Thanks to a generous grant from the Institute for the Study of Aegean Prehistory, we were able to survey an interesting and enigmatic feature of Malqata, a strange outlier to the Birket Habu mounds. Called “Site K” by Barry Kemp, who excavated it in the early 1970’s, the place is a small, mysterious mound. When trenched, it appeared to be filled with material from the destruction of a palace decorated with murals on mud plaster. The contents of the mound were sampled and found to contain not only remains of painted decoration similar to that in the King’s Palace where we are working, but also fragments with much more clearly Aegeanizing motifs. Examples are a rosette terrain (a circle or dot design) and wild plants in a rocky landscape that bring to mind paintings like those found on Santorini and Crete.
The King’s Palace at Malqata also had some Aegean motifs, such as a leaping calf, bull’s heads with rosettes, and running spirals. Daressey reported, but sadly did not illustrate, some other scenes that could have been inspired by Minoan or Mycenaean art.
Why would these foreign style paintings be in an Egyptian palace? I think it was for the same reason that French furniture was chosen in the Eighteenth Century for the White House in Washington, D.C. and for the Catharine Palace in St. Petersburg. Rulers always like to show their cosmopolitan tastes, and Amenhotep III was certainly no exception.
It has been unclear as to what building these fragments at Site K may have belonged, but one possibility is that it represents an earlier palace that was demolished and re-built elsewhere during the expansion of the Birket. The demolition might also correspond to the later re-orientation of the site. To get a better idea of Site K and how it relates to the rest of Malqata, several sections were drawn through Kemp’s old trenches, which are still visible. These trenches will also be tied into the work of Angus Graham of The Egypt Exploration Society Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey (Searching for the Venice of the Nile) who is making a study of the Birket and the other harbors in the Theban area. Hopefully these studies will add more to our picture of the history of the site and Amenhotep’s grand and ever-changing design.
January 27, 2016