A hundred years after the discovery of the famous Nefertiti bust, the Berlin Egyptological Museum is showing off finds from the short-lived pharaonic capital, Amarna.
A happy couple is strolling through the park, and on a nearby floor painting, colourful ducks are flying up from a thicket of very blue lotus. Some dried lotus flowers have been placed in a glass case displaying ceramic jars, and garlands of those real flower petals decorate one of the over 3000 years old pots to accompany the other vessels which are painted with a blue lotus decoration.
"We have everything," exclaims Friederike Seyfried, the museum's director: "from sandals, doors and everyday items to jewellery, religious implements and artists' models". A huge wall display and a touch-screen explain how all this was used in the newly founded pharaonic capital Achet-Aton. Nefertiti and her husband, Pharaoh Akhenaten, had moved there to turn a fresh leaf on religion, ousting the multitude of gods and introducing Aton, the Light, as their single god. This seemed easier away from the established cults and priests in Thebes, but of course setting up a new capital in the desert was not an easy task either.
"This could be the reason why so much plaster was used in Amarna compared to other periods," Seyfried muses. After all, ancient Egyptian art and architecture is not exactly famous for quick and easy pre-fab buildings and statues, and normally it would have taken generations to build a temple. Akhenaten and Nefertiti didn't have time for that. Indeed, their revolutionary monotheistic religion didn't even last for one generation, and Amarna was abandoned right after Akhenaten's death after just 17 years of existence.
The king himself is also present in the exhibition – if only as a plaster model bust. The damaged head is restored, but by far not as impressive as Nefertiti's famous portrait bust that still looks like a fashion model. Except for the one missing eye – left out, researchers hypothesise, to facilitate the reproduction of the portrait. "So, could it be that Nefertiti was blind on one eye?" a visitor wonders. Unlikely, but she would have been welcome in this exhibition: Several displays are 3-D reconstructions of sculptures expressly installed for visually impaired visitors to touch them.
The exhibition “In the Light of Amarna” runs from 7th December 2012 to 13th April 2013 in the New Museum/ Egyptian Museum on Museum Island in Berlin. On display are all the objects that the German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt brought back from his excavations in Armana in 1912, as well as many other finds from the museum's own collection or on loan.
Opening hours: daily 10-18 h (Thursday: until 20 h)
Ticket: 14 € (online booking with time-slot: www.imlichtvonamarna.de)