On this block from a temple relief, Akhenaten, recognizable by his elongated features, holds a duck toward Aten. With one hand he wrings its neck before offering it to his god. Akhenaten believed that light was the only divine power in the universe and that the solar disk was the means through which this power came into the world. Akhenaten's god, Aten, is portrayed through the symbol of a solar disk with rays ending in small human hands, one of which holds an ankh, symbol of life, toward the king's nose. The sun-disk symbol is a large-scale hieroglyph meaning 'light.' Although early depictions of Akhenaten often appear strangely exaggerated, later in his reign sculptors attempted a more naturalistic style, emphasizing a sense of space and movement. Akhenaten's hands here are grasping and straining to hold the struggling duck. Such a scene, capturing one moment, would never have been attempted in another period. Akhenaten's right hand, however, is twisted so that all five fingers can be seen, a pose that conforms to the Egyptian convention of presenting each part of the body as completely as possible.
The artist has cut the outlines of the figures into the surface in a technique called sunk relief. Sunk relief appears mostly on the exterior of buildings, where the outlines cast shadows, emphasizing the sunlight. During the Amarna period almost all relief was executed in this technique.