Emory Kristof, © National Geographic Society

A gigantic jigsaw puzzle. Vestiges of scenes at Akhenaten’s court challenge scholars to find their mates. This array emerged from the core of the ninth pylon, a massive ceremonial structure at Thebes (see photograph).

Each talatat, or building block, is approximately 20 inches long, 10 inches high and 10 inches deep. Some are decorated on a long side; others on an end.

Repeated, stylized decorative motifs allow the grouping of unmatched blocks in 16 categories—such as figures (kings, queens, priests, princesses and others), sunrays, hieroglyphics and architectural details—to facilitate matching related pieces.