Akhenaten Family Background Essay

Describe the family and family background of Akhenaten. In your answer refer to: the 18th dynasty pharaohs, his mother, his brother, Akhenaten’s wives, particularly Nefertiti (her origin and roles) and his children. Assess their importance to the pharaoh. In your answer refer to at least four sources, ancient and modern. You can also show diagrams if you wish. (500-550 words) Akhenaten was the tenth pharaoh of the 18th dynasty; he reigned over New Kingdom Egypt for approximately 17 years. Akhenaten was the son of Amenhotep III and his chief wife, Queen Tiy.

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Scholars agree that Amenhotep III and Queen Tiy had four known daughters and two sons, Thutmoses and Akhenaten, who was originally named Amenhotep IV. Akhenaten was a sheltered child and appeared to be rejected by his father as he was rarely included in portraits of the family and was never taken to any public events unlike his brother, Thutmoses, as he was not assumed to take the throne. Akhenaten became pharaoh after the death of his father Amenhotep III in 1352BC, as Thutmoses had died prematurely.

It is believed that Akhenaten was already married to Nefernefruaten- Nefertiti when he came to the throne. Nefertiti’s origin or parents are unknown, there are two main theories of her origin, and the most accepted is that Nefertiti is the daughter of Ay, vizier to various pharaohs of the 18th dynasty and the assumed brother of Queen Tiy. This is believed as Nefertiti’s nurse was the wife of Ay, as well as references that Nefertiti’s sister, Mutnojme, is prominently featured in the reliefs of Ay’s tomb.

Another theory is that Nefertiti was the Mitannian princess sent to Egypt for a diplomatic marriage, referred to as ‘Tadhukhipa’, this is supported as Nefertiti means “the beautiful woman has come”. Nefertiti was Akhenaten’s chief wife and it is clear that Akhenaten valued his beloved wife, in his tomb he referred to her as ‘the mistress of his happiness’, and according to C. Alfred on one of the boundary stelae at Amarna he describes her as “Fair of Face, Joyous with the Double Plume, Mistress of Happiness, Endowed with Favour, at hearing whose voice one rejoices, Lady of Grace, Great of Love, whose disposition cheers the Lord of Two Lands”.

In Akhenaten’s tomb and in tombs of the nobles, Nefertiti is depicted as equal to the pharaoh, in Akhenaten and the Amarna Bradley states “she’s is treated as the king’s partner not only in their family life but in religious and political life as well”, unlike other pharaohs there are also many family reliefs depicting Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their six daughters making offerings to the Aten; no son was ever depicted in reliefs. Akhenaten and Nefertiti are accepted to have had six daughters together. They were Meritaten, Meketaten, Ankhensenpaaten, Nefernefruten-tasherit, Nefernefure and Setepenre.

Meritaten ‘beloved of Aten’, married Akhenaten’s successor, Smekhkare. Around year 15 of Akhenaten’s reign, Meritaten was given the rank of ‘Mistress of the House’ and favourite of the King, at this time she was depicted performing certain religious rituals in the temple of the Aten. Meketaten ‘protected of Aten’ possibly died at childbirth (Alfred) or at the age of eleven (Redford), mourning scenes of Akhenaten and Nefertiti are depicted in the king’s tomb. Ankhensenpaaten ‘her life is in the Aten’, married Tutankhamun and became Ankhensenamun.

Nefernefruaten-tasherit ‘Nefernefruaten Junior –after Nefertiti’, Nefernefrure ‘beautiful as the beauty of Re’, and Setepenre ‘chosen of Re’. What happened to the youngest three daughters is unknown. In addition to Nefertiti, Akhenaten had many other minor wives that he inherited from Amenhotep III’s harem as well as those he would have selected himself. Of particular importance is Kiya, one of Akhenaten’s minor wives. Her full origin is unknown, but she seems to have come from an official family with links to the royal household.

In Akhenaten’s inscriptions Kiya was described as the greatly beloved wife of the king, this was purely an acknowledgement of her position as secondary wife and in particular as the mother of royal children. She is believed to be the mother of Tutankhaten (later Tutankhamen) and possibly Smenkhkare, who succeeded Akhenaten’s reign. It appears Kiya was a favourite of Akhenaten’s for a reasonably long time. Describe the building projects of Akhenaten in East Karnak, near the traditional capital Thebes, and Akhetaten (his new cult centre).

Describe the features of the buildings and account for the stylistic changes, especially to do with the worship of the Aten. In your answer include evidence from sources ancient and modern. You can use diagrams and maps if you wish. When Akhenaten came to power in 1353BC instead of holding the holistic New Kingdom Egypt builder-warrior pharaoh, Akhenaten focused on his building projects and the establishment of Aten worship in New Kingdom Egypt. In the first year of his reign Akhenaten ordered that his father’s construction project be completed, this was typical of New Kingdom pharaohs.

This project was of two decorated pylon gateways at the temple of Amun-Re at Karnak. The relief scenes carved on the pylon at this time show Akhenaten in a traditional way, they also depict the Aten as a falcon-headed god. In the second year Akhenaten ordered the construction of four temples dedicated to the Aten to be built at East Karnak, outside the enclosure wall on the east of the Great Temple of Amun-Re. These temples were Gempaaten – ‘sun disk is found’ , the Mansion of the Ben-ben stone, Rud-menu – ‘Sturdy are the Monuments of the sun-disk Forever,’ and Teni-menu – ‘Exalted are the Monuments of the sun-disk Forever’.

The Gempaaten was an open rectangular court approximately 300m by 200m enclosed with a mud-brick wall, surrounding this was a roofed colonnade. The temple itself was adorned with colossal statues of Akhenaten. The decorative scenes shown in the temple showed a celebration of the Heb-sed festival in the second and third year of the king’s reign. According to an unknown source in the depictions of the first year the ritual was enacted before officials from all the districts and the gods of Egypt, whose statues had been brought from near and far to be placed in shrines.

Akhenaten offered to the gods individually and was accepted by each to continue ruling. However, in the Heb-sed festival of the third year all the shrines of the gods of Egypt are replaced by the Aten and Akhenaten in the reliefs. Typically when a pharaoh is being depicted with a god he is either drawn equal or depicted kneeling to the deity, but as the sun-disc is shown at the top of relief scenes Akhenaten’s single standing figure becomes more prominent. There is no firm evidence of the other three Aten temples purpose or location at Karnak, as they were destroyed and the building materials were reused in later pharaohs building projects.

It is believed that the Mansion of the Ben-ben stone was built for Nefertiti, the Ben-ben stone is typically depicted as a pyramid shaped stone, but in this temple it was shown as an obelisk. In the relief scenes Nefertiti is portrayed making offerings to the Aten as this role was generally undertaken by Akhenaten, these reliefs were the first to include Nefertiti in the triad of the Aten. A major change in the depiction of Akhenaten began to appear in these temples, he was no longer portrayed as the tradition pharaoh but instead his face become elongated, he showed very little upper body tone and had a pot belly.

However large and remarkable Akhenaten’s Aten temples were, they would never be able to overcome the dominance of Amun at Karnak. This issue led to Akhenaten’s desire to form a new capital city entirely devoted to the Aten sun-disc. In year six of his reign Akhenaten selected a site halfway between Memphis and Thebes, where the cliffs on the east bank form an amphitheatre opposite from the river Nile, this naturally occurring amphitheatre was 13km in diameter and 5km wide.

Akhenaten set up boundary stelae to mark the limits of his new city in every directions, he affirmed that the ground did not belong to any deity and it was the Aten himself who had revealed the land to Akhenaten. On the boundary stelae the king states the city is to be called Akhetaten meaning ‘the Horizon or seat of the Aten’, the message on the stelae mentions the temples Akhenaten intends to construct in the city – A House of the Aten, a Mansion of the Aten, a Sunshade of the Queen and a House of Rejoicing for the Aten in the Island.

Evidence of most of these temples and buildings has not been found or confirmed. Akhetaten was divided into several main building regions; these included the Main city – with the royal palace and temples, the North Suburb, South city, Maru-aten (Southern Palace), a workers village and rock cut tombs. The Great Temple of the Aten was built as the centre of worship in Akhetaten. The building was an 800m by 300m open roofed rectangular court, similar to the Gempaaten in layout but much larger.

The temple was not open to the public and only the royal family or high priest could enter into the Great Temple of the Aten. R. J. Unstead states the temple was designed in a processional way; entrance to the temple was from the west between two tall pylons, this entrance let into a small courtyard, ahead of this was the House of Rejoicing or Per-Hai. This was a hall filled with columns and adorned with reliefs of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. From Per-Hai you reach the next part of the temple Gem-Aten ‘finding of the Aten’, this courtyard contained rows of mud brick offering tables.

Ahead of the Gem-Aten is the entrance to a long narrow court with a raised altar, beyond this alter is then entrance to another court, followed by a second and finally into three smaller sanctuary or garden courts. Each court of the temple, aside from the Gem-Aten had its own altar and colossal statues of Akhenaten as well as representations of the Aten on wall reliefs. There was no exit at the other end of The Great Temple so the procession of Akhenaten, Nefertiti and the Aten priests had to turn around and exit through the west entrance.

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