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The grandest period of ancient Egypt was Dynasty 18 (1549-1298 BCE). This was early in the New Kingdom, the period of empire for the Egyptians. A number of powerful empires were rising in the Near East at this time, but Egypt was one of the most formidable.  Under the long reign of the warrior-pharaoh Tuthmosis III (1479-1424 BCE), Egypt ruled everything and everyone from deep in Nubia to northern Syria. Although famous and powerful pharaohs would emerge after this dynasty (Seti I, Ramesses II, Ramesses III), Egypt would never again be as far-reaching and influential as it was in its heyday of Dynasty 18.

Dynasty 18 is also one of the best-attested periods of pharaonic history. We have a rather solid understanding of and ample attestation for its pharaohs, their queens, their progeny, the nobility, and many of the events that occurred in the period. But this is not the case for a rather short stretch of time late in Dynasty 18 that today we refer to as the Amarna Period.

The Amarna Period is so named after a site in Middle Egypt called Tell el Amarna. It centers around the life and times of one of Egypt’s most mysterious, memorable, and puzzling pharaohs: Akhenaten (1359-1342 BCE). This king reigned for only seventeen years, yet he left an indelible impression on the overall history of ancient Egypt.

The irony is, this enigmatic period—often called the Amarna Interlude in Egyptology—was meant to have been forgotten. It represented a time of social, religious, administrative, and diplomatic upheaval in ancient Egypt, all at the hands of Akhenaten. Many people today are familiar with this king, or at least with the basic peculiarities of his reign. But if the succeeding kings of the New Kingdom had had their way, we would know nothing at all about it. That’s another irony: a number of kings who were erased from the history in ancient times—Hatshepsut, Akhenaten, Tutankhamun—are some of the most popular among modern devotees of ancient Egypt.

To this day the Amarna Period is heatedly debated among professional and amateur historians alike. We joke of the Amarna tar pits: they will suck you in and suffocate you. A major part of the problem is that later kings, beginning with Horemheb at the end of Dynasty 18, enacted thorough erasures of the preceding history to try to hide it from their own descendants. They certainly did not destroy all evidence, of course, but they were quite successful in leaving to us a heavily fragmented record of this period.

We’re not even sure of the exact succession following Akhenaten. Did he reign at the end concurrently with his queen Nefertiti, or did she predecease him? Did Smnekhkare reign concurrently at the end, or did he die before Akhenaten? Was Smenkhkare the sole successor? How does the enigmatic figure of Neferneferuaten figure into the succession? Did Nefertiti reign as a coregent into the first years of the boy-king Tutankhamun? These are just some of the scenarios posited by Egyptologists. It’s simply not clear what happened after Akhenaten died. The historical record becomes clear again only once Tutankhamun was on the throne.

But this is not the subject of my article today. Rather I wish to explore why Akhenaten enacted his religious reforms and attempt to shed some light onto the bizarre characteristics of Amarna artwork, which is often misunderstood in modern times.

Amunhotep IV Comes to the Throne

Very little is known about Akhenaten prior to his ascendancy to the throne of Egypt. Prior to this, he is attested only once, on a jar sealing in the ruins of his father’s great palace at Malkata, in Western Thebes (Dodson & Hilton 2004: 146). Akhenaten was not originally in line for the throne, however. His father was the great pharaoh Amunhotep III (1388-1348 BCE), often referred to as Amunhotep the Magnificent. This was one of the wealthiest and most powerful kings of ancient Egypt, and universally revered by later kings. Amunhotep III was not a warrior-pharaoh because by his time there was no one left for the Egyptians to conquer: his predecessors (especially Tuthmosis I and Tuthmosis III) had already conquered everyone from Nubia through the Levant and established the Egyptian empire. Amunhotep III lived off their fat and was a prodigious builder, especially at the great temple complexes of the god Amun at Thebes and Luxor.

Eastern entrance to the Karnak temple complex.
Eastern entrance to the Karnak temple complex.

Amunhotep III’s oldest son and crown prince was Tuthmose. He was supposed to have succeeded his father. But based on the dearth of monuments belonging to Tuthmose, it appears the crown prince died young. While his tomb has never been found, the mummy of a young boy discovered in 1898 in the side chamber of another king’s tomb might be the body of Tuthmose. While we can never know with certainty if it is his mummy, the mummification is consistent with the techniques of Dynasty 18. The body is that of a boy around eleven years of age.

Prince Tuthmose? The mummy of a young boy probably from Dynasty 18.

Prince Tuthmose? The mummy of a young boy probably from Dynasty 18.

The death of the crown prince elevated a younger son to direct line to the throne. This son was born as Amunhotep (IV). He would later change his own name to Akhenaten, but more on that later. It’s interesting to speculate what might have happened had Tuthmose not died young. We would never have had the Amarna Period, nor would there ever have been a king named Tutankhamun. While the ancient Egyptians themselves might have preferred that scenario, most of us who study ancient Egypt today quite favor the way things worked out.

If the poorly preserved mummy of Amunhotep III can tell us anything, it’s that he was probably in ill health and in a lot of pain in the last years of his long life. This includes rather terrible dentition as well as a severe abscess that might in fact have contributed to (or caused) his death.

The mummy of Amunhotep III.
The mummy of Amunhotep III.

But Amunhotep III himself might have been one of the primary causes for the upheavals his son Akhenaten would go on to cause. Amunhotep favored a deity known as the Aten, which in essence was the visible sun disk in the sky. As such the Aten was a minor aspect of the great sun god Re. The Aten long precedes Amunhotep III in the pantheon of Egyptian deities, but was first elevated by Amunhotep. This king called himself the “Dazzling Sun Disk” (Redford 1999: 50), a reference to the Aten. He called his vast palace complex in Western Thebes “Splendor of the Aten” (today it’s known as Malkata or Malqata) and named one of his royal boats “The Aten Sparkles.”

Many historians have speculated that young Amunhotep IV (Akhenaten) was trained by priests of the Heliopolis temple complex (Foster 1999: 90). This was the primary cult setting for the ancient god Re, the primary sun god. Taken together with Amunhotep III’s preferences for the solar aspect called the Aten, it’s probably no wonder that Akhenaten fell under the same influences. The difference is, Amunhotep III seems to have venerated the Aten on a personal level and did not try to force this god onto the people; the main state deity was still Amun, or Amun-Re, and the temple complexes of Thebes and Luxor remained the most important sites of veneration in Egypt. At this time in Dynasty 18, Thebes was the religious capital of the state (the administrative capital was in the northern ancient city of Memphis).

Akhenaten, on the other hand, would go to extremes. He would engineer sweeping religious reforms that would unseat Amun and proscribe his entire cult. The great temples at Thebes and Luxor would be closed. Akhenaten would erect a new, purpose-built city for the Aten, and would shut himself up in its precincts for the rest of his life.


This is a question with which Egyptologists wrestle to this day. Akhenaten’s motivations are not entirely clear. It could involve any number of scenarios. Let’s explore three of them.

1. Religious Zealot

A common theory is a pretty straight-forward one. Akhenaten was a religious zealot. His devotion to the Aten was such that there remained no room for other deities, even though Egypt had been polytheistic for millennia. So fanatical was Akhenaten’s devotion that he closed the temples to Amun, proscribed the veneration of most other deities unrelated to the solar cult, and even abandoned the ancient cult of Osiris, who offered most anyone the promise of eternal afterlife. To this day we don’t have a good understanding of what Akhenaten himself believed of the afterlife, but it’s clear Osiris didn’t fit into it. While some aspects of burial rites remained intact, such as a royal tomb and a lot of the equipment that went into it, many of the traditional icons were abandoned. For example, here is a corner fragment of Akhenaten’s sarcophagus:

A corner of Akhenaten's sarcophagus showing Nefertiti in a protective posture.
A corner of Akhenaten’s sarcophagus showing Nefertiti in a protective posture.

In traditional polytheistic times each corner of an elite stone sarcophagus featured one of four goddesses (Isis, Nephthys, Selket, and Neith) with wings outspread in a protective posture. On Akhenaten’s sarcophagus, all four of the traditional goddesses was replaced by one female figure: that of Akhenaten’s great wife, the chief queen Nefertiti.

It is commonly stated that Akhenaten was the world’s first monotheist. This is not how his reign began, however. One might classify him more as a henotheist, where one deity is favored above all others but the existence of other deities is not denied. From the start the Aten was closely identified with the great deity Re-Horakhty, a union of the very old gods Re and Horus. In one depiction Akhenaten is shown in the presence of Maat, the traditional goddess personifying truth, balance, and order.

But it is certain that soon into his reign, Akhenaten proscribed veneration of other deities, most especially Amun. In a practical sense there could be only one state deity, so Akhenaten tossed out Amun in favor of the Aten. It was the Aten who henceforth was to receive attention. It seems clear Akhenaten at first tried to establish the Aten side by side with Amun because he erected large temple precincts at Thebes, the traditional home and cult center of Amun. But it did not last. At some point after year five or six of his reign, Akhenaten closed the temples dedicated to Amun. All of the natural and economic resources formerly focused on Amun were switched to the Aten. The powerful priests of Amun were out of a job.

As the years of Akhenaten’s reign progressed, he became increasingly monotheistic. He was no longer shown in the presence of other deities. Only the Aten was featured in royal art and monuments. And in contrast to the traditional deities of generations past, the Aten was not depicted in animal or anthropomorphic form: it was simply a radiant sun disk with arms reaching down like rays, hands clutching ankh symbols, to bestow life onto Akhenaten and his family.

The Aten as a sun disk streaming down rays to the faces of Akhenaten and Nefertiti.
The Aten as a sun disk streaming down rays to the faces of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. Note the hands and ankh symbols at the bottoms of the rays.

The Aten was even provided a royal titulary inscribed inside cartouches, in the manner of a king. Changes in this titulary enable historians to track the approximate date when a monument was commissioned.

One of history’s great poems comes from the Amarna Period. Called “Great Hymn to the Aten,” it was found in the Amarna tomb of the nobleman Aye (who some years down the road would end up becoming king after the death of Tutankhamun) (Foster 1999: 99). This long poem is often attributed in modern times to Akhenaten himself. While there is no evidence to demonstrate this, it is revealing of Akhenaten’s belief system and how he himself viewed the status of the Aten. Written as though Akhenaten is speaking the lines, a certain stanza in particular stands out (Pritchard 1958: 227-230):

How manifold it is, what thou hast made!
They are hidden from the face (of man).
O sole god, like whom there is no other!…

Akhenaten probably did emerge into monotheism. The Aten was the “sole god.” That Akhenaten viewed himself as divine and in commune with the Aten is evident in another stanza (ibid):

Thou are in my heart,
And there is no other that knows thee
Save thy son Nefer-kheperu-Re Wa-en-Re [Akhenaten]…

This extended to Neferiti, his queen, who together were alone the intermediaries between the Aten and mankind. This was obviously problematic for the religion of the Aten, which today is often called Atenism, but we’ll come back to that.

There is also the name change. Around the fifth years of his reign, the man originally born as Amunhotep (IV) changed his name to Akhenaten, “Servant of the Aten.” So proscribed was the god Amun now that Akhenaten sent his agents to carve out the name of Amun wherever it could be found. This includes the theophoric personal names containing the element of Amun. This is one way a lot of monuments dating to the Amarna Period and before can be dated to that period: “Amun” is carved out of them. And remember the name of Akhenaten’s father: Amunhotep III. As odd as it seems, the name of this king was no different. The “Amun” element was carved away. Only instances of his throne name, Nebmaatre, were left intact.

With this summary it might seem Akhenaten was a zealot or fanatic, but there two more possibilities to explore. But before moving on, let’s clarify a modern misconception. In reading about Akhenaten you will often come across statements that he was a philosopher, a man before his time, and a man of peace and harmony. He may have been something of a philosopher, and perhaps even a man before his time (which smacks of bias toward Judeo-Christianity, given the monotheism angle), but we ought to dismiss notions of a peace-loving dove. Proscribing a long-standing cult to an ancient god, ending the veneration of other deities, and forcing upon the population a new form of religion would simply not have been a peaceful process. In all likelihood Akhenaten would’ve needed his military to make it happen. This is my own speculation, mind you, but the reforms could not have been peaceful.

On the subject of Judeo-Christian bias, this has manifested itself among modern fringe circles in a rather unusual way. Some modern folks favoring alternative history have tried to identify Akhenaten with Moses. I think it goes without saying that we need not take this seriously.

2. Acting Against the Amun Priesthood

Another theory also holds weight. Even before the time of Amunhotep III and Akhenaten, the priesthood controlling the cult of Amun had become very powerful. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that some of the high priests of Amun rivaled Pharaoh in wealth and power. Kings were obligated to bestow land and other gifts onto the cult of Amun—tax free. The temple complex of Amun ended up controlling significant portions of the arable land of the Nile Valley, and from this came great amounts of wealth.

Obviously this did not sit well with many kings. The ideology and concept of kinghood is one thing, reality is quite another. Not all kings were adept at exercising and maintaining power, and a weak king was the tool of powerful priesthoods. Whether this bothered Amunhotep III is not really clear, because while he began the elevation of the Aten, he also supported and expanded the cult of Amun. Perhaps Akhenaten wasn’t so forgiving.

And perhaps his closing of the Amun temples was a direct reflection of that. There was not enough room for two state deities, and as I said earlier, Amun was now proscribed while all attention and resources were switched to the Aten. This might also explain the establishing of a brand-new capital city at a brand-new site (see below), where Akhenaten built not only new palaces and residences for his followers, but a couple of brand-new temples for the Aten.

So perhaps Akhenaten obliterated the cult of Amun as a way to restore unrivaled power to the throne—his throne. Establishing a new cult for a once-minor solar deity would be an effective way to do it. The priests of Amun no longer threatened royal authority.

3. Plague

A more modern theory involves epidemic. Most scholars agree that a plague had struck Egypt in the reign of Amunhotep III. It is thought to have spread into Egypt from Canaan. A telling sign of this is that Amunhotep III erected a great many colossal statues of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet.

Sekhmet, goddess of war and disease.
Sekhmet, goddess of war and disease.

As with other deities, Sekhmet had numerous job descriptions. She was a goddess of war, a favorite past time of pharaohs. But if you recall, Amunhotep III was not a warrior-pharaoh. Everyone had already been conquered by the time he came to the throne. Why build so many Sekhmet statues, then? Another role of this goddess was pestilence and disease. She was a fearsome goddess and punisher of mankind if not appeased, so it is thought Amunhotep commissioned so many statues of her to appease the goddess and motivate her to stop the plague.

It didn’t work. The plague likely continued into the reign of Akhenaten. He had sired six daughters and it seems plausible that two or more died from the plague.

People must have been desperate. Akhenaten and Nefertiti must have felt the same. The land was unclean, and the old gods were doing nothing to save the people. Therefore, why not elevate a new deity who might be more beneficial to Egypt? This was the Aten’s big break.

But elevating a new god would not have been enough. If the very land itself was unclean, it was best to leave. In year five of his reign Akhenaten commissioned the building of a new capital city at a site in the middle of the Nile Valley that had been used for nothing before. It was virgin territory, and therefore clean. Akhenaten built his new city and called it Akhetaten, “Horizon of the Aten.”

To expedite the building process of new palaces, temples, and private residences, Akhenaten’s engineers devised a new form of  building block known today as the talatat:

Talatats, the principal building stone of Akhenaten's city.

Talatats, the principal building stone of Akhenaten’s city.

The talatat is a small stone block that allowed for the quicker building of monuments, big and small. As the photo shows, they sufficed for relief carvings and inscriptional material, as well. On average the reliefs and inscriptions of the Amarna Period are not of the refined caliber of the works of many other pharaohs, but what mattered was speed. And the city of Akhetaten went up fast.

That Akhenaten had a defined idea for the shape and function of the purpose-built city seems clear. Throughout the area he commissioned sixteen known boundary stelae of enormous size and fully inscribed them.

A boundary stela of the city of Akhetaten.

A boundary stela of the city of Akhetaten.

These stelae explained the size of the new city, and although often fragmentary today, their texts are illuminating. One reads in part (Kemp 2012: 34):

I shall make Akhetaten for the Aten, my farther, in this place. I shall not make Akhetaten for him to the south of it, to the north of it, to the west of it, to the east of it. I shall not expand beyond the southern stela of Akhetaten toward the south, nor shall I expand beyond the northern stela of Akhetaten toward the north…

I shall make the ‘House of the Aten’ for the Aten, my father, in Akhetaten in this place. I shall make the ‘Mansion of the Aten’ for the Aten , my father, in Akhetaten in this place…

From the start, then, the new city had fixed boundaries and purposes. The “House of the Aten” and “Mansion of the Aten” describe two different temples erected for the veneration of Akhenaten’s deity. Along with the palaces and logistical infrastructure, everything Akhenaten needed was there in his new city. And he does not seem to have left the city after he moved there in year five or six.

Artist's concept of the city of Akhetaten, showing the Great Temple to the Aten, the city's principal temple.

Artist’s concept of the city of Akhetaten, showing the Great Temple to the Aten, the city’s principal temple.

One can see the plausibility of the plague theory. Akhenaten elevates the Aten to supremacy and abandons the old gods. He moves 20,000 people to a new purpose-built city well away from the diseased old cities. He walls himself up in Akhetaten and avoids all other places.

Of course, these acts can also describe a religious zealot. As far as that goes, they can also fit the scenario of abolishing old cults to elevate a new one. This is why the debate continues. There is no clear explanation for why Akhenaten enacted such sweeping and upsetting reforms. It could well be a combination of all three scenarios, or for a reason we don’t even know.

The Style of Amarna Period Art

Another enduring mystery of the Amarna Period is its unusual art forms. In more traditional times kings were usually depicted as uniformly muscular, buff, handsome—the perfect male figure, in other words. Not so in the Amarna Period. Akhenaten sponsored a completely new artistic form that upset tradition and revised the human appearance. Amarna Period artwork is immediately recognizable:

Statue of Akhenaten.

Statue of Akhenaten.

Amarna Period stela of Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and their daughters.

Amarna Period stela of Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and their daughters.

Akhenaten and his queen Nefertiti, as well as their progeny, are shown in androgynous form. Without cartouches and names in accompanying inscriptions it can be difficult to distinguish male from female figures. Both possess long faces with full lips, elongated torsos with breasts, wide hips, and spindly limbs. It’s not difficult to imagine how confused the earliest archaeologists were when they first excavated at Amarna and came across these monuments. I once read that the earliest archaeologists, in fact, had thought this king named Akhenaten was a woman. He certainly resembled one.

But one must take care in interpreting pharaonic artwork, regardless of the period of time from which it comes. This artwork is usually not portraiture as we understand the concept. A good example is the long-lived Ramesses II, who died at around ninety years of age (1212 BCE) but whose statues always show him as young, handsome, and virile.

Down through time historians and other specialists have had a hard time understanding the human forms of Amarna artwork. They just look “wrong,” somehow. From this have come a myriad of attempts at medical explanations, Marfan syndrome being one of the most common. The physical characteristics of Amarna artwork do seem to fit with some aspects of Marfan. But as modern scientific analyses of royal Amarna mummies have confirmed, there is no evidence in the physical human remains for such a disorder (Rühli & Ikram 2013: 7; Hawass et al 2010: 637).

It’s unrealistic in the first place that both Akhenaten and Nefertiti would’ve had such a disorder. Unlike many pharaohs of Dynasty 18 who married sisters or half-sisters, Nefertiti was not a sister of Akhenaten. There’s no certain evidence she’s of royal blood, period, but the debate continues. Her parentage is simply unclear to us. I must state that there is no universal agreement on whether the mummies of these two royals have ever been found. Hawass is virtually alone in identifying an unnamed mummy from a tomb designated KV55 as Akhenaten (ibid), whereas most specialists agree this is the body of a man too young at death to have been Akhenaten and is more than likely the mummy of a short-lived king named Smenkhkare; a plausible mummy for Nefertiti is even less likely.

The point is, there is no evidence in the extant Amarna mummies for a disorder like Marfan, so that as well as other pathology is unlikely to be the explanation for the odd human form in Amarna artwork.

So, how else to explain it? We might never know for certain, but it might well involve the nature of Akhenaten’s sweeping religious reforms. Many believe the art can be explained as a religious convention to stress the physical androgyny of a creator deity. As with the Aten, sex is not required to create. Therefore, Akhenaten and Nefertiti reflect this in their forms, as do their daughters. By extension, based on traditions of old wherein private people followed royal convention, the same human forms are seen in the depictions of nobility in Amarna. This makes a medical explanation like Marfan even less likely.

It’s telling that all of the prominent creator deities of traditional pharaonic Egypt were male, so this stands at odds with the above scenario. Then again, the Aten was neither male nor female in nature, so I don’t know how far that argument can be carried. Still, others have posited that the odd human form is nothing more than a more natural and free-flowing preference fostered by Akhenaten (Silverman et al 2006: 17). This must be considered, too.

Some have also posited that the elongated heads of Amarna artwork suggest head-binding. This practice has been done in certain areas of Africa, as well as of course Mesoamerica. However, the sum total of analyses of human remains show that skull deformation was not practiced in ancient Egypt (Filer 1995: 91). Besides, focusing just on the odd heads ignores the equally odd characteristics of other body parts.

Then of course there is fringe crowd who like to express that the heads look that way because Akhenaten and clan were aliens. This might be suitable fodder for a nitwit setting like the TV show Ancient Aliens, but it is not to be taken seriously.

Why Akhenaten and Atenism Failed 

The religion of the Aten was more or less doomed to fail. For one thing, even if he was a king, Akhenaten forced his beliefs onto a people who had held to polytheistic beliefs long before the Amarna Period. The entire episode must have seemed bizarre to them, and upsetting. For another, it never took hold in Akhenaten’s own time, anyway. Other, smaller temples to the Aten were erected in other cities up and down the Nile Valley, but cults to old deities never completely disappeared. Even under Akhenaten’s nose in his city of Akhetaten, excavations of private residences in modern times have shown that household deities like Bes and Tawaret were still present.

Equally significant is how Akhenaten presented the concept of the Aten to the population. Recall the line from the “Great Hymn to the Aten” in which Akhenaten states that only he “knows” the Aten. In essence, the common people themselves were not permitted to pray directly to the Aten. This was never the case with the old traditional deities. People may rarely have been allowed inside the great state temples, but the gods venerated in those temples could still be worshipped privately in one’s home or in humble village shrines. In the reign of Akhenaten, on the other hand, it seems that people were expected to send their prayers to Aten by praying not to it but to Akhenaten and Nefertiti—they and only they would then send those prayers onto the deity. It was a rather impersonal religion to the vast majority of the population, in other words.

I use a modern comparison when I explain the gist of this. Imagine being a Roman Catholic with a crucifix of Christ on your bedroom wall. Along comes a new Pope who completely upsets and revises tradition: henceforth you are to worship the crucifix absent the figure of Christ, but you must also pray only to the Pope in order for your prayers to be sent on to the crucifix. Of course this sounds bizarre, and I admit the comparison is somewhat clumsy, but it helps one to image how ancient Egyptians must have felt when Akhenaten came to power.

Akhenaten died around 1342 BCE. An odd fact is, as unpopular as this king must have been, there is no evidence he was assassinated. It would certainly help to have a definitive mummy for the king, but it is what it is. In any case, the religion of the Aten died almost as quickly.

As I mentioned earlier, the exact succession of rulers following Akhenaten remains unclear and is hotly debated to this day. The historical record becomes clear again only when the boy-king Tutankhamun came to the throne in 1343 BCE. He was only around eight years old, so he exercised no real power. The true power behind the throne were government officials such as Aye, Horemheb, and Nakhtmin. They used Tut as a convenient tool to restore orthodoxy in short order.

The purpose-built city of Akhetaten was abandoned fairly quickly. It’s evident that people lived there for some time afterward, and estates for the Aten continued (such as for the production of wine). But the city itself lost all significance, and by the reign of Horemheb (1328-1298 BCE) at the end of Dynasty 18, Akhetaten’s talalate buildings were being razed and used as fill for other royal constructions. Today Akhetaten (modern Amarna) is a lifeless desert landscape with mostly only foundations of buildings remaining:

A modern aerial view of Tell el Amarna.

A modern aerial view of Tell el Amarna.

The religion of the Aten fell equally into ruin. Without Akhenaten and Nefertiti as figureheads to sustain the religion, it had no life left. The Aten returned to its former status as a minor aspect of Re.

Akhenaten’s fate was worse. Branded a heretic, he was to be forgotten for the rest of time. His name was never again to be spoken aloud. He was to be referred to, if at all, as “the criminal of Akhetaten.” Akhenaten fell into the dust bins of history and was forgotten.

Until the advent of modern archaeology, a lot of which has focused on Tell el Amarna since the nineteenth century. That’s another irony. This king was supposed to have been forgotten for eternity, erased from history, but in modern times he is one of the favorites for research subjects in Egyptology. Probably only Tutankhamun has had more books written about him as far as pharaohs are concerned. Akhenaten is just as popular among us amateur historians, and is even well known among laypeople.

The mummies of the succeeding pharaohs must be spinning in their graves. Or tombs. Or glass display cases in the museums of Egypt today.

Thanks for joining me. I welcome comments and questions.


Dodson, Aidan and Dyan Hilton. The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. 2004.

Filer, Joyce. Disease. 1995.

Foster, John L. “The New Religion.” Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamun. 1999.

Hawass, Zahi, et al. “Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun’s Family.” JAMA. 2010.

Kemp, Barry. The City of Akhenaten and Neferiti: Amarna and Its People. 2012.

Pritchard, James B., ed. The Ancient Near East – Volume 1: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures. 1958.

Redford, Donald B. “The Beginning of the Heresy.” Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamun. 1999.

Rühli, F.J. and Salima Ikram. “Purported medical diagnoses of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, c. 1325 BC–.” HOMO – Journal of Comparative Human Biology. 2013.

Silverman, David P., Josef W. Wegner, and Jennifer Houser Wegner. Akhenaten & Tutankhamun: Revolution & Restoration. 2006.