Small Aten Temple

Small Aten Temple

The Small Aten Temple is a temple to the Aten located in the ancient Egyptian city of Amarna. It is one of the two major temples in the town, the other being the Great Temple of the Aten. Original known as the Hwt-Jtn or Mansion of the Aten, it was probably constructed before the more prominent Great Temple. Its only contemporary depiction is found in the tomb of Tutu (Amarna Tomb 8). Like the other structures in the city, it was constructed quickly and hence was easy to dismantle and reuse the material for later construction. It was first excavated in 1931 by the Egypt Exploration Society.

Location of the Small Aten Temple

Small Aten Temple is situated next to the King’s House and near the Royal Palace, in the central part of the Tell el Amarna، Deir Mawas, Menia Governorate.

The layout of the Small Aten Temple

The structure was surrounded by a large temporary wall of bricks measuring 37 x 19 x 14.5 cm. The temenos enclosed an area of 127 m by 200 m. On the eastern end, the remains of flower beds were found, and an avenue of trees separated it from the surrounding buildings. The main entrance was from the west, through two massive brick pylons. Each pylon had slots for two flag poles. Walls projecting forward from the pylon gateway initially held doors. Smaller entrances, with their projecting walls, were found on either side of the main pylons. A large area of preserved gypsum plaster was found bearing the impressions of blocks and mason marks in the main entrance. This plaster area was the base of a later platform with a stepped exterior approach and a ramped interior. The find of a ring bezel bearing the name ‘Ankhkheperure’ dates this to the reigns of pharaohs Smenkhkare or Neferneferuaten.

First court

A ramp of whitewashed mud led down into this area. On either side of this ramp were offering tables of mud-brick and in the centre, a large altar of mudbrick. The whole court was paved with mud plaster. This area seems to be the oldest part of the complex, as it overlays clean gravel and its surface underlays the later pylon gateway. This ‘Great Altar’ was later demolished to ground level, and some of its bricks were incorporated into the enlargement of the two altars nearest the entrance, which may have served as the bases of statues.

Second court

The second set of pylon gateways with smaller entrances identical to the main entrance lead to this court. Within the pylons were niches for granite stelae. This court had side entrances to the north and south, which were thought to be private entrances for the king and priests. The southern entrance has a small porters house. Outside this gate was a dump of stone from the destruction of the Sanctuary, like that of the Great Aten Temple.

The southern pylon had a small priest’s house attached to it. Fragments of a small painted uraeus cornice were found here.

Sanctuary court

The gateway to this court was again flanked by pylons identical to the previous gates. However, there were no additional entrances and no niches for stelae. Trees surround the Sanctuary on the eastern side. The southern half of the court contained several buildings. In the southeast corner, a small brick building included a series of rooms, including one with a dais. Another approach was to the northwest of this building by a ramp, possibly a subsidiary chapel. To the west of this building was another, consisting of a single room connected to the south wing of the Sanctuary by a series of walls that possibly belonged to a small house. Its walls were thick and well built, and the floor was paved with bricks.


The outer court of the Sanctuary had projecting wings on either side of the main building. The exterior of these walls was stone, and the partitions were of mud brick. A ramp with balustrade led to the first court of the Sanctuary, passing between two thin pylons, and likely continued as a causeway to the altar in the centre. This first court was full of offering tables. Four large columns flanked the narrow gateway to the inner court on each side. It is likely that the life-size limestone statues, fragments found in the dump, once stood in this area. The entrance to the inner court was of the same winding type also seen in the Great Aten Temple. The entire court was filled with offering tables and surrounded by small chapels built into the walls.

In 1994, concrete replicas of the papyriform columns were assembled in their original position in front of the inner sanctuary court. These columns were replicas based on the fragments found in the 1931 excavation and were manufactured in Egypt from moulds made in England.