One of the most notable aspects of the Amarna period was the dramatic change in Egypt’s polytheistic religion. During this time, the pharaoh Akhenaten turned to a religion that worshipped the sun disc Aten over all other gods. The Great Aten Temple, discovered at Amarna, is a prime example of a monument created with this new religion. The larger of the two Aten temples was enclosed by brick walls, closing off an area of 800 x 300 meters. Within this enclosure, there were two stone buildings: the Long Temple in the Front and the Sanctuary in the rear (Amarna Project, 2019). The Long Temple contained an external portico of monumental columns and was fronted by several open courtyards (Kjeilen, 2019). These courtyards were separated by monumental doorways, and each courtyards consisted of large stone offering tables. In the outer court, there was platform that was obtainable by steps. The archeologist of this site discovered that this platform acted as an important religious area, as Akhenaten and his family would offer food as well as prayers to their dear god Aten (Amarna Project, 2019). Not only did this open courtyard act as a way to worship the god directly, but also contributes a large quantity of natural light. As we learned in lecture, natural lighting does more than simply add aesthetic. In this case, the natural light served the purpose of providing warmth and animation to the Great Aten Temple. The Egyptians were allowing the glory of the sun to shine on them, essentially strengthening the connection between the temple and the god, Aten.
Reconstruction of Great Aten Temple, with offering tables in the courtyards.
1932 excavation of the Long Temple with offering tables preserved.
Aerial view of the Great Aten Temple in 1935.
Reconstruction of Great Aten Temple.
The Great Aten Temple in today’s time.
I would compare the use of natural lighting in the Great Aten Temple to that of the John Brown Museum. Even though the John Brown Museum had other sources of light, they did take advantage of the natural light source through the use of a large window at the end of the hallways. Also, they incorporated windows inside each of the rooms that were approximately 2-3 times bigger than the ones in the halls. However, the purpose of the John Brown Museum using natural lighting was more than likely for a different purpose than the Ancient Egyptians. The John Brown Museum probably used natural light as a supplementary light source, to cut down on oil or candle use in the daytime, and create a visually and thermally comfortable place connected to outdoor phenomena.
Amarna Project. (2017) “The Central Theory”.
Kjeilen, T. (2019) “Great Temple of Aten.” Looklex Egypt.