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A STUDY OF THE LITURGY
CELEBRATED IN THE TEMPLE OF THE ATON
AYLWARD M. BLACKMAN.
Much has been written during the last ten to twenty years on that remarkable phase in the history of Egyptian religion and art, which is so closely associated with the name of Amenōphis IVth, and for which many scholars are inclined to regard the king's own personality and teaching as largely responsible. No one, however, has hitherto attempted to reduce to a coherent whole the numerous scraps of information as to the procedure followed at the celebration of the liturgy in the temples of the Aton at El-Amarna, information that may be found scattered about the text and plates of the six volumes of N. de Garis Davies' great work, The Rock Tombs of ElAmarna, and on the pages of other works dealing with the art and religion of the El-Amarna period. To do this is the aim of the present article, which the writer hopes will prove to be a useful, if but small, contribution to the study-of one aspect of a wide and very important question.
Before attempting to discuss the various ceremonies composing the Aton-temple liturgy, it will be as well perhaps, for the benefit of those especially who are not familiar with what has already been written about them, to give some description of the buildings in which that liturgy was celebrated.
The temple-precincts() of the Aton at El-Amarna
(1) For the various representations of the temple and for a full discussion of the problems which they raise see DAVIES, Rock Tombs of El
were divided into two enclosures, the front one being larger than the hinder. Either enclosure contained a sacred edifice, that in the larger enclosure being the main temple, and that in the smaller what was possibly regarded as the more sacred temple (see figs. 1, 2). This is suggested by the fact that 'Okhnaton () and his family were in a special sense the chief officiants at the services performed in the sanctuary of the smaller temple, while, in addition, the colonnade outside the entrance to the sanctuary of that temple (later surrounding the great court through which the sanctuary was approached) was devoted to the cult of the royal statues (see below p. 510 f.).
An imposing gateway admitted to the outer court containing the main temple. In this court in addition to other buildings - no doubt the residences of the temple officials - was situated, to the left of the entrance, the yard where the victims were slaughtered. In representations of this yard (see fig. 5)(2) we are shewn, besides the carcas of a victim, the tethering stones to which the cattle were fastened for slaughter. A somewhat similar appliance for fastening down a victim is to be seen in the tombchapel of Pepi'onkh the Middle at Meir. It stands close to the mouth of the burial pit, and beside it is a basin for catching the victim's blood. Both basin and tethering stone are cut out of the living rock.
The main temple was entered through a great pylon, the towers of which were adorned with ten beflagged masts considerably taller than the towers themselves (see fig. 5)). Along the façade of the temple("), on either side of the pylon, extended a portico of sixteen columns,
Amarna, I, pls. XA, XI f., XXV-XXVIII, XXXIII; II, pls. XVIII f., p. 20 ff.; III, pls. VIII-XI, XXX, p. 19 ff.; IV. pls. V-VII, XVIII, XX; VI, pl. XX.
(1) For this vocalisation see C. MÖLLER, Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache, p. 101.
(2) Also DAVIES, op. cit., I, pls. XI f., XXVII, XXXIII; II, pl. XVIII; III, pl. XXX; VI, pl. XX.
(3) Also ibid., I, pl. XII; IV, pl. XX.
(4) Ibid., II, p. 22.
eight in a line and two deep. This colonnade, with the pylon towers and beflagged masts rising above it, must have provided a very effective frontage.
Fig. 1. The smaller temple according to a relief in the tomb-chapel of Merire'. (After DAVIES, Rock Tombs of El-Amarna, I, pl. XXXIII.)
Behind the pylon lay the great court containing a number of small chapels or shrines and also the high altar (see fig. 6), the latter constructed of masonry and
approached by a flight of steps. In front of this altar were what seem to have been four tanks (see fig. 5) (1), in which doubtless the officiants purified themselves before mounting the steps to make offering.
The rest of the temple consisted of a series of courts one of which, the third, was colonnaded leading one out of another and flanked with subsidiary courts. The second, like the first or great court, contained a number of chapels or shrines.
The smaller or inner temple, called the House of the Benben, consisted like the outer temple of a series of main and subsidiary courts. It has been stated that this temple was probably the more sacred of the two. Quite in accordance with what seems to have been its exceptionally sacred character are the eight tanks (see figs. 1, 2) (2) for purification, which were situated just outside the entrance to the enclosure or outer court, four on either side. Special care, too, seems to have taken to keep this court clean, for in three reliefs (see fig. 1)(3) servants are depicted sweeping the ground and sprinkling it the while with water to allay the dust.
Within this outer court, to the left of the entrance, stood a round-topped stele, set on a tall basis and reached by a flight of steps (see fig. 2) ("). Beside the basis was erected a statue of 'Okhnatōn (5). The stele would seem to be the object referred to in the El-Amarna inscriptions as the Benben, so named after the sacred stone in the sun-temple at Heliopolis.
In this court also, on the left hand side, as in the corresponding court of the larger temple, was the yard in which the victims were slaughtered (see figs. 1, 2)(6). A somewhat insignificant gateway admitted to the first
(Also ibid, I, pl. XXVII.
(2) Also ibid., II, pl. XIX.
(6) Also ibid., I, pl. XI, VI, pl. XX.