ARCE

Akhenaten Talatat Project Conservation

Atp

Project Director: Dr. Jocelyn Gohary

Assistant Project Director: Dr. Rawya Ismail

Historic era: New Kingdom, 18th dynasty

Project Location: Luxor

Project duration: October 2008 - December 2012

Talatat blocks, possibly derived from the Arabic word talata meaning “three,” measure roughly three handspans long. Characterized by their Amarna style and smaller size compared to conventional building blocks, they are the result of King Akhenaten’s (1352-1336 BC) goal to urgently erect religious buildings for his “new supreme god” Aten, first in Thebes (ancient Luxor) and later the new city of Akhetaten in Middle Egypt. The talatat blocks were first discovered in the late 19th century and increasingly excavated from then onwards. There are currently approximately 60,000 known blocks, believed to be only a fraction of what exists.

The largest repository of talatat blocks resides in the Pennsylvania Magazine in the Karnak Temple complex in Luxor. The Magazine is directly adjacent to the west wall of the Khonsu Temple and stores approximately 16,000 blocks, the majority of which are sandstone (with a few limestone examples). Used to construct temples for the god Aten, the blocks were subsequently dismantled by Akhenaten’s successors, who reused them in other structures. Previously, from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, the blocks were photographed and documented in situ by Akhenaten Temple Project staff, under the auspices of the Penn Museum (also referred to as the University Museum, Pennsylvania).

From 2008 to 2012, the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) Akhenaten Talatat Project Conservation staff cleaned, conserved, photographed, and recorded approximately 16,000 talatat blocks in the Magazine. The blocks had sustained damage which included dangerously leaning stacks; collapsed stacks; dust and bird droppings due to gaps in the roof; hornets’ nests and damage caused by animal burrowing. Matjaž Kačičnik photographed the preliminary conditions of the 28 stacks in the Magazine before project staff proceeded with removing, cleaning, and conserving blocks; some of the shattered blocks were reassembled with steel pins. Documentation included the use of digital photography and database recording. After structural interventions that addressed damage incurred from animal activity and dust accumulation, the blocks were restored in the Pennsylvania Magazine.

Statement of Responsibility:

The American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) managed the implementation of the Akhenaten Talatat Project Conservation. The project’s objective was to clean, conserve, photograph, and record approximately 16,000 talatat blocks found in the Pennsylvania Magazine, a result of King Akhenaten’s reign. Dr. Jocelyn Gohary directed the project with assistant director Dr. Rawya Ismail, and conservation work was made possible with the support of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (formerly the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities).

Funding:

Conservation of the Akhenaten Talatat blocks in the Pennsylvania Magazine was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Agreement No. 263-A-00-04-00018-00 under the Egyptian Antiquities Project (EAP), and through the administration and facilitation of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE).

Further Information:
FileMaker Database Publication: An integral component of this conservation project’s documentation efforts included the creation of a FileMaker database comprising 17,794 entries. Developed by Dr. Gohary and Dr. Ismail in conjunction with ARCE’s I.T. manager, Mr. Zakaria Yacoub, this database contains information based on a standardized Egyptological and conservation survey and is yet to be published.
For further information on the database, please refer to the final report (filename: arce_ca_atp_finalreport2012.pdf) included in the Akhenaten Talatat Project Conservation collection. Researchers looking to access the database can arrange an in-person appointment upon request.
Environmental Conditions in the Pennsylvania Magazine: Information from the data logger, measured between December 2008 and September 2009, recording the temperature (measured in °C) and relative humidity (RH %) of the Magazine is available upon request.
See Akhenaten Talatat Project on Google Maps here
Additional Resources: