Ancient Amarna and Post-War Coventry


For the second meeting of CovSoc’s 50th Anniversary Year, we have a talk about the links between Coventry Precinct and the ancient city of Amarna.

Roger Bailey, a Blue Badge Tourist Guide and city councillor, has been researching the fascinating history of the links between the rebuilt Coventry and the ancient Egyptian city.

Roger will explain how it is that the symbol of Aten became incorporated into the memorials to the rebuilding of the city in 1948. Coventry was rebuilt after the Second World War by Donald Gibson, who like many of his profession, was seemingly inspired by Amarna in the 1930s.

In 1948 the foundation stone for Broadgate House was laid, and a single tall, slender column put in place, using scarce materials which a member of the architect’s department was obliged to acquire on the black market. A stone placed on the north face of the column was carved with an inscription recording the role of Princess Elizabeth in the ceremony.

On the south side the young Coventry letter-carver and sculptor John Skelton carved emblems of the city’s weaving industries: scissors, a teasel, a cap and a loom. At the base of the same column another emblem refers to a system of belief which had a simultaneously private and a public dimension.

Gibson asked Skelton to carve there the symbol of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhnaton, who had become something of a cult figure after archaeological excavations resumed at Tell el Amarna in the inter-war period. During the 1920s, Tell el Amarna came to be viewed in terms of a lost utopia, an ideal city dedicated to the worship of the sun. It was described and depicted in terms of a prototype of the garden city, with extensive housing quarters and broad, well-planted avenues.

This meeting is being held in a different venue and on a different day to our normal monthly meetings, to allow people to attend who might not otherwise be able to.

The meeting is being held on Tuesday 21st January 2020 in Committee Room 3 in the Council House at 7.30 p.m. Ticket numbers are strictly limited to 40 so please book your seat via our Eventbrite Page. Attendance is free for members and we ask for a donation of £2 from visitors and guests towards the cost of refreshments.

Artist drawing from archaeological digs of the ruined ancient city of Tell el-Amama, also spelled Tall al-Amarna or Tall al-ʿAmarīnah

Screen Shot 2019-04-06 at 21.07.32

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