“I will build Akhetaten for my father Aten in this place…which he himself created in such a way that it…is enclosed by mountains and pleasant to him.”
[Due to popular demand—a brief post about the Amarna Period (18th Dyn.)!]
Akhetaten (modern Tell el-Amarna), literally ‘Horizon of the Sun’, was the relocated capital of Akhenaten (pictured top left), one of the most controversial and fascinating figures in Egyptian history. The quotation above was found inscribed upon a rock stela—one of many used to mark the city’s boundaries. We clearly see the pharaoh’s newfound devotion to Aten, the sun-disk deity, exponentially abound beginning in the 5th year of his reign. This loyalty to Aten can be observed in everything from nomenclature to artwork. For example, in the featured relief above, we see Akhenaten and Nefertiti (whose bust may also be seen above) spending time with three of their daughters under the protection of Aten, whose outstretched rays reach down towards the royal family. Such imagery particularly emphasizes the reciprocal nature of the relationship between Akhenaten and his “sole deity”. (Note: This does not necessarily make religion of the Amarna Period monotheistic as many have come to believe—but that’s a longer discussion than I care to blog about! However, there is no doubt that Akhenaten radically changed the Egyptian religion.)
While the temples of Amun and other traditionally prominent Egyptian gods were closed and neglected, Akhenaten dedicated Per-Aten (‘House of Aten’) to his primary deity along the east bank of the Nile. Unfortunately, not much remains of this temple complex—much of it was later disassembled and used to construct other temples on the opposite side of the river. But-Egyptologists do know that the building was sizable, and its temples were roofless, indicating its correlation with the sun disk.
The prominence of Aten was short-lived; soon after Akhenaten’s death, the city was abandoned and deconstructed, and the pharaoh’s son, Tutankhaten became the more commonly known Tutankhamun. Despite this quick turn-around, the Amarna Period has left a legacy of incredible stylistic changes and an unprecedented religious revolution. Much more can be said about this period, but such a staggering amount of scholarship exists on the subject that it is literally impossible to concisely include everything in a little blog. But expect more posts on Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Kiya, and others in the future. After all, it is my second favorite period in Egyptian history to study!