Living in Nature at Amarna
A Royal Ancient Egyptian City comes to Manchester Museum Wednesday, 10 October 2012
|A delight in nature? Pavement slab from the Royal city of Amarna|
Dr Price previews the new Ancient Worlds Galleries at the Manchester Museum. You can find out more about the Study Day which he leads in the galleries here: Akhenaten & the mystery of Middle Egypt
In the few remaining weeks before we open the Ancient Worlds galleries here at the
One of the themes we explore in the new galleries at Manchester is the experience of living in a royal city, using our rich collection of objects from Amarna. Surviving decoration from the complex of palaces and elite villas at the site shows a delight in representing the natural world, with plants and animals featuring prominently. Part of the royal palace, for example, had a painted floor showing pintail ducks flying out of the marshes beside the River Nile, as they would at dawn. The motifs of the painted floor in the palace, before the king’s throne, can also be interpreted as heralding the presence of the divine living ruler, who together with his sole god, the sun disc, dispel darkness each day. Through decoration, Akhenaten and his courtiers clearly wished to emphasise their desire to be “living in nature”.
|Decorative inlays from Armana|
There is extensive archaeological evidence at Amarna of kilns and workshops, which supplied palaces with a range of glazed inlays and appliqués for palace interiors and other decorative objects. Remains show that this was a thriving centre for the manufacture of luxury materials such as glass, and the typically-Egyptian glazed ceramic known as faience. In the new galleries we explore the technology behind faience-making, after conducting our own firing experiments with colleagues from Daresbury laboratory.
I have been particularly struck by the rich array of colours and shapes used. We hold a mixture of decorative elements including tiles and the inlays once attached to them, in addition to separately modelled flowers and fruit such as bunches of grapes and pomegranates. The explosion of colour may seem gaudy to us now, yet it is important to remember that these elaborate decorations were an outward sign of divine bounty, the natural world created by the Aten and ruled over by his only prophet, Akhenaten (whose name literally means ‘Effective for the Aten’). In their own way, these palace decorations created an effect no more ostentatious than the state rooms of
These decorations were made for the residence of the living ruler, a transient place compared to the stone-built tomb, or ‘House of Eternity’. This philosophy makes many details of palace decoration seem even more whimsical, illustrating a love of life in ancient
Dr Price will be leading a Study Day for Andante:
Akhenaten & the mystery of Middle Egypt at Manchester Museum on
Saturday 10th November 2012 and Friday 22nd February 2013