What’s the Amarna period? Ancient Egypt

Home » What’s the Amarna period? Ancient Egypt
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Akhenaten (ca. 1350 BC)

Akhenaten (ca. 1350 BC)

In the middle of the New Kingdom, around 1350 BC, the Greeks were building their megaron palaces at Mycenae and Pylos. The Hittites were just developing the use of iron. The Jews were wandering around the Israeli hills. But the Egyptians had a new Pharaoh who made some dramatic political changes, and also some changes in art styles which were just as interesting.

Another statue of Akhenaten

Another statue of Akhenaten

This Pharaoh’s name was Akhenaten (Ah-ken-AH-ten). We call the kind of art that Akhenaten liked the Amarna style, because Amarna was the name of the new city that Akhenaten made people build for him. A lot of those people seem to have been children and teenagers, and a lot of them died of overwork. They may have been enslaved. So when we look at the great sculptures and buildings from Amarna, we should remember the suffering that went into them.

Akhenaten and Nefertiti and their daughters

Akhenaten and Nefertiti and their daughters

We have a lot of art left from the Amarna period. Amarna art shows people in very dramatic and exaggerated ways. Some people have thought that Akhenaten himself must have looked very ugly, because the statues of him look so weird. But probably it was just a fashion in carving statues.

Nok sculpture from West Africa, about 500 BC(The Barakat Gallery)

Nok sculpture from West Africa, about 500 BC(The Barakat Gallery)

Possibly, Akhenaten or his artists meant to create an Egyptian art style that was closer to the art of other places in Africa and less like West Asian art. There isn’t much African art from the 1300s BC left, but some later West African art from about 900 BC is kind of like Amarna art.

Nefertiti (now in Berlin)

Nefertiti (now in Berlin)

This carving shows Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti (neh-fur-TEE-tee) and three of their little daughters. They seem to be a very loving family. Their god, the Aten, is represented as a circle in the sky shining down on the royal family.

Here is another famous statue of Nefertiti. The reason she looks kind of funny is that one of her glass eyes has been knocked out.

Learn by doing: Representing yourself
More about New Kingdom art

Bibliography and further reading about the Amarna period:

Eyewitness: Ancient Egypt, by George Hart. Easy reading.

The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt (Yale University Press Pelican History of Art), by William Stevenson Smith and William Kelly Simpson (revised edition 1999). The standard for college courses.

Egyptian Art, by Cyril Aldred (1985). Another standard.

Akhenaten: Egypt’s False Prophet, by Nicholas Reeves (2001).

Akhenaten: King of Egypt, by Cyril Aldred (1991).

More about Egyptian art
And about Ancient Egypt
Quatr.us home

By | 2018-01-08T11:11:33+00:00 June 13th, 2017|Africa, Art, Egypt|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. What’s the Amarna period? Ancient Egypt. Quatr.us Study Guides, June 13, 2017. Web. January 20, 2018.

About the Author:

Karen Carr
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

Leave A Comment