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Akhenaten

Amenophis IV New Kingdom, Eighteenth Dynasty, reign of Amenophis IV-Akhenaten (1353-37 BC) Temple of Karnak, east precinct, Luxor, Egypt


Brief IdentificationEdit

This item is a fragment from a pillar of a building constructed at Karnak. It depicts Amenophis IV, a king of the New Kingdom of Egypt , specifically the eighteenth dynasty. He succeeds his father Amenophis III as king after his untimely death. During his reign, Amenophis IV imposed the worship of one sole god, Aten. For this reason, he erects many new buildings with new motifs, such as this one which is made of sandstone and produced around 1353-37 BC. [See Lili]


Technical EvaluationEdit

        The pillar was made in the traditional way from sandstone that was quarried at Silsileh. A tablet was raised claiming that this was the “first occurrence of His Majesty’s giving command to muster all the workmen from Elephantine to Samhudet, and the leaders of the army, in order to make a great breach for cutting out sandstone, in order to make the sanctuary of Harkhti in his name ‘Heat-which-is-in-Aten,’ in Karnak. Behold the officials, the companions, and the chiefs of the fan-bearers were the chiefs of the quarry-service for the transportation of stone.” [See Silverberg 1964] The use of sandstone was popular in these times and Amenophis IV was in a rush to erect these new buildings. We do however know that this building is important because he used bricks to build other buildings in his haste. Amenophis IV wanted to remove himself from the traditional ways of Egypt and started by erecting these new buildings between Karnak and Luxor. His goal was to make Aten the one and only god and eventually in his reign he creates a totally new capital in Middle Egypt where no one has ever lived before, named Akhetaten. He sends for the most skilled artisans to come and build this new capital halfway between Thebes and Memphis. [See Silverberg 1964]

There is not much information on the process used to create the specific monuments for Amenophis IV but it is assumed that the typical use of copper tools were used to chisel and refine the stone.

This artifact finds its home in The Louvre museum in France. It was a gift from the Egypitan government in recognition of France’s role in the saving of the Nubian monuments. [See Lili]

Local Historical Context Edit

This artifact is a product of New Kingdom Egypt specifically the 18th dynasty under the reign of Amenophis IV. During this time, great changes were being made to Egypt’s society. Amenophis had a vision to change the religious practices of  Egypt to the worship of one sole god, Aten. Aten was said to be the light in the sun disk. This was a drastic change in the traditions of Egypt. Before his rule, Egyptians worshipped many gods in order to pay respect to many different elements such as the sun, moon, earth, and air. In the 18th dynasty specifically, people held significance to Amen, deeming him to be the creation god. The importance of the god caused great power to be held by priests who decided whom was a good pharaoh or not. Amenophis IV had a different vision for Egypt, in line with that of his father and grandfather of Ra-horakhty. [See Hussein 2007] Amenophis even went as far as to change his name to Akhenaten, out of respect for his god. Akhenaten went to great lengths to convert his kingdom to worshiping Aten. Eventually, in his reign, he ordered all temples of Amen to be destroyed and only temples of Aten were still standing. He transformed the architecture of temples by keeping them roofless so that the great gift of light from Aten would be present. The elites and upper class people respected and followed his religion, perhaps to gain acceptance from Akhenaten, but excavation has found that those in lower classes still secretly worshipped their old gods, unsure of the ideas of Akhenaten. [See Ruiz 182-185]

Akhenaten claimed to be the manifestation of Aten which is why he is present in so much of the art and decorum of his time period, which is called the Amarna period. All of the works, this pillar included were commissioned by him in his move toward Atenism. The greatest artisans and workers were contracted to erect this buildings and statues and they are seen a lot through his reign. His art work boasts a more realistic style, showing him with a long slender head, wide hips and a bigger stomach. This has come to be a definitive style of the period. He also depicted his family in this realistic way, also depicting the intimacy of his family, showing them pursuing daily activities. [See Mot 1966]

World Historical SignificanceEdit

This object, or rather the person that it depicts, Akhenaten, is extremely significant to world history. Akhenaten is said to be the first monotheist. There had been slight instances of monotheism before and also worship to Aten, but Akhenaten was the first to ever fuse to two together and create a cohesive religion in which solely one god was worshipped. It is even hypothesized that Moses may have even given the religion of Atenism to the Jewish people. Clearly, Akhenaten had a great influence on world history and culture. He set a precedent for the world. [See Silverberg 1964]

Suggested BibliographyEdit

Hussein, Ramadan B. 2007. "A New Direction." Calliope 18, no. 1: 8-11. MasterFILE Elite, EBSCOhost (accessed April 24, 2013).

Lili, Ait-Kaci. "Amenophis IV ." Louvre. www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/amenophis-iv (accessed April 24, 2013).

Mot, Eleanore. The age of Akhenaten. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966.

Ruiz, Ana. "Part III: Achievements." In The spirit of Ancient Egypt. New York: Algora Pub., 2001. 182-185.

Shaw, Ian. "The Amarna Period and the Later New Kingdom." In The Oxford history of ancient Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. 272-313.

Silverberg, Robert. Akhnaten: the rebel pharaoh. Philadelphia: Chilton, 1964.