The city of Akhetaten was built in a vast, sandy, previously uninhabited and inhospitable semi-circular plain. The site is bordered on a large part of its circumference by cliffs a hundred meters high, interrupted here and there by wadis (river beds). One of them leads to the royal necropolis 6 km into the desert ().
As a matter of fact, members of the Amarna royal family were supposed to be buried at Akhetaten, as stated in the text of the first group of Boundary Stelae:
"Let a tomb be made for me (Akhenaten) in the eastern mountain [of Akhetaten]. Let my burial be made in it, in the millions of jubilees which the Aten, my father, decreed for me. Let the burial for the Great Kings Wife Nefertiti be made in it, in the millions of years [which the Aten, my father, decreed for her. Let the burial of] the Kings Daughter, Meritaten, [be made] in it, in these millions of years".
Five tombs are known.
It is situated on the left-hand side of a narrow side wadi that runs northwards from the main access wadi. It is the only decorated one. Akhenaten himself, his mother Queen Tiye and three of Akhenaten's daughters were buried there. The large unfinished suite of rooms off to the right of the main corridor was probably made for Nefertiti.
Close to the royal tomb, this small tomb appears to be an embalmer's cache (, ).
Three other tombs n°27,28 and 29) are located about 500 m from the royal tomb, in two narrow side wadis that runs southwards from the main access wadi:
Only the first corridor was finished: its dimensions (like those of the doorway) are the same as those of the tomb of Akhenaten. As the royal tomb, it has a ramp down the middle of the stairway.
It was obviously intended for a king, a successor to Akhenaten, perhaps the female pharaoh Neferneferuaten.
It is cut in a poor quality stone: just below the ceiling and the uppermost part of the walls, the hard rock is replaced by thin, softer, crumbling beds of rock; thus, thick layers of gypsum had to be used. Nevertheless, it is the only finished tomb in the necropolis. It may have been cut for a princess or a secondary wife.
It is at a short distance (7.5m) to the south of tomb n°28. It is an impressive monument. It descends some 40m downwards in a straight line, via four rock-cut doorways and with some slight changes to the angle of descent. Corridors and ceilings were lined with plaster. There is no burial chamber. It may have been used as a storage place for workmen engaged on tomb n°27 after the death of Akhenaten.
According to Gabolde,
"It is clear that a burial did occur, in either tomb n°28 or n°29".
The final resting places of the Amarna royal family members remains obscure although much discussed. It does, however, seem that none of them ended up where they had planned to be buried.