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The History of Egypt (Part 2): Prelude to the Amarna Age

The History of Egypt (Part 2): Prelude to the Amarna Age

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Thutmoses III conquered much of the near east up to the Euphrates river. Egypt was now a great economic and military power and wealth accumulated among a new class of Egyptian - the middle class. This inevitably lead to trouble, and a revolution was on the horizon.


The History of Egypt (Part 2): Prelude to the Amarna Age - History


the Aten of Pharaoh Akhenaten :
a monotheism of light without darkness

colos of Amenhotep IV

Gem-pa-Aten temple at East Karnak
"the Aten is found" - Cairo Museum

O sole god without equal !
You are alone, shining in your form of the living Aten.
Risen, radiant, distant and near.
Great Hymn, 47 & 73-74.

The translation of The Great Hymn to the Aten is part of my Ancient Egyptian Readings (2016), a POD publication in paperback format of all translations available at maat.sofiatopia.org. These readings span a period of thirteen centuries, covering all important stages of Ancient Egyptian literature. Translated from Egyptian originals, they are ordered chronologically and were considered by the Egyptians as part of the core of their vast literature.

Introduction

1 The New Kingdom and the colossal Amenhotep III

2 Prelude to Amarna religion : the "New Solar Theology"

CULTIC : dictatorial eradications & an imposed religion

NOMIC : radical naturalization of the "old" religion

COSMIC : only light, presence and movement

MYSTIC : exclusive & highly subjectified

5 Why was Akhenaten's monotheism sterile ?

6 Ancient Egyptian religion after Amarna

The use of capitals in words as "Absolute", "God" or "Divine", points to a rational context (i.e. how these appear in a theology conducted in the rational mode of thought - cf. cognition, neurophilosophy & theonomy). Hence, when these words are used in the context of Ancient Egyptian ante-rational thought (which, as a cultural form, was mythical, pre-rational & proto-rational), this restriction is lifted. Hence, words such as "god", "the god", "gods", "goddesses", "pantheon" or "divine" are not capitalized.

► Personal piety and the horizon of contact with the Divine

In The Seach for God in Ancient Egypt (2001), the egyptologist Jan Assmann proposed to measure Ancient Egyptian religion (its activities and experiences) using three "dimensions". These represent their conceptual horizon of contact with the divine, namely :

" . there was no explicit and coherent explanation of Egyptian theology on the metalevel of theoretical discourse in Ancient Egypt any more than there were theoretical explanations in other areas, such as grammar, rhetoric or historiography. As is well known, the development of theoretical discourse, at least in the Mediterranean world, was an accomplishment of Greek culture." - Assman, 2001, p.9.

For Assmann, there are multiple dimensions, some of which "are realized in dominant form in any given historical religion". 2 The ones mentioned above were treated in a dominant fashion in Ancient Egyptian religion. In Assmann's reading, the Amarna religion assisted in the breakthrough of a fourth dimension in the era that followed it, called by Breasted "the age of personal piety" (1912). By closing the temples and banishing the deities of the old religion, Akhenaten had forced the worshippers to resort to internal gods & goddesses "placed in the heart" (mind).

Because, according to Assmann, the mystic "absolutizes the inner presence of the divine and takes satisfaction in it" 3 , he is reluctant to name this fourth dimension of "personal piety" truly "mystical". However, this holds only true if his definition of mysticism is accepted, which is not the case here.

Mysticism is the direct experience of the Divine. On the basis of the provisional comparative form of the phenomenology of Hinduism (Classical Yoga), Judaism (Qabalah), Christianity (the Jesus-people) and Islam (Sufism of Al Junayd and Ibn'Arabî), arrived at by means of a comprehensive hermeneutical and participant observational approach, the more mature and unfolding architecture (form) of this radical experience is conceived as implying a bi-polar one-fold. The universal & fundamental structure of this experience, always reflects both the inner as well as the outer aspect of the Divine (cf. Divine bi-polarity).

Negative theology puts the mysticism of un-saying in perspective : the essence of the Divine is unknown, ineffable, incomprehensible and absolutely absolute. Positive theology affirms the Presence of the Divine in the created order. Like Bergson, I would like to suggest that the mystics are the true founders of the religions. Also that mystical experience is a universal human factor able to manifest in formidable everyday experiences (orgasm, strong emotions, aha, serendipity, cognitive paradox, synchronicity, inventivity, true love, creativity through service). See on these differences : Introduction to a Colorful Recital.

The mature mystic finds the Divine "in the heart" (inner, the seer) but he or she also unveils that everything what can be experienced (outer, the seen) is the Self-manifestation of the Divine. This may explain their strength facing evil (cf. theodicy).

However, to consider the mystic as exclusively focused on the inner side of the equation (as does Assmann) is limiting mysticism by a theistic approach of the Divine, which stresses the absent, transcendent and remote characteristics. All major traditions interested in the experience of the mystics themselves (exploring mysticism in an experiential way) are confronted with the "agonizing polarization" 4 between manifest and hidden. All major mystic traditions have identified these two poles and were aware of the tension. It is typical for the mystics that although they identify the two seas (salty & sweet) they never eclipse the fact that the water of life is one living water of Divine Presence (as Marguerite Porete so admirably synthesized in the character of "Loinprés", Farnear - a theme explicit in Amarna theology & later in Theban theology). The bi-polarity is a phenomenon taking place within a fundamental, implicit, unbreakable, eternal but unfolding unity (cf. "pan-en-theos" : all-in-God - cf. henotheism).

As Staal demonstrated 5 , mysticism implies a structure of direct experience (between the mystic and the Divine, both inner as outer) and a superstructure which is a verbal thematization of the experience (as a solitary and/or as a group) which may lead to textualization and canonization. To limit the structure of mystical experience to being satisfied with a fusion with the inner, hidden & remote aspect of the Divine, is considered by mystics (in the East, Middle East and West) as a limitation and an incomplete experience of the Divine (cf. Ibn'Arabî on the paradoxical, wonderous perplexity of the "station of no station", and Sufi criticism on stressing Divine remoteness). It may even lead to insanity and heresy. The mature mystic has inner trance and outer sobriety (cf. Al-Junayd). Trance without sobriety is insanity. Sobriety without trance is utter darkness. Outer sobriety is also regulated by the idea of moral harmony (cf. Maat), i.e. symmetrical communication with other human beings aiming at establishing, sustaining & differentiating the common good (of nature, family, society, the planet, etc.).

In this paper, I will consider the "breakthrough" of "personal piety", contrary to Assmann, indeed as "mystical". Moreover, the fact this "personal piety" became so important after Amarna is not denied, but its traces in the earlier stages of Ancient Egyptian religion are considered differently. True, only after the fall of the Old Kingdom is the conception of the soul ("bA") generalized and popularized (everybody had a "ba"). In the Middle Kingdom, as testified in the Coffin Texts, officials and their subordinates could also attain the enjoyment of the afterlife (continued existence and no "second death"), and eventually every deceased person was an "Osiris NN".

But, in the Old Kingdom (and also thereafter) Pharoah was a paradoxical figure, for he was a "god on Earth" while the other gods & goddesses abided in the other world, present in their temples and images in a symbolical and subtle fashion only (they sent their doubles -"kAw"- and souls -bAw- while their spirits -"AXw"- remained in the sky). Because religious activity happened between the deities 6 (the temples do not mediate but were loci of the indwelling 7 of the divine), the figure of Pharaoh, the "Great House" and divine king was extraordinary. Hence, in the Old Kingdom, the overt manifestation of the mystical approach of the divine was an exclusive royal prerogative, or as the Pyramid Texts claim :

"Men hide, the gods fly away."
Pyramid Texts, utterance 302 (§ 459).

Does this royal prerogative of the mystical in the written record imply the common Egyptians had no direct religious experience ? Did they, in their private domain, in the temple of their nome and in the regular festive processions outside the sacred precinct, never experienced the "radical other" (totaliter aliter) ? In the official point of view, only Pharaoh had a direct experience of the divine (being a god himself) and thus rose vertically to the stars, while all others Egyptians were barred from contact with the divine, except within the confines of their own inner subjectivity.

"Although in all periods relatively few people were directly involved in the cult, the temples and the cult performed in them would have existed in a partial vacuum if they had corresponded with little in the lives of the other people. Apart from this general point, several literary texts become more meaningful if it is assumed that contact with the deity, or experience of the deity, was considered possible."
Baines, J. : "Society, Morality and Religious Practice", in Shafer, 1991, p.173.

In the private tombs of Sheshi (VIth Dynasty - Saqqara) & Harkhuf (VIth Dynasty - Assuan), a stylized catalog of virtues occurs. These virtues are not told in the prose of the narrative autobiography but were recited in an orational style. 8 They suggest great intellectual and literary capabilities. 9 Together with the Maxims of Ptahhotep (Vth Dynasty under Izezi or Djedkare) they evidence interior reflection, wisdom and a search for true peace. Why would these individuals not have attained mystical states of consciousness ? Moreover, Ptahhotep is eager to relate how wisdom (with which no one is born) and the good (like wealth & peace) come by virtue of the deities. Apparently, they are not restricted to Pharaoh.

(139) If You are a weakling, serve a man of quality, worthy of trust,
(140)
(so) that all your conduct may be well with god.
(141) Do not recall if once he was of humble condition,
(142) do not let your heart become big toward him,
(143) for knowing his former state.
(144)
Respect him for what has accrued to him,
(145) for surely goods do not come by themselves.
(146) They are their laws for him whom they love.
(147) His gain, he gathered it himself,
(148) (but) it is god who makes him worthy,
(149) and protects him while he sleeps.

Ptahhotep : Maxims of Ptahhotep, maxim 10, D175 - "they" and "theirs" refer to the deities

Hence, regarding the horizon of contact with the divine, at least four elements seem valid :

► The Great Hymn to the Aten of Akhenaten

In the history of Egypt of Manetho (third century BCE), which became authoritative from Antiquity down to modern times (although full of inconsistencies), Pharaoh Akhenaten (ca. 1353 - 1336 BCE), is not mentioned as such. Instead, the names "Acencheres" (in Josephus), "Acherres" (in Africanus) and "Cherres" (in Eusebius) prevail.

"The Eighteenth Dynasty consisted of 14 kings at Thebes. (. ) Achencheres ruled for 16 years. In his time Moses became leader of the Jews in their exodus from Egypt."
Manetho, 3th century BCE.

The Ramessides were deemed the immediate successors of Amenhotep III. Instead, Manetho handed down a story which was recorded by Josephus, according to which lepers ruled over Egypt during the reign of "Amenophis". They were in league with the Hyksos for 13 years and burned the cities, destroyed the temples and the statues of the gods. The period before Tutankhamun came to the throne is also described by Manetho as a period wherein "The land experienced an illness, and the deities did not look after this land." 10 Other classical writers like Herodotus, Diodorus and Strabo manifest no knowledge of this "heretic king". His memory had been suppressed. He had been forgotten .

"The simplest and commonest technique of forgetting is the destruction of memory in its cultural objectifications such as inscriptions and iconic representations. This is what happened to the monotheistic revolution of Akhenaten, and the destruction was thorough enough to keep this event completely unretrievable until its archaeological rediscovery in the course of the nineteenth century. (. ) Another technique of forgetting is silence. This technique was practiced by the Amarna texts, which never speak of what they implicitly reject." - Assmann, 1997, p.216, my italics.

After the death of Tutankhamun (ca. 1323 BCE), the vandalism and destruction of the monuments erected by Akhenaten at Akhetaten was on its way. Under Pharaoh Ramesses II (ca. 1279 - 1213 BCE), dismantlement and reuse were stepped up. A century after his death, Akhenaten is no longer named by his name, but as "the rebel" ("sebiu") or "the criminal" ("kheru") of Akhetaten.

"It seems likely that chronicles or annals in temple archives preserved some record of him and his reign. These chronicles were perhaps still extant in the third century BCE when they were consulted by historians writing in Greek, and a rather garbled version of Akhenaten's story was transmitted into the classical tradition." - Montserrat, 2001, p.29.

Although in November 1714, the Jesuit father Claude Sicard had made copies of one of Akhenaten's boundary stelæ 11 and J.Gardner Wilkinson had discovered the tombs of his officials in 1824 and had made copies, both of these finds did not appear in print until years after Champollion's death. 12 In his summary of Egyptian history (in the Appendix of his Letters from Egypt) 13 , the latter proceeded immediately from Amenophis III to his son "Horus", who continued the work of his father and had two weak successors, after which Seti I led Egypt to new heights .

On the 26th of June 1851, Karl Richard Lepsius (who had arrived at Tell el-Amarna -the modern place name of Akhetaten-on the 19th of September 1843) communicated his conclusions that a "highly noteworthy episode in the history of Egyptian mythology" had taken place. Amenophis IV (identified with Akhenaten) opposed the prior worship of Amun with a "pure cult of the Sun : only the disk itself was tolerated as its unique image" . He also mentions Akhenaten had commanded "the names of all the deities be hacked away from all public monuments, and even from the accessible private tombs, and that their image be destroyed to the extent possible" . 14 Slowly the learned world realized the existence of Akhenaten. The first monograph entirely devoted to the "heretic king" was written by Arthur Weigall in 1910. 15

The empty tomb of Akhenaten had been discovered by locals in 1881 - 1882. In 1887, locals again discovered the famed archive of clay tablets (380 of them) containing the cuneiform correspondence of Akhenaten and his father with the princes of Western Asia. The authoritative edition was made by J.A.Knudtzon in 1915. 16

Between 1883 and 1884 , Urbain Bouriant, thank goodness, made a copy of the Great Hymn in the tomb of Aya (a brother of Teye, the mother of Akhenaten and tutor, even father-in-law of the reformer) of which a third was maliciously destroyed in 1890 (during a quarrel among local inhabitants). 17 On the basis of this copy, the famed Great Hymn to the Aten could be studied for the first time by James Henry Breasted in 1895 in his Berlin dissertation : De Hymnis in Solem sub Rege Amenophide IV conceptis ("On the Hymns to the Sun composed under Amenophis IV"). 18

Contrary to the Memphis Theology, the Great Hymn to the Aten is not a composite work, neither does it have more than one temporal layer (the original of the former work may be written in the XVIIIth Dynasty, more likely in the XXth Dynasty, but older layers from the Vth Dynasty can not be ruled out). The Great Hymn gives, ex hypothesis, a clear and comprehensive picture of the ideals of Akhenaten himself, and was most likely composed by the king himself. The core of this ideal being a return to the exclusive, pivotal and mediating role of divine kingship, in casu Akhenaten's, coupled with a naturalistic reduction to visible light (represented by the Solar disk, the Aten). The Shorter Hymn to the Aten, which occurs in five Amarna tombs, has beauty but lacks structural unity and can therefore not make the same cosmopolitan and humanist leap as reflected in the Great Hymn to the Aten.

What is the philosophical interest of this text ? Following topics emerge :

history of philosophy : the claim philosophy started in Greece is traditional but questionable. True, in the Classical Age, Greek philosophy discovered the rational mode of cognition, but philosophy is not limited to this mode. In Greek philosophy, this is attested by the importance of the Ionic, Eleatic and Sophist schools of thought, evidencing the mythical (pre-logical), pre-rational and proto-rational modes. The later are always included in any systematic history of philosophy.

Let us eliminate his Hellenization of philosophy, rooted in Europacentrist opinions (Indian & Chinese philosophy for example are usually also excluded, although exceptions do occur - cf. the history of philosophy of Störig). 19 The Memphis Theology, the Maxims of Ptahhotep, the Great Hymn to the Aten and many Ramesside Hymns to Amun-Re show a philosophical insight (albeit mostly proto-rational) far beyond the limitations of Ionic thought, which seems very rudimentary compared to the magnificent synthesis brought about in the late New Kingdom and the depth of the sapiental instructions found in the Old Kingdom (centered around the concept of justice or "Maat").

metaphysics : is an untestable but arguable set of speculative propositions aiming at a totalized explanation of being and its processes. It appeared as a separate discipline only after the works of Aristotle were put together by Andronicos of Rhodos (ca. 40 BCE), who placed these books "next to" (meta) Aristotle's work on physics (proving the relationship between both). In Ancient Egypt, especially in the Old & Middle Kingdoms, metaphysics is mostly shrouded in mythology and the specifics of Egyptian religion. Nevertheless, in the Maxims of Ptahhotep (the emerging idea of an overall ethical order), in the Pyramid Texts (hymns & ascension-texts), in the Memphis Theology (the logos-section), and other sapiental works, loci of metaphysical thought may be discerned.

theology : Assmann argues polytheism was explicit and the problem of the divine (the search for the One) implicit. 20 The common folk were polytheists and at a certain point in their religious history, the high priests and temple officers tried to solve the fundamental problem of every theology, namely theonomy (the name(s) of the Divine) and the solution of the tensions between the hidden and manifest poles of Divine bi-polarity. At the end of the Old Kingdom & in the Middle Kingdom, the realization the divine order could be broken up, triggered theodicy (which vanished from the literature of the New Kingdom).

My reading of Ancient Egyptian literature 21 suggests both polytheism, monolatery and henotheism were "originally" present. In the Old Kingdom, the Great One stays foremost in the background (cf. Atum in the dominant Heliopolitan cosmology, the unity of the Two Lands, the exclusive status of Pharaoh and the role of Maat, the universal order). In the Middle Kingdom, the first henotheistic attempts occur (cf. Amun as "king of the gods", the synergy of Re and Osiris). In the New Solar Theology of the Early New Kingdom, the Great One comes to the fore as Re, mingles with the pantheon and assimilates the deities in a theophanic (henotheism) way.

But Akhenaten was the first to consequently destroy the multiplicity of the old religion. His Aten stood above and was against all deities. The Aten was the "sole god", i.e. quantitatively singular (monotheism). A step too far ?

1 The New Kingdom and the colossal Amenhotep III

1.1 A few political features of the New Kingdom : the age of empire.

Politically, the New Kingdom brought internationalization, which defied the particularism of the Old and Middle Kingdoms. From Myceanae, Knossos, Mitanni, Babylon, and from the Hittites, Assyrians, Libyans & Nubians, gifts & trade goods were flowing in. The XVIIIthe & XIXth Dynasties produced great monuments of theocratic statesmanship.

The reign of Amenhotep III (ca. 1390 - 1353 BCE) was a period of stabilty and peace, the foundations of which had been laid by Akhenaten's grandfather, Tuthmosis IV (ca. 1400 - 1930 BCE), who had brought to end decades of military conflict between the two great powers of the area, Egypt and the kingdom of Mitanni, fighting over the control over northern Syria. The court of Amenhotep III became an international center visited by ambassadors of many nations. Even Asiatic deities such as Reshef, Astarte, Baal and Qudshu were worshipped.

In the Book of Gates (Vth Hour), the "wretched" Aziatics, Nubians & Libyans were placed under the protection of Egyptian deities . Luxurious living in a setting of peace reached its climax under Amenhotep III. He never set foot in his Asiatic empire but acquired princesses for his harem and lavished gold on his allies.

1.2 The great builder, dated Sed-festivals & his traditional piety.

The temple of Luxor, the double temple of Soleb and Sedeinga (Nubia) and the mortuary temple at the West bank of Thebes (destroyed by an Earthquake, leaving the 720 tons Colossi of Memnon, suggesting the original size of the building and Pharaoh's megalomania), identified Amenhotep III as one of the greatest builders Egypt had known. He strove to surpass his predecessors in number, size and spendor of his buildings. He also used unusual building materials like gold, silver, lapis lazuli, jasper, turquoise, bronze and copper and noted the exact weights of each, in order to capture "the weight of this monument" . 23

As long as there have been Pharaohs, there have been Sed-festivals. 24 Already in the first Dynasties (ca. 3000 BCE), Pharaoh ran the course of the festival or sat enthroned in his chapel. The goals of the ritual celebration was the renewal of the power of Pharaoh, thought to have depleted over time, endangering the state (compare this with the prehistorical notion of the sacrificial king found around the globe but also on the African continent). Instead of killing the ruler, it was considered sufficient to effect the symbolical burial of a statue of the "old" king and allow him to repeat his coronation. The ritual course was run before all the deities of the land, showing the renewal of rulership.

In the Middle and New Kingdoms, Pharaoh celebrated this Jubilee before the end of his thirtieth year of rule, and then it was repeated at shorter intervals of three to four years. The connection with his coronation was important. Pharaoh was enthroned in Memphis, and so he wore a special vestment during most of the ceremonies, a mantle-like garment like Ptah (distinguishing statues specially prepared for the festival). So between coronation and ascension, there was this Sed-festival which only Pharaoh could celebrate, nobody else.

"By the thirteenth year of the reign, with Nubia stabilized and the vast empire at peace, Egypt was at the height of its wealth and power. The rule of Amenhotep III saw four decades of prosperity uninterrupted by war for the people of Egypt it was a time of unparalleled security and optimism - a golden age presided over by a golden king. To Amenhotep's grateful subjects it must have seemed that this succes proved that he was at one with the gods themselves." - Fletcher, 2000, p.76.

a Libyan, a Canaanite, a Syian and a Nubian bow
XVIIIth Dynasty - Cairo Museum

Amenhotep III celebrated his Sed-festival in his thirtieth regnal year. Many dated inscriptions are preserved on vessels from his palace at el-Malqata, on the West bank of Thebes. He celebrated two repetitions of this festival before his death. Japanese excavations uncovered a podium for a throne. It has thirty steps, which stand for the thirty years that had gone by. The festival was clearly a repetition of the coronation. In it, he called himself "the Dazzling Sun" and at his side his chief wife, Teye, played the role of Hathor, who stood for all aspects of rejuvenation & regeneration. During the festival, Amenhotep III endeavored to gather all the deities of the Two Lands to perform its ceremonies in front of the shrines containing their various divine images . He is also seen worshipping and offering to himself as a god !

"The importance of the Aten grew throughout Amenhotep III's long reign. In the last decade of his rule the king even officially identified himself as the sun god the Aten." - Fletcher, 2000, p.61.

What we know of Amenhotep III proves he was not an "enlightened" ruler, but instead stayed deeply rooted in traditional piety. 25 Although the New Solar Theology was active around him, he prevented this single god (Re) from gaining the upper hand. Large scarabs connect him with numerous deities. The aged & sick Pharaoh (who had received from the king of Mitanni a healing statue of Ishtar) commissioned (instead of asking Ishtar) a total of 730 (2 x 365) statues of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet, the consort of Ptah who dispensed illness and its cure. He set this litany in stone up in various temples at Thebes to protect him day and night. Clearly Amenhotep III did not want to promote Re and his disk, the Aten at the expense of any other known divine power.

"There were definitely tendencies -and not only at the royal court- that ran counter to the New Solar Theology and its elevation of a single god over the entire pantheon in a manner that was altogether too one-sided and, in that respect, un-Egyptian." - Hornung, 1999, p.20.

2 Prelude to Amarna religion : the "New Solar Theology"

2.1 The antiquity of the title "Son of Re" in Pharaoh's titulary.

Under the IVth Dynasty (of the Old Kingdom), the priests of Re of Heliopolis consolidated a form of the Sun-god of obscure origin. 26 Their influence was strong enough to make the first Pharaoh of the Vth Dynasty (Userkaf - ca. 2487 - 2480 BCE) highpriest of Re and begotten by Re himself. Re had visited the wife of Userra, a highpriest of Re. This could be called the moment when monolatry became an affair of state.

Seldom do all five names appear together on a single royal monument. When only one name was used, the Throne name was the most common.

" From this time onward every king of Egypt, whether of Egyptian origin or not, called himself the 'son of Râ'. In later days, when Amen, or Amen-Râ, became the King of the Gods, it was asserted by his priesthood that the god assumed the human form of a man and begot the king of Egypt." - Budge, 1989, p.33, my italics.

2.2 The theology of the Sun, of light and movement.

In the course of the XVIIIth Dynasty (ca. 1539 - 1292 BCE), the Sun god Re was turned into an all-embracing creator-god, manifesting himself under various names & forms. The Books of What is in the Duat (the netherworld, "Unterwelt", "monde inférieur" or Rilke's "Weltinnenraum") were the new guides to the hereafter (cf. Amduat). Contrary to the Book of the Dead which was a development of the Coffin Texts, it was a new, foremost royal literary genre (even absent from the tombs of the queens). The Book of the Dead continued to be an ever-changing collections of spells, but these religious books had a permanent content. The nocturnal, otherworldly forms of the Sun god, and their effect in the netherworld, was the focus of these books. They furnished "the ordering and creative principles for the spaces in the hereafter" 28 and hence deal with the nocturnal regeneration of the Sun, implying that on the far side of death renewal is at work and that the netherworld is the "interior of the sky". The early books arrange the nightly course of the Sun in twelve hours, with the Solar Bark in the center of each hour. Later, this Bark disappears, and Re is indicated by a red Sun disk, which remains absent from the damned.

In his Egyptian Solar Religion in the New Kingdom (1995) and The Search for God in Ancient Egypt (2001) Assmann defines the "New Solar Theology" as :

". the explication and representation of the course of the sun in the non-constellative categories of explicit theology. (. ) The New Solar Theology arose as a cognitive iconoclasm that rejected the entire mythic, pictoral world of polytheistic thought. All its basic principles can be understood as theological explications of cosmic phenomena, specifically the sun, its light, and its movement." - Assmann, 2001, p.201.

The Theban god Amun and the pure Re aspect of the Sun god were akin, for both were understood to be the supreme being, the primeval god, the creator god and the god of life. The Theban theology of the early New Kingdom tried to formulate a theology of Amun-Re which would be comprehensive enough to include the traditions of both Amun and Re. By accumulation and juxtaposition their various features were combined. So the Theban theology of the XVIIIth Dynasty is a continuation of the search for a henotheist articulation of the divine, which had been initiated in the Middle Kingdom. It is also the starting point of the quest for a new concept of the divine (not only "before" everything, but also "in" every thing). 29

Different texts evidence this search. For example, consider the Hymns to Amun-Re and the tomb stela of the architects Suti and Hor from the reign of Amenhotep III. 30 In these two Hymns to the Sun god, these twin brothers gave a prominent place to the Aten, the physical disk of the Sun. The major themes of Amarna religion are to be found : the Sun, its light and its movement.

"Self-made you fashioned your body,
Creator uncreated.
Sole one, unique one, who traverses eternity.
Remote one, with millions under his care
your splendor is like heaven's splendor,
your color brighter than its hues.
When you cross the sky all faces see you,
When you set you are hidden from their sight
Daily you give yourself at dawn,
Safe is your sailing under your majesty.
In a brief day you race a course,
Hundred thousands, millions of miles
A moment is each day to you,
It has passed when you go down. (. )
When you set in the western mountain,
They sleep as in the state of death."
Suti & Hor : Hymn to the Sun god, Stela British Museum 826, translated by : Lichtheim, 1976, p.87.

In this hymn, most of the elements which became prominent in Amarna religion are present before Akhenaten implemented the final consequences of his reflections on the divine. This New Solar Theology is not an early form of Amarna religion, for these texts "pick up after the Amarna Period at exactely the point at which this new development had been interrupted by Akhenaten's upheaval and continued down until nearly the end of the history of Egyptian religion, side by side with texts expressing the rehabilitated constellative theology of the course of the sun." 31

That besides the Sun god no other divinities could be tolerated is the original step taken by Akhenaten. Hence, not so much the contents of his message was original and heretic, but rather the politico-religious form in which he poured it (a royal monotheism based on the exclusive nature of the king) as well as the radical way he implemented it (cf. the brutal destruction of the cults and the eradication of the name of Amun).

"The New Solar Theology stood, and understood itself, in the context of the other deities. By way of an example, the frame of the stela of the two architects contains offering prayers to, among others, Hathor, Khons, Mut, Amun-Re, Anubis and the God's Wife Ahmes-Nefertari. Though other deities no longer participated in the course of the sun, they were nevertheless there, and their mere existence stood in the way of a total demythologizing and disenchantment of the world." - Assmann, 2001, p.208.

2.3 the naturalization of the divine in religious experience

The core of this New Solar Theology has been identified by Assmann as a cognitive iconoclasm which replaced the mythicizing world view with the visible course of the Sun, its light and movement (heliomorphism).

This demythologizing and subsequent disenchantment comes about by eliminating these elements of religious experience which can not be brought back to the natural course of events. In fact, as there is no divine presence other than the light of the Aten, "we stand here at the treshold less of the monotheistic universal religions than of natural philosophy, and had this religion won out, we might have expected a Thales rather than a Moses." 32

colos of Amenhotep IV

Gem-pa-Aten temple at East Karnak
"the Aten is found" - Cairo Museum

3.1 Again Pharaoh's titulary.

Did Amenhotep III reign with his son ? A long coregency of the two Pharaohs is excluded. 33 In fact, for a long time, the prince could have entertained little hope that he would ever mount the throne of his ancestors, for his brother prince Tuthmosis had been recognized as the heir of Amenhotep III and as such filled the office of Governor of Memphis and High Priest of its god Ptah. But he died young for unknown reasons (in year 27, ca. 1365 BCE).

The royal titulary may be seen as the program of a reign.

At his ascent (ca. 1353 BCE), the Throne name adopted by Amenhotep IV was : "Nefer-kheperu-Re Waenre" (or : "perfect are the manifestations of Re, sole one of Re"). He never changed this.

His first sanctuary (a temple-complex) rose at Karnak. Extensive work has revealed tens of thousands of building blocks from a variety of structural elements, as whole temple walls. At the outset of his reign, large blocks were used, whereas later the new sanctuaries of Aten were built from small, easily carried sandstone blocks which were one handbreadth in height and two in width ("talatat" or "three"-blocks). One of the sanctuaries seems to have been reserved for Pharaoh's wife Nefertiti ("the beautiful one has come") depicted as carrying out cultic activities which are normally performed by Pharaoh. Five years later, he would stop adorn Thebes with temples for the Aten.

Amenhotep IV did not dedicate this complex at Karnak to Amun-Re, the "king of the gods" and cultic lord of the temple, but to the Sun god as viewed by the priests of Heliopolis, namely Re-Herakhty ("Re-Horus of the Two Horizons") also called "Aten" and understood as the dwelling-place of Shu (Aten had been used to indicate the physical Sun and now received worship as a deity). This "new god" which Akhenaten's teaching initiated, was given a formal (dogmatic, didactical) name : "Re-Herakhty, who rejoices in the horizon in his name Shu, who is Aten".

Re-Herakhty was worshipped in his traditional form of the heroic god. In the Old Kingdom, Herakhty had been venerated in On (Iunu, Heliopolis) as "Horus of the Two Horizons". He was represented as a falcon bearing the Uraeus-encircled solar disk on his vertex. He is the Sun god emerging at dawn, sovereign of the sky and knower of the holy places where the blessed souls abide.

"The reed-floats of the sky are set in place for Re.
That he may cross on them to the horizon.
The reed-floats of the sky are set in place for Herakhti.
That Herakhti may cross on them to Re."
Pyramid Texts, utterance 263 (§ 337).

Horus of the Two Horizons, combined Re and Horus, and as Re-Herakhty, the translation "king of the sky" is also applicable. This god is a solarized Horus, symbolizing the emergent, dawning power of the fully rejuvenated & regenerated Solar deity, an eternal, beautiful youth. Herakhty was associated with the East, Re with the West. Together, they were "Horus of the two Horizons", as Akhenaten would insist.

In early inscriptions, Akhenaten still appeared before Amun-Re in the traditional manner. On a scarab in the British Museum, he is designated as the one "whom Amun-Re chose from among millions" !

In the third year of his reign, Akhenaten also enclosed the didactical name of the Aten in a cartouche, as if it were part of the royal titulary. From the third to the fifth regnal year, he carried out a vast "Aten-project" or a formidable and thorough reorganization in religion, art, language, cult administration, economy etc. (in year 4, the high priest of Amun was literally sent "into the desert" and priest were reindoctrinated).

In the fifth year, the new Residence, Akhetaten ("Horizon of the Aten") is a gigantic construction site. The project was never really finished (Pharaoh was unusually depicted with a hammer in his hand), but in the fifth or sixth year, Amenhotep IV changed his royal titulary. 34

These changes were recorded on a boundary stelæ of year 6 (fourth month of winter, day 13) :

"The living Horus : Strong Bull beloved of Aten Two Ladies : Great of Kingship in Aten Gold-Horus : Who exalts the name of Aten the King of Upper and Lower Egypt who lives by Maat, the Lord of the Two Lands : Nefer-kheperu-Re, Sole-one-of-Re the Son of Re who lives by Maat, the Lord of crowns : Akhenaten, great in his lifetime, given life forever."
Akehenaten : Later Boudary Stelæ, at El-Amarna, translated by : Lichtheim, 1976, p.49, italics are cartouched.

Akhenaten made fourteen stelæ to record his founding of the new City of Light, Akhet-Aten ('the horizon of the Aten"). First three boundary stelæ were carved into the limestone cliffs on the East bank, at the northern & southern ends of the town. Later eleven more were cut into the cliffs, eight on the East and three on the West bank. The actual city lay only on the East bank, where the cemeteries are also to be found. He never did anything on the West bank, so the traditional "beautiful West" (the realm of the dead) played no role. The eleven stelæ bear one basic text with some additions and variations.

His traditional titles remained, but he used to style himself "the beautiful child of the living Aten". About four years later, the Aten too received a new royal titulary. The names Horus and Shu were removed from the new double cartouche, leaving only Aten and Re. The new "didactic" name or credo became : "Re-ruler-of-the-twin-horizons, who rejoices in the horizon in his name as Re-the-father-who-returns-as-Aten." 36

These changes point to one direction only : the variety of appellations are avoided to the advantage of a single, unique deity : Re as the Aten. All associations with Amun (theological as wel as political) are eliminated. Also Atum is avoided, for this would associate creation too much with the first time ("zep tepi") and the chaotic realm before creation (Nun). Of this, no mention is made for there is no divine presence other than light.

There are reasons to believe Akhenaten inaugurated the royal status of the Aten with the celebration of a Sed-festival (however not in Akhetaten). A representation is not enough proof, for even Akhenaten is represented felling enemies without having undertaken a single military campaign. However, although his father Amenhotep III had invited all the deities in the land to celebrate with him, Akhenaten is represented as striding from shrine to shrine, each containing only the Aten, depicted as the Sun disk with its life-giving rays. All plurality is reduced to the singular. 37

The following choices point in the same direction :

3.2 The grotesque Pharaoh, permanent dynamism & intimacy.

The colossal statues in the Gem-pa-Aten temple are the earliest evidence of a change of artistic style. Egyptologists described them often in pejorative terms : Champollion employed the term "morbidezza" or softness, Wiedemann found the representations "in a frightfully ugly form, caricature" , Wolf said the style invoked a "sick ugliness and nervous decadence" , whereas Schäfter thought that he wanted to shock with his repulsive ugliness.

"Everything that had been static, fixed in place for eternity, is now set in motion. Vertical axes become diagonal, stressed by receding foreheads and elongated crowns. (. ) movement characterized the playful, caressing intimacy of the royal family, which is depicted in lively group scenes, and the fluttering bands of cloth that dangle from clothes, crowns, and articles of furniture." - Hornung, 1999, p.44, my italics.

As soon as Pharaoh Akhenaten had changed his religion and his name, he also changed his own form and figure. In the earlier monuments, he still had retained some of the typical features of his father and his ancestors, but in Akhetaten (Tell el-'Amarna) his physical appearence totally changed too. His head was portrayed with a very high, narrow and receding forehead, with a large, sharp, aquiline nose, a weak, thin mouth and a large chin. This head was set upon a long, slender neck. Round chest, inflated stomack, large & broad thighs . in many ways resembling a woman.

"Their common denominator is a symbolic gathering of all attributes of the creator-god into the physical body of the king himself. The Aten subsumes into itself all the different gods who create and maintain the universe, and the king is the living image of the Aten on earth. He can therefore display on earth the Aten's multiple life-giving functions. These are represented through a set of signifiers that seem mutually contradictory to modern viewers, such as the appearance of female and male physical characteristics on the same statue, but made sense to the intended Egyptian audience. These attributes render the king literally superhuman, a divine body which goes beyond human experience." - Montserrat, 2001, p.48.

So-called "Amarna Art" has been compared with schools of Modern Art using a free form. Schäfter saw "expressionism" at work, as did Scharff. Montserrat (2001) doubts whether it is possible to compare Amarna with European currents and styles. Perhaps it is better to mark how it differs from the Egyptian canon ? For Hornung, this new style was a rebellion against the classical ideal of the XVIIIth dynasty. 38

hand of Akhenaten
limestone example of the innovative style of Amarna

Driven by his interest in dynamic process, Akhenaten as it were returned to the perennial idea behind the representation of the sign of "god" ("nTr" or "neter" pronounced "netjer") as a flagpole with two to four ribbons attached to the top and hence able to float in the air (representations show how, at the entrance of Akhenaten's Great Temple of the Aten at Amarna -760m long by 290m wide-, there were ten flagpoles instead of the eight of Karnak). This crucial sign acquired its definitive form as early as the Old Kingdom, starting with the IIIth Dynasty (ca. 2670 - 2600 BCE), with strips around the complete pole (like a mummy) attached by a cord with its extremity projecting outwards like a ribbon. 39 The association with movement is evident and consistent with the Heliopolitan cosmogony, focusing on the emergence of Atum out of Nun as Shu, the god of air who separated Earth and sky, and the return to the "first occurrence" ("neheh"-time or eternal recurrence). Early in his reign, Akhenaten identified with Atum and Re-Horakethy (cf. Gem-pa-Aten temple in East Karnak), but soon he avoided all associations invoking the teachings of the netherworld of Osiris and the "first time" of the autogenous Atum and Nun. Indeed, Amarna theology intends no hiddenness, darkness or inertia (cf. infra).

Earlier scenes of deities and their mythological contexts were replaced by family scenes, in which all six daughters of Akhenaten & Nefertiti appeared. Because of the life-giving force of the Aten, the love existing in this "holy family" is portrayed intimately & emphatically. The children caress one another and are tended with affection by their parents, sitting on their lap . This intimacy is exceptional and clearly innovative.

hands of statue of Akhenaten & Nefertiti
red quartzite - Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Along with movement, we also see scenes of kissing, embracing, caressing, mourning & nursing among the royal family. They represented, with previously unthinkable freedom, the love emanating from the Aten who strove for the togetherness of his creatures. This does not mean his artists were free to do what they wanted, for more than likely Pharaoh himself established the new artistic canon. Even the size of the represented individuals did not depend any longer on their relative importance within the scene (sometimes Pharaoh is depicted as smaller than his workers !).

We may speak of "Amarna culture", for Akhenaten also elevated the spoken language of the New Kingdom into a new written language (Late Egyptian). In Late Egyptian, the verbal system (coordinating the expression of movement) changed. It replaced Middle Egyptian developed at the end of the Old Kingdom. Although Middle Egyptian remained the religious & royal language, Late Egyptian literature arose soon after Akhenaten's reign.

3.3 The singularity of divine mediation : Aten - King - Queen.

The Aten as the light of the Sun keeps the world alive. He creates the world again and again and this continually. The original creation of the world was not discussed, for Nun had to be avoided. Everlastingness (Nun, Osiris) was not the focus, but eternal recurrence (Atum, Re). The underworld, the nocturnal stride of Re, the defeat of Apopis, the bark of Re and the kingdom of Osiris were all ousted. The royal status of the Aten was promulgated with rigor, for the Aten had a royal titulary, wore an uræus and celebrated Sed-festivals !

So Akhenaten viewed the Aten, his father, as his Pharaoh. This Aten was more than just one of the deities. Never did the new god take the place of individual deities like Amun. Rather, the Aten took the place of the divine realm as a whole, with light as his "immanence", however with the exclusion of the hidden, the netherworld and the "zep tepi", the first time emerging in the Nun with the self-creation of Atum.

On the other hand, Pharaoh was co-substantially one with his father, the Aten. Previously, the title "son of Re" had been stressing the divine & filial origin of Pharaoh, but Akhenaten went further. This can be read in the Book of Gates, which may have been written during the Amarna Period.

In the 8th Hour, we read the following remarkable articulation of the co-substantial unity between Atum and Re : "I am the son who emerged from his father, I am the father who emerged from his son." 40 Both are of the "same substance" (cf. the problem of the "homo(i)ousia" of Christ and the Heavenly Father in Christian theology more than fifteen centuries later !). Between the Aten and Akhenaten, the same co-substantiality existed as between the Christian God and His unique Son Christ.

This co-substantiality implied the Aten (as father) was not accessible to anyone but to Akhenaten (as his unique son). And so, Akhenaten (as father) was the personal god of the individual (as adoptive son Akhenaten). Hence, in Amarna religion, piety was a relationship between the Aten and Pharaoh (father versus son) on the one hand, and between Pharaoh and the people on the other hand. Pharaoh set out on processions, performed signs and wonders, and intervened in the destiny of the individual. He was the Great Father of the World. A clear return to the "cannibalistic" powers Pharaoh had in the Old Kingdom.

Hence, the mystical aspect of the religious continuum, part of a proto-rational mode of thought prone to naturalization and universalization, was projected (as it was in the Old Kingdom in a mythical, pre-rational and polytheistic context) on the person of Pharaoh. Total dependence implied personal piety consisted exclusively in absolute loyalty to Pharaoh, to Akhenaten as a divine person, an ego as sole god. In the Amarna Letters, his servants were often compared with the dirt under the feet of Pharaoh, and to fall at his feet was common practice. 41

"Say to the king, my lord, my Sun, my god :
'Message of Zitriyara, your servant,
the dirt under your feet, and the mire you tread on.
It fall at the feet of the king, my lord, my Sun, my god.'
7 times and 7 times, both on the stomack and on the back."
Moran, 1992, p.283.

I n the hymn of the architects Suti and Hor, the Sun god is called "mother of humans and deities" . Akhenaten himself was often named "Nile of Egypt", embodying the annual inundation and the goods of nature. He is also called "mother who bears all". This role of the female element does not belong to the periphery, neither is it of a purely political importance. Although she was never officially co-regent, Akhenaten saw in his wife Nefertiti a goddess.

As Assmann has rightly pointed out, the Old Kingdom triad : Atum - Shu - Tefnut shines through. 42 Early in his reign Pharaoh Akhenaten wore the four-feathered crown of Shu (cf. the colossal statues at Karnak). The triad : Aten - Akhenaten - Nefertiti was represented on the stelæ of household altars and object of household cults & private devotions. In no other way was the Aten accessible to the individual. Pharaoh and his queen prayed to the Aten and the people prayed to the triad. Piety as placing a deity "in one's heart" was reserved for Akhenaten and Nefertiti.

What a reduction of the possible spiritual mediators ! Officially, all other deities were rejected. The Aten of Akhenaten was not only above them (with what is unknown revealed to his son, who had the Aten in his heart), but also and foremost against them. Furthermore, no sacred priesthood was put in place which could serve as valid replacement of the holy trinity. Only the latter could guarantee the commoners anything. And . Akhenaten probably had no sons.

It was this singularity of divine mediation which lies at the root of Akhenaten's failure to establish a religion which would last longer than his reign. Is it probable he thought the Aten would provide for a son to continue his work ? His wives only gave birth to six daughters. As a result, when Akhenaten died, there was no direct line assuring the continuity of what had been realized. The fact of the exclusivity of the Aten (returning much later as the exclusive light, path and truth of the Messiah Jesus Christ) being the theo-ontological complement of this.


Amarna Sunrise: Egypt from Golden Age to Age of Heresy

Well that ended abruptly. I was surprised to see the book come to an end at 50% on kindle – that’s just 128 pages (although the fourth appendix on genetic relationships of the Amarna royals is worth a read). I was a little confused by the overall pacing of the book. The title led me to believe that I’d be getting an intensive look at how Akhenaten’s predecessors built up to worship of the Aten, and possibly cover the first few years of Akhenaten’s reign, up until he changed his name and establis
Well that ended abruptly. I was surprised to see the book come to an end at 50% on kindle – that’s just 128 pages (although the fourth appendix on genetic relationships of the Amarna royals is worth a read). I was a little confused by the overall pacing of the book. The title led me to believe that I’d be getting an intensive look at how Akhenaten’s predecessors built up to worship of the Aten, and possibly cover the first few years of Akhenaten’s reign, up until he changed his name and established the city of Akhetaten. After all, the book’s title is Amarna Sunrise, and I presumed that Amarna Sunset would start at the height of Akhenaten’s reign and take us to its conclusion and the reigns of the last few kings of the 18th dynasty as they attempted to reverse Atenism. Because the book is so short however, I felt like Dodson skimmed over Akhenaten’s reign. I’m hoping this is because he really does cover that in much more depth in Amarna Sunset, but I won’t know until I pick that book up next.

At the same time, I felt Dodson’s focus was off. He goes into too much detail at certain points, but he didn’t spend enough time on what I would consider to be the most interesting debates the extraordinary power of royal women during the era, the family relationships, whether Akhenaten himself was medically abnormal, possibly insane, or merely a misguided spiritual visionary. That said, Dodson did have a few interesting points to make. He notes the caveats in the 2010 DNA tests – but on balance I still find the results convincing. He also discusses some interesting possibilities regarding the mummy variously identified as either Akhenaten or Smenkhkare, and the chance that Nefertiti could be Tutankhamun’s mother, since the genetic results indicate that Tutankhamun's mother was either Akhenaten’s full sister, or his double first cousin, although I personally was not convinced that Nefertiti was the mother.

Amarna Sunrise acts much like a prequel to Aidan Dodson&aposs 2009 work, Amarna Sunset , providing the contextual lead-up to and exploration of Akhenaten&aposs reign and his so-called revolution. There is some repetition of discussion found in Sunset, which is not surprising since there was bound to be some crossover between the two books. Neither is it unwelcome, as it allows Dodson to take into account new evidence and theories, such as 2010&aposs much-discussed DNA testing on the "Tutankhamun kindred" Amarna Sunrise acts much like a prequel to Aidan Dodson's 2009 work, Amarna Sunset , providing the contextual lead-up to and exploration of Akhenaten's reign and his so-called revolution. There is some repetition of discussion found in Sunset, which is not surprising since there was bound to be some crossover between the two books. Neither is it unwelcome, as it allows Dodson to take into account new evidence and theories, such as 2010's much-discussed DNA testing on the "Tutankhamun kindred".

Unsurprisingly, Dodson has provided another excellent resource on the Amarna period. After exploring the mid-18th dynasty (Amenhotep II – Thutmose IV), he covers the reigns of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten in detail before finishing just as Amarna Sunset would begin. In addition to this wealth of information, Dodson also points out the difficulties in knowing when the Aten emerged as a deity in its own right in contrast to emerging as an aspect of an already-established solar deity.

Of particular interest to me is the appendix Dodson devotes to pouring a bucket of ice-water over the DNA results, pointing out many of the flaws contained in write-up and presentation of these results. Dodson seems to believe that the KV55 mummy is still Smenkhkara, but not necessarily the father of Tutankhamun (who Dodson still prefers to think of the son of Akhenaten and Nefertiti). Also posited is the theory that Nefertiti was the daughter of Ay and a sister of Amenhotep III, which isn't something I'm totally convinced by.

Despite my struggles to get on board with some of his assertions, Dodson presents his arguments well and in a very convincing light. There is a clear use of logic and order in his arguments, and I will admit that after a very long absence, I've rejoined Team Ay-is-Nefertiti's-Father. Additionally, Dodson makes it clear when there is a lack of evidence, acknowledges other theories, and makes it clear when he is offering only one interpretation on the available evidence. I also enjoyed that he does admit to being wrong in the past or having changed his mind – this flexibility is sometimes rare in Egyptology and it is very welcome to see.

There is some lack in the discussion. Though I haven't had the chance to read-up on the matter, I believe that evidence has been discovered that definitively proves the co-regency between Akhenaten and Amenhotep III. In Amarna Sunrise, Dodson pours doubt over the whole scenario – but I believe he has commented on this new evidence elsewhere.

One of the issues with this book is that the thoroughness of Dodson's approach can slow the reader down, bogging them down in details. It's not necessarily a bad thing, just that it can induce a feeling best indicated by this gif:

To that end, I would only recommend Amarna Sunrise (or Amarna Sunset and most of Dodson's other books, for that matter) to a reader who has at least a basic understanding of this time period. That said, both Amarna Sunrise and Amarna Sunset are excellent resources on this time period and are must-reads for anyone researching Akhenaten and his successors. . more


The History of Egypt (Part 2): Prelude to the Amarna Age - History


Golden funeral mask of Tutankhamun
by Jon Bodsworth
  • Occupation: Pharaoh of Egypt
  • Born: 1341 BC
  • Died: 1323 BC
  • Reign: 1332 BC to 1323 BC
  • Best known for: His tomb which was found full of Egyptian treasure and artifacts

Tutankhamun was born a prince in Egypt's royal court around the year 1341 BC. His father was the Pharaoh Akhenaten. Tutankhamun's birth name was Tutankhaten, which he changed after his father died.

Tutankhamun was born to one of his father's lesser wives and not to his main wife, the powerful Nefertiti. His presence may have caused some strain in the royal courts as Nefertiti had only daughters, but desperately wanted to have a son of her own to take over the throne.

Tutankhamun's father was a religious radical. He changed the entire religion of Ancient Egypt to worship only the sun god Aten. He did away with over a thousand years of traditional Egyptian religion and forced people to change the way they worshiped. He even built a new capital city in honor of the god Aten called Amarna.

At the young age of seven years old Tutankhamun's father died. A few years later Tutankhamun married his sister (which was common for Pharaoh's in Ancient Egypt) and became Pharaoh. Since he was so young he had help ruling the country. The real rulers were a powerful general named Horemheb and Tutankhamun's vizier named Ay.

Many people of Egypt had been unhappy with the religious reforms of his father. Tutankhamun and his advisors tried to fix all the changes that his father had made. Under Tutankhamun Egypt returned to their old gods and the old temples were repaired. The capital city was also moved back to the city of Memphis. He even changed his name from Tutankhaten, "the living image of Aten", to Tutankhamun, "the living image of Amun".

Tutankhamun died around the age of nineteen. Archeologists aren't sure what killed him. Some people think that he was assassinated, but the likely cause of his death was a wound to his leg. Scientists have determined that the leg of his mummy was broken and badly infected before his death. This injury probably happened from an accident.

Tutankhamun is most famous today for his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. It is likely that his tomb was built for someone else and was used to bury the young Pharaoh when he died unexpectedly. This may have helped to keep his tomb hidden from thieves for all these thousands of years. As a result, when the tomb was finally discovered by archeologist Howard Carter in 1922, it was filled with treasure and artifacts unlike found in any other Pharaoh's tomb.


The History of Egypt (Part 2): Prelude to the Amarna Age - History


Akhenaten - meaning "living spirit of Aten" - known before the fifth year of his reign as Amenhotep IV (sometimes given its Greek form, Amenophis IV, and meaning Amun is Satisfied), was a Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt who ruled for 17 years and died perhaps in 1336 BC or 1334 BC. He is especially noted for abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism and introducing worship centered on the Aten, which is sometimes described as monotheistic or henotheistic. An early inscription likens him to the sun as compared to stars, and later official language avoids calling the Aten a god, giving the solar deity a status above mere gods.

He was born to Amenhotep III and his Chief Queen Tiyee and was their younger son. Akhenaten was not originally designated as the successor to the throne until the untimely death of his older brother, Thutmose. Amenhotep IV succeeded his father after Amenhotep III's death at the end of his 38-year reign, possibly after a short coregency lasting between either 1 to 2 years.

Pharaoh Akhenaten was known as the Heretic King. He was the tenth King of the 18th Dynasty. Egyptologists are still tying to figure out what actually happened during his lifetime as much of the truth was buried after he died.

Akhenaten lived at the peak of Egypt's imperial glory. Egypt had never been richer, more powerful, or more secure. Up and down the Nile, workers built hundreds of temples to pay homage to the Gods. They believed that if the Gods were pleased, Egypt would prosper. And so it did.


Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye

Akhenaten and his family lived in the great religious center of Thebes, city of the God Amun. There were thousands of priests who served the Gods. Religion was the business of the time, many earning their living connected to the worship of the gods.

All indications are that as a child Akhenaten was a family outcast. Scientists are studying the fact that Akhenaten suffered from a disease called Marfan Syndrome, a genetic defect that damages the body's connective tissue. Symptoms include, short torso, long head, neck, arms, hand and feet, pronounced collarbones, pot belly, heavy thighs, and poor muscle tone. Those who inherit it are often unusually tall and are likely to have weakened aortas that can rupture. They can die at an early age. If Akhnaton had the disease each of his daughters had a 50-50 change of inheriting it. That is why his daughters are shown with similar symptoms.

Akhenaten was the son of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiyee, a descendent of a Hebrew tribe. The largest statue in the Cairo Museum shows Amenhotep III and his family. He and Queen Tiye (pronounced 'Tee') had four daughters and two sons. Akhenaten's brother, Tutmoses was later named high priest of Memphis. The other son, Amenhotep IV (Later to take the name Akhenaten) seemed to be ignored by the rest of the family. He never appeared in any portraits and was never taken to public events. He received no honors. It was as if the God Amun had excluded him. He was rejected by the world for some unknown reason. He was never shown with his family nor mentioned on monuments. Yet his mother favored him.

In 1352 BC. Akhenaten ascended the throne, succeeding his father Amenhotep III who had died. Akhenaten was just a teenager at the time, but it was the desire of Queen Tiye that he rule. In some version of the story, it is written that father and son shared the throne briefly.

Akhenaten's reign lasted 16 years. This was a difficult time in Egyptian history. Many scholars maintain that Akhenaten was responsible for this decline, but evidence suggests that it had already started.

Akhenaten is principally famous for his religious reforms, where the polytheism of Egypt was to be supplanted by monotheism centered around Aten, the god of the solar disc. This was possibly a move to lessen the political power of the Priests. Now the Pharaoh, not the priesthood, was the sole link between the people and Aten which effectively ended the power of the various temples.

Akhenaten built a temple to his god Aten immediately outside the east gate of the temple of Amun at Karnak, but clearly the coexistence of the two cults could not last. He therefore proscribed the cult of Amun, closed the god's temples, took over the revenues. He then sent his officials around to destroy Amun's statues and to desecrate the worship sites. These actions were so contrary to the traditional that opposition arose against him. The estates of the great temples of Thebes, Memphis and Heliopolis reverted to the throne. Corruption grew out of the mismanagement of such large levies.

Akhenaten's chief wife was Nefertiti, made world-famous by the discovery of her exquisitely moulded and painted bust, now displayed in the Altes Museum of Berlin, and among the most recognized works of art surviving from the ancient world.

Queen Nefertiti is often referred to in history as "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World." The Berlin bust, seen from two different angles, is indeed, the most famous depiction of Queen Nefertiti. Found in the workshop of the famed sculptor Thutmose, the bust is believed to be a sculptor's model. The technique which begins with a carved piece of limestone, requires the stone core to be first plastered and then richly painted. Flesh tones on the face give the bust life.

Her full lips are enhanced by a bold red. Although the crystal inlay is missing from her left eye, both eyelids and brows are outlined in black. Her graceful elongated neck balances the tall, flat-top crown which adorns her sleek head. The vibrant colors of the her necklace and crown contrast the yellow-brown of her smooth skin. While everything is sculpted to perfection, the one flaw of the piece is a broken left ear. Because this remarkable sculpture is still in existence, it is no wonder why Nefertiti remains "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World."

Nefertiti's origins are confusing. It has been suggested to me that Tiye was also her mother. Another suggestion is that Nefertiti was Akhenaten's cousin. Her wet nurse was the wife of the vizier Ay, who could have been Tiye's brother. Ay sometimes called himself "the God's father," suggesting that he might have been Akhenaten's father-in-law. However Ay never specifically refers to himself as the father of Nefertiti, although there are references that Nefertiti's sister, Mutnojme, is featured prominently in the decorations of the tomb of Ay. We will never know the truth of this bloodline. Perhaps they didn't know either.

This shrine stela also from the early part of the Amarna period depicts Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Princesses Meretaten, Mekeaten, and Ankhesenpaaten worshiping the Aten as a family. Dorothea Arnold in her article "Aspects of the Royal Female Image during the Amarna Period" discusses the plethora of reliefs depicting intimate family moments. While Akhenaten leans forward to give Meretaten a kiss, Mekeaten plays on her mother's lap and gazes up lovingly.

At the same time Ankhesenpaaten, the smallest, sits on Nefertiti's shoulder and fiddles with her earring. Arnold claims that the shrine stela "relates to the Aten religion's concept of creation" in which the King and Queen are viewed as "a primeval 'first pair." At the top of the composition, the sun-god, Aten, represented by a raised circle, extends his life-giving rays to the Royal Family. The relief uses the concept of the "window of appearances" or a snapshot of life. The figures are framed by a fictive structure which suggests the form of a square window. Aldred in his book Egyptian Art calls this "a brief moment in the lives of five beings as they are caught in an act of mutual affection". In actuality, the royal palace at Akhetaten had a window from which the royal couple could observe the city and address their subjects.

It is accepted that Akhenaten and Nefertiti had six daughters. No son was ever shown in reliefs.

The names of the daughters were Meritaten (1349 BC) - Meketaten and Ankhenspaaten (1346 BC) - Neferneferuaten (1339 BC) - Neferneferure and Setepenre (1338).

In 1337 BC the official family, with all six of Nefertiti's daughters was shown for the last time.

In 1336 BC Meketaten died in childbirth.

In 1335 Nefertiti seemed to vanish, assumed dead.

This limestone relief found in the Royal Tomb at Amarna depicts Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and two of their daughters making an offering to the sun-disk Aten. Akhenaten and Nefertiti carry flowers to be laid on the table beneath the "life-giving" rays of the Aten. The figures are carved in the grotesque style, a characteristic of the early half of the Amarna period. Nefertiti, sporting the double plume headdress mentioned in the stela dedication, is the petite figure placed behind her larger scale husband. The composition mirrors early artistic representations of the royal couple. To emphasize the strength and power of the pharaoh, Egyptian iconographical tradition required the female figure to be smaller in scale than the male.

Akhenaten's minor wives included Merytaten, Kiya, Mekytaten, and Ankhesenpaaten.

It was said that one day Akhenaten had a vision wherein he saw a sun disc between two mountains. He felt that God was guiding him to make change. He was shown the God, Aten, as the Sun Disk - the Light. He felt guided by Aten to build a city between the two mountains.

In the sixth year of his reign Akhenaten rejected the Gods of Thebes. They were never part of his childhood anyway since he had been shunned as a child. Akhenaten had declared for the first time in recorded history that there was only one God - the concept of monotheism. Overnight he turned 2,000 years of Egyptian religious upside down.

Amarna is an extensive Egyptian archaeological site that represents the remains of the capital city newly established and built by the Pharaoh Akhenaten of the late Eighteenth Dynasty (c. 1353 BC), and abandoned shortly afterwards. The name for the city employed by the ancient Egyptians is written as Akhetaten (or Akhetaton - transliterations vary) in English transliteration. Akhetaten means "Horizon of the Aten."

The area is located on the east bank of the Nile River in the modern Egyptian province of Minya, some 58 km (36 mi) south of the city of al-Minya, 312 km (194 mi) south of the Egyptian capital Cairo and 402 km (250 mi) north of Luxor. The site of Amarna includes several modern villages, chief of which are el-Till in the north and el-Hagg Qandil in the south.The area was also occupied during later Roman and early Christian times, excavations to the south of the city have found several structures from this period.

Amarna was never a lost city. It lay as a visible ruin close to the Nile and close to inhabited villages. It was recognized as an ancient city by the French military expedition sent to Egypt by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798. They made a rapid sketch plan before passing on.

During the 19th century more detailed and more accurate plans were made by European scholars. Their maps of the central parts of the city are surprisingly detailed in view of the fact that, as yet, no archaeological excavation had taken place. The explanation is likely to be that many walls had been recently exposed by people from the villages digging into the ancient remains to look for treasure and also to remove bricks for re-use. evertheless, the outline of the city and the limits of the cultivated land have not changed greatly in the century and a half that has since passed.

In 1824 and 1826 the English Egyptologist Sir John Gardner Wilkinson visited Amarna and made this sketch plan in pencil of the central area. The many numbers written on the plan are the numbers of his paces, which he used as a means of measuring distances. The result is remarkably accurate. The original map is now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. The most thorough of the pre-modern plans of Amarna was made by the Prussian expedition of K.R. Lepsius who visited Amarna in the 1840s. The main improvement over the map of Wilkinson is the inclusion of most of the residential part of the city to the south of the Central City, an area which Wilkinson only roughly indicated.

Between 1979 and 1988 the city was remapped by Barry Kemp and Salvatore Garfi. The series of eight map sheets and accompanying volume of text are published as B.J. Kemp and S. Garfi, A survey of the ancient city of El-Amarna (London, Egypt Exploration Society 1993)

Wanting to make a complete break, Akhenaten and Nefertiti left Thebes behind, and following the guidance of his God Aten, he moved his family 180 miles north, to a site known as El-Amarna. There, in the dessert he established his new religion by building an entire city dedicated to Aten complete with a necropolis and royal tomb.

In 1346 BC work began on this new city built in middle Egypt, on a site thought to have been chosen as it was not tainted by the worship of the other gods. In 1344 BC the central section of Akhetaten was completed. Nefertiti's prominent role in Egyptian royal rule and religious worship reflects her influence in the public sphere. During the early years of her royal reign, Nefertiti as part of her religious conversion changed her name. Nefertiti which means "The-beautiful-one -is come" became Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti or "The-Aten-is -radiant-of-radiance because the-beautiful-one-is come". A different interpretation of the name change, translated Neferneferuaten to mean--"Perfect One of the Aten's Perfection".


Ancient Egyptian Woman with 70 Hair Extensions Discovered Live Science - September 17, 2014

More than 3,300 years ago, in a newly built city in Egypt, a woman with an incredibly elaborate hairstyle of lengthy hair extensions was laid to rest. She was not mummified, her body simply being wrapped in a mat. When archaeologists uncovered her remains they found she wore "a very complex coiffure with approximately 70 extensions fastened in different layers and heights on the head. Researchers don't know her name, age or occupation, but she is one of hundreds of people, including many others whose hairstyles are still intact, who were buried in a cemetery near an ancient city now called Amarna.

Akhenaten changed thousands of years of art in Egypt. Gone were the images of Amun and the other gods of Egypt, now replaced by Aten, the solar disc. When Akhenaten built his monuments with images of the Pharaoh, he moved away from the traditions of a strong, handsome muscular Pharaoh. Images of Pharaohs with idealized bodies were gone. The Pharaoh was shown as misshapen as was his wife Nefertiti. It became fashionable to show images of the entire royal family with elongated heads, faces, fingers, toes, wide hips, This gave the artists of Amarna new freedom to show scenes of the real life of the Pharaoh, something that had never been done before. The temple was covered with scenes of the Aten, the sun disc with its rays shining down, ending in hands holding ankhs, the hieroglyph for life. The people wondered why the images of the other Gods where not represented.

Akhenaten was the first Pharaoh to have images and paintings

made of himself and his family, as they actually looked.

Akhenaten as the Sphinx worshipping Aten

The priests worried about the God Amun and the fact that the 'Rebel Pharaoh' had declared their god extinct and deserted the religious capitol of Egypt. Gone were the royal offerings. The resources of Egypt were flowing out of the established cities of Egypt and into the desert. People who earned their livings based on the old religions - wood carvers, scarab makers, and others were out of business. The people worried about their afterlife and what would happen now that they were not worshipping the traditional Gods. All of the old belief systems into the next world were discarded. The vision of the afterlife changed.

In its finished state Armana offered a theatrical setting for celebrating Akhenaten's kingship. The city sprawled for miles over the plain. There were elegant palaces, statues of the Pharaoh, good housing throughout the city, a royal road that ran through the center of town, probably the widest street in the ancient world. It was designed for chariot processions, with Akhenaten leading the way.

Spanning the road, a bridge connected the palace with the temple area. Akhnaton and Nefertiti appeared before the people on the balcony known as the "window of appearances", tossing down gold ornaments and other gifts.

At its height the city grew to more than 10,000 people - bureaucrats, artisans, boatmen, priests, traders and their families. Though most were happy, many were not, especially those who did not like to stand in the open sun. Akhenaten worshipers spent lots of time in the sun.

Akhenaten wanted everyone to be happy. He created a beautiful, idealistic religion and Utopia for his people but many just didn't understand it. Akhenaten was not living in the reality of his worshippers. Though he had found himself and his God but the people were used to Gods they could see, carved in stone with beautiful bodies, many with heads of animals. Akhenaten's God was too much of an abstraction. Aten was the basic principle of the universe, Light! They also wondered why the sun God only shed its rays on the royal family and not everyone.

According to present evidence, however, it appears that it was only the upper echelons of society which embraced the new religion with any fervor. Excavations at Amarna have indicated that even here the old way of religion continued among the ordinary people. On a wider scale, throughout Egypt, the new cult does not seem to have had much effect at a common level except, of course, in dismantling the priesthood and closing the temples but then the ordinary populace had had little to do with the religious establishment anyway, except on the high days and holidays when the god's statue would be carried in procession from the sanctuary outside the great temple walls.

Akhenaten lived in his dream in Amarna for ten years as conditions grew worse in Egypt. He remained isolated from the true problems of the people. Akhenaten apparently neglected foreign policy, allowing Egypt's captured territories to be taken back, though it seems likely that this image can be partially explained by the iconography of the time, which downplayed his role as warrior.

Nefertiti is depicted in her advanced years. She wears a long, white linen dress that allows the contours of her body to be seen. It has been speculated that this small statuette was the model for a life size representation that was never executed. Arnold points out that, although she is past her prime, she is not old. While this may be true, the sagging features of the statuette do indicate that she is no longer the vivacious Queen.

In 1335 BC Nefertiti, Akhenaten's wife and companion, is said to have disappeared and most likely died. His mother Tiye had also died as did his minor wife, Kia. That combined with the loss of his daughter made Akhenaten feel alone and depressed.

Nefertiti's disappearance coincided with the sudden appearance of a young man named Smenkhkare. Smenkhkare, who was given the same title (Neferneferuaten) as the now vanished Nefertiti, was crowned co-regent to Akhenaten when he (Smenkhkare) was about sixteen. He was married to Akhenaten's eldest daughter, Merytaten.

There is uncertainty about the relationship between Akhenaten and his successors, Smenkhkare and Tutankhamun. The biggest mystery associated with Smenkhkare was where he came from. It is possible that both he and Tutankhamun were Akhenaten's sons by another wife, possibly Kiya who was 'much loved' of the Pharaoh. As there was inbreeding to keep the line pure we may never know the relationships within their family.

It is also a matter of great controversy as to whether or not Smenkhkare continued to reign after Akhenaten died. According to Dr. Donald Redford, a professor of Egyptology and the director of the Akhenaten Temple Project, Smenkhkare may have succeeded Akhenaten by a short while, during which he made half-hearted attempts at going back to the old religion (something which probably wouldn't have happened while Akhenaten was alive). Another thing that suggests that he outlived Akhenaten are references to him made in certain tombs. He was also buried in the old capital.

But here one has to consider the way Akhenaten behaved concerning those people who were known to be his children. Every one of his six daughters, whenever referred to in writings from the period, was repeatedly called 'the king's daughter, of his loins, (daughter's name)'.

In Egypt, as with any other kingdom of the ancient or not so ancient world, male heirs were much desired. If Akhenaten had a son, he almost certainly would have repeatedly said so.

Cyril Aldred, a prominent Egyptologist who has written several books about Akhenaten, uses the argument that Smenkhkare must have been born three years before Akhenaten's reign began, thereby reducing the likelihood of his being Akhenaten's child.

Yet another possibility is that one of Akhenaten's many sisters was the mother of Smenkhkare. Because Smenkhkare appeared at the same time that Nefertiti seemingly vanished from view, and because he shared the title "Beloved of Akhenaten" with Nefertiti, some scholars believe that Nefertiti and Smenkhkare were one and the same. Nefertiti did have more power than many of the other queens in Egypt, and is often depicted wearing certain crowns that were normally reserved for kings. Thus, it is perhaps not too out of line to think that she might have disguised herself as a man and shared kingship with Akhenaten. However, Redford notes that, for one thing, it would be odd even for the Amarna family to have Nefertiti posing as a man and marrying her own daughter. Not only that, but to deny the existence of Smenkhkare, one would have to ignore one major finding: the body in Tomb 55.

Tutankhaten came to the throne when he was about eight years old and became known as "The boy king" by modern people. He became quite famous when his tomb was discovered by Howard Carter in the 1920s. Tutankhaten succeeded Akhenaten and Smenkhkare and was married to Akhenaten's daughter Ankhesenpaaten. Th couple soon changed their names to Tutankhamen and Ankhesenamun, moved away from Akhetaten, and reestablished the old religion. Tutankhaten reigned until he was about eighteen when he died.

Tutankhaten's origins are just as hazy as Smenkhkare's. Some would claim that he was Kiya's son by Akhenaten. However, if Tutankhaten and Smenkhkare were really brothers, as the bodies of the two suggest, then this would again bring up the question of the likelihood of Smenkhkare being Akhenaten's son.

One theory is that Tutankhaten was Akhenaten's brother. That would lead to the conclusion that both Smenkhkare and Tutankhaten were sons of queen Tiyee.They both bear a strong resemblance to certain portraits of Tiyee, but Tiyee may have been too old to have children by the time Tutankhaten was born. Another problem is that Amenhotep III was, in all probability, well dead by this time, although there is much speculation about a co-regency between Akhenaten and his father.

One intriguing discovery is an inscription which calls Tutankhaten "The king's son, of his loins". This could be interpreted in a number of ways. One is that Tutankhaten really was Akhenaten's child. However, this possibility has already been mostly ruled out. Another possibility is that Amenhotep III remained virile and active even in his last years and was able to father Tutankhaten just before he died (assuming that there was a co-regency).

Yet a third possibility is that Tutankhaten was Smenkhkare's son. If Smenkhkare fathered Tutankhaten the same year that he married Merytaten, and then went on to outlive Akhenaten by about three years, then that would make Tutankhaten just barely seven when he came to the throne of Egypt (Tutankhaten was thought to have come to the throne when he was eight or nine).

In 1332 BC Akhenaten died, the circumstances never explained. His memory and all that he had created soon to erased from history not to be found for centuries later.


The last dated appearance of Akhenaten and the Amarna family is in the tomb of Meryra II, and dates from second month, year 12 of his reign. After this the historical record is unclear, and only with the succession of Tutankhamun is somewhat clarified.

Akhenaten planned to relocate Egyptian burials on the East side of the Nile (sunrise) rather than on the West side (sunset), in the Royal Wadi in Akhetaten His body was removed after the court returned to Thebes, and recent genetic tests have confirmed that the body found buried in tomb KV55 was the father of Tutankhamun, and is therefore "most probably" Akhenaten, although this is disputed. The tomb contained numerous Amarna era objects including a royal funerary mask which had been deliberately destroyed. His sarcophagus was destroyed but has since been reconstructed and now sits outside in the Cairo Museum.

Although it is accepted that Akhenaten himself died in Year 17 of his reign, the question of whether Smenkhkare became co-regent perhaps two or three years earlier or enjoyed a brief independent reign is unclear. If Smenkhkare outlived Akhenaten, and became sole Pharaoh, he likely ruled Egypt for less than a year.

Tutankhamun was believed to be a younger brother of Smenkhkare and a son of Akhenaten, and possibly Kiya although one scholar has suggested that Tutankhamun may have been a son of Smenkhkare instead. DNA tests in 2010 indicated Tutankhamun was indeed the son of Akhenaten. It has been suggested that after the death of Akhenaten, Nefertiti reigned with the name of Neferneferuaten but other scholars believe this female ruler was rather Meritaten. The so-called Coregency Stela, found in a tomb in Amarna possibly shows his queen Nefertiti as his coregent, ruling alongside him, but this is not certain as the names have been removed and carved again to show Ankhesenpaaten and Neferneferuaten.

Neferneferuaten, a female Pharaoh reigned in Egypt for two years and one month. She was, in turn, probably succeeded by Tutankhaten (later, Tutankhamun), with the country being administered by the chief vizier generals Ay and Horemheb reestablished the temples of Amun they selected their priests from the military, enabling the Pharaoh to keep tighter controls over the religious orders.

But Akhenaten's followers at Amana, unable to understand what their Pharaoh had been preaching, abandoned the city, and returned to Thebes and the familiar Gods with Tutankhamen as their King.

Later Pharaohs attempted to erase all memories of Akhenaten and his religion. Much of the distinctive art of the period was destroyed and the buildings dismantled to be reused. Many of the Talitat blocks from the Aten temples in Thebes were reused as rubble infill for later pylons where they were rediscovered during restoration work and reassembled.

Finally, Akhenaten, Neferneferuaten, Smenkhkare, Tutankhamun, and Ay were removed from the official lists of Pharaohs, which instead reported that Amenhotep III was immediately succeeded by Horemheb. This is thought to be part of an attempt by Horemheb to delete all trace of Atenism and the pharaohs associated with it from the historical record. Akhenaten's name never appeared on any of the king lists compiled by later Pharaohs and it was not until the late 19th century that his identity was re-discovered and the surviving traces of his reign were unearthed by archaeologists.

Akhenaten's Royal Tomb in Amarna

In 1344 BC the building of the Royal Tomb at Akhetaten began - completed while Akhenaten was pharaoh. It was very similar to a 'standard' tomb found in the Valley of the Kings - a straight forward design of corridors and rooms along a single axis, but this tomb was to change with the addition of two more separate suites of rooms. Research at the Royal Tomb has given evidence that Akhenaten was allegedly buried in a pink granite sarcophagus - although both this and the remains of another sarcophagus found at the tomb, were smashed to pieces and then scattered over some distance. However enough of Akhenaten's sarcophagus has been recovered to reconstruct it, the corners had figures of Queen Nefertiti extending protective arms like the guardian of the four quarters.

Royal Tomb at Amarna: Akhenaten and Nefertiti grieve over daughter
Drawing of Relief (N. Davies, The Rock Tombs of el-Amrna, 1903-08)

Tomb 55 in the Valley of the Kings

Of all the royal mummies ever discovered none has ever caused more controversy then the one found in tomb 55 of the Valley of the Kings.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, Theodore Davis, a wealthy American excavating in Egypt, discovered a tomb in which a burial from the Armana period had been reinterred. This tomb was clearly unfinished, and the burial a hasty one. Gilded wooden inlay panels on the floor and against the wall. They bore the damaged image of Akhenaten worshiping the sun disc and the name of Queen Tiye.

In a niche were four beautiful alabaster jars that held the internal organs of the mummies. Lying on the floor was a badly damaged but beautiful coffin made with thousands of paste in-lays and semi-precious stones in the shape of protective wings. The cartouches containing the occupants name had been hacked out.

When they opened the coffin they found a mummy wrapped in gold-leaf. But as they touched the mummy it crumbled to dust leaving the excavators with a pile of disarticulated bones at the bottom of the coffin. But beneath the skeleton, the last sheet of gold, seemed to have the damaged named of Akhenaten written on it. The pelvis was wide like a female's. The head was elongated.

What really became of Akhenaten's mummy still remains a mystery. Fragments of sculpture and carving from the royal tomb at Akhetaten shows that his body was originally put there, but no sign of the mummy remains. It is possible that followers of the Aten feared for it's destruction, which would deny him eternal life, and moved the body to a place of safety.

Akhenaten is perhaps unfairly not credited with being a particularly successful Pharaoh. Records seem to indicate that he allowed Egyptian influence wane but this may not be true. These ideas are based on the famous Amarna Tablets found in Akhetaten in many of which Egyptian vassal cities plead for assistance, but no replies are preserved. As there is no surviving record of Egyptian territory being lost at this time it is possible that Akhenaten was merely skillfully playing one city against the other to achieve through diplomacy what would otherwise require military force.

The Amarna Tablets - Letters

The el-Amarna letters, a collection of correspondence between various states and Egypt, were found in the remains of the ancient city of Akhetaten, built by Akhenaten around 1370 BCE. Some of the documents belong to the time of Amenhotep III, while others are from the time of Akhenaten. They provide invaluable insight into the foreign affairs of several countries in the Late Bronze Age.

The first Amarna tablets were found by local inhabitants in 1887. They form the majority of the corpus. Subsequent excavations at the site have yielded less than 50 out of the 382 itemized tablets and fragments which form the Amarna corpus known to date.

The majority of the Amarna tablets are letters. These letters were sent to the Egyptian Pharaohs Amenophis III and his son Akhenaten around the middle of the 14th century B.C. The correspondents were kings of Babylonia, Assyria, Hatti and Mitanni, minor kings and rulers of the Near East at that time, and vassals of the Egyptian Empire.

Almost immediately following their discovery, the Amarna tablets were deciphered, studied and published. Their importance as a major source for the knowledge of the history and politics of the Ancient Near East during the 14th Century B.C. was recognized. The tablets presented several difficulties to scholars.

The Amarna tablets are written in Akkadian cuneiform script and present many features which are peculiar and unknown from any other Akkadian dialect. This was most evident in the letters sent from Canaan, which were written in a mixed language (Canaanite-Akkadian). The Amarna letters from Canaan have proved to be the most important source for the study of the Canaanite dialects in the pre-Israelite period.

The idea of Akhenaten as the pioneer of a monotheistic religion that later became Judaism was promoted by Sigmund Freud in his book Moses and Monotheism and thereby entered popular consciousness. Freud argued that Moses had been an Atenist priest forced to leave Egypt with his followers after Akhenaten's death. Freud argued that Akhenaten was striving to promote monotheism, something that the biblical Moses was able to achieve. Following his book, the concept entered popular consciousness and serious research.

With a belief in monotheism, several researchers believe Sigmund Freud was also Moses, Akhenaten and Zoroaster. That cannot be proven.

According to Ancient Alien Theory . Nefertiti and Akhenaten were not of this world . coming here to help humans understand that there is only one god . light and consciousness . and the worship of stone idols is false. Was that really the sun they were praying to or something else?

Three thousand years ago, the rebel Pharaoh Akhenaten preached monotheism and enraged the Nile Valley. Less than 100 years after Akhenaten's death, Moses would be preaching monotheism on the bank of the Nile River, to the Israelis. The idea of a single God, once the radical belief of an isolated heretic, is now embraced by Moslems, Christians, and Jews throughout the world. The vision of Akhenaten lives on!


3,300-Year-Old Egyptian Cemetery Reveals Commoners' Plight

While an Egyptian pharaoh built majestic temples filled with sparkling treasures, the lower classes performed backbreaking work on meager diets, new evidence suggests.

An analysis of more than 150 skeletons from a 3,300-year-old cemetery at the ancient Egyptian city of Amarna reveals fractures, wear and tear from heavy lifting, and rampant malnutrition amongst the city's commoners.

The discovery, detailed in the March issue of the journal Antiquity, could shed light on how the non-elites of ancient Egyptian society lived.

Overnight city

For a brief, 17-year period, the center of Egypt was Amarna, a small city on the banks of the Nile, about 218 miles (350 kilometers) south of Cairo.

The pharaoh Akhenaten relocated his capital city to Amarna to build a pure, uncontaminated cult of worship dedicated to the sun god Aten. [Gallery: Sun Gods and Goddesses]

In a few years, temples, court buildings and housing complexes sprung up. At one time, 20,000 to 30,000 court officials, soldiers, builders and servants lived in the city.

But after Akhenaten's death, the next pharaoh, Tutankhamun , promptly rolled up the experiment. The city, which lacked good agricultural land, was soon abandoned.

Because the Egyptians occupied Amarna for such a short time, the city provides archaeologists with an unprecedented insight into what people's lives looked like at a specific moment in history, said study co-author Anna Stevens, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge.

About 10 years ago, a surveyor investigating a region in the desert near Amarna discovered an ancient cemetery. The site contained hundreds of skeletons and skeletal fragments from lower-class Egyptians. [See Photos of the Ancient Egyptian Cemetery ]

To see what these everyday Egyptians' daily lives were like, Stevens and her colleagues analyzed 159 skeletons that were found mostly intact.

The researchers' conclusions: Life was hard at Amarna. The children had stunted growth, and many of the bones were porous due to nutritional deficiency, probably because the commoners lived on a diet of mostly bread and beer, Stevens told LiveScience.

More than three-quarters of the adults had degenerative joint disease, likely from hauling heavy loads, and about two-thirds of these adults had at least one broken bone.

The findings suggest that the rapid construction of Amarna may have been especially hard on the commoners. Based on the size of the bricks found in nearby structures, each worker likely carried a limestone brick weighing 154 pounds (70 kilograms) in assembly-line fashion. Erecting the city's structures so quickly would have required workers to repeatedly carry out such heavy lifting. That could have caused the joint disease the skeletons revealed.

The norm in Egypt?

"This is a fabulous study because it is a big population from a known site, and we have all these bodies from people who are relatively lower class," said Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist at American University in Cairo, who was not involved in the study.

But because, in total, archaeologists have unearthed so few ancient Egyptian cemeteries in which the non-elite were buried, it's possible that these backbreaking conditions prevailed across Egypt at the time, Stevens said.

Other research has found that even Egypt's wealthy suffered widespread malnutrition and disease, often living only to age 30.


The History of Egypt (Part 2): Prelude to the Amarna Age - History

1. Peculiar Cuneiform Script

2. Method of Writing Proper Names

1. Knowledge of Amorite, Hittite and Mitannian Tongues

2. Persistence of Canaanite Names to the Present Time

3. Verification of Biblical Statements concerning "the Language of Canaan"

1. Political and Ethnological Lines and Locations

2. Verification of Biblical and Egyptian Geographical Notices

3. Confirmation of General Evidential Value of Ancient Geographical Notes of Bible Lands

1. Revolutionary Change of Opinion concerning Canaanite Civilization in Patriarchal Times

2. Anomalous Historical Situation Revealed by Use of Cuneiform Script

3. Extensive Diplomatic Correspondence of the Age

4. Unsolved Problem of the Habiri

A collection of about 350 inscribed clay tablets from Egypt, but written in the cuneiform writing, being part of the royal archives of Amenophis III and Amenophis IV kings of the XVIIIth Egyptian Dynasty about 1480 to 1460 B.C. Some of the tablets are broken and there is a little uncertainty concerning the exact number of separate letters. 81 are in the British Museum = BM 160 in the New Babylonian and Assyrian Museum, Berlin= B 60 in the Cairo Museum = C 20 at Oxford = O the remainder, 20 or more, are in other museums or in private collections.

The name, Tell el-Armarna, "the hill Amarna," is the modern name of ancient ruins about midway between Memphis and Luxor in Egypt. The ruins mark the site of the ancient city Khut Aten, which Amenophis IV built in order to escape the predominant influence of the old religion of Egypt represented by the priesthood at Thebes, and to establish a new cult, the worship of Aten, the sun's disk.

In 1887 a peasant woman, digging in the ruins of Tell el-Amarna for the dust of ancient buildings with which to fertilize her garden, found tablets, a portion of the royal archives. She filled her basket with tablets and went home. How many she had already pulverized and grown into leeks and cucumbers and melons will never be known. This time someone's curiosity was aroused, and a native dealer secured the tablets. Knowledge of the "find" reached Chauncey Murch, D.D., an American missionary stationed at Luxor, who, suspecting the importance of the tablets, called the attention of cuneiform scholars to them. Then began a short but intense and bitter contest between representatives of various museums on the one hand, eager for scientific material, and native dealers, on the other hand, rapacious at the prospect of the fabulous price the curious tablets might bring. The contest resulted in the destruction of some of the tablets by ignorant natives and the final distribution of the remainder and of the broken fragments, as noted at the beginning of this article. (see also Budge, History of Egypt, IV, 186). After the discovery of the tablets the site of the ancient city was excavated by Professor Petrie in 1891-92 (Tell el-Amarna compare also Baedeker, Egypt).

The physical character of the tablets is worthy of some notice. They are clay tablets. Nearly all are brick tablets, i.e. rectangular, flat tablets varying in size from 2 X 2 1/2 in. to 3 1/2 X 9 inches, inscribed on both sides and sometimes upon the edges. One tablet is of a convex form (B 1601). The clay used in the tablets also varies much. The tablets of the royal correspondence from Babylonia and one tablet from Mitanni (B 153) are of fine Babylonian clay. The Syrian and Palestinian correspondence is in one or two instances of clay which was probably imported from Babylonia for correspondence, but for the most part these tablets are upon the clay of the country and they show decided differences among themselves in color and texture: in some instances the clay is sandy and decidedly inferior. A number of tablets have red points, a kind of punctuation for marking the separation into words, probably inserted by the Egyptian translator of the letters at the court of the Pharaoh. These points were for the purpose of assisting in the reading. They do now assist the reading very much. Some tablets also show the hieroglyphic marks which the Egyptian scribe put on them when filing them among the archives. The writing also is varied. Some of the tablets from Palestine (B 328, 330, 331) are crudely written. Others of the letters, as in the royal correspondence from Babylonia, are beautifully written. These latter (B 149-52) seem to have been written in a totally different way from the others those from Western Asia appear to have been written with the stylus held as we commonly hold a pen, but the royal letters from Babylonia were written by turning the point of the stylus to the left and the other end to the right over the second joint of the first finger.

The results of the discovery of the Tell el-Amarna Letters have been far-reaching, and there are indications of still other benefits which may yet accrue from them. The discovery of them shares with the discovery of the Code of Hammurabi the distinction of the first place among Biblical discoveries of the past half-century.

1.Peculiar Cuneiform Script:

The peculiar use of the cuneiform method of writing in these tablets in order to adapt it to the requirements of a strange land having a native tongue, and the demands made upon it for the representation of proper names of a foreign tongue, have already furnished the basis for the opinion that the same cuneiform method of writing was employed originally in other documents, especially some portions of the Bible and much material for Egyptian governmental reports. It is not improbable that by means of such data furnished by the tablets definite clues may be obtained to the method of writing, and by that also approximately the time of the composition, of the literary sources that were drawn upon in the composition of the Pentateuch, and even of the Pentateuch itself (compare especially Naville, Archaeology of the Bible).

2. Method of Writing Proper Names:

Most of the letters were probably written by Egyptian officers or, more frequently, by scribes in the employ of native appointees of the Egyptian government. The writing of so many proper names by these scribes in the cuneiform script has thrown a flood of light upon the spelling of Canaanite names by Egyptian scribes in the hieroglyphic inscriptions of Egypt. It is evident now that certainly some, perhaps most, of these scribes worked from cuneiform lists (Muller, Egyptological Researches, 1906, 40). As the system of representation of Palestinian names by Egyptian scribes becomes thus better understood, the identification of more and more of the places in Palestine named in the Egyptian inscriptions becomes possible. Every such identification makes more nearly perfect the identification of Biblical places, the first and most important item in historical evidence.

1. Knowledge of Amorite, Hittite and Mitannian Tongues:

No other literary discovery, indeed, not all the others together, have afforded so much light upon philological problems in patriarchal Palestine as the Tell el-Amarna Letters. Something is now really definitely known of "the language of Canaan," the speech of the people of patriarchal days in Palestine. The remarkable persistence of old Canaanite words and names and forms of speech of these tablets down to the present time makes it plain that the peasant speech of today is the lineal descendant of that of Abraham's day. The letters are in the Babylonian tongue modified by contact with the speech of the country, a kind of early Aramaic (Conder, The Tell Amarna Tablets, X Dhorme, "La langue de Canaan," Revue Biblique, Juillet, 1913, 369). There are also frequent Canaanite words inserted as glosses to explain the Babylonian words (Dhorme, op. cit.).

2. Persistence of Canaanite Names to the Present Time: The facts evinced by the persistence of the early Canaanite speech (compare 1, above) down through all the centuries to the peasant speech of Palestine of today furnishes a verification of the Biblical reference to the "language of Canaan" (lsa 19:18). That peasant speech is, as it manifestly has always been since patriarchal times, a Semitic tongue. Now, even so adventurous a work as a grammar of the ancient Canaanite language has been attempted, based almost entirely upon the material furnished by the Tell el-Amarna Letters (Dhorme, op. cit.), in which the speech of Palestine in patriarchal days is described as "ancient Canaanite or Hebrew."

3. Verification of Biblical Statements concerning "the Language of Canaan":

Some more specific knowledge is also supplied by the Tell el-Amarna Letters concerning the Amorite language through the many Amorite names and the occasional explanations given in Amorite words (compare especially the 50 letters of Ribadda), and some knowledge of Hittite (Letter of Tarkhundara Conder, The Tell Amarna Tablets, 225), concerning the Mitannian tongue (B 153, 190, 191, 233). One other tablet (B 342) is in an unknown tongue.

1. Political and Ethnological Lines and Locations

There was a very wide international horizon in the days of the correspondence contained in the Tell el-Amarna Letters, a horizon that enclosed Egypt, Babylonia, Canaan, Mitanni and the land of the Hittites but the more definite geographical information supplied by the tablets is limited almost entirely to the great Syrian and Canaanite coast land. There is difference of opinion concerning the identification of a few of the places mentioned, but about 90 have been identified with reasonable certainty.

2. Verification of Biblical and Egyptian Geographical Notices

It is possible now to trace the course of the military operations mentioned in the Tell el-Amarna Letters with almost as much satisfaction as the course of a modern military campaign, and there is much verification also of Biblical and Egyptian geographical notices.

3. Confirmation of General Evidential Value of Ancient Geographical Notes of Bible Lands

The identification of such a large number of places and the ability thus given to trace the course of historical movements in that remote age are a remarkable testimony to the historical value of ancient records of that part of the world, for accuracy concerning place is of first importance in historical records.

The Tell el-Amarna Letters furnish an amount of historical material about equal in bulk to one-half of the Pentateuch. While much of this bears more particularly upon general history of the ancient Orient, there is scarcely any part of it which does not directly or indirectly supply information which parallels some phase of Biblical history. It is not certain that any individual mentioned in the Bible is mentioned in these tablets, yet it is possible, many think it well established, that many of the persons and events of the conquest period are mentioned (compare 4 (1), below). There is also much that reflects the civilization of times still imperfectly understood, reveals historical events hitherto unknown, or but little known, and gives many sidelights upon the movements of nations and peoples of whom there is something said in the Bible.

1. Revolutionary Change of Opinion concerning Canaanite Civilization in Patriarchal Times

A revolutionary change of opinion concerning the civilization of patriarchal Palestine has taken place. It was formerly the view of all classes of scholars, from the most conservative, on the one hand, to the most radical, on the other, that there was a very crude state of civilization in Palestine in the patriarchal age, and this entirely independent of, and indeed prior to, any demand made by the evolutionary theory of Israel's history. Abraham was pictured as a pioneer from a land of culture to a distant dark place in the world, and his descendants down to the descent into Egypt were thought to have battled with semi-barbarous conditions, and to have returned to conquer such a land and bring civilization into it. All this opinion is now changed, primarily by the information contained in the Tell el-Amarna Letters and secondarily by incidental hints from Egyptian and Babylonian inscriptions now seen to support the high stage of civilization revealed in the Tell el-Amarna Letters (see ARCHAEOLOGY AND CRITICISM). The tablets make mention of " `capital cities,' `provincial cities,' `fortresses,' `towns,' and `villages' with `camps' and Hazors (or enclosures) while irrigation of gardens is also noticed, and the papyrus grown at Gebal, as well as copper, tin, gold, silver, agate, money (not, of course, coins) and precious objects of many kinds, mulberries, olives, corn, ships and chariots" (Conder, op. cit., 4).

The account of a bride's marriage portion from Mitanni reveals conditions farther north: "Two horses, and a chariot plated with gold and silver, and adorned with precious stones. The harness of the horses was adorned in like manner. Two camel litters appear to be next noticed, and apparently variegated garments worked with gold, and embroidered zones and shawls. These are followed by lists of precious stones, and a horse's saddle adorned with gold eagles. A necklace of solid gold and gems, a bracelet of iron gilt, an anklet of solid gold, and other gold objects follow and apparently cloths, and silver objects, and vases of copper or bronze. An object of jade or jasper and leaves of gold. Five gems of `stone of the great light' (probably diamonds) follow, with ornaments for the head and feet, and a number of bronze objects and harness for chariots" (ibid., 188-89). The record of Thothmes III concerning booty brought from Palestine fully confirms this representation of the tablets (Birch, Records of the Past, 1st ser., II, 35-52 compare Sayce, Archaeology of the Cuneiform Inscriptions, 156-57).

The Babylonian inscriptions show that Abraham was a part of an emigration movement from the homeland to a frontier province, having the same laws and much of the same culture (Lyon, American Oriental Society Journal, XXV, 254 Barton, American Philosophical Proceedings, LII, number 209, April, 1913, 197 Kyle, Deciding Voice of the Monuments in Biblical Criticism, chapter xv). The Egyptian sculptured pictures make clear that the civilization of Palestine in patriarchal times was fully equal to that of Egypt (compare Petrie, Deshasheh, plural IV).

That these things of elegance and skill are not merely the trappings of "barbaric splendor" is manifest from the revelation which the Tell el-Amarna Letters make of ethnic movements and of influences at work from the great nations on either side of Canaan, making it impossible that the land could have been, at that period, other than a place of advanced civilization. Nearly all the tablets furnish most unequivocal evidence that Egypt had imperial rule over the land through a provincial government which was at the time falling into decay, while the cuneiform method of writing used in the tablets by such a variety of persons, in such high and low estate, implying thus long-established literary culture and a general diffusion of the knowledge of a most difficult system of writing, makes it clear that the civilization of Babylonia had been well established before the political power of Egypt came to displace that of Babylonia.

2. Anomalous Historical Situation Revealed by Use of Cuneiform Script

The displacement of Babylonian political power in Palestine just mentioned (1, above) points at once to a most remarkable historical situation revealed by the Tell el-Amarna Letters, i.e. official Egyptian correspondence between the out-lying province of Canaan and the imperial government at home, carried on, not in the language and script of Egypt, but in the script of Babylonia and in a language that is a modified Babylonian. This marks one step in the great, age-long conflict between the East and the West, between Babylonia and Egypt, with Canaan as the football of empires. It reveals-what the Babylonian inscriptions confirm-the long-preceding occupation of Canaan by Babylonia, continuing down to the beginning of patriarchal times, which had so given Canaan a Babylonian stamp that the subsequent political occupation of the land by Egypt under Thothmes III had not yet been able to efface the old stamp or give a new impression.

3. Extensive Diplomatic Correspondence of the Age

The extensive diplomatic correspondence between nations so widely separated as Egypt on the West, and Babylonia on the East, Mitanni on the North, and the Hittite country on the Northwest, is also shown by the Tell el-Amarna Letters. In addition to the large number of letters between Canaan and Egypt, there are quite a number of these royal tablets: letters from Kadashman Bell, or Kallima-Sin (BM 29784), and Burna-burias of Babylonia (B 149-52), Assur-uballidh of Assyria and Dusratta of Mitanni (B 150, 191-92, 233), etc. There seems at first sight a little pettiness about this international correspondence that is almost childish, since so much of it is occupied with the marriage of princesses and the payment of dowers, and the exchange of international gifts and privileges (Budge, History of Egypt, IV, 189-90). But one might be surprised at the amount of such things in the private correspondence of kings of the present day, if access to it could be gained. The grasping selfishness also revealed in these tablets by the constant cry for gold is, after all, but a less diplomatic and more frank expression of the commercial haggling between nations of today for advantages and concessions.

4. Unsolved Problem of the Habiri

The subject of greatest historical interest in Biblical matters presented by the Tell el-Amarna Letters is the great, unsolved problem of the Habiri. Unsolved it is, for while every writer on the subject has a very decided opinion of his own, all must admit that a problem is not solved upon which there is such wide and radical difference of opinion among capable scholars, and that not running along easy lines of cleavage, but dividing indiscriminately all classes of scholars.

(1) One view very early advanced and still strongly held by some (Conder, op. cit., 138-44) is that Habiri is to be read `Abiri, and means the Hebrews. It is pointed out that the letters referring to these people are from Central and Southern Palestine, that the Habiri had some relation with Mt. Seir, that they are represented as contemporaneous with Japhia king of Gezer, Jabin king of Hazor, and probably Adonizedek king of Jerusalem, contemporaries of Joshua, and that certain incidental movements of Israel and of the people of Palestine mentioned in the Bible are also mentioned or assumed in the tablets (Conder, op. cit., 139-51). In reply to these arguments for the identification of the Habiri with the Hebrews under Joshua, it may be noted that, although the letters which speak of the Habiri are all from Central or Southern Palestine, they belong to very nearly the same time as the very numerous letters concerning the extensive wars in the North. The distinct separation of the one set of letters from the other is rather arbitrary and so creates an appearance which has little or no existence in fact. Probably these southern letters refer to the same disturbances spreading from the North toward the South, which is fatal to theory that the Habiri are the Hebrews under Joshua, for these latter came in from the Southeast. The reference to Seir is obscure and seems rather to locate that place in the direction of Carmel (Conder, op. cit., 145). The mention of Japhia king of Gezer, and Jabin king of Hazor, does not signify much, for these names may be titles, or there may have been many kings, in sequence, of the same name. Concerning Adonizedek, it is diffcult to believe that this reading of the name of the king of Jerusalem would ever have been thought of, except for the desire to identify the Habiri with the Hebrews under Joshua. This name Adonizedek is only made out, with much uncertainty, by the unusual method of translating the king's name instead of transliterating it. If the name was Adonizedek, why did not the scribe write it so, instead of translating it for the Pharaoh into an entirely different name because of its meaning? The seeming correspondences between the letters and the account of the conquest in the Bible lose much of their significance when the greater probabilities raised in the names and the course of the wars are taken away.

(2) Against the view that the Habiri were the Hebrews of the Bible may be cited not only these discrepancies in the evidence presented for that view (compare (1), above), but also the very strong evidence from Egypt that the Exodus took place in the Ramesside dynasties, thus not earlier than the XIXth Dynasty and probably under Merenptah, the successor of Rameses II. The name Rameses for one of the store cities could hardly have occurred before the Ramesside kings. The positive declaration of Rameses II: "I built Pithom," against which there is no evidence whatever, and the coincidence between the Israel tablet of Merenptah (Petrie, Six Temples at Thebes, 28, pls. XIII-XIV) and the Biblical record of the Exodus, which makes the 5th year under Merenptah to be the 5th year of Moses' leadership (see MOSES), make it very difficult, indeed seemingly impossible, to accept the Habiri as the Hebrews of the conquest.

(3) Another view concerning the Habiri, strongly urged by some (Sayce, The Higher Criticism and the Verdict of the Monuments, 175), is that they are Habiri, not `Abiri, and that the name means "confederates," and was not a personal or tribal name at all. The certainty that there was, just a little before this time, an alliance in conspiracy among the Amorites and others, as revealed in the tablets for the region farther north, gives much color to this view. This opinion also relieves the chronological difficulties which beset the view that the Habiri were the Biblical Hebrews (compare (2), above), but it is contended that this reading does violence to the text.

(4) Another most ingenious view is advanced by Jeremias (The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient East, 341), that the name is Habiri, that "the name answers to the sounds of `Hebrews,' and that the names are identical," but that this name in the Tell el-Amarna Letters is not a proper name at all, but a descriptive word, as when we read of "Abraham the Hebrew," i.e. the "stranger" or "immigrant." Thus Habiri would be "Hebrews," i.e. "strangers" or "immigrants" (see HEBERITES HEBREW), but the later question of the identification of these with the Hebrews of the Bible is still an open question.

(5) It may be that the final solution of the problem presented by the Habiri will be found in the direction indicated by combining the view that sees in them only "strangers" with the view that sees them to be "confederates." There were undoubtedly "confederates" in conspiracy against Egypt in the time of the Tell el-Amarna Letters. The government of Egypt did not come successfully to the relief of the beleaguered province, but weakly yielded. During the time between the writing of the tablets and the days of Merenptah and the building of Pithom no great strong government from either Egypt or Babylonia or the North was established in Palestine. At the time of the conquest there is constant reference made to "the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites," etc. Why are they so constantly mentioned as a group, unless they were in some sense "confederates"? It is not impossible, indeed it is probable, that these Hittites and Amorites and Perizzites, etc., Palestinian tribes having some kind of loose confederacy in the days of the conquest, represent the last state of the confederates," the conspirators, who began operations in the Amorite war against the imperial Egyptian government recorded in the Tell el-Amarna Letters, and, in the correspondence from the South, were called in those days Habiri, i.e. "strangers" or "immigrants." For the final decision on the problem of the Habiri and the full elucidation of many things in the Tell el-Amarna Letters we must await further study of the tablets by expert cuneiform scholars, and especially further discovery in contemporary history.

The Jerusalem letters of the southern correspondence present something of much importance which does not bear at all upon the problem of the Habiri. The frequently recurring title of the king of Jerusalem, "It was not my father, it was not my mother, who established me in this position" (Budge, History of Egypt, IV, 231-35), seems to throw light upon the strange description given of MELCHIZEDEK (which see), the king of Jerusalem in the days of Abraham. The meaning here clearly is that the crown was not hereditary, but went by appointment, the Pharaoh of Egypt having the appointing power. Thus the king as such had no ancestor and no descendant, thus furnishing the peculiar characteristics made use of to describe the character of the Messiah's priesthood in the Epistle to the Hebrews (7:3).

Conder, The Tell Amarna Tablets Knudtzon, Die El-Amarna-Tafeln, in Heinrich's Vorderasiatische Bibliothek, II Petrie, Tell el Amarna Tablets idem, Syria and Egypt from the Tell el Amarna Letters idem, Hist of Egypt Jeremias, The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient East.


The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt

This was the go-to book throughout my undergraduate degree in Egyptology, one that I consulted more times than I can recall for preparatory class reading, source for essays, prompt for presentations, etc. And yet my knowledge of it was patchy because I consulted as needed – with so many different demands on my time, I never got to sit down with it and read the whole thing cover to cover something which I looked to rectify this year. Having done so, I can heartily recommend it.

Let’s go through t This was the go-to book throughout my undergraduate degree in Egyptology, one that I consulted more times than I can recall for preparatory class reading, source for essays, prompt for presentations, etc. And yet my knowledge of it was patchy because I consulted as needed – with so many different demands on my time, I never got to sit down with it and read the whole thing cover to cover something which I looked to rectify this year. Having done so, I can heartily recommend it.

Let’s go through the negatives first. Yes, the print is rather small. Fortunately I was reading on kindle, but even the ability to increase the size of text does nothing to clarify the tiny maps. It wasn’t too bad a fault for me, partly because I knew most of the sites referred to, partly because it was easy enough to consult a map online. But I can understand how this would deter people. Throughout the text, I only spotted two major inaccuracies. There may be more that I simply didn’t pick up on, or because new discoveries can change the picture all the time the edition I read is the most recent available one, from 2004. The errors were that the book stated that the last monarch of the 6th Dynasty was Queen Nitiqret – this is a much later misunderstanding by classical authors writing about ancient Egypt some two thousand years removed, and we now know that the monarch’s name was actually Netjerkare Siptah I and a king, not a queen. The second error was that David Peacock in the final chapter states that the Red Sea trade port of Berenike, established by Ptolemy II, was named after his sister – it wasn’t, for he had no such sister it was named after his mother of that name.

Another criticism which pops up in reviews is the dryness of the text, but I consider that a neutral aspect of the book, heavily dependent on the experience and interest of the reader. If you have come to this book with no prior knowledge of ancient Egypt whatsoever, and no experience of academic non-fictions, you may find the book a challenge. It is quite long and, if not comprehensive, certainly thorough in taking its readers from the dawn of Egyptian history right up to its incorporation into the Roman empire, chock full of in depth analysis about state administration, religious nuance, and political shifts in agenda and execution. If you’re a newcomer, I would direct you away from this book, and to Ian Shaw’s Ancient Egypt: A Very Brief Introduction instead – shorter, much more accessible, and written specifically for the general audience.

However, I have to admit that I didn’t think the book was that dry. It was dense in material, to be sure, but it was written in a smooth, fluid style throughout that I personally found to be far more engaging and understandable than some of the other general histories of ancient Egypt I’ve been reading lately. Despite the fact that this book, like those others, is written in the format of each chapter submitted by a different author, and then edited by Ian Shaw, there’s a consistency of style here that makes me think that Shaw curated each chapter with care for tone and accessibility. This book succeeded far more than others at holding my interest and getting across its important points. In comparison to other similar books, I also felt this book got less bogged down in numbers and statistics. It didn’t hurt either that this book was more accurate and made less factual errors than either Toby Wilkinson’s The Egyptian World or Marc van de Mieroop’s A History of Ancient Egypt.

Until or unless I find a better academic overview of ancient Egypt than this one, I have to say this is my recommended go-to book.


The History of Egypt (Part 2): Prelude to the Amarna Age - History

When Akenhaten died, he left his country in a bad state. His experiment at Amarna was over. His religious extremism had left his dynasty, country and empire staring disaster in the face. And his heir was just a 9-year-old boy - Tutankhaten.

The boy was Akenhaten's son by a minor wife. He grew up in the palaces at Amarna worshipping Aten, the sun god. Even his name meant 'the living image of Aten'.

A puppet king

As a young boy he was not in control of his own throne. The military and priesthood had seen their influence decrease under Akenhaten. They seized the opportunity to use the young pharaoh as their puppet in order to return Egypt to its traditional ways and religion.

Click on the image for a gallery view
The first thing they did was change his name. Tutankhaten became Tutankhamen, meaning 'a living image of Amen'. They then wrote a decree for Tutankhamen where he publicly blamed his father for neglecting Egypt's traditional gods and plunging the country into chaos.

Back to the future

He ordered that the old gods and temples be restored, along with the power of the priests. Amen-Re would take back his place at the head of the gods and Aten was relegated back to his formerly minor status.

Amarna was abandoned and nobody was allowed to speak of the heresy that had taken place during Akenhaten's reign. It was erased from official history, as if it had never happened.

Another untimely death?

By the time Tutankhamen was 19, and able to rule by himself, everything seemed to be back to normal. But then he died - suddenly and mysteriously. Some think he was murdered in a plot to seize the throne.

One suspect is the court advisor Ay. He was the main driving force behind the restoration of the old religion and he went on to rule Egypt. During this time, he ordered a more vicious rejection of Akenhaten and his sun-worship, in which many references to the dead Pharaoh and his queen, Nefertiti, were destroyed forever.

Click on the image for a gallery view
A lucky find

Tutankhamen would have remained just a scribble in the margins of history but for a British archaeologist named Howard Carter. In 1922, Carter discovered Tutankhamen's tomb in the Valley of the Kings, untouched for 3,000 years.

The tomb held thousands of treasures and a fabulous quantity of gold - so much, in fact, that it took Carter and his team 10 years to empty the tomb completely.

After 3,000 years, nobody really knows how or why Tutankhamen died, but this death marked the end of Egypt's most powerful dynasty and the beginning of a period of great uncertainty.


Where to next:
Pharaohs - Amenhotep III
Religion in the New Kingdom


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The Kolbrin on The Pharaoh’s Folly at Amarna

The enigmatic Kolbrin contains, alongside its Celtic records, six ancient Egyptian books, the remnants of scrolls written or copied by scribes from much earlier writings, whose provenance has not yet been proven. Most people dismiss the books as forgeries. I am convinced that their core material is genuine.

If you’re looking for atmosphere, Tell el-Amarna in Middle Egypt is the place to go. Its vast, near-deserted plain ringed by a crescent of bleak cliffs is surely what Percy Bysshe Shelley had in mind for the brooding finale of his poem Ozymandias:

‘…boundless and bare/ The lone and level sands stretch far away.’ i

I went to Tell el-Amarna recently and saw, amidst razed sites and cliff tombs, the remains of a site. Photo: YW.

I went to Tell el-Amarna recently and saw, amidst other ruins and tombs, the razed remains of a site known simply as the North Palace. Looking out over the flattened area, I couldn’t help noticing its three-part layout and, as the guide indicated an area which was once an altar room, it dawned on me that this might well be the ‘residential temple’ that takes centre stage in the dramatic account of King Akhnaten found in the Kolbrin’s Book of Manuscripts. The temple description is a precise one and its meaning had always proved elusive.

My earlier article The Kolbrin’s King Akhenaten Story, published on this website 18 th May 2016, set out to show how much the Kolbrin narrative adds to what has been pieced together by mainstream historians, and how recent medical discoveries are backing up parts of the Kolbrin version. ii iii iv In both records the main events are the same: the 18 th Dynasty King Akhenaten (he is called Nabihaton in the Kolbrin) changed Egypt’s religion from the worship of Amun and his many gods to the single power of the sun Aten Akhenaten left Thebes and built a new city, Tell el-Amarna, dedicated to the Aten after his death the city was torn down and Egypt reverted to the worship of Amun.

No wonder so many books have been written about Akhenaten: his story is mystifying.

Back to that enigmatic Kolbrin description. It reads:

Within the City of the Horizon at Dawning was the Temple of the Sun’s Dawning, at which Nabihaton [a skewed version of Akhenaten] officiated as High Priest, but after his return with Hepoa he built a residential temple upriverwards, called “The Sun’s Blessing”. Some men have called it “The Temple of the Blessing of Light”. This was erected in three courts, one of which was called “Nefare’s Memory,” a place dedicated to womanly virtues. There, when she came of age, his daughter by Nefare, a maiden called Meriten, was consecrated in service.’ v

Here is the same description matched, phrase by phrase, with what is known about the North Palace site.

‘City of the Horizon at Dawning’

From inscriptions it is known that Akhenaten’s city was called ‘The City of the Horizon’, vi which virtually matches the Kolbrin’s ‘City of the Horizon at Dawning’.

‘The Temple of the Sun’s Dawning’

Amarna had two central temples. Archaeologists call them the Great Aten Temple and the Small Aten Temple. vii The Kolbrin is probably referring to the bigger temple where the king officiated. viii

‘Upriverwards’

The North Palace site is located north of the city of Amarna. The Amarna Project website describes it as standing ‘between the North Suburb and the North City, facing west towards the river and standing perpendicularly on a line a little back from the prolongation of Royal Road’. ix

Simplified map of Amarna showing North Palace (here called Northern Palace) at the top. Source.

‘A Residential Temple’

Unusually, the structure known to historians as the North Palace was built containing both residential accommodation and an altar court with an offering place. ‘Its east-west alignment and axial symmetry have drawn the comment that it resembles a temple as much as a palace,’ x writes Barry Kemp, who spent 30 years excavating the site. The words ‘residential’ and ‘temple’ make strange bedfellows, and since this residential temple was to play such a part in the downfall of its builder and his dream city, it could equally well be called a folly.

Plan of the North Palace showing residential quarters, chapel and offering-place, jamb inscribed with Meritaten’s name, central pool, workshops, kitchens and animal houses. Photo: B. Kemp.

‘Erected in Three Courts’

The three courts can clearly be seen forming three sides of a rectangle in the ground plan above. Nowhere else in Amarna is there a structure built with three courts like this.

One of Which Was Called “Nefare’s Memory”’

Current thinking has it that the North Palace site was associated not with Akhenaten’s Great Royal Wife Nefertiti, but with his mysterious wife Kiya and later, with his second daughter Meritaten, who eventually became his ‘Great Royal Wife’. xi No inscriptions have been found here or anywhere in Egypt referring to Nefertiti in the later part of his reign, and historians have no idea why her name disappeared.

But the Kolbrin tells us why. It says that in the fifteenth year of Akhenaten/Nabihaton’s reign, his Great Royal Wife Nefertiti (the Kolbrin calls her Nefare) formally moved out of Amarna (‘The queen removed herself and her household in the fifteenth year of the reign of Nabihaton…) xii Akhenaten’s reign is recorded as lasting just seventeen years (from 1353-36 or 1351-34 BC), so according to this reckoning, Nefertiti left him in the mid-1330s BC.

Why did she leave? Quite simply, says the Kolbrin, because of the way he behaved. Akhenaten/Nabihaton had

‘unnatural longings, which he lacked the strength to control and subdue… strange rumours were heard about him in the streets and marketplaces’. xiii

Most readers would take this to mean that Akhenaten went with rent boys or prostitutes, or perhaps had paedophilic tastes. He ‘inclined away from the highborn ladies of royal blood, his interests were not those of a Pharaoh…’ xiv

None of this would have been apparent to the Egyptian people: the Kolbrin says that publicly ‘the marriage appeared successful enough, though perhaps the outward display of affection was overdone.’ xv Akhenaten and his family are always pictured as the epitome of togetherness. Were the painted and carved displays of affection we see on museum and boundary walls overdone—or even used as propaganda—as the Kolbrin suggests? Barry Kemp notes that the family’s homes were widely dispersed (see map), and ‘One is left wondering to what extent the royal family did live and move as a single unit.’ xvi

‘Nefare despised the king in her heart for his secret wickedness… [she] could not dwell with Pharaoh while the life he led was an abomination against purity… The queen removed herself and her household… (she) sought refuge in Lebados [a skewed version of Abydos?—centre of the Isis and Osiris cult] where there was a secret shrine to The Great God, and resigned herself to a life of great virtue.’ xvii

The Kolbrin scribe adds,

‘It was then put about, by those who licked the feet of Pharaoh, that she was a fickle woman of wanton ways. They said she was an adulteress and called upon her beauty to bear witness against her.’ xviii

Later, the Kolbrin refers to ‘Neferuten’ [a skewed version of Neferneferuaten?— the name of the queen thought to have ruled for a short while after Akhenaten’s death]. She is described as the ‘wife of Upofa’ [I have no idea who Upofa was]. The scribe comments,

‘Neferuten was, of all women, the most virtuous yet surely no woman ever evoked such malice in the hearts of her sisters!’ xix

which suggests that ‘Nefare’ and ‘Neferuten’ might have been one and the same person.

The Kolbrin’s Book of Manuscripts has much to say about Akhenaten/Nabihaton’s other wife whose identity has always baffled historians. It does not give her name, but speaks of the pharaoh’s ‘interest in the Mistress of Songstresses at the Temple of Amon in Victory’, and says she had a son by him—a son of whose existence Akhenaten was unaware and whose early history carries an echo of the Old Testament childhood Moses story. I identify this woman with Kiya—named on inscriptions as ‘Greatly Beloved Wife of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt’. xx Her unusual name suggests she was foreign by birth. Large earrings on the unfinished head below hint that she might have been a dancer. xxi

By Richard Mortel – Unfinished head of Kiya from Amarna, 18th dynasty, ca. 1345-40 BCE Pergamon Museum, Berlin, CC BY 2.0

Musicians and dancers on fresco at Tomb of Nebamun, showing large earrings British Museum [Public domain].

When Nefertiti left, Akhenaten was left with just his daughters and his memories—hence a court in the palace named ‘Nefare’s Memory’. Locals have always called the place Kasr Nefertiti, meaning ‘The Palace of Nefertiti’, which suggests that traditionally it was linked with Nefertiti/Nefare. xxii

‘A Place Dedicated to Womanly Virtues’

Archaeology has revealed that the North Court of the Residential Palace contained housing for different kinds of animals— but ‘the numbers of animals provided for seem excessive’. xxiii Could some of the animals have been there just for ornament? On the south side, ‘the… space was filled with what look like service buildings: houses, probably a bakery, and kilns where perhaps faience jewellery was produced’. xxiv

This was surely ‘the place dedicated to womanly virtues’. It brings to mind the Hameau de la Reine – the 18th-century rustic folly built for Marie Antoinette at the Palace of Versailles which contained a vanity farmhouse producing milk and eggs for the queen, a dairy and a dovecote decorated with gardens and orchards. xxv

Facsimile painting from the ‘Green Room’ in the North Palace at Amarna. Public domain.

The North Palace site, showing the north court – Photo: YW

‘There, when she came of age, his daughter by Nefare, a maiden called Meriten, was consecrated in service.’

As the ground plan shows, the palace contained a chapel with altars for offerings. Barry Kemp writes, ‘Many inscriptions show that it belonged to Merytaten her name can still be seen inscribed on one of the Sun Chapel’s door jambs, carved over an earlier name’ xxvi (see photo below).

Inscription with Meritaten’s name found on door jamb in the Sun Chapel. Photo: Courtesy of the Egypt Exploration Society.

Another temple south of Amarna, a garden temple called Maru-Aten, is associated with Meritaten through its inscriptions, but it does not have the three-court structure which makes the North Palace so distinctive.

It is not known when girls came of age in Ancient Egypt – perhaps at puberty.

It is clear from the above matches that the Kolbrin is describing what historians call the North Palace. So from the Kolbrin we now know its original name: ‘The Sun’s Blessing’ or ‘The Temple of the Blessing of Light’. xxvii

Why was Aknenaten Wiped Out of Egypt’s History?

Anyone seeing the great spreading plain of Amarna razed to the ground and his name obliterated cannot help but think, as I did, ‘How people must have hated Akhenaten!’ But why? The Kolbrin gives several answers:

Firstly, the rich, powerful priests of Amun loathed their Pharaoh because financially, he bled them dry to build his dream. The Kolbrin speaks of ‘hostility by the priests of Amun’ who ‘were impoverished to pay for the new city’. xxviii

Secondly, Akhenaten/Nabihaton behaved in what was regarded as an extremely un-kingly fashion. To give just one example: the Book of Manuscripts says,

‘The highborn ones about him… were perturbed at his interest in the Mistress of Songstresses at the Temple of Amon in Victory. The faithful were perturbed also, for within this temple was one of their secret shrines… [they] were antagonised.’ xxix

This leads to the third black mark against Akhenaten. ‘It was the wife of Pharaoh [which wife? Perhaps it was Nefertititi, since she followed the old religion of Atun, part of which was hidden from public religious practice]

who influenced him to disclose some of the mysteries which… had been completely… and very carefully hidden. Thus, though the forces of evil had prevailed in the land they had not uncovered the Inner Shrine of the Sacred Mysteries… The great secret of how to penetrate the barrier between the two spheres of mortal and spirit was still completely secured. If nothing else its very dangers would have safeguarded it.

My previous article ‘The Kolbrin On Immortality: How Egypt Regained the Secret of the Ages’ deals with this mysterious hidden knowledge.

Fourth, despite introducing a new religion, Akhenaten himself appeared ungodly, in a land where pharaohs were worshipped as gods. The Book of Manuscripts reproduces a lengthy prayer written by the Pharaoh in which he says,

I who am mortally blind and mortally frail, I sought for help, but it came not. I wept, but there was none to comfort me… I who am great, have less than the least.’

Never before, says the Kolbrin, had such a prayer been offered in public by a Pharaoh, ‘and the people murmured that divinity had departed from the king’. xxx

Fifth, there was the matter of incest with his daughter Meritaten/Meriten. The Kolbrin states that

‘after the consecration of Meriten [which took place in the North Palace/The Temple of the Blessing of Light]… the eyes of Nabihaton/Akhenaten wandered towards her lustfully’,

‘did take his daughter in awful wickedness, his evil thoughts displaying themselves uncontrollably… Throughout the new city he caused the name of Nefare [Nefertiti] to be struck out and the name of Meriten was put in its place.’ xxxi

Head of Meritaten, The Louvre. CC BY-SA 4.0

Since Meritaten/Meriten is thought to have been born c.1356 BC, her mother Nefertiti/Nefare would probably have been aware of the incestuous relationship for some time before she left Akhenaten/Nabitaton.

Nicholas Reeves writes at some length about Akhenaten’s ‘unhealthy sexual interest in his children’ and of possible offspring by his daughters Meritaten, Meketaten and Ankhesenpaaten. xxxii

The Kolbrin describes this incestuous union as ‘awful wickedness’ xxxiii and ‘the union of evil’ xxxiv ‘Although it had been accepted that the kindred of the Pharaoh could inter-marry, any union between parent and child was absolutely forbidden. This law from days long past was still binding.’ xxxv

It emerges from the Kolbrin that Akhenaten/Nabihaton’s incestuous union with his daughter Meriten/Meritaten produced two offspring.

The son of Nabihaton, one conceived in wickedness, was slain in battle [I identify this son with Smenkhkare], therefore the younger son [I identify this son with Tutankhamun], one also born of the union of evil, became king in Egypt in his day.’ xxxvi

It is possible that ‘conceived in wickedness’ and ‘born of the union of evil’ could refer to Akhenaten’s male offspring by daughters other than Meritaten, but the context implies that Meritaten was their mother. According to the Kolbrin, Nefertiti,

being more frail than Egyptian women, could bear only daughters. There is another reason for this, but it cannot be gone into here with propriety. It is something between women.’ xxxvii

While yet young’ says the Kolbrin, ‘he [Tutankhamun]

became a follower of the new rites of mystery which his father had set up… As far as the faithful [followers of Amun] were concerned, the setting up of a new form of worship made little difference to their position in the land, but they did attempt to draw the young prince wholly within their fold… xxxviii

Archaeology confirms this with the finding that Tutankhamun started life with the name Tutankh-aten before changing it to Tutankh-amun. The Kolbrin goes on:

The next Pharaoh [Tutankhamun] married his sister xxxix [his half-sister Ankhsenamun, the third of Akhenaten’s and Nefertiti’s daughters], [he was] conceived in wickedness, and therefore died while yet young…’ xl

And Tutankhamun is referred to one last time as ‘Pharaoh’s short-lived successor’.’ xli

Sixth and last in this lengthy list of hates: the king was physically weak. His people, who were aware that their pharaoh, ‘the Great One of Egypt, was ill-formed in body’, xlii were disturbed by Akhenaten/Nabihaton’s extreme attacks of epilepsy which started when he was a boy and continued throughout his life. The Kolbrin takes pains to describe these—his blackened tongue and his howling ‘as dogs howl so that all men departed from him in fear’ xliii (for further details, see my earlier article). The Kolbrin states,

‘Though the law which decreed that any one of royal blood suffering a demon-induced deformity or becoming possessed by a Dark One should be given the draught of death, [this] was no longer enforced. This proves how evil ensues when old and trusted laws established by the wise ones of old are cast aside.’ xliv

The 2014 BBC documentary ‘Tutankhamun: the truth uncovered’ (see my end-note (ii) for a link to the programme) suggests that Amenhotep III’s and his descendants’ earlier and earlier deaths, their visions and feminized bodies all resulted from Familial Temporal Epilepsy. This tallies with the Kolbrin account of Akhenaten’s condition.

Had Akhenaten been dealt with according to Ancient Egyptian tradition and given euthanasia as a child, Egypt would never have suffered the catastrophic Amarna years. As it was, says the Kolbrin, ‘Nabihaton, Pharaoh of Egypt, was a strange mixture of goodness and wickedness, both carried to their extreme’ xlv and the country suffered as a result. After Akhenaten/Nabihaton’s death (details of which were uncertain even at the time, says the Kolbrin),

‘the signal was given and the people arose in the streets. The new worship… died away as the growth dies back on an onion. But like an onion, the bulb remained. The new worship… would have survived had not its founder led an impure life… To establish a pure form of worship and beliefs its founder must also be pure of hands and heart.’ xlvi

A Secret History

This, then, says the Book of Manuscripts, is the secret locked into the North Palace site at Amarna. The residential temple was where, while Akhenaten and Nefertiti were to all appearances a devoted couple, Akhenaten first cast lustful eyes on his daughter Meritaten at her consecration to the god Aten in the Sun Chapel. This led to an overpowering incestuous relationship with his daughter which, after Nefertiti left him, the King made no attempt to hide, and it must have continued for some time since it resulted in the birth of two sons, Smenkhkare and Tutankhamun, who were so badly affected by hereditary medical conditions that they died young. Finally, events led to Akhenaten’s own death, disgrace and the obliteration of his precious city.

The North Palace site showing, in the middle distance, all that remains of the garden pool – Photo: YW

What a story lies in those silent stones! And to think that the Kolbrin—a mysterious set of books with no provenance—provides the key to unlock the Akhenaten story, stretching back over more than 3,300 years.


Watch the video: Egypts Amarna Period (January 2022).