Akhenaten was a Ruler of Egypt during the period known as the
18th Dynasty. He ascended to the throne as Amenhotep IV, succeeding
his father Amenhotep III.
Akhenaten's brief reign, only about 16 years, happened at a difficult
time in Egyptian history and many scholars maintain that Akhenaten
was responsible for this decline, but evidence suggests that
it had already started.
Akhenaten, possibly in a move to lessen the political power of
the Priests, introduced the worship of one god, the Aten,
or Sun disk. This meant that the Pharaoh, not the priesthood,
was the sole link between the population and the Aten which effectively
ended the power of the various temples.
It is interesting to note that when Akhenaten's successors, the
generals Ay and Horemheb
re established the temples of Amun they selected their priests
from the military, enabling the Pharaoh to keep tighter controls
over the religious orders.
The cult of the Aten is considered by some to be a predecessor
of modern monotheism.
Not a Pharaoh to do things by half, when Akhenaten established
his new religion he built an entire city dedicated to the Aten
complete with a necropolis and royal tomb.
This city was Akhetaten, the Horizon of the
Aten and at the peak of Akhenaten's reign over 20,000 people
lived there. The city was built in middle Egypt, on a site thought
to have been chosen as it was not tainted by the worship of other
After the death of Akhenaten the city was abandoned, and the
old religions which had been suppressed quickly re-established
their control over Egypt. It is thought that this return was
started by Smenkhkare, and completed by
Tutankhaten who changed his name to Tutankhamun
and moved his capital from Akhetaten to Memphis.
Akhenaten is perhaps unfairly not credited with being a particularly
successful Pharaoh. Records seem to indicate that he allowed
Egyptian influence wane but this may not be true. These ideas
are based on the famous Amarna letters found in Akhetaten
in many of which Egyptian vassal cities plead for assistance,
but no replies are preserved.
As there is no surviving record of Egyptian territory being
lost at this time it is possible that Akhenaten was merely skillfully
playing one city against the other to achieve through diplomacy
what would otherwise require military force.
Later Pharaohs attempted to erase all memories of Akhenaten
and his religion. Much of the distinctive art of the period was
destroyed and the buildings dismantled to be reused. Many of
the Talitat blocks from the Aten temples
in Thebes were reused as rubble infill for later pylons where
they were rediscovered during restoration work and reassembled.
It is interesting to note that this destruction was directed
at Akhenaten personally and not the Aten itself which in later
dynasties it returned to it's original minor position in Egyptian
The backlash against the religion of Akhenaten led to the widespread
destruction of his palaces and temples. Work began on dismantling
Akhetaten shortly after it was abandoned and along with many
other of Akhenaten's monuments it's stone was re-used by later
Restoration work on the great pylons of Ramesses II at Karnak
showed that they used 'recycled' Aten temples for the filling.
This has left modern Archaeologists with the worlds biggest jigsaw
puzzle. A section of a temple wall
has now been restored and is on display in the Luxor
The Egyptian display in the NMS
contains a section devoted to jewelry, with many complex and
beautiful items on show. Amongst these almost unnoticed, lies
potentially one of the most interesting and significant items
in the entire collection.
Several rings are on display from various sites, but one fine
gold ring could have once belonged to one of the most famous
queens in Ancient Egypt, Nefertiti. This ring, bearing the royal
cartouche, was found just outside the royal
tomb at Akhetaten in a small cache along with some other