Akhenaten,also spelled Echnaton, Ikhnaton, and Khuenaten; meaning "living spirit of Aten") was known before the fifth year of his reign as Amenhotep IV (sometimes given its Greek form, Amenophis IV, and meaning Amun is Satisfied), a Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, 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.
Akhenaten tried to bring about a departure from traditional religion, yet in the end it would not be accepted. After his death, traditional religious practice was gradually restored, and when some dozen years later rulers without clear rights of succession from the Eighteenth Dynasty founded a new dynasty, they discredited Akhenaten and his immediate successors, referring to Akhenaten himself as "the enemy" in archival records.
He was all but lost from history until the discovery, in the 19th century, of Amarna, the site of Akhetaten, the city he built for the Aten. Early excavations at Amarna by Flinders Petrie sparked interest in the enigmatic pharaoh, whose tomb was unearthed in 1907 in a dig led by Edward R. Ayrton. Interest in Akhenaten increased with the discovery in the Valley of the Kings, at Luxor, of the tomb of King Tutankhamun, who has been proved to be Akhenaten's son according to DNA testing in 2010 by Zahi Hawass of Cairo. Akhenaten remains an interesting figure, as does his Queen, Nefertiti. Their modern interest comes partly from his connection with Tutankhamun, partly from the unique style and high quality of the pictorial arts he patronized, and partly from ongoing interest in the religion he attempted to establish.
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About the Author
Life with Flinders Petrie was notoriously harsh, and after a while Arthur Weigall went to work for Friedrich Wilhelm von Bissing, a German Egyptologist. In early 1905 Howard Carter was staying with Arthur Weigall at Saqqara when after an incident with some French tourists, Howard Carter was forced to resign his post as Chief Inspector of Antiquities for Upper Egypt. Suddenly, at the age of 25, Arthur Weigall was appointed to replace Howard Carter at Luxor, responsible for protecting and managing the antiquities of a region that extended from Nag Hammadi to the border with Sudan.
At Luxor, Arthur Weigall threw himself with immense energy into aspects of the job that in his view had been somewhat neglected – the protection and conservation of monuments that were steadily vanishing into the ravenous markets of Europe and North America. He remained in Luxor until 1911. This was a time of intense activity – the discovery of the tombs of Yuya and Tuya, KV55, the tomb of Horemheb, travels in the Eastern Desert, a popular biography of Akhnaten, a Guide to the Antiquities of Upper Egypt. He worked with Alan Gardiner on the tombs of the nobles and may well have helped Howard Carter to the placement with Lord Carnarvon that led to the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. He was deeply enmeshed in the bureaucratic and social entanglements of Luxor and Cairo, coming into close contact with Flinders Petrie, Gaston Maspero, Theodore Davis, Percy Newberry, Howard Carter and others, and making friends with Sir Ronald Storrs and the glittering world of an Edwardian society in Egypt. It was too much for him. A breakdown took him from Egypt and World War I.