Malkata (or Malqata; literally. ’the place where things are picked up) is the site of an Ancient Egyptian palace complex built during the New Kingdom by the 18th Dynasty pharaoh Amenhotep III. The site also included a temple dedicated to Amenhotep III’s Great Royal Wife, Tiy, which honours Sobek, the crocodile deity.
Location of Palace of Amenhotep III
There are various structures in the desert, consisting of several residential palaces, a temple of Amun, a festival hall, elite villas, houses for the relatives of the royal family, apartments for attendants, and a desert altar termed the Kom al-Samak, all of which were constructed of mud bricks.
The palace was built in the 14th century BC, and its ancient name was Per-Hay, “House of Rejoicing”. Initially, the palace was known as the Palace of the Dazzling Aten. Built primarily out of mud-brick, it was Amenhotep’s residence throughout most of the latter part of his reign. Construction began around year 11 of his authority and continued until the king permanently moved there around his 29. Once completed, it was the largest royal residence in Egypt.
To the east of the palace, a large ceremonial lake was dug. The palace area was connected to the Nile through canals, which ended in a large harbour or quay, now called Birket Habu.
The layout of the palace
The palace contained many audience halls, central halls, courtyards, villas, smaller palace complexes for the royal family, and apartments for officials. The harbour and canal connected the palace with the Nile, allowing easy travel across the river to the city of Thebes, which was situated on the eastern bank. There is little evidence of this lake today, and little but the palace’s foundations remain.
The palace had a central courtyard, and across from the pharaoh’s rooms were apartments for his daughters and son. The royal apartment featured a bedroom, a dressing room, a private audience chamber, and a harem, which was used simply for storage after the reign of Amenhotep III. His Great Royal Wife, Tiye, had her own smaller palace complex diagonally across from the pharaoh’s palace. The palace grounds contained gardens and a large pleasure lake.
Remains of a temple to the goddess Isis lie south of the main palace complex. Remains exist of a temple of Amun to the north of the palace, within the complex. A “desert altar” on the outskirts of the ruins has also been excavated.
Malqata was managed by a veritable army of servants and staff. Remains of kitchens near the royal chamber have been found and servant quarters. The palace resembled a complete city, with officials in charge of different sections, such as the gardens and the various apartments and quarters.
Fragments of plastered wall paintings have given archaeologists a glimpse of how the palace was decorated. Various paintings of the goddess Nekhbet made up the ceiling of the royal bed-chamber. The walls were decorated with scenes of wildlife – flowers, reeds, and animals in the marshes and decorative geometric designs, complete with rosettes. Ornate wooden columns painted to resemble lilies supported the ceilings. In the palace, archaeologists also found some paintings of the great royal wife, Tiye. Rare traces of original wall paintings are still visible on-site, despite the badly ruined state of the mudbrick walls.
History of the palace
The palace seems to have been begun by Amenhotep III in the early 14th century BC, and the site was occupied as late as the Roman-Byzantine Period. Malqata was most definitely Amenhotep’s principal residence near Thebes, the capital of ancient Egypt, and therefore, probably his main palace in all of the country. Remains of other smaller palaces in Thebes and other cities throughout Egypt have been found, but none were as significant as Amenhotep’s palace at Malqata.
Malqata was abandoned by Akhenaten, Amenhotep III’s son and successor, when he moved the capital to his new city at Amarna, perhaps to break the influence of the powerful priests of the Temple of Amun. However, it may have been re-inhabited by the youthful Tutankhamen when the traditional religion and capital were restored, and the temple priests regained their influence in the interwoven religion and government of Ancient Egypt.
Tutankhamen’s successor, Ay, probably inhabited the palace briefly, and pharaoh Horemheb after him as well, but by the ascension of Ramesses II, it was simply a minor residence, as the capital was moved to Pi-Ramesses in the far north.
The palace ruins were “rediscovered” several times: in 1888 by Daressy; by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1910–1920; by the University Museum of Pennsylvania in the 1970s; and since 1985, they have been the site of excavations by the Archaeological Mission of Waseda University.