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dreamregent
professor emeritus


Reged: 04/06/09

Loc: Clearwater, FL
Amarna, Egypt
      #5842948 - 05/06/13 05:32 AM

I figured I might as well go for broke with this one too. If you're not familiar, Amarna (or Akhetaten) is a site that was first built and then destroyed by the Egyptians themselves all over a span of time lasting no longer than about 25 years. Under the conventional chronology, construction would have begun around 1350 B.C. It is the capital built by Pharaoh Akhnaten (Amenhotep IV) of the late 18th Dynasty, the man commonly credited with inventing Monotheism. Many people may not realize it but this era can be thought of as the "Greatest Hits of Ancient Egypt." Not only do we have the presence of Aknaten. We also have his wife, Nefertiti, and his son, King Tut, both of whom are world-renowned; Nefertiti for her beauty and Tut for his burial treasures.

This region presents a bit of a problem because there are a lot of depressions in the ground. I believe some are man-made, others are geological formations, and still more of them may be impact craters but there are so many that it's hard to tell them apart sometimes. However, let us explore.

First, a little bit of the mythology. From one of the original boundary stelae:

Quote:

As the Aten is beheld, the Aten desires that there be made for him [...] as a monument with an eternal and everlasting name. Now, it is the Aten, my father, who advised me concerning it, [namely] Akhetaten. No official has ever advised me concerning it, not any of the people who are in the entire land has ever advised me concerning it, to suggest making Akhetaten in this distant place. It was the Aten, my fath[er, who advised me] concerning it, so that it might be made for Him as Akhetaten... Behold, it is Pharaoh who has discovered it: not being the property of a god, not being the property of a goddess, not being the property of a ruler, not being the property of a female ruler, not being the property of any people to lay claim to it....

I shall make Akhetaten for the Aten, my father, in this place. I shall not make Akhetaten for him to the south of it, to the north of it, to the west of it, to the east of it. I shall not expand beyond the southern stela of Akhetaten toward the south, nor shall I expand beyond the northern stela of Akhetaten toward the north, in order to make Akhetaten for him there. Nor shall I make (it) for him on the western side of Akhetaten, but I shall make Akhetaten for the Aten, my father, on the east of Akhetaten, the place which He Himself made to be enclosed for Him by the mountain...

...

I shall make the “House of Rejoicing” for the Aten, my father, in the “Island of the Aten, Distinguished in Jubilees” in Akhetaten in this place... I shall make for myself the apartments of Pharaoh, I shall make the apartments of the Great King's Wife in Akhetaten in this place.

...

Let a tomb be made for me in the eastern mountain of Akhetaten. Let my burial be made in it, in the millions of jubilees which the Aten, my father, has decreed for me.




Then, from another stela a couple of years later:

Quote:

[Aknaten,] Moving ahead perfectly to Akhetaten, on the first time of discovering it by His Presence, may he live, prosper and be well, for its foundation, as a monument to the sun disk as commanded by his father, the living Ra-Horakhty rejoicing in what is Right, in his name as Shu which is in the sun-disk, given life for ever and eternity, to make a monument for him within it.




The Aten was known as a minor god since the Old Kingdom over a 1000 years before but had never enjoyed widespread popularity like a lot of the other traditional gods. There were numerous political considerations that probably went into this as well but that's not the point of this post so they are intentionally being ignored here as that's another subject entirely.

From these texts, we learn that Aknaten took direct instruction from the Aten (or sun disk in the sky) with no involvement of Egypt's traditional religious entities. We also learn that Akhetaten is the "island of the Aten," it was the Aten itself who created the setting for Akhetaten and the mountain just to the east belongs to the Aten as well. From the text, it seems a clear distinction is being made that the city is being built inside Akhetaten, but the city itself is not Akhetaten.

Additionally, Aknaten tells us that he was the very first person to ever see this piece of land. However, there are sites predating Akhetaten just to the north and just to the south of it. The people of Egypt had also been repeatedly going right by it when sailing up and down the Nile for the previous 5000 years. So, how can Aknaten be the first person to "discover" it and why did it need to be discovered "by [Aten's] presence?" And how did he get a direct message from the Aten, anyway?

While Egypt always had an affinity with various sun gods, there may be an explanation as to why there was an extreme increase in the level of sun worship during this historical period. First, if you look at NASA's Catalog of Solar Eclipses for the 14th century B.C., you will find that numerous eclipses were observable from Egypt during the period. This includes a number observed as very substantial partial eclipses and two annular eclipses whose central paths passed very near Egyptian population centers. Additionally, there was a total eclipse of the sun in 1337 B.C., during which totality passed directly over Amarna around mid-day. Under the conventional chronology, that was after the construction of Amarna but it was still during Aknaten's reign.

Perhaps the images below might give us some direction for further research...

MAP OF THE AREA:
  • Coordinates = 27.6432639, 30.9145556
  • I believe the broad wadi extending to the SSE of Amarna may be an old Nile flood channel as annual inundations were much higher in prior millenia when the local climate was much wetter.
  • According to Peakery.com, the place marked with the blue teardrop pointer is a mountain named Ra's Abu Hasah. Even at less than 600 feet, this is the highest point of elevation in the general area and is the only feature that can be called the mountain of Akhetaten.
  • To give you a sense of scale, the ruler shows the distance between the Amarna ruins and the feature I marked as the Amarna String.
  • White thumbtack = city of Amarna ruins, blue teardrop = mountain peak, red thumbtacks = sites of interest.




AMARNA CRATER:
  • Coordinates = 27.6602583, 30.9724444
  • Diameter = 500 feet.
  • It appears to be a depression partially filled with sand.
  • There are what appear to be dark rocks scattered in a circle on top of a raised rim.
  • The exterior rivulets detour around it.
  • The interior rivulets drain toward the center of the depression.
  • There may be another crater 500 feet due east but it exhibits funky hydrology so I'm not so sure.




SHOE PRINT:
  • Coordinates = 27.5296250, 31.0676528
  • Diameter of "heel" = 700 feet
  • Long axis of "sole" = 2/3 of a mile
  • It's difficult to see rivulets in the "heel" so I'm not as sure that this is actually a crater...sometimes it's hard to tell whether a given feature is a depression in the ground or if the feature is actually protruding from it.
  • The "sole" is clearly a depression as the rivulets drain toward the center.
  • One of the boundary stelae has a reference to the Aten (sun disk) riding his chariot on the mountain to the southeast of Amarna which might actually describe this set of features.




Heel close-up:


Sole close-up:


WADI BED:
  • Coordinates = 27.5417028, 31.1350667
  • Long axis = 924 feet
  • This feature lies directly in the bed of a wadi. It looks to me like the rivulet at the top has been going around the feature but has eroded away the rim on the north side so that now the floor of the feature drains in that direction.




AMARNA STRING:
  • Coordinates = 27.5755583, 31.1605528
  • Long axis of the whole string = almost 9/10 of a mile
  • Diameter of the lead feature (to the SE) = 900 feet
  • This set of features is very odd-looking and also lies wholly within the bed of a wadi.
  • Rivulets in the wadi appear to have largely detoured around the features on the north side but may have eroded the rims away on the south side. Of course, it's kind of hard to tell but you can see for yourself in Google Earth.
  • The lead feature appears to have elongated trenches off to the NW & SE...possibly caused by water action over time? See the close-up.
  • It also appears to have a centrally-uplifted area with rivulets draining down the uplift into the depression. Again, it's hard to see but that's what it looks like to me.




Close-up of lead feature:


AMARNA'S PLAIN:
  • This is the wildest part.
  • On the map below, the red circles are about 4.25 miles in diameter and fit perfectly with the shape of the cliff-face encircling them on the east and south.
  • The ruins of the city are centered in the upper circle with the Great Temple of the Aten just about dead center.
  • Of course, this only gives us semi-circles with the other halves of them extending into the Nile's alluvial plain.
  • However, notice how the Nile makes a natural detour around the perimeter of the lower circle. Coincidence?




All in all, I'm not sure about some of these. However, that first one, the one I called Amarna Crater, has the classic appearance of an impact crater.

So, how could this be a new place "never before discovered" until Aknaten found it? And how could Aknaten receive a message directly from the Aten? Quite frankly, if I was an egyptologist, I'd be getting my behind out of those tombs and up on the slopes of "Akhetaten's Mountain" to have a better look around. One last little nugget is that the Near East experienced a severe period of further dessication and drought over the 100 years following Aknaten's reign. These features & images make me wonder whether a potential cause may be found here.


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dreamregent
professor emeritus


Reged: 04/06/09

Loc: Clearwater, FL
Re: Amarna, Egypt new [Re: dreamregent]
      #5887968 - 05/27/13 09:41 PM

UPDATE:

I ended up whittling this thing down to its most likely elements and approached the director of the archaeological dig at Amarna (Amarna Project). Basically, I focused on what I called Amarna Crater or Example A but I also included the possibility that the Amarna plain was created in a separate prior event. You can see a fuller example of what I put together here. However, for a photographic summary of Amarna Crater/Example A, see the following:



Example A close-up:


From my conversation with the director of the dig, Barry Kemp, I was able to deduce the following:

  • He was not dismissive and seemed intrigued.
  • It didn't seem like anyone has ever considered this possibility and they were not aware of the existence of Example A.
  • He also told me any potential investigation of this would be passed to his successor. He didn't say when he planned to retire...but he has been the director of the dig since 1977...


In my final message, I politely asked if, the next time he was up on the plateau, he could look for a raised berm or line of apparent sand dunes with dark rocks on top and stand on top of it to take a photo looking across the depression. I don't know if he will or not but I put in my request. It's a restricted area so it's not like just anybody can go running around at will.

Now, as for Example A, there are only a certain number of ways this could have been formed and many of them can probably be ruled out. To consider whether it's man-made, we need to take a look at the dark rocks on top of the rim. The following photo shows a nearby patch of desert covered with the same rocks:



They appear to come from the erosion of dark rock formations that stuck up from the plateau in the past. Wind and water appear to have largely worn them down to be generally smooth with the surrounding plateau resulting in the residual bits & pieces spreading over the landscape through wind & water action.

This is notable because either they used to be spread over the area of Example A when the crater was formed and all but the ones on the crater rim have since been washed away or they were brought by people and placed on the crater rim after it was formed. Thus, we can surmise the likelihood of people building it.

  • A modern excavation is likely precluded. If earth-moving equipment was used when the ground was covered by the rocks, those stones would not be on top of the crater rim and the earth creating the rim would have been pushed over on top of the rocks. Likewise, under this scenario, it seems to defy common sense to think modern people would go to the trouble of collecting those dark rocks and carefully placing them on top of the crater rim which is nearly 1/2 km in circumference. Also, if it was a modern excavation, it is in an area of archaeological sensitivity with ancient sites surrounding it so it is unlikely it could be dug without the knowledge of the Amarna Project.
  • I have also verified this is not an Ancient Egyptian quarry site with the Amarna Project and this study/catalog of Ancient Egyptian quarries, not to mention the fact that if it was a quarry, the director of the archaeological dig would know about it.
  • Wind & water erosion seem unlikely as it's hard to see how those processes could create a concentric hole 1 2/3 football fields in diameter and create a raised berm/rim around the hole at the same time...all in the center of a flat plateau.
  • Most other geologic processes also seem to be precluded because of the need for a process that could create the raised rim in addition to the hole. A sinkhole would not leave a raised rim...at least not a sinkhole like the ones we have in Florida.


So, what are we left with?

  • The idea that the Ancient Egyptians dug the hole and placed the dark rocks on the rim is conceivable. However, it's unlikely because there is no record of them doing anything else like that. Also, I question how they could get it so precise & consistent with it being that large.
  • Some unknown geologic process I haven't thought of that could create both the hole & the raised rim? If anyone can think of what that might be, let me know.
  • The only other possibility I can think of is a meteorite impact. I'm not sure about anyone else but, in this case, I consider the impact scenario to be most likely as none of these other possibilities really make any sense at this point.


Also, there are archaeological properties of the site that support this. There is a tomb at Amarna for a courtier named Meryra (Title: Greatest of Seers/High Priest) with a scene on one of the walls that is unique in all of Egypt. One of the standard Amarna scenes shows the Aten (or the Sun Disk) with rays extending down to Earth. At the end of each ray is a depiction of the hand of God. Meryra's tomb has scenes like this as well but a twist is added to one scene...there are bowl-shaped arcs stacked upon one another below the Aten. The text accompanying the scene does not explain them. Entire papers have been written by people trying to figure out what kind of natural phenomena this could possibly symbolize. Everything from eclipses to sun dogs have been proposed. However, no one has ever asserted impact craters...until now. You can see this in the photo & drawing below:





Basically, I think that Akhnaten (and/or his court) witnessed a fireball similar to the one that exploded over Russia recently and interpreted that as a message from Aten (the Sun). I think those rays with the hand of god extending down from the Aten in the scenes could potentially represent meteors raining down...and I think the arcs on the wall in Meryra's tomb represent impact craters found at Amarna where the fireball (or pieces of it) crash landed. From the boundary stelae, it seems clear to me that Akhnaten surmised that the plain of Amarna was formed by meteor impact after he saw the evidence of Example A & possibly other examples in the area. Although, from researching the geology of the area, I believe that if this is the case, they were formed by a separate impact event farther in the past as they are heavily eroded and because of the general geology of the area.

Additionally, from 2004 to 2006, the Amarna Project conducted a coring project with the intention of finding the existing extent of Amarna below the modern levels of land usage. They determined that western portions of the city have been washed away in Nile floods. In the photo from the first post, see the one with the double circles superimposed over the plain of Amarna...this flooding would be in reference to the upper circle, not the lower one. However, they also found that the flood plain didn't move east making incursions into the city until the late Roman period. They need to do additional work to determine the path of the river at the time of Amarna 1500 years before that. However, this clearly indicates that, in Akhnaten's day, the Nile flowed further to the west. They also found indications of a water basin at the extreme north end of the site. They surmise that a canal was dug to that location. However, I think they may end up finding that the Nile was simply making a detour around what was left of a northern "crater," just like what it may be doing now around a southern "crater." Of course, that still doesn't prove those are actually impact craters but I'm referring more to Akhnaten's perception of them as impact craters and why he would say on the boundary stelae that the Aten "created" the site himself.

All-in-all, I feel like Indiana Jones and I've just made a huge discovery. Now, all I need is a geologist to go figure out what the deal is with Example A. If that is verified as an impact crater potentially contemporary with Amarna, it will likely rewrite what is perceived about the whys and wherefores behind the site, the religion and Akhnaten himself.


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dreamregent
professor emeritus


Reged: 04/06/09

Loc: Clearwater, FL
Re: Amarna, Egypt new [Re: dreamregent]
      #5894072 - 05/31/13 11:16 AM

I found something else here. There are some archaeological features called the Desert Altars in the northern part of the site. I was playing around with the ruler in Google Earth and discovered almost exact alignment between the altars and this potential crater, Exhibit A. Also, the width of the foundations of all three structures together are about the same as Exhibit A. Additionally, the photo with the arcs in the post above is from Meryra's Tomb...that tomb is also between the altars & Example A.

The alignment seems just a hair off square. However, the distance is over 5.5 kilometers and the points I arbitrarily chose to draw the line may not be the correct points for alignment. The altar on the left is thought to have had a standing stone in the center but, otherwise, the purpose of these altars has never been definitively determined. The Amarna Project has a page on them. See the photos...





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dreamregent
professor emeritus


Reged: 04/06/09

Loc: Clearwater, FL
Re: Amarna, Egypt new [Re: dreamregent]
      #5894656 - 05/31/13 04:38 PM

The solar axis of the North Palace, often described as "isolated"... within a crater's width @ nearly 7 kilomters... Could this be a clue to the placement of the palace? I wonder what the Egyptians' typical margin of error was. I know they were highly accurate but every single measurement can't be exactly precise.





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dreamregent
professor emeritus


Reged: 04/06/09

Loc: Clearwater, FL
Re: Amarna, Egypt new [Re: dreamregent]
      #5894935 - 05/31/13 07:49 PM

Oh my! I should have started measuring the axes of the buildings first thing and I wouldn't have had to search the countryside over the last couple of months. The Amarna Fuzz Station () in the central city is cocked at an odd angle from the rest of the buildings. It's axis is not aligned with the winter solstice. However, look at what this axis encounters 26 kilometers away... Does that look familiar from my original post on suspected impact sites? The fifth photo down in the original post... It rests on the embankment going uphill to the plateau from that wadi...could that be why it looks squashed?

(Ignore the red line on the bottom...that is the solar axis from the Small Aten Temple.)





Edited by dreamregent (06/01/13 02:11 AM)


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dreamregent
professor emeritus


Reged: 04/06/09

Loc: Clearwater, FL
Re: Amarna, Egypt new [Re: dreamregent]
      #5903266 - 06/05/13 06:19 AM

Can Stellarium be depended on to show the position on the horizon where the the sun actually rose as seen from the Great Temple?

In the photo below, I have added some lines. The brown "L" on the left recreates the outer wall of the temple on that corner. The foundation of this section of wall is no longer visible in satellite imagery. My line is based on the diagram from page 7 in this publication from the Amarna Project. The foundations for the pylons in the center of the front wall of the temple (west side) are clearly visible in the satellite image so it was not difficult to recreate the wall with a line.

The yellow line represents the temple's main axial alignment with the Winter Solstice.

The blue line is an axis I drew across the temple's diagonal, as you can see in the photo below. You can probably guess what it intersects with nearly 7 kilometers away. Also, from eyeballing it in Stellarium, it seems like this line may also represent a solar axis, but with the rising sun @ Summer Solstice this time. Stellarium seems to show that the summer solstice sunrise would appear just short of the ENE direction (subjectively judged by the distance along the horizon between the North & East directions marked in Stellarium). That corresponds very well with this blue line as the photo is aligned with the cardinal points (top = north, etc.).

These lines seem to visibly coincide with the rising sun of both solstices in Stellarium...just not sure if Stellarium can be depended on for this. If you wish to see for yourself, choose "Dayr Mawas, Egypt" for the location in Stellarium...this town is directly across the river from the ancient city. I'm not sure it matters for the position of the rising sun but you can also set the date back to 1350 BC by setting it to 1, pushing the down arrow to get negative numbers for the year & then you can type 1350 while keeping the negative sign. You can fast forward and rewind to see the movement of the sunrise along the horizon through the course of the year.



The next photo is of Example A. Aside from the blue line showing the alignment along the diagonal of the Great Temple, there are also a few other alignments to note. These alignments have to do with the Desert Altars and North Tombs.

You can see the 3rd post above for a photo of the Desert Altars. The red lines in this new photo are drawn from each end of the Desert Altars showing that the width of all 3 altars together seems to correspond exactly with the diameter of this geologic feature 5.5 kilometers away.

As for the North Tombs, there are only 6 individual tombs within this group. All other burials @ Amarna took place at sites on the southern end of the desert plain except for royal burials, which took place within the Royal Wadi. You can see a guide book written specifically for the North Tombs group from the Amarna Project by clicking here. These 6 people were probably the most powerful servants in the Kingdom during the Amarna period and they were all very close to Akhenaten, Nefertiti and/or, the very powerful, dowager Queen Tiye (Akhenaten's mother, Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep III). Thus, you would expect that it was considered the highest of honors to be granted a tomb in this location.

Tombs 1 & 2 were owned by the two most powerful personal courtiers of the Royal Family (specifically overseeing the households of Nefertiti & Queen Tiye). Scenes from the tombs indicate they may have had something to do with assisting in the conduct of foreign policy with other nations & vassal states as well (read about the foreign tribute scenes in the guide). From the Amarna Letters, it is known that Queen Tiye, especially, was personally well-known to and communicated directly with foreign rulers. The yellow line shows the axial alignment with the winter solstice extending from these tombs which are side-by-side in the face of the cliff. The distance is just over 5 kilometers.

Tombs 3 to 6 were owned by courtiers who directly assisted Akhenaten with the administration of the Kingdom from & within the capital city of Amarna, including the "church" of Atenism as the religion was a state institution. Tomb 4 belongs to Meryra, Greatest of Seers...this is the one with the arcs on the wall (shown by the photo in the 2nd post above). From the map/diagram on page 2 of the guidebook (linked above), you can see there is a wide gap between tombs 5 & 6. After matching the map/diagram from the guidebook to the image in Google Maps, I can see that the red lines between the Desert Altars and example A bisect this group of tombs along this gap. Tombs 5 & 6 lie just outside the red lines on either side so there is actually nothing interrupting the alignment between the Desert Altars and Example A.

The more I look at the details here (alignments, spacing & placement of these archaeological features), the more it seems like there is a correlation between them and this geologic structure. If not, I would say that these coincidences are beginning to look like some kind of miraculous accident.



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