Ancient Egyptian Cemetery Holds Proof of Hard Labor. Heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten’s capital was no paradise for many adults and children.
Traci Watson, National Geographic News, 13-03-2013
Carvings on the walls of the ancient Egyptian city of Amarna depict a world of plenty. Oxen are fattened in a cattle yard. Storehouses bulge with grain and fish. Musicians serenade the pharaoh as he feasts on meat at a banquet. But new research hints that life in Amarna was a combination of grinding toil and want—at least for the ordinary people who would have hauled the city’s water, unloaded the boats on the Nile, and built Amarna’s grand stone temples, which were erected in a rush on the orders of a ruler named Akhenaten, sometimes called the “Heretic Pharaoh.”Researchers examining skeletons in the commoners’ cemetery in Amarna have discovered that many of the city’s children were malnourished and stunted. Adults show signs of backbreaking work, including high levels of injuries associated with accidents.”We have evidence of the most stressed and disease-ridden of the ancient skeletons of Egypt that have been reported to date,” said University of Arkansas bioarchaeologist Jerome Rose (a National Geographic Committe for Research and Exploration grantee), one of the team of experts examining the dead. “Amarna is the capital city of the Egyptian empire. There should be plenty of food . . . Something seems to be amiss.”