Timewatch: The Pharaoh's Lost City

Updated Thursday 13th September 2007

It's 1350BC; Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten - ruler of the biggest empire in the ancient world - commands his people to move 400 km and build a huge city from scratch to house his new religion.

Pharaoh's palace Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission

The city of Amarna was the place of the most dramatic upheaval in the 3,000 year religious history of Ancient Egypt and the vision of just one man. Here Akhenaten would shrink the old world of 2,000 gods to 1. He would give his queen - the beautiful Nefertiti - equal status and he would radically change art and society. He set out to create the greatest city the world had ever seen and it appeared he had succeeded. But the pharaoh’s great city would last just 20 years.

For over a century archaeologists have been excavating the ruins at Amarna. But recently a team under the directorship of Prof. Barry Kemp (University of Cambridge) has made a remarkable discovery. For the first time they have unearthed, in a desert cemetery, the skeletons of Amarna’s workers; the people who built and lived in the city.

What these 3,500 year old human remains are revealing, is a city very different to what was previously thought. Far from being a place of plenty, biological anthropologist Prof. Jerry Rose (University of Arkansas) has discovered trauma on the vertebrae of youths in Akhenaten’s city, the evidence of backbreaking work. High rates of Anaemia –particularly in the bones of children - is evidence of a chronic diet.

With unique access to a 30-year long project, using dramatic reconstruction and Computer Generated Imaging, Timewatch reveals the hidden truths of life in Amarna, during one of the most turbulent periods of Egyptian history - the time of the rebel pharaoh.

Take it further: Books

Akhenaten and the Religion of Light
Erik Hornung and David Lorton, Cornell University Press

Akhenaten: Egypt's False Prophet
Nicholas Reeves, Thames & Hudson

Pharaohs of the Sun
Rita E. Freed, Yvonne J. Markowitz, and Sue H. D'Auria, Thames & Hudson

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

From joy to despair, Glasgow’s George Square has seen it all this year Creative commons image Icon Michel under CC-BY-2.0 licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

From joy to despair, Glasgow’s George Square has seen it all this year

It's been a rollercoaster of a year for the people of Glasgow following the success of the Commonwealth games bookended by two horrific tragedies, writes Gerry Mooney.

Article
Timewatch: Explore The Pharaoh's Lost City: Meet King Amenhotep IV Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC video icon

TV, Radio & Events 

Timewatch: Explore The Pharaoh's Lost City: Meet King Amenhotep IV

What little we know of King Amenhotep IV, told from the town he built.

Video
15 mins
Child of Our Time: Try our surveys Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC activity icon

Education & Development 

Child of Our Time: Try our surveys

How does your sense of self compare with other people? How good are you at performing complex tasks? How do you and your children cope with stress? Try our surveys to find out

Activity
Paul O'Grady's Working Britain: Order your free copy of 'A journal of working class life' Creative commons image Icon The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license article icon

TV, Radio & Events 

Paul O'Grady's Working Britain: Order your free copy of 'A journal of working class life'

Order a free booklet exploring different aspects of working class life in Britain through the years.

Article
OU on the BBC: Ever Wondered About Food - Sugar Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team article icon

TV, Radio & Events 

OU on the BBC: Ever Wondered About Food - Sugar

Ever Wondered About Food exposes the secrets of sugar

Article
My Favourite Fossil: Billy Bragg Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University video icon

TV, Radio & Events 

My Favourite Fossil: Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg, singer/songwriter and fossil enthusiast, recalls his first fossil find.

Video
5 mins
Why Poverty: Poor Us video icon

TV, Radio & Events 

Why Poverty: Poor Us

Do we know what poverty is and what's been achieved so far in our attempts to end it? Delve into the stats to find out

Video
5 mins
Timewatch: San Francisco's great quake Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission article icon

TV, Radio & Events 

Timewatch: San Francisco's great quake

April 18th, 1906: The greatest natural disaster ever faced by the United States: San Francisco's great quake.

Article
Rough Science Profile: Mike Leahy Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team article icon

TV, Radio & Events 

Rough Science Profile: Mike Leahy

Meet Mike Leahy, a man facing again the challenges of Rough Science.

Article