at each time step can either double or halve in size, with probabilities that are independent of its current size. Let the probability of doubling be p and the probability of halving be 1-p. If there are Ns cities of size S, after one time step these will have become p Ns cities of size 2 S and (1-p) Ns cities of size S/2. Since the distribution is stable, the total population must be the same, i.e. Ns S = (p Ns) x (2 S) +( (1-p) Ns) x (S/2), which can be solved to deduce that p = 1/3. Meanwhile, cities of size S after one time step consist of cities twice the size that halved (with probability 1-p = 2/3) plus cities half the size that doubled (with probability p = 1/3). Since the distribution is stable, this number must be constant, so Ns = (2/3) N2s + (1/3) Ns/2. This can be written as 1 = (2/3) (N2s/Ns) + (1/3)(Ns/2/Ns), and this must be true regardless of which size, S, we are considering. Hence, N2s/Ns = Ns/Ns/2. Call this value f. Then we have 1 = (2/3) f + (1/3) (1/f), which has the solution f = 1/2. This means that, for cities of a given size, there are half as many cities of twice the size and twice as many cities of half the size, precisely as found empirically. George Zipf. 1949. Human Behavior and the Principle of Least Effort. Addison-Wesley Press. Gabaix, X. 1999. Zipf’s Law For Cities: An Explanation. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 114:3, 739-767.

Cities and scaling

Some sociological quantities exhibit economies of scale: double the city size and you require less than twice as much, e.g. chemists, petrol stations, water pipes. Other sociological quantities exhibit returns to scale: double the city size and you get more than twice as much, e.g. crimes, inventions, incomes. More precisely, quantities showing sublinear scaling obey power laws with exponent 5/6, and quantities showing superlinear scaling obey power laws with exponent 7/6. For a simple explanation, assume that the economic output of a city is proportional to its population density, ρ = N/A, where N is the population size and A is the city area. Assume further that the costs of maintenance of the city are proportional to its linear size, l

A 1/2 . Finally assume that the output and the costs are equal, so we have N/A

N 2/3 . Now suppose that the amount of infrastructure (e.g. water pipes) per person is proportional to the average distance between people, d = ρ -1/2 . Then total infrastructure, I

N 5/6 , as found empirically. Next suppose that the amount of social activity (e.g. inventions) per person, s, is proportional to the number of people per unit of instrastructure (since it is at infrastructure like shops and roads where people meet), i.e. s

N/I = N 1/6 . The total social activity is N s = N 7/6 , again as found empirically. Luis Bettencourt. 2013. The Origins of Scaling in Cities. Science. Vol. 340, Issue 6139, pp. 1438-1441.

Central place theory

Settlements form a central place hierarchy, with a large city surrounded by smaller satellite cities, which are surrounded by satellite towns, which are surrounded by villages. This creates roughly hexagonal patterns in the landscape. There are three kinds of pattern corresponding to different principles of organisation. Considered as markets, each central place has on average two satellite settlements (each central place has six satellites, but each satellite is shared with two other central places, so that a given central place has only a third of each satellite a third share of six satellites amounts to two satellites). Considered as transport hubs, each central place has on average three satellite settlements (each satellite lies on the road between two central places, so each central place has a half share a half share of six satellites amounts to three satellites). Considered as administrative centres, each central place has on average six satellite settlements (a given satellite can belong to only one administrative unit all six satellites surrounding a central place belong to it). The different patterns are overlaid on each other, creating a complex picture. It is not just that the sizes of cities follow a definite pattern, as indicated by Zipf's Law, but they are also arranged in a particular way across the landscape, with cities of a given size class being evenly spaced out rather than placed at random. Richard L Morrill. 1970. The Spatial Organization of Society. Wadsworth Publishing Company. Wen-Tai Hsu. 2012. Central Place Theory and City Size Distribution. The Economic Journal, Vol. 122, Issue 563, pp. 903-932.

Production principles

Technological and economic organisation has evolved through four great phases, embodying very different production principles. These are:
Hunter-Gatherer: 40,000 - 9000 BC (invention of farming): people lived directly off the land.
Craft-Agrarian: 9000 BC - AD 1430 (invention of the printing press): people lived by farming and relied on human and animal power.
Industrial: 1430 - 1955 (invention of the transistor): life became dominated by the machine.
Information-Scientific: 1955 - c. 2110 machines became intelligent, taking over human cognitive work.
While the production principles have been of successively shorter duration, they have each gone through the same six stages in the same relative time. The present Information-Scientific principle is currently in Stage 2 (Adolescence). Stage 2 of the Industrial principle was from 1600 to 1730, and witnessed breakthroughs in fundamental science. However, the real transformation of society came in Stage 3, when population was displaced from the countryside into the cities and the nature of work changed with the rise of factories and steampower. Stage 3 of the Information-Scientific principle will begin around 2030/2040, and will see displacement of population from the planet's surface into orbital factories along with changes in the nature of work as Artificial Intelligence takes over routine intellectual tasks. Leonid Grinin. 2012. Macrohistory and Globalization. Uchitel Publishing House.

Kondratieff waves

Nikolai Kondratieff detected 60-year waves, dating back to at least 1800, in the vigour of capitalist economies. Each wave is associated with a particular key invention--steam engine, railway, electricity, motor car, electronics--which creates a boom as it spreads through the economy but eventually runs out of steam and turns to a bust. The Kondratieff wave is synchronised with fluctuations in the intensity of war. The causes of the 60-year cycle are negative feedbacks between critical variables: economic growth makes war more affordable, and war then dampens economic growth innovation produces an economic boom, which decreases the pressure for innovation growth creates rising prices and falling incomes, so consumer demand falls, undermining growth a booming economy encourages investment in long-term capital projects, diverting money away from feeding the boom the experience of war creates an aversion to war, which suppresses its occurrence until the rise of new generations who have no memory of it. Joshua Goldstein. 1988. Long Cycles: Prosperity and War in the Modern Age. Yale Univ. Press.

Production zones

Johann von Thünen's 'isolated state' model explains the emergence of zones with different forms of production at different distances from a market centre. The original model focuses on agricultural production. Land nearest the market is the most valuable. It goes to the growers of produce that can fetch high prices in the market while also being costly to transport so that a more distant location quickly reduces profitability--typically fruit and vegetables. Land far from the market is cheap and goes to the growers of non-perishable produce that is not too costly to transport--typically firewood in von Thunen's day. In between, are zones with different products according to the shifting balance between prices and transport costs. Clearly, this is an idealisation. The model can be extended to take account of roads, rivers and seas that affect the cost of transport in different directions. It can also be extended to cover non-agricultural products, and to situations where the central market is not a town but a region or a country, surrounded by suppliers and trading partners. To see why zones arise, suppose that the price of the i th product is pi and its transport cost is ci per unit distance. Suppose also that the outer limit of viability of a particular product is a distance r1 from the centre (we will see in a moment why a product has an outer limit). The next product to be viable will be the one that has the maximum value of pi - ci r1, since this is the amount of money left over, after deduction of transport costs, to pay rent, and therefore the growers of this product will have the most money to bid for the land. This product will be viable out to a distance r2, such that pi - ci r2 < pj - cj r2 for some j. At this point, the product produces less profit than the other product j, and it will no longer win the bid for land. Hence the product is viable only within a zone between r1 and r2, its inner and outer limits. This argument makes the simplifying assumption that the market price of each product is fixed. In fact, it depends on supply and demand. We can extend the model by assuming that demand depends on price, say as D = D0 - d p, where D is demand, p is price and D0 and d are constants characteristic of the product. The amount produced of a given product is π(r2 2 -r1 2 )f, where r1 and r2 are the inner and outer limits of its zone and f is the amount of product produced per unit land area. For market equilibrium, supply and demand must balance, so we have D0 - d p = π(r2 2 -r1 2 )f. This gives us the price as p = (D0 - π(r2 2 -r1 2 )f)/d. The product that is most viable at r1 will be the one with the maximum value of D0/d - c r1, where c is transport cost as before. The outer limit of its zone occurs where there is some product for which D0'/d' - c' r2 > (D0 - π(r2 2 -r1 2 )f)/d - c r2. At this point, the other product generates more revenue. The model is more complex but it gives rise to zoning in the same way. Johann von Thünen. 1826. Der Isolierte Staat.

Growth of world polities

The size of the world's largest polities has increased over time, from the Egyptian empire covering 0.1% of the earth's land mass in 2500 BC to the British empire covering 25% of the earth's land mass in 1925. Taking the combined area of the world's three largest empires, to smooth out some of the fluctuations, the chart of polity size against time divides into several phases. After the preliminary experiment of Egypt, the coming of bronze saw the combined size of the largest empires rise to hover a little below 1% of the earth's land mass. The coming of iron saw the combined size jump higher, to hover a little below 10%. The coming of industrialisation seems to have caused a further increase, to around 50-100%, though it is too early to be sure. (Note the logarithmic scale in the above chart.) The transition from bronze to iron was marked by a fall in the area of imperial control as the new technology changed the balance of power and the world order was drastically reconfigured through a period of chaos. The growth of world polities follows a logistic (S-shaped) curve, so that it is flattening out as it comes up against the limit of the earth's land mass. If the trend continues, by 3000, it will be routine for 50% of the world to belong to just three countries, while the first whole-earth government will come before that, a few centuries from now, only to break apart and later be re-formed. Rein Taagepera. 1978. Size and Duration of Empires: Systematics of Size. Social Science Research. Iss. 7, pp. 108-127.

The one, the few, the many

At their simplest, political hierarchies consist of three elements:
The One: the ruler, be it a monarch or a political party.
The Few: the elite, with large holdings of wealth and property.
The Many: the ordinary people, the common masses.
Any two of these can dominate the other. If the ruler and the elite are united, they can always control the masses. Rulers who have the people on their side can overcome aristocratic rebellions. When the elite and the people are both dissatisfied with the prevailing order, the ruler will be overthrown. Understanding the attitudes of these three elements and the relationships between them is key to assessing the stability of a political system. Niccolò Machiavelli. 1513. The Prince.

Housing and Lighting: The Amarna House and Villa

Amarna Houses. Though Egyptian houses changed over time, the best-understood houses were studied by German Egyptologist Herbert Ricke in the 1920s and 1930s at Tell el Amarna. Ricke described a public, private, and semiprivate section of each house. The public area was open to guests from outside the household. The semiprivate section was open to the family and special guests. The private area consisted of bedrooms and baths and would only been seen by members of the household.

Smaller Version. The smaller home was approximately two hundred square feet in size. It consisted of either three or four rooms and a forecourt, which was used to receive guests, grind grain, and feed animals. An entrance from the forecourt led to a square room called “the place of sitting.” Here guests could sit on low benches that were built into the walls. From this “place of sitting” the family had access to two other private rooms that were used for sleeping or storage. One room had a staircase that led to the roof, which was often used for cooking and for sleeping during warm weather.

Lighting. Unglazed windows were located high in the walls. Most interior light would have come from small oil-burning lamps. Most likely, however, the rooms remained dark.

The Villa. The larger houses, belonging to the elite, were called villas by Ricke. They were about 430 square feet in area. Villas were located behind enclosure walls, which also protected other buildings, such as separate granaries, stables, and servants’ quarters, as well as a garden.

Villa Plan. The entrance to the villa, which was square in shape, was reached by steps that led to a small entrance hall with a roof supported by a column in the middle. A room such as this one is sometimes called the “porters’ lodge” because it resembles the small spaces at the entrance of modern Egyptian villas where a servant stands guard. From the entrance hall the visitor would turn ninety degrees to enter a long, narrow room that ran almost the width of the house. This front hall had a roof supported by either two or four columns. Windows sometimes pierced the exterior wall, which formed part of the facade of the structure. From the entrance hall the visitor could enter the central hall, which was the main semiprivate room of the house. The central hall was square and had a roof supported by two columns. Raised platforms, built into at least two walls, were used as chairs. There was also a platform for water jars and a place to keep a large jar full of embers to serve as a heater during cold months. Windows again were placed high in the walls and were covered by wooden screens that controlled light levels. All other rooms and a staircase to the roof could be reached from the central hall. At least one room had a central column, while another always had two supporting columns. The room with the single column was square and served for private parties. Sleeping rooms had a niche where the bed was placed. Amarna villas also had bathrooms with a

toilet, which had a separate stone seat and a shower, which was a flat slab of stone with a hole in the middle. A servant would pour water over a kneeling person taking a shower. The staircase from the central hall led to the roof, where there was sometimes a second story with additional private rooms. Again, the roof could be used for storage and cooking. Amarna villas were decorated with paintings on plaster. Nature scenes, including flowers and marshes, were the most popular subjects.


Tell el-Amarna revealed
The ancient site of Tell el-Amarna extends across several square kilometres of desert on the edge of the River Nile about 200 miles south of Memphis/Cairo and 250 miles north of Thebes/Luxor. Comprising monumental buildings, waterfront facilities, industrial areas, residential suburbs, and edge-of-town cemeteries, the site represents a complete ancient city of New Kingdom date (c.1550-1069 BC), preserved beneath a thin covering of desert sand – an Egyptian Pompeii of sorts. The first proper record was made by scholars of Napoleon’s Egyptian expedition in 1798-1799, and it has remained a major focus of fieldwork and scholarship ever since. Of importance was the discovery of 379 clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform script in the so-called ‘Record Office’ during the 1880s, and the yet-more spectacular discovery of the famous bust of Nefertiti in the last season of the 1907-1914 German excavations. In the late 19th century, the British-based Egypt Exploration Fund (now the Egypt Exploration Society) became involved. Recent excavations have been led by Prof. Barry Kemp, now of the Amarna Trust ( see also CWA 1).

Tell el-Amarna described
The city was built at great speed, mainly of whitewashed mud-brick, but with facings of local stone on the more prestigious buildings. Partly laid out on a regular grid and divided into distinct zones according to function, it may, during its short existence, have been home to as many as 30,000 people. Because it was abandoned within a few years of its completion, the archaeological remains comprise a complete single-phase city of exceptional preservation. Close to the surface, the archaeology is highly accessible. Free of later disturbance, the remains of entire buildings survive largely unaltered and undamaged. In the absence of later redevelopment, the whole of the original ‘new town’ layout is clear. Located in a dry desert environment, art and artefacts are often superbly well-preserved. Basic questions about New Kingdom Egypt – about town layout, building techniques, urban economy, arts and crafts, everyday life, and much else – can be answered at Tell el-Amarna.

Tell el-Amarna explained
Tell el-Amarna was founded by the New Kingdom pharaoh Akhenaten, son of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye, husband of Nefertiti, and probable father of Tutankhamen. Akhenaten’s mission was to elevate the innovative religious ideas of his father into a comprehensive alternative to the complex theological system inherited from Egypt’s past. His aim was a form of monotheism centred on the worship of the sun-disc Aten. To break the power of traditional temple hierarchies elsewhere, he built a new capital on a virgin site, roughly midway between the historic capitals of Upper and Lower Egypt at Thebes and Memphis respectively. He called the city Akhet-Aten – ‘the horizon of Aten’. Here, a magnificent shrine could be established for the worship of Aten – with all other deities excluded from the city. But unlike other religious revolutions, which came from below, the cult of Aten was imposed from above by diktat on an essentially unchanging and resistant society. Powerful vested interests defended the old order, and the mass of the people remained indifferent. The ‘revolution’ was therefore skin-deep, and after Akhenaten’s death, the court returned to Thebes, and Akhet-Aten – Tell el-Amarna – was abandoned to the sand.

This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 36. Click here to subscribe

Amarna - History

Editor's Preface
. and it must be no slight satisfaction to him to find that on the whole his system
of transliteration is confirmed by the cuneiform tablets of Tel el-Amarna. .
/. /history of egypt chaldaea syria babylonia and assyria v 1/editors preface.htm

Chapter xxxiii
. made. Such tokens of respect to the number of seven were the customary homage
tendered to kings according to the el-Amarna tab1ets. .
/. /leupold/exposition of genesis volume 1/chapter xxxiii.htm

. The cuneiform tablets found at Tel el-Amarna in Upper Egypt give us a vivid picture
of its condition at the close of the Eighteenth dynasty. .
/. /sayce/early israel and the surrounding nations/chapter ii canaan.htm

. of early Oriental history, and reversed the critical judgments which had prevailed
in regard to it, was that of the cuneiform tablets of Tel el-Amarna. .
/. /sayce/early israel and the surrounding nations/introduction.htm

. king. He left the city of his fathers, and built a new capital farther north,
where its ruins are now known as Tel el-Amarna. Here .
/. /sayce/early israel and the surrounding nations/chapter v egypt.htm

Chapter xiv
. before"""east". Damm??seq is the ancient city of Damascus, known also
later from the Amarna tablets as Dimaski. 16. That Abram .
// of genesis volume 1/chapter xiv.htm

History Of Egypt, Chaldaea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, V 5
. Atonu and Khuitniatonu -- Change of physiognomy in Khuniaton, his character, his
government, his relations with Asia: the tombs of Tel el-Amarna and the art of .
/. /history of egypt chaldaea syria babylonia and assyria v 5/title page.htm

The Place of the Old Testament in Divine Revelation
. by conquest and by commerce, the dominant civilization of the Euphrates valley had
been regnant in the land of Canaan, The Tell-el-Amarna letters, written from .
/. /the origin and permanent value of the old testament/iv the place of the.htm

The Old Testament and Archeology
. to certain inscriptions which throw considerable light on conditions in Palestine
before the Hebrew conquest, namely, the so-called Tel-el-Amarna tablets.[7 .
/. /the christian view of the old testament/chapter iv the old testament.htm

The Christian View of the Old Testament
. Style, 21. Taylor Cylinder, 138 f. Tel-el-Amarna tablets, 125 ff. Temple, 179. Textual
criticism, 68 ff., 74. Tiglath-pileser IV, 134 ff. Tirhaka, 139 f. .
/. /eiselen/the christian view of the old testament/index 2.htm

Amarna King

During the Amarna period, artists portrayed the king and queen as beings who combined male and female traits. The king&rsquos gender-flexibility ensured the fertility of the earth and all living creatures. A royal male with female sexual characteristics was the source for the belief that individuals could assume both male and female traits in the tomb.

Here, the king&rsquos distended belly reveals that he is pregnant. This feminized vision of a king has narrow shoulders, a soft torso, and female breasts. The king&rsquos red skin, understood to be the color of the disk of the sun, associated him with the sun-god Re: after death, all Egyptians hoped for transformation into Re-Osiris to travel to and then live in the afterlife.

Tell me more. I was wondering about the assertion in the text stating this is an example of gender fluidity in ancient egypt.

Was it made for Akhenaten’s Daughter?

Although. the North Palace at Amarna is thought to be made by & for Akhenaten himself, inscriptions recovered from the site say a different story. Many inscriptions show it may have been originally made for Akhenaten’s queen Nefertiti. Later, it was converted into a palace for his eldest daughter Princess Meritaten.

inscription_showing_name_of_meritaten (photo courtesy:

History and Culture of Amarna

As I continue my exploration into the ancient city of Amarna, I wanted to take this blog post to discuss the overarching history and culture of Amarna, and take a brief glimpse at the Northern Palace, as it is one of the main palaces I will be using when crafting my own palace.

Amarna is an archeological site of the ancient city of Akhetaten, which was the capital of Ancient Egypt from around 1347 BC to about 1332 BC. King Akhenaten founded the city and created a monotheistic religion around the solar god Aten. King Akhenaten is the father of King Tutankhamun, who after his father’s death moved the capital back to Thebes and Akhetaten was quickly abandoned. This was in part due to the fact that the religion created to praise Aten, was proclaimed to be heretical and denounced (Stevens, 2015). The history of Amarna is important for me because the monotheism in Ancient Egypt was the first of its kind, meaning that not only is the culture different than the rest of Egypt, but in essence we must treat Amarna as a completely separate paradigm from the rest of Ancient Egyptian cities.

Although blurry, this photograph is a good summation of the layout of the city of Amarna. The royal family lived to the north, while the temples and other important administrative buildings were more centrally located. Residences inhabited the south of the city.

Excavations at the North Palace have attempted to determine who in the Royal Family lived there, and the photograph below may offer the best clue. “Many inscriptions found in the North Palace show that, whilst it may have been originally made for Nefertiti or Kiya (a queen prominent in the earlier part of Akhenaten’s reign) it was later converted into a palace for the eldest daughter and heiress, Princess Meritaten” (Kemp, 2003). The picture below is of an inscription on a door in the Northern Palace with the name of the king’s daughter, Meritaten. I chose to include this because I am looking deeper into the Northern Palace as one of the palaces to analyze as I construct my own model.

I finally wanted to touch upon the artwork of Amarna. An anomaly of its time, Amarnan art was known for being vastly different than other art in Ancient Egypt. As one example, portrayals of the royal family were much more informal. In the photograph below, you can see Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti and their three daughters. In the photo, Akhenaten and Nefertiti are each holding children. The children are being held in their parents’ hands and cradled on their laps. Normal portrayals of royalty at the time would always be attempts to deify royalty and portray strength. Amarnan art was different because it was so personal and made the royal family look more like humans than gods. This is going to be one of the most important, yet challenging aspects for me as I begin to construct my model and attempt to recreate the art of this city.

Watch the video: Raïna Raï - Amarna 1983 (January 2022).