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Who was Akhenaten ?

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 gods.

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 religion.

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 Pharaohs.
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 Museum.

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 jewelry.