Anatomy of the Book: The Sunshade Chapel of Meritaten from the House-of-Waenre of Akhenaten

May 16, 2017

The quartzite architectural block E16230 is a rather unassuming large stone object that dates to ancient Egypt’s Amarna Period (ca. 1353-1336 BCE). Although it had once been part of a highly decorated, royal Sunshade chapel, it finished its pre-museum days as a threshold in a medieval building in Cairo. The block had sat in plain sight in the Penn Museum exhibition Amarna: Ancient Egypt’s Place in the Sun. Yet, until now, no one has ever given it more than a passing survey. Dr. Wegner’s book traces the complex history of E16230 while also discussing the unique role of women in the royal family of the Pharaoh Akhenaten. Meritaten, who is depicted on the block, was Akhenaten’s eldest daughter, and E16230 is thought to have been part of a Sunshade chapel dedicated to her. Wegner’s work is a charming piece of scholarship, carefully argued and well-contextualized. To find out the mystery about the block’s origins, you’ll have to read the book!

Museum Object Number: E16230

Design Features:

This volume was a departure from our usual two-column layout for an 8 ½ x 11″ monograph. There is a single column of text with wider margins on each edge. This allows for a different flow of text, images, and captions. My favorite is Figure 26, two recumbent sphinxes that languidly stretch across the spread. The fonts were chosen specifically to give it a somewhat antiquarian feel, although hopefully not stuffy or old fashioned. The book’s black and white illustrations include lovely maps as well as plans and schematics of various ancient Egyptian locales.

This book has a color insert with eight plates showing various aspects of the block and reconstructions of Meritaten’s Sunshade chapel. One image I wish we had been able to print in color is Figure 17, showing Amarna period architectural inlays similar to those that would have adorned E16230.

Examples of architectural inlays of the Amarna Period in a variety of materials.

Other interesting facets of Wegner’s volume are both a script font representing Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions and representations of the hieroglyphs themselves:

m tC zwt-Rc n sCt nswt n ;t.f mrt.f Mrt-Itn m pr Wcn-Rc m Cxt-Itn;

“in the Sunshade-chapel of the king’s daughter of his body, his beloved, in the House-of-Waenre in Akhet-Aten.”



This was a very fun book to work on. Many of our titles deal with archaeology conducted either long ago or in distant lands, but as I was editing this manuscript, I could pop downstairs and “visit” the block. Seeing E16230 in person was quite helpful for understanding the layout of panels as I read the text. Come in and see it for yourself (before the exhibition closes on June 18, 2017) and maybe you too will read the book to find out more about this enigmatic artifact.

Further reading: Be sure to check out the author’s more in-depth discussion of his book on the Penn Press Blog.

Page Selinsky, Ph.D. is a biological anthropologist by training, but her primary job these days is Editor for Penn Museum Publications. In this capacity, she has the privilege of working on the editing and design of books published by the Penn Museum. Her blog posts endeavor to pique your interest about our new titles. “One of the very best aspects of my job is that each book project is unique. Every manuscript allows me to work with new authors and delve into specialized terminology and topics. Each book also presents a variety of design challenges and decisions. This variety keeps things interesting, despite the fact that the steps of moving a book through the process from manuscript to final product are much the same.”