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This new study, drawing on the latest research, tells the story of the decline and fall of the pharaoh Akhenaten's religious revolution in the fourteenth century BC. Beginning at the regime's high-point in his Year 12, it traces the subsequent collapse that saw the deaths of many of the king's loved ones, his attempts to guarantee the revolution through co-rulers, and the last frenzied assault on the god Amun.
The book then outlines the events of the subsequent five decades that saw the extinction of the royal line, an attempt to place a foreigner on Egypt's throne, and the accession of three army officers in turn. Among its conclusions are that the mother of Tutankhamun was none other than Nefertiti, and that the queen was joint-pharaoh in turn with both her husband Akhenaten and her son. As such, she was herself instrumental in beginning the return to orthodoxy, undoing her erstwhile husband's life-work before her own mysterious disappearance.
Although I haven't quite finished this book, I feel compelled to write a review. I'd give this book 4 out of 5 stars. The writing is great, the ideas pretty sound, and I only took one star away because some of the illustrations are hard to really examine without a magnifying glass - at least for these middle aged eyes, and because the book doesn't go into quite enough depth. To be fair in the preface, the author, Aidan Dodson forewarns that some of us may complain that he doesn't go into enough depth, while other will wonder why he belabors some parts.
The book is aimed at Amarnaphiles, of which I included myself. Those of us who are interested in the Amarna period know that there are as many theories to what happened as there are major characters who lived in the period. Since I don't want to diminish from the enjoyability of the book, I'll only gloss over what I found to be the really interesting parts.
Dodson theorizes, and backs his theory up well, that there were 2 kings between Akhenaten and Tutankhamun. Most Egyptophiles know about Smenkhkare, but there may still be a few who don't know about Neferneferuaten. There's a whole confusing history on this king. Was the king another name for Smenkhkare? For Nefertiti? For someone else? Dodson comes down on a firm identification and to this reader's joy included all of the prenomens for Neferneferuaten which help to narrow this king's identity. I won't spoil the book by saying who he identifies, but while I would have once agreed with him, I know disagree based on what we found from the DNA reports done on Tut and his family.
Dodson gives an overview of the tombs involved, from Kings Valley 23, 55, 57, 62 and 63 (Aye, Unconfirmed occupant - sorry Mr. Hawass, many of still think his identity is not who you think he is, Horemheb, Tutankhamun and a cache tomb respectively), West Valley 22, 25 (Amenhotep III and perhaps the beginning of Theban tomb for Akhenaten) and some of the Amarna tombs. He covers the death of Tut and the tomb he was ultimately buried in and considers which tomb may have originally been planned for him before his untimely death - and the implications of this.
This leads us to the Egyptian Queen letters to the king of the Hittites requesting a prince to be her husband in place of her dead husband - the Prince Zananza(sh) affair and this prince's death. By plague or murder? Sadly, not enough time is spent on this.
The history of Aye is explored, with some time spent on his different title, and what they may have meant, his wife (wives?) and at least one of his sons. This is as far as I've reached -though I can see that there is a very interesting section on Horemheb coming up that looks as if it segues into the beginning of the 19th Dynasty.
Sadly, the book was published just prior to the JAMA DNA report on Tut and his family, and I think the DNA analysis may change some of the conclusions arrived at. To Dodson great credit, he has changed his stance in the past once new information has surfaced, and I love to know if he has changed his thinking since February 2010. This is an author that I would LOVE to have over for dinner so I could talk to him about this book. I know my husband's eyes would glaze over, but it is one conversation that would be certainly be memorable for me!
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Posted May 13, 2010
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