The town of Amara West

villa E12.10, in the western suburb, excavated in 2009
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    Villa E12.10, in the western suburb, excavated in 2009

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    Plan of villa E12.10

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    Nubian architecture in an Egyptian town – building E12.11

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    Magnetometry survey of the town at Amara West

Amara West is a town of modest size compared to the royal residence towns of Tell el-Amarna or Qantir in Egypt proper, and once stood on an island in the Nile as it flows eastwards.

A mudbrick town wall was built in the reign of Seti I, as shown by bricks bearing his stamped cartouche, measuring around 100m on each side. Three gates provided entrance to the town, the northeastern one leading into the stone cult temple. Perhaps commenced under Seti I, the decoration was undertaken under later kings, most notably Ramses II, Merenptah and near the end of Egyptian control of the area, Ramses IX.

The temple, built from poor quality local sandstone is of typical plan for this era, with three cult chapels at the rear. It remains preserved, buried underneath spoil from the excavations of the 1940s, and at some point will require new epigraphic recording.

The remainder of the walled town comprised densely packed mudbrick buildings, including large-scale storage, housing of varying grandeur (from 50 to 500m²) and structures of unclear function.

The Egypt Exploration Society excavators identified four phases of architecture, thought to span the 19th and 20th dynasties.

The magnetometry survey of 2008 revealed the hitherto unknown western suburb, with a series of large villas. One of these was excavated in 2009, and featured rooms for large-scale grain-processing and bread cooking, as well as private areas with brick-paved floors and whitewashed walls. Near the southeastern corner of this building, we uncovered the remains of a circular building of unclear purpose, whose architecture clearly falls within a Nubian, not pharaonic, tradition, and thus might reflect the ethnic diversity of the population at Amara West. Further excavation in the western suburb in 2013 and 2014 has revealed additional villas and mid-sized houses, built over extensive rubbish deposits and probable garden plots.

There are few signs of Ramesside period buildings elsewhere on the island, although a group of small chapels and other buildings excavated by the EES outside the east wall of the town may hint at further suburb buried beneath the sand. Otherwise, much of the land was probably perfect for small-scale agricultural use, given the rich alluvial deposits left on its banks by the Nile channel each year.