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"Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamen" by Rita E. Freed and Yvonne J. Markowitz.

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DESCRIPTION: Oversized softcover. Publisher: Museum of Fine Arts Boston (1999). Pages: 316. Size: 11 x 10 x ¾ inches; 3 pounds. Summary: Hundreds of beautiful artworks from the time of Akhenaten, Nefertiti and Tutankhamen illustrate the splendor of Egypt in this examination of Egyptian art and culture at the time of the city of Amarna. During the 14th century BC, Armana was founded by Akhenaten to promote his new religion and for 12 years was the capital of the world's greatest empire. However, after Akhenaten's death, Tutankhamen abandoned the city, demolishing all traces of his predecessor. In this catalogue of the millennium exhibition of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the world of Ancient Egypt comes to life through more than 250 illustrations. Essays by leading Egyptologists describe the Amarna Period, a time of unprecedented changes in art and architecture, technology, in women's roles in religion and government - and the dramatic change with polytheism in favor of monotheism. The images include sculpture, architectural elements, ceramics, jewelry, clothing, tools and furniture from collections worldwide.

CONDITION: NEW. HUGE new oversized softcover. Museum of Fine Arts Boston (1999) 316 pages. Unblemished except for VERY faint (almost imperceptible) edge and corner shelf wear to the covers. Pages are pristine; clean, crisp, unmarked, unmutilated, tightly bound, unambiguously unread. Shelfwear is in the form of very faint "crinkles" to the cover spine head, spine heel, and the four cover "tips" (the four open cover corners, top and bottom, front and back). The "crinkling" is very, very faint. It's really not easily discerned unless you hold the book up to a light source and scrutinize it intently (yeah, we're nitpicking). If you hold the book up to a light source you can also discern some very faint rubbing/scuffing to the back cover. The covers are photo-finish, high-gloss black and so shows rub marks very easily merely from being shelved between other books. Condition is entirely consistent with new stock from a bookstore environment wherein new books might show minor signs of shelfwear, consequence of simply of routine handling, and the ordeal of being shelved and re-shelved. Satisfaction unconditionally guaranteed. In stock, ready to ship. No disappointments, no excuses. PROMPT SHIPPING! HEAVILY PADDED, DAMAGE-FREE PACKAGING! Meticulous and accurate descriptions! Selling rare and out-of-print ancient history books on-line since 1997. We accept returns for any reason within 30 days! #8769.1b.




REVIEW: Few figures in history evoke the curiosity or command the attention that Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Tutankhamen do. Pharaoh Akhenaten founded the city of Amarna 3,500 years ago. In this millennial exhibition of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the fascinating Amarna Period of ancient Egypt comes to life through more than 250 beautiful works of sculpture, architectural elements, ceramic ware, jewelry, clothing, tools, and furniture from renowned international collections. Essays by leading Egyptian scholars describe this time of unprecedented change in Egyptian art and architecture, technology, the role of women, and religion, specifically the transition from polytheism to monotheism. Pharaohs of the Sun is a rare opportunity to explore and understand the beauty of Amarna culture, a time that captures the imagination as no other period of Egyptian antiquity has.

REVIEW: The fascinating Amarna Period of ancient Egypt comes to life through more than 250 beautiful works of sculpture, architectural elements, ceramic ware, jewelry, clothing, tools, and furniture from renowned international collections. Essays by leading Egyptian scholars describe this time of unprecedented change in art and architecture, technology, the role of women, and religion.

REVIEW: Yvonne J. Markowitz was a research fellow in the Egyptian section, Art of the Ancient World, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for many years. In 2006 she was appointed the Rita J. Kaplan and Susan B. Kaplan Curator of Jewelry. The first curatorship of its kind in America, Ms. Markowitz oversaw the museum's exceptional collection of jewelry. She retired as curator emerita in 2015. She is also an Adornment editor.

She has published extensively in the areas of ancient and contemporary jewelry, she is the author of Artful Adornments: Jewelry from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; is co-author of Imperishable Beauty: Art Nouveau Jewelry; co-editor of American Luxury: Jewelry from the House of Tiffany, and a contributor to Jewelry by Artists, In the Studio: 1940-2000. She is also the author of Oscar Heyan: The Jeweler’s Jeweler, Jewel of Ancient Nubia, and The Jewels of Trabert & Hoeffer-Mauboussin.

The exhibition she curated at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Gold and Gods: Jewelry of Ancient Nubia, ran through early 2017. Together Ms. Karlin and Ms. Markowitz have authored a number of articles on jewelry history and are currently collaborating on a book about jewelry of the American First Ladies. Ms. Karlin and Ms. Markowitz are co-directors of The Annual Conference on Jewelry & Related Arts.

REVIEW: Rita E. Freed is the John F. Cogan and Mary L. Cornille Chair, Art of the Ancient World at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where she oversees important collections of Egyptian, Nubian, Ancient Near Eastern, Greek and Roman art. She is also Adjunct Professor of Art at Wellesley College. Prior to her work in Boston, Freed was Founding Director of the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology and Associate Professor of Art at the University of Memphis. She graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Wellesley College and received her Certificate in Museology, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Philosophy from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.

A historian of Egyptian art, Freed is best know for her organization of several international traveling exhibitions, including Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamen an examination of Egypt’s Amarna Period, Ramesses the Great: The Pharaoh and His Time featuring the many works of Egypt’s greatest builder and A Divine Tour of Ancient Egypt which examined Egyptian religion in a geographical setting. Most recently she has served as chief curator of The Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC, an exhibition showcasing the material from the tomb of the Governor Djehutynakht, the largest known burial assemblage of the Middle Kingdom.

Freed has participated on archaeological excavations in Egypt (Bersha, Saqqara, Giza, Mendes, and Karnak), Israel (Tel Qasile) and Cyprus (Idalion), and has authored many books and articles.


The Setting: History, Religion, and Art by W. Raymond Johnson.

The Beginning of the Heresy by Donald B. Redford.

The City of Amarna by Peter Lacovara.

The Sacred Landscape by Michael Mallinson.

The Royal Family by Nicholas Reeves.

The New Religion by John L. Foster.

Art in the Service of Religion and the State by Rita E. Freed.

Crafts and Industries at Amarna by Yvonne J. Markowitz and Peter Lacovara.

Administering Akhenaten's Egypt by Peter Der Manuelian.

The Spoken and Written Word by David P. Silverman.

Foreign Relations by Timothy Kendall.

Preparing for Eternity by Sue H. D'Auria.

The Return to Orthodoxy by William J. Murnane.

Akhenaten's Artistic Legacy by Rita E. Freed.


REVIEW: Hundreds of beautiful artworks from the time of Akhenaten Nefertiti and Tutankhamen illustrate the splendor of Egypt in this examination of Egyptian art and culture at the time of the city of Amarna. During the 14th century BC. Amarna was founded by Akhenaten to promote his new religion and for 12 years was the capital of the world s greatest empire. However after Akhenaten's death. Tutankhamen abandoned the city, demolishing all traces of his predecessor. In this catalogue of the millennium exhibition of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the world of Ancient Egypt comes to life through more than 250 illustrations. Essays by leading Egyptologists describe the Amarna Period, a time of unprecedented changes in art and architecture, technology, in women's roles, in religion and government.

REVIEW: "Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Tutankhamen", which opens at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on November 14, explores the art of this prolific 17-year period with more than 250 works--statues, jewelry, clothing, tools, and furniture, and pieces of sculpture, including two colossal statues of Akhenaten from the Cairo Museum that have never before left Egypt. Don't miss the fabulous catalogue!

REVIEW: Amarna continues to fascinate. For the current exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (due to move on elsewhere in the USA and to Leiden), FREED et al. have assembled 14 most scholarly and most approachable papers on the history and historical context of the city, its government and rulers, foreign relations, religion, arts, crafts and texts. They are illustrated with pictures of finds, views of the site, maps and reconstructions of the landscape and particular buildings. A long appendix provides notes and illustrations on the exhibits.

REVIEW: The fascinating Amarna Period of ancient Egypt comes to life through more than 250 beautiful works of sculpture, architectural elements, ceramic ware, jewelry, clothing, tools, and furniture from renowned international collections. Essays by leading Egyptian scholars describe this time of unprecedented change in art and architecture, technology, the role of women, and religion.

REVIEW: 'There is but one God.' Almost a millennium and a half before Moses, an Egyptian Pharaoh made that declaration. The exhibition catalogue notes, Amenhotep IV came to the conviction that: "all other gods 'had ceased,' and that the sun-disk, his father, was now the sole god." [Donald B. Redford, in the catalogue.] This pharaoh's father, Amenhotep III, had perfected his own devotion to Aten, or sun-disk of Ra-Horakhty; and when the son, Amenhotep IV ascended the throne (1553-1336 B.C.) he changed his own name to Akhenaten: "One Who is Effective For Aten"; officially declared a new religious life; and built a metropolis at Amarna to foster and administer it. When he died, a kingship and a society declared him accursed and did everything to efface him from human history. Perhaps Akhenaten was ahead of history. He did leave behind a legacy of artistic and social change, and a vision that lingered.

This is the central focus of "Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti,Tutankhamen," now at Art Institute of Chicago. The museum visitor will have until September 24, 2000, to examine the artifacts of that history and to enjoy the art of the period just before, during, and shortly after Akhenaten's Amarna. The actual realities of Akhenaten's monotheism are not so simple, as the catalogue rightly points out. W. Raymond Johnson, Director of the Epigraphic Survey at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, and a contributor to the exhibition catalogue, wrote: "Akhenaten's religion was not monotheism, but something far more complex, embracing not only Aten, but also the deified Amenhotep III, and the gods Ptah and Ptah-Sokar-Osiris."

And another catalogue contributor, Donald B. Redford, Professor of Classics at Pennsylvania State University, adds that, as a result of Akhenaten's 'heresy': "his father was now the sole god." Furthermore, Rita E. Freed, a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which organized this exhibition, referenced Sigmund Freud's Moses and Monotheism (1939) to recall that psychoanalyst's speculations about Akhenaten as an inspiration for Judaic tradition. There are gaps, speculations, even inspirations in Akhenaten's history. What speaks immediately and clearly to the visitor is the art on display: Akhenaten's rule both developed latent tendencies in the society and its art, and left a persistent legacy.

Rita E. Freed's essay, "Art in the Service of Religion and the State," details the numerous alterations and trends which characterized the new art, just as John L. Foster's essay, "The New Religion," enumerates why it became so -- its iconology. (Needless to note, the exhibition catalogue is thorough, scholarly and excellent.) What we see on exhibition is ultimately what we truly know and can confirm. Thirty-six of the world's finest collections have contributed to insure that "PHARAOHS OF THE SUN: Akhenaten/ Nefertiti/Tutankhamen" is unsurpassable in quality and scope. It has been twenty years since any such Egyptian showing in Chicago, and the art in this exhibit is undeniably first-rate.

In "Pharaohs of the Sun," the art is important and inspiring What very clearly, and stunningly, emerges from this comprehensive display is that Akhenaten's will did indeed alter Egyptian art, or at least released a new approach toward depiction and function in Egyptian arts and the artisan crafts. Egypt prior to Akhenaten was the culmination of evolved stylization and iconology -- a conservative world-view, and secure. Rita Freed cites Egyptologist Cyril Aldred's revelation that Akhenaten's earlier sculptor, Bak, declared "Akhenaten himself gave instructions for the new modes of representation at the beginning of his reign," and adds: "then it is not out of the question that in later years also, the king personally directed his sculptors both to explore realism further and to soften the extreme lines of the earlier works."

It is evident in this show -- which spans colossal statuary to small personal effects and decorative arts -- that the Pharaohs of the Sun brought forth a release of art toward naturalism, a new interest in concrete depiction and actualistic concern for immediate physicality. For whatever theological justifications, one sees, for a first and fleeting time, old age and sagging bellies, individual faces: personal and intimate portraits in stone and painting. There is also an increased awareness of the lowly and the middling.

"Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten/Nefertiti/Tutankhamen" divides into three major focuses: before, during and after Akhenaten. The art, as well as its attending scholarly apparatus, raises questions as to how deep among the common people Akhenaten's novelty penetrated, and whether the pharaoh, and much of the people, felt an antipathy toward the power of the predominant Amen priesthood. Certainly there were desecrations of Amen cult centers and artifacts, and later, of Akhenaten's 'Atenism.' But Akhenaten's advocacy of Aten and of a new, attendant artistic sensibility lingered far beyond any apologetics or politics. Art had that power over human hearts even then.

There are very human, very poignant tragedies in this exhibition's tales. After the death of the monotheist 'heretic,' Akhenaten, his queen, Nefertiti struggled with a short rule as Smenkhkara, and in desperation seems to have covertly sought a co-regency in Egypt with a Hittite king. The aging Nefertiti died shortly after the murder en route of her Hittite prince. The exhibit offers moving, 'Akhenatenistic' portrayals of an aged Nefertiti. The Amen cult, and all the old gods were shortly restored by Tutankhamen, born as Tutankhaten. And there were more ramifications...

Nicholas Reeves, in the exhibition catalogue, observes: "The anti-foreigner backlash that doubtless followed [Akhenaten's reign] may well represent one of the strands making up the biblical tradition of Exodus." It is speculation that the tolerant rule of Akhenaten's monotheism may have impressed the ancient Hebrews, particularly in light of the recoil against foreigners under the restoration of the old gods and their cults. Certainly Moses, an Egyptian, did become the leader of a subsequent Hebrew emigration from Egypt. But Akhenaten's reign did leave a powerful legacy. It may have emerged merely because the ancient societal conventions were for a time relaxed, or as a striving for new evolutions, but it struck a deep, if eventually waning resonance among the empire's significant artists.

"Pharaohs of the Sun" is a singular exhibition, the likes of which will not come again. I would advise the earnest lover of art or of Egypt, to buy the catalogue. It is well worth it, and remains a valuable resource. Read it closely and well in advance, decide what aspects and objects are of most interest, and linger there. Catalogues for this exhibition are available from the Art Institute of Chicago's bookstore. The catalogue is a beautifully illustrated, well-documented work: 316 pages of scholarship and excellent photography, with supplemental drawings and maps. The paperback edition costs $29.95; the hardcover is $60.00.

REVIEW: Boston lies on the Charles River, but it may seem like the Nile to those who visit the show ''Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamen'' at the Museum of Fine Arts. This exhibition focuses on the brief Amarna Age (1353 to 1336 B.C.), when the Pharaoh Akhenaten radically changed religion and art. He moved the throne to the new city of Amarna, introduced monotheism with the worship of Aten, the sun god, and turned away from the idealized imagery of the previous 1,500 years for a more realistic art.

The exhibition opens with a monumental traditional piece, a sculpture of King Thutmose III, Akhenaten's great-great-great-grandfather, and images of Akhenaten's father, Ahmenotop III. But then images of Akhenaten show a new artistic style, depicting him with elongated head and facial features, skinny torso, broad hips and overhanging belly. Two illustrations of this style are colossal statues of Amenhotep IV that have never before left Egypt, one of them seven feet high and weighing 3,000 pounds. These recently restored objects are being lent by the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

The pharaoh's wife, the mysteriously powerful Nefertiti, was the only queen depicted in the archetypical images of kingship, as in a work where she can be seen smiting enemies from the royal barge. The show also includes a life-size quartzite head of the a youthful Nefertiti from the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. The show goes on to look at Tutankhamen, who may have been Akhenaten's son and who became ruler at age 10, then soon abandoned Amarna for Thebes and reinstated the worship of Amen. [New York Times].

REVIEW: Yes, shows of ancient Egyptian art are proven crowd-pleasers. But 'Pharaohs of the Sun' offers plenty of reasons to set aside the cynicism and be swept along by fascination. If they could, every art museum in America would have on view--all day, every day--a "special" exhibition devoted to one of four topics: Impressionism, Van Gogh, Picasso or the art of ancient Egypt. There's no mystery as to why. Shows of this work are the art museum's version of celebrity programming. Profitable, sure-fire events, they're guaranteed to draw crowds. Their appeal goes way beyond the art public, which tends to be small, and attracts the attention of a general audience.

Since September 1998 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has pursued celebrity programming as aggressively as any museum in the nation. Shows of Impressionism, Picasso and Van Gogh have been offered so far. Sunday, the fourth in the standard celebrity quartet opened. The best has been saved for last. "Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamen" brings together several hundred objects, ranging from exceptional monumental sculptures to a mundane hand-forged needle, made more than 13 centuries before the birth of Jesus. While the two most, well, "celebrated" Egyptian objects from the period are not to be found in the galleries, the show does offer a solid introduction to one of the most fascinating episodes in the history of art.

Missing from "Pharaohs of the Sun" is the trademark bust of Queen Nefertiti, shown wearing her cylindrical blue crown. It's a prized possession of Berlin's Egyptian Museum, while plaster knockoffs are a favorite of cheesier suburban gift shops. In an otherwise lovely lineup of four smaller busts of the important queen, who is depicted at different times of her life, the elegantly painted sculpture is certainly missed. Other significant loans have, in fact, come from the great Egyptian collection in Berlin, however, as well as from important museum collections in Cairo, Luxor, Boston and elsewhere.

The other missing celebrity item is the famous gold and inlaid burial mask of Tutankhamen. King Tut kicked off the modern phenomenon of the blockbuster museum exhibition more than two decades ago, when his reign was the subject of a pandemonium-inducing traveling show. (It came to LACMA.) The current show concludes with a modest selection of 22 sculptures and reliefs from Tut's era. Tut's reign functions as a minor epilogue to the main story that unfolds in "Pharaohs of the Sun." The boy king restored to prominence the multitude of deities banished during the strange, remarkable rule of his likely parents, Akhenaten and Nefertiti. They had ushered in a relatively brief but extraordinary period, when one god--the sun god--ruled over all. It's that period, the Amarna period, that forms the centerpiece of the show.

What an amazing, arrogant, brilliant, ambitious and delusional man Akhenaten must have been. Think about it: For more than a thousand years dynastic Egypt had elaborated its religious rituals and array of gods, raising monumental temples and statues to their sustained glory. The consolidation of dynastic power was partly written in the remarkable degree of artistic continuity that ranges over art and architecture produced during scores of prior Pharaonic reigns. Akhenaten had a different idea. He wiped nearly all of it away. Perhaps the urge was fueled by his father. Amenhotep III had a long, prosperous reign. His court style did retain the blocky, serene, remote look that signified eternal and unchanging bliss for Egypt; but the show also includes some carved portraits that depict him as a rather fat and sassy guy. This growing naturalism was matched, oddly enough, by Amenhotep's decision late in life to declare himself a living god.

That made his son and successor, Amenhotep IV, a son of god. Surely that does something to the ego. When his turn came, young Amenhotep IV decided there was only one true god--Aten, or "the light of the sun"--which he would duly worship. As son of the sun, he gave his subjects the honor of worshiping him. Accordingly, he changed his name to Akhenaten. Together with his principal wife, the legendary beauty Nefertiti, he began a wholesale reformation of Egyptian style. The overhaul was essential, in order to reflect a cataclysmic cultural change. He radically differentiated his era from the past.

Forget about merely tampering with a thousand years' worth of existing temples, palaces, statues, monumental reliefs and such. He began with new temples at Karnak, where a colossal sandstone head of the pharaoh is elegant, ethereal, hyper-refined. (It's among the more mesmerizing objects in the show.) Practice over, Akhenaten started from scratch. He moved the capital to an empty plain on the banks of the Nile, midway between Thebes and Memphis, at what is now called Amarna. (A huge scale-model of the city is at the center of the show.) The site afforded him a clean slate--literally an empty field, on which to raise a new city with a new style in which to worship a new god.

The LACMA exhibition, organized by Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, begins with a small section on the reign of Amenhotep III, in order to establish two things: the prevailing norm of high formality in Egyptian art, as well as the more naturalistic innovations that began to occur. Among the standouts is a conehead-like bust of Osiris, god of the netherworld, bearing the features of Amenhotep. Next come sections introducing Akhenaten, Nefertiti and Karnak, and then developments at Amarna. There, naturalization meets up with an elegant refinement that can at times look attenuated--even bizarre. A famous stela (or carved slab) from Berlin shows a tender family scene, in which a potbellied pharaoh bestows a fatherly kiss on one daughter, while another is dandled on mommy's knee and the third cuddles up against her shoulder. All this beneath the benevolent, warming rays of aten, the sun/god/father.

The Amarna period of Egyptian art has largely been unearthed in the past century. Part of the modern fascination is for its loose but unmistakable similarity to the Christian story. The heretical embrace of a single god, and faith in the son of god on Earth, feel familiar. So does the suppression of those beliefs not long after the death of Akhenaten. He ruled for just 17 years, from 1353 to 1336 BC. (Nefertiti is thought to have ruled for a time afterward.) Then came Tutankhamen. He had been born Tutankhaten. Replacing aten with amen in his name speaks eloquently of a reactionary commitment to the restoration of his dynastic forebears. An impressive, seated double-portrait sculpture of Maya, the influential treasury official who planned Tut's elaborate burial, and his imposing wife, Meryt, invokes the older monumental style.

Of course, Tut was only 10 when he assumed the throne. He probably had some help. [Los Angeles Times].

REVIEW: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art – LACMA – presents Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamen, one of the most important international presentations of Egyptian art and culture in recent decades. On view from March 19 through June 4, 2000, the exhibition covers the revolutionary epoch known as the Amarna Age (1353 to 1336 B.C.) when the Pharaoh Akhenaten assumed the throne of Egypt at its peak of imperial glory. Organized by The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Pharaohs of the Sun brings to life the Amarna Age through more than 250 pieces of sculpture, relief, ceramics, jewelry, and objects from daily life. The exhibition is organized chronologically and consists of works from 35 museums and private collections from around the world—including two magnificent, colossal statues from the Cairo Museum which have never left Egypt before. The exhibition also includes a three-dimensional model of the city of Amarna, providing visitors with a unique perspective of the organization of the city and its key monuments. Pharaohs of the Sun is the largest re-assembly of objects from this prolific 17-year period in Egyptian history since the city of Amarna was abandoned 3,500 years ago.

Until the reign of Akhenaten, Egypt garnered strength from an adherence to age-old principles of religion and rulership. Considered by some a genius and others a heretic, Akhenaten brought radical change in religion and art. He did away with the polytheistic worship of multiple gods and introduced the worship of a single god, Aten, “the light of the sun,” which was represented as the sun’s disk. Abandoning Egypt’s traditional capitals of Memphis and Thebes, Akhenaten established the new city of Akhetaten (Horizon of Aten) known today as Amarna. This site had never been occupied before and belonged to no god, making it easier for the king to promote his new religion. Akhenaten opened the way for monotheism. He also did away with the idealized images that had characterized Egyptian art for the previous 1,500 years and replaced them with works that captured a more tender and less formalistic image of the human body.

To introduce the radical change in artistic form, the exhibition Pharaohs of the Sun opens with a monumental Sculpture of King Thutmose III, which represents the traditional portrayal of kingship, showing a trim, youthful king. Egypt’s empire was consolidated under Thutmose III’s son, Amenhotep II, and grandson, Thutmose IV. During this time, trade and prosperity increased, giving rulers the freedom to exercise their influence in such areas as religion and art. The next ruler, Amenhotep III (Akhenaten’s father) reigned for more than 30 years and can be seen as the catalyst for the monumental changes to come.

Amenhotep III brazenly proclaimed himself a god in his own lifetime. The manner in which he depicted himself went against tradition, as the idealized royal figure took on a rounded abdomen and other dramatic features. These new attributes can be seen in Amenhotep III offering, a kneeling image of King Amenhotep III with a round face and ample torso, and Head of Amenhotep III wearing a solar diadem with its massive wig and elegant, elongated eyes.

During the last years of Amenhotep III’s life, he may have ruled with his son, Amenhotep IV (later to be known as Akhenaten), who was married to Nefertiti. At this time, Amen was the most important god in the land and his priesthood the most powerful. In a move that would foreshadow the events to come, Amenhotep IV built at least four giant temples in the Karnak precinct of Thebes dedicated to Aten. There, in both sculpture in the round and in relief representations, Amenhotep IV broke with tradition even further than his father in the portrayal of the pharaoh’s body. In a radical departure from the millennium-old tradition of proportion that governed previous artists’ renderings of the human figure, this king had himself depicted with an elongated head and facial features, skinny upper torso, voluptuous hips and an overhanging belly.

The king and his family moved to Amarna around the sixth or seventh year of his rule (1347 - 46 B.C.). At this point, he underscored his break with the Amen priesthood by changing his name to Akhenaten, “one who is effective for Aten.” Later he even authorized the destruction of the name and all images of Amen, wherever and whenever they appeared. Akhenaten and his Queen Nefertiti were of course Amarna’s most important inhabitants. Sculpture and stela under Akhenaten provided many intimate glimpses of the royal family with their children—a type of representation unheard of under previous pharaohs. A pristine example of this type of family intimacy is depicted in Stela of the royal family, a delightful image of Akhenaten and Nefertiti playing with three of their daughters under the protective rays of Aten.

The city was a spectacularly colorful place, with walls, floors and ceilings painted or inlaid with colorful mosaic tiles. Portions of this brilliant array are seen in Bullock in a thicket, a fragment of a faience tile in greens and reds representing a calf among flora, as well as Floor painting with marsh plants. Several objects from everyday life are also represented, including an early toilet seat, musical instruments, jewelry, oil lamps, mirrors and a 3,500 year-old fragment of clothing. Because nothing existed in the area of Amarna before Akhenaten, temples, palaces, administrative buildings, barracks, granaries, food-preparation areas, roads, houses, estates, formal gardens and tombs were all constructed at an incredible pace. This remarkable city, whose population scholars estimate was between 20,000 and 50,000 people, is represented in the exhibition through a 20-foot, three-dimensional model, aerial photographs of the excavation site, and views of current excavations.

Amarna remains a pristine example of a planned city from the middle of the second millennium B.C. Excavations began in the 19th century, and continue today. All present understanding of this historically pivotal time period derives from excavations and from representations of the city’s institutions carved in relief on tomb or temple walls. The succession of rulers following Akhenaten’s death is unclear, and several theories exist. One postulates that Smenkhkara, possibly the son of Akhenaten and his second wife Kiya, claimed the throne because he was married to Akhenaten and Nefertiti’s daughter. Another suggests that Nefertiti and Smenkhkara were one and the same. It also has been suggested that Nefertiti ruled as pharaoh with Akhenaten until his death, and possibly after. Proof of her power is evident in art; she was depicted in the archetypal images of kingship—the king smiting an enemy—in Relief of royal barge with Nefertiti smiting. Nefertiti is the only queen who was ever depicted in such a to be known as Tutankhamen—became Egypt’s next pharaoh in 1332 B.C. He may have been Akhenaten’s son by Kiya, although that also remains speculative. Not yet 10 years old when he assumed the throne, he was already married to Akhenaten’s third daughter, Ankhesenpaaten. At this point the city of Amarna and the young Aten religion were very vulnerable, and no match for what remained of the long-standing traditions of Amen’s empire. Within a short time, and obviously pressured by others given his young age, Tutankhaten led the people of Amarna back to Thebes, changed his name to Tutankhamen and reinstated the god Amen, restoring the power of this priesthood. Although the power of Aten and Akhenaten had waned, the artistic influences of the Amarna Age were still strong. This can be seen in Tutankhamen wearing a blue crown, with its large eyes and full, curving lips, as well as a spectacular, life-size sculpture of General Horemheb as a scribe, depicted in the naturalistic, Amarna style.

REVIEW: The ancient Egyptians aren't really known as a radical bunch. They had a good thing going, and they stuck with it. Consistency. That's what built the pyramids, and that's what kept the Egyptian empire intact for the better part of 3,000 years. Amarna, then, is a little episode that one suspects the Egyptians happily would have swept under the rug. They did, in fact, until 100 years ago. That's when Egyptologists began piecing together the upheaval that led to the founding of the city of Amarna. The 250 artworks and artifacts included in "Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamen" shed some light on what scholars know. The exhibition opens Sunday at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, after drawing more than 200,000 visitors in Boston.

At the heart of the Amarna experiment is the pharaoh Akhenaten, who is still the subject of much debate (see story at right). But one thing is for certain: For the 17 years he was in charge, things were really different in Egypt. Back around 1400 BC, Egypt was at the height of its imperial power. The religion was polytheistic; armchair Egyptologists may recall Osiris, Ra and Ptah, though local or household gods were worshiped as well. The god Amen had been elevated to a national deity and had a particularly powerful priesthood. Change was brewing by about 1360 BC, when a pharaoh named Amenhotep III declared himself a god while he was still alive, even though pharaohs typically weren't deified until their death. Then, Amenhotep IV, around 1353 BC, decided everyone should worship Aten, a god represented as the sun's disk and the god most closely associated with the pharaohs.

Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaten, meaning "one who is effective for Aten." He outlawed Amen and banished Amen's high priest to the quarries. Then he moved 175 miles north and built a brand-new city on the Nile dedicated to Aten. Originally called Akhetaten ("Horizon of Aten"), it is now referred to as Amarna, the name of a nearby village. "We don't have every bit of writing, so we have to piece the history together," said Egyptologist Nancy Thomas, LACMA's deputy director of curatorial affairs. "But indications are that Akhenaten chose to worship the Aten, and to achieve that he had to relocate everything. All the temples in Thebes were dedicated to other gods . . . so he needed to build new temples and start over." In a very short time, Amarna housed an estimated 20,000 people or more. "It's like GM moving to a new site," Thomas said. "Everyone sort of had to follow the royal court."

Earlier museum shows have explored facets of Amarna. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, for instance, curated "The Royal Women of Amarna" in 1997. Others have focused on Tutankhamen or Akhenaten specifically. "Pharaohs of the Sun," curated by Rita Freed of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, takes the largest possible view. "It's very rare that you have an exhibition that tries to tell the whole story," said Yvonne Markowitz, a researcher at the Boston museum who worked on the exhibition. "We have these two big aspects: the personalities--which don't always stand out so uniquely in Egyptian history--and the city. "We know a lot about the city because it was abandoned, and it wasn't a continued area of settlement. Usually people build on top and top and top," Markowitz said. "Excavators were able to go back to the city and look at the layout."

Border markers were carved into the cliffs looming on either side of the Nile. Below lay a highly structured and symbolically designed city. On the eastern bank were the buildings, including the Great Temple, which covered 1.8 million square feet. "Pharaohs of the Sun" includes a scale model of Amarna and aerial photographs of the excavation. Barry Kemp, the archeologist currently working at the site, was a consultant on the model and provided details from discoveries made just last year. The temples in Amarna were markedly different. Traditional temples had a series of chambers leading to a holy--and darkened--center where the carved statues of the gods were kept. Because the god Aten was the sun-disk, the temples dedicated to him had no roof, so the sun's rays could shine in.

All these new temples, tombs and palaces meant lots of new art. Concurrent with the religious changes--or perhaps, as with the temples, because of them--there was a dramatic shift in artistic style. The stiff, square-shouldered physiques became softened, in some cases even paunchy. Some facial features became more naturalistic--but also more stylized. Two colossal statues of Akhenaten, each about 7 feet tall, are particularly striking examples. "You can't help but say this is a very odd physique," Markowitz said. "There's a tendency to say, 'What would make someone look this way?' . . . I think it's responding to some kind of inner psychological or spiritual motive, trying to express something different from the past. It's quite deliberate." [Los Angeles Times]


REVIEW: This priceless book is a compendium of Amarna and contains short essays on its history, a tutorial on its artistic conventions, and a 265 piece catalogue of its artistic achievements. I myself viewed the Pharaohs of the Sun public exhibition numerous times, and without fail was stunned each time I stepped between the colossal sandstone statues of Akhenaten and entered the gallery.

This catalogue details the exhibition with text from renowned Amarna scholars, beautiful color photography, and an item by item review of each piece in the collection. This book is beautiful and dazzling, and a must for Amarnaphiles. To make your informational and photographical collection of Amarna art complete, I also highly recommend two other titles to compile a trilogy of this genre: "Akhenaten and Nefertiti " by Cyril Aldred, and "The Royal Women of Amarna: Images of Beauty from Ancient Egypt" by Dorothea Arnold.

REVIEW: What a treasure! Whether you've seen the exhibition or not (I saw it and wrote about it), this is more than just a detailed catalogue of all the over 250 exhibition pieces. It is a full-colour, well-written wealth of Amarna information, including a wide variety of essays by all the most well-known Amarna scholars (Johnson, Redford, Lacovara, Mallinson, Reeves, Foster, Freed, Markowitz, Manuelian, Silverman, Kendall, D'Auria, Murnane), a glossary, list of excavations, miscellaneous reference information (such as cartouches of the royalty) and extensive bibliography (the bibliography alone is worth the purchase of this book).

In the end, the over 400 color plates (of sumptuous quality) probably show every Amarna piece I've ever heard of, and then some. They are the real treasure in this book.If you've never heard of "Amarna" or these pharaohs, this is a fantastic introduction to their unique piece of history and the stunning, unusual (for Ancient Egypt) art! You'll love it. Only it's a little too large to take to bed.

REVIEW: An intriguing account of the life and rule of Akhenaten, one of the most controversial figures in Egyptian history. Akhenaten, who is widely credited with being the world's first monotheist, rejected the well-established pantheon of gods and Egypt's capital to establish a new religious and government center at Akhetaten, the "Horizon of the Aten." The authors attribute this to the fact that the priesthood, especially that of Egypt's most powerful god Amun, had grown so as the threaten pharaonic power, and Akhenaten's closing of the temples was designed to eclipse this threat.

Much has been written about Akhenaten's possible physical deformities, due to the appearance of surviving sculptures and paintings. The slack belly, prominent hips, almond-shaped eyes, long face, and large lips, not only of Akhenaten but of other members of the royal family as well, have engendered discussions as to whether Akhenaten actually appeared this way, or if he wished to depart from the traditional methods of depiction in Egyptian art. When Akhenaten abolished the old system of worship, and set up the Aten, the disc of the sun, as the one true god, he also appointed himself as the sole intermediary between Aten and the people, thereby deifying himself in the process.

This deification of the person of the pharaoh was not without precedent. Akhenaten's father, Amenhotep III, enjoyed such status in his lifetime. The authors suggest that the unusual appearance of Akhenaten was to give himself an instantly recognizable iconography appropriate to his divine status, much like the other gods' peculiar attributes, such as Osiris' mummiform body and green skin. This theory is supported by the fact that Akhenaten's appearance in artworks changed throughout his reign, moving from relatively usual examples toward the most extreme depictions in the "high Amarna" style, before returning to a more traditional appearance before the end of his rule. The authors also note the continuing influence of the Amarna style for centuries after Akhenaten's death, most notably in the tomb treasures of Tutankhamen.

REVIEW: An Amarna delight! If you are interested in the Amarna period of Ancient Egypt then don't miss this book. I would describe it as more of a collection of articles by different specialists, and this makes it really interesting to read. Each specialist focuses on one aspect of like at Akhetaten (modern day name Amarna) and illustrates the article with photos of the treasures uncovered over the past 150 years.

I have never seen a book so well illustrated. Photographs are in full color and the provenance is given for each artifact. The current location of each piece is given for those of us who enjoy touring museums. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in this fascinating period of history, the general reader and scholars alike.

REVIEW: Published as a compliment to the "Pharaohs of the Sun" exhibition that has been making its way across the country this year, this book is a wonderful catalog of Amarna art, including what lead up to the style change and how it affected art afterwards. It's full of beautiful color photos of all the masterpieces included in the exhibition, plus many other artifacts from the reigns of Amenhotep III, Akhenaten, and Tutankhamen. It also features 14 essays on Akhenaten, his city Akhetaten, and the radical changes he made in religion and art while he was pharaoh. This book is a "must have" for anyone interested in ancient Egyptian art.

REVIEW: Fabulous book on 18th Dynasty Egypt! For those of you like me who may never have the opportunity to travel and see all the various places the many artifacts of Egypt are kept worldwide, this brings it all together. The book is basically a nice bringing together of text with information about this time period in ancient Egypt as well as fabulous imagery of the artifacts so far discovered. Many of these are overseas and I know personally I may never get there to view them in person. A great find, particularly those who want specific info or pictures of Tutankhamun, Nefertiti, Akhenaten, and others all involved in the 18th dynasty of ancient Egypt.

REVIEW: Celebrating an Amarna-centric exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, "Pharaohs of the Sun" is a fabulous addition to the bookshelves of anyone interested in the Amarna period, or just Ancient Egypt. The presentation of the book is, in a word, gorgeous. The essays are accessible, informative and just plain interesting.The exhibition is one I would have loved to have seen, if it had ever made it out to Australia. Even without the added benefit of having seen these items in real life, it is an incredibly valuable resource on the Amarna period. The book is a near-complete visual catalogue of the Amarna, as much as possible, and includes color images of everyday items (including a toilet seat!) next to the reliefs and statuary. And the narrative was exceptional as well. I learned things that I was previously unaware of, and the essays are a useful introduction to the subject.

This book is absolutely gorgeous and a very welcome addition to my Egyptology shelf.

REVIEW: This is the finest exhibition catalogue for Egyptian art this reviewer has ever seen. The text is a monument of scholarship for the always-challenging Amarna period, and the objects are sensitively photographed and well explained. The book is also beautifully designed and printed. A must-have for the devotees of Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Tutankhamen.

REVIEW: Stunning! Like the book about Nefertiti by Joyce Tyldesley, this is a must for any modern believer in the Amarnian people - Akhenaten, Nefertiti, etc....and the Aten religion. If you have or haven't seen the related exhibition, then this book is still wonderfully illustrated and interestingly detailed and can be read again and again! A MUST!!!!

REVIEW: Absolutely beautiful! I love this book. It's exactly what I was looking for. Big, clear, up-close photos and well-written descriptions. I'm so happy I bought this. It's worth every penny!

REVIEW: Fabulous book! Fabulous photography. Good quality binding. Kindle is great but the book in hand feel is never going to be replaced.

REVIEW: This is an incredible source of insight about the Pharaoh of the Sun.

REVIEW: Five stars! Love It! Excellent book. Highly recommended.

REVIEW: Good quality book, pleasantly surprised at its size =, remarkable narration of the exhibition and related background..

REVIEW: Five stars! Gorgeous and informative.!


AMARNA CEMETARY: Analysis of remains from a cemetery at the city of Amarna is painting an unsettling picture of the reign of the famously monotheistic pharaoh Akhenaten. Sometime around 1350 B.C, Akhenaten rejected the traditional pantheon of Egyptian gods and moved his capital to Amarna, some 200 miles south of modern Cairo, where he established a religion dedicated to the worship of the sun god Aten. Art from the period depicts Amarna as an idyllic city of plenty, but the cemetery tells a different story. Remains of children show they were malnourished and engaged in an unsually high degree of physical activity. Adult skeletons show evidence of hard labor and numerous injuries. "We have evidence of the most stressed and disease-ridden of the ancient skeletons of Egypt that have been reported to date," says University of Arkansas bioarchaeologist Jerome Rose. "Amarna is the capital city of the Egyptian empire. There should be plenty of food. Something seems to be amiss."

AMARNA: ANCIENT EGYPT'S PLACE IN THE SUN: In 1353 B.C., during the later 18th Dynasty, Amenhotep IV ascended the throne of Egypt. His rule was revolutionary in the sweeping changes he sought to impose on ancient Egyptian life and culture. He altered the religion from polytheism to monotheism, allowing the worship of one god, the sun disk or Aten. He also changed his name to Akhenaten, meaning Effective Spirit of the Aten, and built a new capital city called Akhetaten, modern-day Amarna. The University of Pennsylvania participated in excavations at Amarna during the early 20th century and its Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has an extensive collection of artifacts from the site. These form the basis of a new exhibition, "Amarna: Ancient Egypt's Place in the Sun."

After a short, informative introductory video, the exhibition opens into four small galleries organized by the show's curators to tell the story of the Amarna period and not to merely highlight the artifacts. The first gallery examines life in polytheistic ancient Egypt prior to Akhenaten. The gallery includes a visual timeline of 18th Dynasty rulers featuring their portraits and busts (using pieces from the exhibit whenever possible) on a stunning backdrop of Queen Hatshepsut's temple.

The next gallery features the royal family during the Amarna period. Because the sun disk or Aten had no physical manifestation to worship, art of the period focused on portraits and depictions of the royal family. Upon entering the gallery, one confronts a striking floor-to-ceiling representation of Akhenaten, statues of the family, and partial reliefs. The gallery also includes a comprehensive family tree displaying the relationships between Akhenaten, his daughters with Nerfertiti, and his probable son Tutankhamun. This is very helpful in understanding the dynasty's complex genealogy.

The galleries progress through the period, and the exhibition changes from very angular structures to curved walls and round pedestals to reflect the Amarna art style, which changed from the ancient Egyptian standard of idealized physiques to Akhenaten's curvy and voluptuous figures. To enter the city gallery, one passes a vivid depiction of the desert setting of Amarna and step into Akhenaten's shoes, viewing the break in the cliffs as he did when he saw the Aten rise above them and was inspired to build his new capital city at that location. The gallery includes a variety of objects from the site that had been used in everyday life, such as combs, eye paint tools, floor panels, small vessels, molds, and an unfinished statue.

The highlight of the third gallery is an enlightening video featuring digital reconstructions of Akhetaten palaces and temples, real footage of the site as is today, maps, and artifacts not available for the exhibition. The final gallery displays the aftermath of Amarna and his successor Tutankhamun's return to the traditional beliefs. The artifacts reflect both conventional and Amarna art styles, illustrating the transition that took place during Tutankhamun's brief reign. Even though the Amarna period only lasted one generation, there was still a long phase of restoration necessary to eradicate Akhenaten's legacy and reinstate the traditional ways of life.

Among the artifacts featured in the exhibition are a rare unfinished statue from Amarna's artisan district, small ceramic molds, and minor relief fragments. Where there are no artifacts, or only incomplete ones, to illustrate aspects of the Amarna period, the curators use creative displays and re-creations. For example, the exhibition uses a unique medium to display partial reliefs. The fragments are inlaid into a piece of opaque glass and the proposed reconstruction of the relief is etched around the fragment. The result is a stunning representation that is very attractive and informative. The curators appreciate and feature less flashy objects, which often have more significance than their more ostentatious counterparts displayed at art museums.

The objects--more than 100 are on display--are highlighted well and stand out individually. There are clearly written, easy to read signs and descriptions for each gallery and object. Because the University of Pennsylvania Museum is a teaching museum, the curators provide a lot of information, which is divided into sections, some giving broad overviews about the period and exhibition, others giving more detailed information. The object descriptions have very specific data. It is up to the viewer to decide how much they want to learn or read. As I wandered through the exhibition, I noticed some people lingering for a long time at each artifact reading every little detail, while others read the broader descriptions above gallery groupings and moved a bit faster.

Overall, "Amarna: Ancient Egypt's Place in the Sun" is impressive and well organized. I found the design tasteful and the subtle colors relaxing and calming. Whether you know a lot about ancient Egypt or not, it is a worthwhile visit where you spend a quiet afternoon absorbing new information and looking at wonderful things. "Amarna: Ancient Egypt's Place in the Sun" runs through October 2007. It had some 2,000 visitors on opening day--more than four times the average daily attendance--and though it opened early, people waited in line more than an hour. Those numbers may well increase with the opening of the Tutankhamun exhibition at Philadelphia's Franklin Institute on February 3. For more about that exhibition, see "Tut Talk," interviews with Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, and curator David Silverman of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

NEFERTITI: It is not known who Nefertiti’s parents were. The most popular theory seems to be that Nefertiti was the daughter of the high ranking courtier Aye and his unnamed first wife. Aye’s wife Tey is known to have been Nefertiti’s wetnurse and tutor. This means that Nefertiti must have grown up with Aye and Tey. Other theories have included Nefertiti being the daughter of the Mitanni King Tushratta and his wife Yuni. But there does not appear to be much evidence to support this theory. We first see Nefertiti as the King’s Great Wife of Amenhotep IV (who would later rename himself Akhenaten). Nefertiti is known to have had six daughters: Meritaten, Meketaten, Ankhes-en-pa-aten, Neferneferuaten-tasherit, Neferneferure, and Setepenre.

Meritaten seved as Great Royal Wife towards the end of the reign of Akhenaten and into the reign of the mysterious Smenkhare. Ankes-en-pa-aten would be the longest surviving daughter of Nefertiti. She married the boy-king Tutankhamen and changed her name to Ankhesenamen. Nefertiti was the Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten.Amenhotep IV built several structures at Karnak. The structures there include the Gempaaten which is a palace complex. It is believed that the royal family lived at the Gempaaten during the winter months (according to Aldred). One of the structures within the Gempaaten complex is the Hut-Benben (“Mansion of the Benben”). Aldred mentions that the Mansion of the Benben was a temple exclusively devoted to Nefertiti.

In year 3, Amenhotep IV and Nefertiti apparently held a great festival in the temple at Karnak. Inscriptions show the royal couple traveling by palanquin, feasting while being entertained by dancers and musicians, and appearing at the palace’s “window of appearance” waving at the crowd. Amenhotep at some point changes his name to Akhenaten, and founds a new Capital named Akhet-Aten more than a 100 miles north of Thebes.Nefertiti takes on the longer name of Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti. Several beautiful temples and palaces are built in Akhetaten and Nefertiti plays an important role in religious life as well as court life. In year 12 there is another large festival that takes place. Inscriptions in the tombs of the nobles show that there is a large tribute, and Akhenaten and Nefertiti are shown with their six daughters receiving tribute from many people.

Soon after year 12 disaster seems to strike. First Meketaten, the second eldest daugher, dies. Scenes in the royal tomb in Akhet-Aten (modern Amarna) show a grief stricken Nefertiti and Akhenaten mourning their daughter. Around roughly the same time Akhenaten’s mother Queen Tiye also dies, and several of the younger daughters of Nefertiti also disappear from the scene. It is difficult to say what exactly happened with Nefertiti towards the end of the reign of Akhenaten. For a while it was thought that Nefertiti fell into disgrace and was replaced at court by her daughter Meritaten. This theory was based on a mistaken identity however. A royal lady seems to have disappeared from the scene and her place was taken by Meritaten, but the lady in question was the secondary Queen named Kiya, not Nefertiti.

It is possible that Nefertiti became a co-regent to Akhenaten and that Nefertiti ruled alongside her husband in the latter years of his reign. There is mention of an individual named Djeserkheperure Smenkhare and it is possible that this is a king who ruled between Akhenaten and Tutankhamen. Some Egyptologists believe that Smenkhare is just another name for Nefertiti and that she became pharaoh after the death of her husband Akhenaten. Nefertiti may have been buried in the royal tomb at Amarna, but this is by no means certain. A special set of rooms appear to have been prepared for her. It is not known what happened to her after that. Some speculate that her funerary equipment was reused in the burial of King Tutankhamen. There are some statues from Tut’s tomb which appear to depict a female ruler.

People have tried to identify several mummies as being that of Nefertiti. The latest attempt was by Joanne Fletcher who claimed that a mummy in KV34 was that of Queen Nefertiti. This identification was actually first proposed by Marianne Luban. Susan James had proposed that the mummy of the “older woman” in the same tomb was actually that of Queen Nefertiti. The experts do not seem to consider any of the arguments conclusive and no mummy has been definitively identified as that of our illustrious queen. There is also a partial shabti of Queen Nefertiti found in Amarna. The experts do not agree on the implications of that find. Some think it means that Nefertiti was buried as a queen, not a pharaoh, while others think that it could have been a votive figure donated at the time of one of the other royal burials.

AKHENATEN: Akhenaten, known as Amenhotep IV at the start of his reign, was a Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt. He is thought to have been born to Amenhotep III and his Chief Queen Tiy in the year 26 of their reign (1379 BC or 1362 BC). Amenhotep IV succeeded his father after Amenhotep III's death at the end of his 38-year reign, possibly after a co-regency between the two of up to 12 years. Suggested dates for Akhenaten's reign (subject to the debates surrounding Egyptian chronology) are from 1353 BC-1336 BC or 1351 BC-1334 BC. Akhenaten's chief wife was Nefertiti, who has been made famous by her exquisitely painted bust in the Ägyptisches Museum of Berlin.

A religious revolutionary, Amenhotep IV introduced Atenism in the first year of his reign, raising the previously obscure god Aten (sometimes spelt Aton) to the position of supreme deity. Aten was the name for the sun-disk itself — hence the fact that it is often referred to in English in the impersonal form "the Aten". The Aten was by this point in Egyptian history considered to be an aspect of the composite deity Ra-Amun-Horus. These previously separate deities had been merged with each other.

Amun was identified with Ra, who was also identified with Horus. Akhenaton simplified this syncretism by proclaiming the visible sun itself to be the sole deity, thus introducing monotheism. Some commentators interpret this as a proto-scientific naturalism, based on the observation that the sun's energy is the ultimate source of all life. Others consider it to be a way of cutting through the previously ritualistic emphasis of Egyptian religion to allow for a new "personal relationship" with God. Yet others interpret it as a political move designed to further centralise power by crushing the independent authority of the traditional priesthood.

This religious reformation appears to have begun with his decision to celebrate a Sed-festival in his third regnal year — a highly unusual step, since a Sed-festival, a sort of royal jubilee intended to reinforce the Pharaoh's divine powers of kingship, was traditionally held in the thirtieth year of a Pharaoh's reign.

Year 5 marks the beginning of his construction of a new capital, Akhetaten ('Horizon of Aten'), at the site known today as Amarna. In the same year, Amenhotep IV officially changed his name to Akhenaten ('Effective Spirit of Aten') as evidence of his new worship. Very soon afterward he moved the religious capital of Egypt from Thebes to Akhetaten, though construction of the city seems to have continued for several more years. In honor of Aten, Akhenaten also oversaw the construction of some of the most massive temple complexes in ancient Egypt, including one at Karnak, close to the old temple of Amun. In these new temples, Aten was worshipped in the open sunlight, rather than in dark temple enclosures, as the old gods had been. Akhenaten is also believed to have composed the Great Hymn to the Aten.

Initially, Akhenaten presented Aten as a variant of the familiar supreme deity Amun-Ra (itself the result of an earlier rise to prominence of the cult of Amun, resulting in Amun becoming merged with the sun god Ra), in an attempt to put his ideas in a familiar Egyptian religious context. However, by Year 9 of his reign Akhenaten declared that Aten was not merely the supreme god, but the only god, and that he, Akhenaten, was the only intermediary between Aten and his people. He even ordered the defacing of Amun's temples throughout Egypt. In a number of instances inscriptions of the plural 'gods' were also removed.

Aten's name is also written differently after Year 9, to emphasise the radicalism of the new regime, which included a ban on idols, with the exception of a rayed solar disc, in which the rays (commonly depicted ending in hands) appear to represent the unseen spirit of Aten, who by then was evidently considered not merely a sun god, but rather a universal deity. It is important to note, however, that representations of the Aten were always accompanied with a sort of hieroglyphic footnote, saying, in effect, that the representation of the sun as All-encompassing Creator was to be taken as just that: a representation of something that, by its very nature as something transcending creation, cannot be fully or adequately represented by any one part of that creation.

The early stage of Atenism appears to be a kind of henotheism familiar in Egyptian religion, but the later form suggests a proto-monotheism. The idea of Akhenaten as the pioneer of monotheistic religion was promoted by Sigmund Freud (the founder of psychoanalysis), in his book Moses and Monotheism and thereby entered popular consciousness. Recently Ahmed Osman has even claimed Moses and Akhenaten to be the same person,[1] supporting his belief by interpreting aspects of biblical and Egyptian history. Apart from the most obvious correlation (both forms of monotheism arising around the same time and geographically close), there are alleged to be others, including a ban on idol worship and the similarity of the name Aten to the Hebrew Adon. This would mesh with Osman's other claim that Akhenaten's maternal grandfather Yuya was the same person as the Biblical Joseph.

Although Ahmed Osman's hypotheses have gained acceptance in some quarters, most mainstream Egyptologists do not take them seriously, pointing out that there are direct connections between early Judaism and other Semitic religious traditions, and that the principal Judaic terms for God, Yahweh and Elohim have no connection to Aten. Furthermore abundant visual imagery was central to Atenism, which celebrated the natural world, but was proscribed in the ten commandments. It is also known that Yuya's family were part of the regional nobility of Akhmin, in Upper Egypt, which would make it very unlikely that he was an Israelite.

Immanuel Velikovsky, in Oedipus and Akhnaton, Myth and History, (Doubleday, 1960) has argued that Moses was neither Akhenaton, nor one of his followers. Instead, Velikovsky identifies Akhenaton as the history behind Oedipus and moved the setting from the Greek Thebes to the Egyptian Thebes. Velikovsky also posited that Akhenaton had elephantiasis, producing enlarged legs - Oedipus being Greek for "swollen feet."

Styles of art that flourished during this short period are markedly different from other Egyptian art, bearing a variety of affectations, from elongated heads to protruding stomachs, exaggerated ugliness and the beauty of Nefertiti. Significantly, and for the only time in the history of Egyptian royal art, Akhenaten's family was depicted in a decidedly naturalistic manner, and they are clearly shown displaying affection for each other. Nefertiti also appears beside the king in actions usually reserved for a Pharaoh, suggesting that she attained unusual power for a queen. Artistic representations of Akhenaten give him a strikingly bizarre appearance, with slender limbs, a protruding belly and wide hips, giving rise to controversial theories such as that he may have actually been a woman masquerading as a man, or that he was a hermaphrodite or had some other intersex condition. The fact that Akhenaten had several children argues against these suggestions.

However, it is also suggested by Bob Brier, in his book "The Murder of Tutankhamen", that the family suffered from Marfan's syndrome, a dominant autosomal mutation of Chromosome 15, which is known to cause elongated features, a long thin face, arachnodactyly (spider like fingers), a sunken chest and an enlarged aorta, with a proneness for heart problems. Conic shaped eyes also gives a distinctive slit eyed appearance, and may be associated with short-sightedness. Brier speculates that this may explain Akhenaten's appearance, and perhaps his fascination with the sun - since Marfan's sufferers often feel cold easily.

Marfan's Syndrome tends to be passed on to the children, usually appearing after 10 years of Age. Artists tended to show Akenaten's children as suffering the same physical character as their father. If the family did suffer from Marfan's syndrome it could help explain the high mortality rate within the family. Akhenaten, three of his daughters, and his co-regent Smenkhkare all died within a brief period of 5 years at the end of his reign. Against the Marfan's diagnosis is the fact that his successor, Tutankhamen, does not appear to have suffered from the condition. An alternative source of the elevated mortality of the Royal Family of the Amarna period is the fact that a known pandemic was sweeping the region. It is possible that the history of the royal family inbreeding could have finally taken a physical toll. This claim is countered by the fact that Akhenaten's mother Tiy was not from within the royal family, probably being the sister of Ay (Pharaoh after Tutankhamen), and High Priest Anen.

It has also been claimed that he suffered from acromegaly, a pituitary disorder that can cause longer and thicker bones, oversized jaw, dolicephaly, bilharzia and altered sex characteristics. However, other leading figures of the Amarna period, both royal and otherwise, are shown with some of these features, suggesting a possible religious connotation – though its also possible that his family and court were depicted as similarly formed to Akhenaten as a compliment to him. In addition, in Akhenaten's later reign, art becomes less idiosyncratic. Under the new chief sculptor Thutmose, Akhenaten is depicted as more normal-looking. Some claim that his earliest portraits appear the most normal, with a progression towards more elongated and feminine features later in life, suggesting an endocrine disorder of post-pubertal onset, but the earliest images of the pharaoh are in the conventional pre-Amarna style.

Until Akhenaten's mummy is located and identified, these proposals are likely to remain speculative. Crucial evidence about the latter stages of Akhenaten's reign was furnished by discovery of the so-called "Amarna Letters". These letters comprise a priceless cache of incoming clay tablets sent from imperial outposts and foreign allies. The letters suggest that Akhenaten's neglect of matters of state were causing disorder across the massive Egyptian empire. The governors and kings of subject domains wrote to beg for gold, and also complained of being snubbed and cheated. Early on in his reign, Akhenaten fell out with the king of Mitanni. He may even have concluded an alliance with the Hittites, who then attacked Mitanni and attempted to carve out their own empire. A group of Egypt's other allies who attempted to rebel against the Hittites were captured, and wrote begging Akhenaten for troops; he evidently did not respond to their pleas.

This Amarna period is also associated with a serious outbreak of a pandemic, possibly the plague, or perhaps the world's first outbreak of influenza, which came from Egypt and spread throughout the Middle East, killing Suppiluliuma I, the Hittite King. The prevailance of disease may help explain the rapidity with which the site of Akhetaten was subsequntly abandoned. It may also explain the fact that later generations considered the gods to have turned against the Amarna monarchs. Akhenaten planned to start a relocated Valley of the Kings, in the Royal Wadi in Akhetaten. His body was probably removed after the court returned to Memphis, and reburied somewhere in the Valley of the Kings. His sarcophagus was destroyed but has since been reconstructed and now sits outside in the Cairo Museum.

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