Most of the time, archaeologists aren’t looking for treasure when they excavate, and most of the time, they don’t find it, either. But every now and then, excavations turn up a remarkable discovery and that’s exactly what happened in January 1931 during the 1930-31 winter season at Tell el-Amarna.
THE “CROCK OF GOLD”
The site in Middle Egypt now known as Tell el-Amarna is the location of Akhetaten, the new city built by the pharaoh Akhenaten (c. 1348 – 1331 BCE), who chose only to worship the Aten, a god symbolising the sun in the sky, rather than the many other gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt. The city was abandoned soon after Akhenaten’s death, and the things left behind by its inhabitants have allowed archaeologists to create a vivid picture of what life was like in the thirty years or so of the city’s occupation.
One of the more exciting things left behind by an ancient inhabitant of Tell el-Amarna was a pottery jar buried beneath the floor of a house, which, when opened, was found to contain several bars and ingots of gold and silver, and a small silver figurine of a Hittite god (above). John Pendlebury, the director of the mission, christened this the “Crock of Gold”. Although the unworked bars and ingots had no archaeological value, the EES was allowed to keep half of the amount, the sale of which as bullion fetched £200, which went towards paying for the next season at Amarna. We remain very grateful to the ancient Egyptian who never came back to collect their gold!