The Inhabitants of Tell-el Amarna

A topic that I had mentioned in my last blog post concerning the archeology of the suburbs of Tell-el Amarna has made me want to focus my project on these suburbs as opposed to the more well-known palaces, such as the Great Aten Temple or the North Palace. As I read from an article, there existed these communities among the elite and non-elite in which they existed synergistically, with the elite supplying the non-elite with things they might need and vice versa (History World, N/A). Knowing that these groups of people lived in such close proximity, I am looking to find explicit architectural descriptions that highlight in what ways the house of an elite differed from that of a non-elite.

Further explained by Barry Kemp in his 1977 article, there were “highly personal arrangements for individual household economies, implying an element of choice or more likely a transfer to the new site of existing arrangements, it may be accepted that no radically different social or economic way of life was being introduced, for these things just do not exist independently of architecture” (Kemp 1977, 126). As Akhenaton had moved the capital of the New Kingdom to this site, Kemp is explaining that much of the old urban configurations that existed in Thebes continued to exist but in the space of Tell-el Amarna. I had not considered before that understanding the urban spatial organization at Thebes could be very similar to that in Tell-el Amarna, and I am interested in looking more into the information that exists on Thebes to get more about Amarna.

Annotated map of Tell- el Amarna, Amarna Project

An interesting observation Kemp went on to make was that regardless of status or class, an architectural style homogeneity was present. Not explicitly describing what this architectural style was, it is important to note that an overarching style existed between socioeconomic statuses. This homogeneity also applied to the material, as most buildings were made of mud-brick, with the nicer limestone material reserved for temples, as I noted in my last blog. Though the architectural style was homogenous, wealth and status could have been expressed in a variety of ways to distinguish different socioeconomic levels. These included the size of the house, furnishings, the clothes the inhabitants wore, the way they spoke and the way they behaved. (Kemp 1977, 128) These distinguishing factors being another part of this project that I have yet to find more about.

Private House, Tell-el Amarna, McGill

However, besides the configurations of elite and non-elite, there also existed just villages, in which the occupation of those who inhabited that specific village was all the same: those who cut and decorated the royal tombs at their respective sites. The east village at el-Amarna was laid out in a “block of seventy-three more or less identical houses and one larger one. The focal points of each house was the central columned living-room, whilst in one of the larger houses this central room had become surrounded on course sides by other parts of the house” (Kemp 1977, 127). Though Kemp had not stated explicitly, it is my assumption that this larger house was the “elite” of this village, or at least an official of the pharaoh who was to look over this village.

Map of Deir el Medina, another village like the east village of Tell-el Amarna, Keyword Basket

At this point in my research, I am realizing that I am needing to find the details to the more general statements a lot of the resources I am finding are making. With a more solid foundation of the different urban organization aspects about the inhabitants of el-Amarna, I want to look closer into the architectural differences and what these structures contained, from elite to non-elite.

Kemp, Barry J. “The City of El-Amarna as a Source for the Study of Urban Society in Ancient Egypt.” World Archaeology, vol. 9, no. 2, 1977, pp. 123–139. JSTOR,

History World (N/A), “Tell el Amarna: c. 1350-1336 BC.” History World, accessed March 30th, 2019,