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Black stone incense burner decorated with four cartouches. 11.5cm high.

That this is an incense burner is suggested by its similarity in shape to a 12th Dynasty example (see Griffiths 2001).

The early phase of the Amarna revolution sees Akhenaten on good terms with the cult of Amun-Re and its priesthood. Akhenaten calls himself: “Re-Harakhty lives and rejoices in the horizon, in his name (of) Shu who is Aten”. You can see this name in the last two cartouches. The first two cartouches may show Akhenaten’s original name Amenhotep IV, which he changed to Akhenaten (“he who is beneficial to Aten”) in his sixth Regnal year, or they may be a repeat of the Re-Harakhty name.

Incense was very important in ancient Egypt. Incense trees were brought to Egypt by Hatshepsut when she went to Punt (somewhere in South Africa) and other aromatic items were imported from the Mediterranean. Incense was used in temple rituals and for scenting bodies, both in life and death, and used to purify the home and for medicinal reasons. It seems that one of the common ingredients of incense was pistachia resin. However, we also know that one of the most common incenses burnt was known as kyphia, though we do not know all the substances used for this. Although we have recipes, some of the words used in the recipes have not been translated.  

The terms snTr and antyw were used by the Egyptians to refer to incense, and both are recorded as coming from Punt. It is has usually been assumed that these two ingredients were, respectively, frankincense and myrrh. However, analysis of actual New Kingdom resins by Serpico and White (2000) has suggested that snTris probably largely pistachia, though other ingredients could have been added. Frankincense has however been found at Qasr Ibrîm (AD400-500; Evershed at al. 1997). 


This was originally published by with W154 by Kate Bosse-Griffiths in 1992 ‘Incense for the Aten’ In Luft, U (ed.) The Intellectual Heritage of Egypt: Studies Presented to László Kákosy by friends and colleagues on the occasion of his 60th Birthday, 77-79. The paper was later republished in JG Griffiths, ed., 2001 Amarna Studies.

Other objects from Amarna

Other objects associated with incense