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Nefertiti

Nefertiti was the wife of the Pharaoh Akhenaten of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. Her name means, `the beautiful one has come’ and, because of the world-famous bust created by the sculptor Thutmose (discovered in 1912 CE), she is the most recognizable queen of ancient Egypt.

She grew up in the royal palace at Thebes, probably the daughter of the vizier to Amenhotep III, a man named Ay, and was engaged to his son, Amenhotep IV, around the age of eleven. There is evidence to suggest that she was an adherent of the cult of Aten, a sun deity, at an early age and that she may have influenced Amenhotep IV’s later decision to abandon the worship of the gods of Egypt in favor of a monotheism centered on Aten. After he changed his name to Akhenaten and assumed the throne of Egypt, Nefertiti ruled with him until his death after which she disappears from the historical record.

Nefertiti’s Reign

She ruled alongside Akhenaten during the eighteenth dynasty (1550-1292 BC).  She lived in Tell El Amarna, a city constructed by the pharaoh to worship their god Aten. There, they safeguarded their family and their beliefs—it became the center of Egypt’s new religion. It’s believed that Nefertiti was probably a distant relative to Akhenaten and a favorite queen to the pharaoh. Nothing is known about the queen’s childhood and no evidence has yielded who her parents are. Some believe her father could be Aye due to inscriptions found inside his tomb proclaiming him the father of her sister Mutnodjmet.

During her reign as queen, Egypt went about many radical religious changes. Hundreds of years of culture and worship had been exchanged for a new radical concept— Monotheism. The old gods had been disregarded, temples shut down, and priests forced to change their ways. Many historians believe this transition could have been hostile and was not adopted so easily by the citizens or priests.

Her reign with Akhenaten was unlike the traditional ways Egypt had seen. She was more than just a typical queen and helped to promote Akhenaten’s views. Her reign was only 12 years, but she was perhaps one of the most powerful queens to ever rule. Supporting her husbands’ beliefs she changed her name to Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti meaning, “The Aten is radiant of radiance [because] the beautiful one has come.” Her importance was greatly valued by Akhenaten and he went to great lengths to show her as his counterpart. As queen, she took on powerful roles and showed herself in ways only Egyptian kings did. For example, she was often shown with the crown of a pharaoh or was depicted in scenes of battle smiting her enemies. Akhenaten valued her so much, that he also allowed her to practice that art of priesthood and she too was allowed to make offerings to Aten.

Many Egyptologists believe that perhaps Akhenaten was born with deformities that hindered his role as king. One of the ailments that were believed he had was bad vision. This illness could have made his job difficult, in turn, he could have put trust into Nefertiti allowing her to decide many important matters. He trusted her so much, that he went as far as placing her name next to his in his royal cartouche. This was very unique and could have symbolized her as equal status next to Akhenaten.

Other depictions show the couple side by side often with their children in a utopic fashion. In one stela, found in Tell el Amarna, the couple is seated together. Akhenaten is giving his daughter an earring while his wife Nefertiti has the other two daughters on her lap. In this depiction, the queen is having a wonderful time and is shown in a loving manner with her husband and children. Both are shown as equal counterparts in their status and family affairs.

Akhenaten and Nefertiti

Times of her Youth & Marriage

Even though it appears that Nefertiti was the daughter of Ay, this claim is far from substantiated. Inscriptions refer to Ay’s wife, Tiye (or Tey) as Nefertiti’s wet nurse, not her mother, and nothing is known of Ay’s lesser wife. Ay, in addition to his other duties, was tutor to the young Amenhotep IV and may have introduced the prince to Nefertiti when both were children. Nefertiti and her sister, Mudnodjame, were certainly regular members of the court at Thebes and, whether or not Ay introduced her to Amenhotep IV, the two would have known each other simply for that reason.

Ancient images and inscriptions indicate her early interest in the cult of Aten but, as every Egyptian favored one god or another, there is no reason to believe that she had any ideas relating to monotheism or elevating Aten above the other gods (as has been suggested by some scholars). All that can be stated with certainty is that both sisters were adherents of Aten and may have influenced Amenhotep IV’s interest in that cult from an early age. Any definitive statements regarding her influence on the rise of monotheism in Egypt must of necessity be speculative as there is no conclusive evidence to support it; just as there is little information on her life in general.

By the time she was fifteen years old she was married to Amenhotep IV and, after the death of Amenhotep III, she became queen of Egypt. It is at this stage that some scholars claim she most exerted her influence on Amenhotep IV to abandon the ancient religion of Egypt and initiate his religious reforms but, again, this is unsubstantiated.

Nefertiti & Akhenaten, a deeper look

In the fifth year of his reign (some sources claim the ninth), Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaten, abolished the religious practices of Egypt, closed the temples, and decreed Aten the one true god. While it is possible he created monotheism out of a genuine religious conviction, it is more probable that it was a political manoeuver to cut the power and wealth of the priests of the god Amun, whose cult was extremely popular. Throughout the 18th dynasty the cult of Amun had increasingly grown in wealth and prestige so that, by Akhenaten’s time, the cult’s priests were almost as powerful as pharaoh. Instituting monotheism, and proscribing the old religion, would have completely restored power to the throne; and that is precisely what it did. The god Aten was now considered not only a powerful god of Egypt but the god of creation, the one true god of the universe.

At the site of Akhetaten (Amarna), the new city dedicated to the god Aten. In the sixth year [of Akhenaten’s reign] Nefertiti’s name was changed to Nefernefruaten which means `Beautiful in beauty is Aten’. Nefertiti lived with Akhenaten in Amarna where he conducted religious services to Aten. (Bunson, 185).

The couple had six daughters: Meritaten, Meketaten, Ankhesenpaaten, Nefernefruaten-tasherit, Neferneferure, and Setepenre, but no sons. With his lesser wife, Kiya, Akhenaten had two sons, Tutankhamun and possibly Smenkhkare (though Smenkhare’s lineage is disputed). Akhenaten married two of these daughters, Meritaten and Ankhesenpaaten (later, Ankhsenamun, wife of Tutankhamun) and may have had children with them (though this is also disputed). What is clear, however, from stele and inscriptions which survived the later purge of their reign, is that the royal couple was deeply devoted to each other and constantly together or with their daughters. Regarding Nefertiti’s physical appearance at this time, Heller writes:

“It is surmised that she must have been about four feet, six inches tall, the height of an average Egyptian woman of the time. It is known from her depictions that she often went about scantily dressed, as was customary in the warm climate. Otherwise, she appeared in the traditional garb of a clinging gown tied by a girdle with ends falling in front; at times, she is depicted coiffed with a short wig. She probably had a shaven head to improve the fit of her unusual tall blue crown. It is known that she identified with her husband’s heresy and that, according to Akhenaten’s poetry, he loved her dearly. It is also known that her beauty was legendary”

The royal family originally lived at the palace of Malkata in Thebes, which was built under the reign of Amenhotep III but renovated under Akhenaten and re-named Tehen Aten (meaning `the splendor of Aten).

Watterson, and others, also point out that the palace was abundant in gold decorations and ornate reliefs. However opulent Malkata was, the new palace at the city the couple founded, Akhetaten, was even grander and, more importantly, served a symbolic purpose in the new religion of Aten.

As part of his religious revolution, Akhenaten decided to leave Thebes and move to a virgin site that would be dedicated to his new cult. The new city was located in Middle Egypt, and called Akhetaten, `Horizon of Aten’. It was laid out parallel to the river, its boundaries marked by stelae carved into the cliffs ringing the site. The king himself took responsibility for its cosmologically significant master plan. In the center of his city, the king built a formal reception palace, where he could meet officials and foreign dignitaries. The palaces in which he and his family lived were to the north, and a road led from the royal dwelling to the reception palace. Each day, Akhenaten and Nefertiti processed in their chariots from one end of the city to the other, mirroring the journey of the sun across the sky. In this, as in many other aspects of their lives that have come to us through art and texts, Akhenaten and Nefertiti were seen, or at least saw themselves, as deities in their own right. It was only through them that the Aten could be worshipped: they were both priests and gods. -Egyptologist Zahi Hawass explains.

Egyptian Royal Woman – Possibly Nefertiti

In her role as part of the divine couple, Nefertiti may also have been co-regent. Akhenaten joined his cartouche (his seal) with hers as a sign of equality and there is evidence that she took on the traditional duties of pharaoh while her husband busied himself with theological reformation and architectural renovations. Images which have survived depict her officiating at religious services, receiving foreign dignitaries, moderating diplomatic meetings, and even in the traditional royal role of the king smiting the enemies of Egypt. None of these images would have been created if there were not some truth behind the stories they depict and so Nefertiti must have wielded more power than any woman in Egypt since the time of Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BCE). From the royal palace at Akhetaten, she sent forth the royal decrees and made the decisions which, according to tradition, were the responsibility of her husband.

Source: Ancient History Encyclopedia (ancient.eu), kingtutone.com

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Akhenaten

Akhenaten

Akhenaten (r. 1353-1336 BCE) was a pharaoh of Egypt of the 18th Dynasty. He is also known as `Akhenaton’ or `Ikhnaton’ and also `Khuenaten’, all of which are translated to mean `successful for’ or `of great use to’ the god Aten. Akhenaten chose this name for himself after his conversion to the cult of Aten. Prior to this conversion, he was known as Amenhotep IV (or Amenophis IV). He was the son of Amenhotep III (1386-1353 BCE) and his wife Tiye, husband of Queen Nefertiti, and father of both Tutankhamun (by a lesser wife named Lady Kiya) and Tutankhamun’s wife Ankhsenamun (by Nefertiti).

His reign as Amenhotep IV lasted five years during which he followed the policies of his father and the religious traditions of Egypt. However, in the fifth year, he underwent a dramatic religious transformation, changed his devotion from the cult of Amun to that of Aten, and, for the next twelve years, became famous (or infamous) as the `heretic king’ who abolished the traditional religious rites of Egypt and instituted the first known monotheistic state religion in the world and, according to some, monotheism itself.

His reign is known as The Amarna Period because he moved the capital of Egypt from the traditional site at Thebes to the city he founded, Akhetaten, which came to be known as Amarna (also Tell el-Amarna). The Amarna Period is the most controversial era in Egyptian history and has been studied, debated, and written about more than any other.

Amenhotep IV Becomes Akhenaten

Amenhotep IV may have been co-regent with his father, Amenhotep III, and it has been noted that the sun-disk known as the `Aten’ is displayed on a number of inscriptions from this period of the earlier king’s reign. The Aten was not new to the rule of Akhenaten and, prior to his conversion, was simply another cult among the many in ancient Egypt. It should be noted that `cult’ did not have the same meaning in this regard as it does in the present day. There was absolutely nothing negative in the designation of a community of worshippers being known as a `cult’ in ancient Egypt. It carried the same meaning then as a member of the Christian community today being designated a Baptist, a Lutheran, a Presbyterian, or Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. The gods and practices of the various cults all represented the same end: eternal harmony and balance.

AKHENATEN’S RELIGIOUS REFORMS MAY HAVE BEEN THE FIRST EVER INSTANCE OF MONOTHEISM.

Amenhotep III ruled over a land whose priesthood, centered on the god Amun, had been steadily growing in power for centuries. By the time Amenhotep IV came to power, the priests of Amun were on almost equal standing with the royal house in wealth and influence.

The historian Lewis Spence writes, “With the exception of Ra and Osiris, the worship of Amun was more widespread than that of any other god in the Nile Valley; but the circumstances behind the growth of his cult certainly point to its having been disseminated by political rather than religious propaganda” (137). By the time of Amenhotep IV, the Cult of Amun owned more land than the king. In the 5th year of his reign, Amenhotep IV outlawed the old religion and proclaimed himself the living incarnation of a single all-powerful deity known as Aten and, by the 9th year, he had closed all the temples and suppressed religious practices.

Amenhotep IV moved his seat of power from the traditional palace at Thebes to one he built at the city he founded, Akhetaten, changed his name to Akhenaten, and continued the religious reforms which resulted in his being despised as `the heretic king’ by some later writers while admired as a champion of monotheism by others.

Stela of Akhenaten

Akhenaten’s monotheistic

Some historians have praised Akhenaten’s reforms as the first instance of monotheism and the benefits of monotheistic belief; but these reforms were not at all beneficial to the people of Egypt at the time. The historian Durant, for example, writes that Akhenaten’s reforms were “the first out-standing expression of monotheism – seven hundred years before Isaiah [of the Bible] and an astounding advance upon the old tribal deities” (210). Those `old tribal deities’ of Egypt, however, had encouraged peace, harmony, and the development of one of the greatest ancient cultures the world has ever known.

The polytheism of the ancient Egyptians encouraged a world view where peace and balance were emphasized and religious tolerance was not considered an issue; there is not even a word directly corresponding to the concept of `religious tolerance’ in the ancient Egyptian texts. A hallmark of any monotheistic belief system, however, is that it encourages the belief that, in order for it to be right, other systems must necessarily be wrong. This insistence on being the sole arbiter of ultimate truth leads to intolerance of other beliefs and their suppression; this is precisely what happened in Egypt. The names of the god Amun and the other gods were chiseled from monuments throughout Egypt, the temples were closed, and the old practices outlawed.

“Dating to this point in Akhenaten’s reign was a campaign to excise the name of gods other than the Aten, especially Amun, from the monuments of Egypt. This was done with violence: hieroglyphs were brutally hacked from the walls of temples and tombs. This was probably carried out, at least in part, by illiterate iconoclasts, presumably following the orders of their king. [Akhenaten] carried out a religious revolution the like of which had never been seen before in Egypt. His reign represents a significant departure from religious, artistic, and political norms.” – Egyptologist Zahi Hawass

Priests of Amun who had the time and resources hid statuary and texts from the palace guards sent to destroy them and then abandoned their temple complexes. Akhenaten ordained new priests, or simply forced priests of Amun into the service of his new monotheism, and proclaimed himself and his queen gods.

Neglecting Egypt’s Allies

The pharaoh as a servant of the gods, and identified with a certain god (most often Horus), was common practice in ancient Egypt but no one before Akhenaten had proclaimed himself an actual god incarnate. As a god, he seems to have felt that the affairs of state were beneath him and simply stopped attending to his responsibilities One of the many unfortunate results of Akhenaten’s religious reforms was a neglect of foreign policy.

From documents and letters of the time it is known that other nations, formerly allies, wrote numerous times asking Egypt for help in various affairs and that most of these requests were ignored by the deified king. Egypt was a wealthy and prosperous nation at the time and had been steadily growing in power since before the reign of Queen Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BCE). Hatshepsut and her successors, such as Tuthmosis III (1458-1425 BCE), employed a balanced approach of diplomacy and military action in dealing with foreign nations; Akhenaten chose simply to largely ignore what happened beyond the borders of Egypt and, it seems, most things outside of his palace at Akhetaten.

Watterson notes that Ribaddi (Rib-Hadda), king of Byblos, who was one of Egypt’s most loyal allies, sent over fifty letters to Akhenaten asking for help in fighting off Abdiashirta (also known as Aziru) of Amor (Amurru) but these all went unanswered and Byblos was lost to Egypt (112). Tushratta, the king of Mitanni, who had also been a close ally of Egypt, complained that Amenhotep III had sent him statues of gold while Akhenaten only sent gold-plated statues.

Akhetaten & Art

The famous Stele of Akhenaten, depicting the royal family, shows the rays of the Aten touching them all and each of them, even Nefertiti, depicted with the same elongation as the king. To consider these images as realistic depictions of the royal family, afflicted with some disorder, seems to be a mistake in that there would be no reason for Nefertiti to share in the king’s supposed disorder. The depiction, then, could illustrate Akhenaten and Nefertiti as those who had been transformed to god-like status by their devotion to the Aten to such an extent that their faith is seen even in their children.

One aspect of Amarna Period art which differentiates it from earlier and later periods is the intimacy of the images, best exemplified in the Stele of Akhenaten showing the family enjoying each other’s company in a private moment. Images of pharaohs before and after this period depict the ruler as a solitary figure engaged in hunting or battle or standing in the company of a god or his queen in dignity and honor. This can also be explained as stemming from Akhenaten’s religious beliefs in that the Aten, not the pharaoh, was the most important consideration (as in the Stele of Akhenaten, it is the Aten disk, not the family, which is the center of the composition) and, under the influence of the Aten’s love and grace, the pharaoh and his family thrives.

Akhetaten’s Monotheism & Legacy

This image of the Aten as an all-powerful, all-loving, deity, supreme creator and sustainer of the universe, is thought to have had a potent influence on the later development of monotheistic religious faith. Whether Akhenaten was motivated by a political agenda to suppress the power of the Cult of Amun or if he experienced a true religious revelation, he was the first on record to envision a single, supreme deity who cared for the individual lives and fates of human beings. Sigmund Freud, in his 1939 CE work Moses and Monotheism, argues that Moses was an Egyptian who had been an adherent of the Cult of Aten and was driven from Egypt following Akhenaten’s death and the return to the old religious paradigm.

“This image of the Aten as an all-powerful, all-loving, deity, supreme creator and sustainer of the universe, is thought to have had a potent influence on the later development of monotheistic religious faith. Whether Akhenaten was motivated by a political agenda to suppress the power of the Cult of Amun or if he experienced a true religious revelation, he was the first on record to envision a single, supreme deity who cared for the individual lives and fates of human beings. Sigmund Freud, in his 1939 CE work Moses and Monotheism, argues that Moses was an Egyptian who had been an adherent of the Cult of Aten and was driven from Egypt following Akhenaten’s death and the return to the old religious paradigm.” – Freud quotes from James Henry Breasted, the noted archaeologist

Freud recognizes that the Cult of Aten existed long before Akhenaten raised it to prominence but points out that Akhenaten added a component unknown previously in religious belief: “He added the something new that turned into monotheism, the doctrine of a universal god: the quality of exclusiveness” (24). The Greek philosopher Xenophanes (c. 570-c.478 BCE) would later experience a similar vision that the many gods of the Greek city-states were vain imaginings and there was only one true god and, though he shared this vision through his poetry, he never established the belief as a revolutionary new way of understanding oneself and the universe. Whether one regards Akhenaten as a hero or villain in Egypt’s history, his elevation of the Aten to supremacy changed not only that nation’s history, but the course of world civilization.

To those who came after him in Egypt, however, he was the `heretic king’ and `the enemy’ whose memory needed to be eradicated. His son, Tutankhamun (c.1336-1327 BCE) was given the name Tutankhaten at birth but changed his name upon ascending the throne to reflect his rejection of Atenism and his return of the country to the ways of Amun and the old gods. Tutankhamun’s successors Ay (1327-1323 BCE) and, especially, Horemheb (c. 1320-1292 BCE) tore down the temples and monuments built by Akhenaten to honor his god and had his name, and the names of his immediate successors, stricken from the record.

In fact, Akhenaten was unknown in Egyptian history until the discovery of Amarna in the 19th century CE. Horemheb’s inscriptions listed himself as the successor to Amenhoptep III and made no mention of the rulers of the Amarna Period. Akhenaten’s tomb was uncovered by the great archaeologist Flinders Petrie in 1907 CE and Tutankhamun’s tomb, more famously, by Howard Carter in 1922 CE. Interest in Tutankhamun spread to the family of the `golden king’ and so attention was brought to bear again on Akhenaten after almost 4,000 years. His legacy of monotheism, however, if Freud and others are correct, influenced other religious thinkers to emulate his ideal of a one, true god and reject the polytheism which had characterized human religious belief for millenia.

Source: Ancient History Encyclopedia (ancient.eu), photo: Pinterest.

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Goddess NUT

Nut (Egyptian: Nwt, Pronounced “newt”), also known by various other transcriptions, is the goddess of the sky in the Ennead of ancient Egyptian religion. She was seen as a star-covered nude woman arching over the earth, or as a cow.

Goddess of the sky

Nut is a daughter of Shu and Tefnut. Her brother and husband is Geb. She had four or five children: Osiris, Set, Isis, Nephthys, and—in early Egyptian sources—Horus. She is considered one of the oldest deities among the Egyptian pantheon, with her origin being found on the creation story of Heliopolis. She was originally the goddess of the nighttime sky, but eventually became referred to as simply the sky goddess. Her headdress was the hieroglyphic of part of her name, a pot, which may also symbolize the uterus. Mostly depicted in nude human form, Nut was also sometimes depicted in the form of a cow whose great body formed the sky and heavens, a sycamore tree, or as a giant sow, suckling many piglets (representing the stars).

Origins

A sacred symbol of Nut was the ladder used by Osiris to enter her heavenly skies. This ladder-symbol was called maqet and was placed in tombs to protect the deceased, and to invoke the aid of the deity of the dead. Nut and her brother, Geb, may be considered enigmas in the world of mythology. In direct contrast to most other mythologies which usually develop a sky father associated with an Earth mother (or Mother Nature), she personified the sky and he the Earth.

Great goddess Nut with her wings stretched across a coffin

Nut appears in the creation myth of Heliopolis which involves several goddesses who play important roles: Tefnut (Tefenet) is a personification of moisture, who mated with Shu (Air) and then gave birth to Sky as the goddess Nut, who mated with her brother Earth, as Geb. From the union of Geb and Nut came, among others, the most popular of Egyptian goddesses, Isis, the mother of Horus, whose story is central to that of her brother-husband, the resurrection god Osiris. Osiris is killed by his brother Set and scattered over the Earth in 14 pieces which Isis gathers up and puts back together. Osiris then climbs a ladder into his mother Nut for safety and eventually becomes king of the dead.

A huge cult developed about Osiris that lasted well into Roman times. Isis was her husband’s queen in the underworld and the theological basis for the role of the queen on earth. It can be said that she was a version of the great goddess Hathor. Like Hathor she not only had death and rebirth associations but was the protector of children and the goddess of childbirth.

Earth And Sky, GEB And NUT

Born as half a pair, locked with her brother and consort Geb, their embrace was so passionate that their own father, Shu the God of Air, had to separate them. And thus heaven and earth were created, with Nut the Sky, arched above her adoring husband, Geb the Earth.

Nut and Geb’s eternal love affair was consummated every night, when she would come down to earth for a few hours, causing darkness to fall.

From their love they spawned some of ancient Egypt’s greatest and most powerful deities, as well as the sun, the moon and the stars.

Nut, goddess of sky supported by Shu the god of air, and the ram-headed Heh deities, while the earth god Geb reclines beneath.

Myth of Nut and Ra

Ra, the sun god, was the second to rule the world, according to the reign of the gods. Ra was a strong ruler but he feared anyone taking his throne. When he discovered that Nut was to have children, he was furious. He decreed, “Nut shall not give birth any day of the year.” At that time, the year was only 360 days. Nut spoke to Thoth, god of wisdom, and he had a plan. Thoth gambled with Khonsu, god of the moon, whose light rivalled that of Ra’s. Every time Khonsu lost, he had to give Thoth some of his moonlight. Khonsu lost so many times that Thoth had enough moonlight to make 5 extra days. Since these days were not part of the year, Nut could have her children. She had five children: Osiris, later ruler of the gods and then god of the dead, Horus the Elder, god of war, Set, god of evil and wastelands, Isis, goddess of magic, and Nephthys, goddess of water. When Ra found out, he was furious. He separated Nut from her husband Geb for eternity. Her father, Shu, was to keep them apart. Nevertheless, Nut did not regret her decision.

Protectress Of the Journey to the AfterLife

Nut was the goddess of the sky and all heavenly bodies, a symbol of protecting the dead when they enter the afterlife. According to the Egyptians, during the day, the heavenly bodies—such as the sun and moon—would make their way across her body. Then, at dusk, they would be swallowed, pass through her belly during the night, and be reborn at dawn.

Nut is also the barrier separating the forces of chaos from the ordered cosmos in the world. She was pictured as a woman arched on her toes and fingertips over the earth; her body portrayed as a star-filled sky. Nut’s fingers and toes were believed to touch the four cardinal points or directions of north, south, east, and west.

Because of her role in saving Osiris, Nut was seen as a friend and protector of the dead, who appealed to her as a child appeals to its mother: “O my Mother Nut, stretch Yourself over me, that I may be placed among the imperishable stars which are in You, and that I may not die.” Nut was thought to draw the dead into her star-filled sky, and refresh them with food and wine: “I am Nut, and I have come so that I may enfold and protect you from all things evil.

Goddess NUT (Newt) is printed on the inside lid of this sarcophagus, protecting the deceased. The dead would lie down in her arms as they journeyed safely to the next world. Sarcophagus on display at the American Museum of Natural History – Mummies Exhibition (AMNH).

She was often painted on the inside lid of the sarcophagus, protecting the deceased. The vaults of tombs were often painted dark blue with many stars as a representation of Nut. The Book of the Dead says, “Hail, thou Sycamore Tree of the Goddess Nut! Give me of the water and of the air which is in thee. I embrace that throne which is in Unu, and I keep guard over the Egg of Nekek-ur. It flourisheth, and I flourish; it liveth, and I live; it snuffeth the air, and I snuff the air, I the Osiris Ani, whose word is truth, in peace.”

(Source on Into % Origins: wikipedia)

Amun-Ra_kamutef_2

Amun

Amun was one of the eight ancient Egyptian gods who formed the Ogdoad of Hermopolis. He was the god of the air and his consort was Ament (Amaunet). However, during the Twelfth dynasty (Middle Kingdom) Amun was adopted in Thebes as the King of the gods with Mut as his consort. Amun and Mut had one child, the moon god Khonsu. He was promoted to national god by Ahmose I, the first pharaoh of the New Kingdom because the king believed that Amun had helped him drive the Hyksos from Egypt. He was also adopted into the Ennead of Heliopolis when he merged with the ancient sun god (Ra) to become Amun-Ra.

It is possible that there were once two separate gods with the same name, but equally likely that Amun of Heliopolis merely took on the attributes of the Theban god Montu (Montju) when he replaced him as the principal god of the nome in the later period. His name is generally translated as “the hidden one” or “the secret one” and it was thought that he created himself and then created everything else while remaining distanced and separate from the world. In that sense he was the original inscrutable and indivisible creator. When he merged with Ra he became both a visible and invisible deity. This duality (the hidden god and the visible sun) appealed to the Egyptian concept of balance and duality leading to an association between Amun-Ra and Ma´at. Amun was also identified with Montu (who he pretty much absorbed) and the hybrid gods Amun-Ra-Atum, Amun-Re-Montu, Amun-Re-Horakhty, and Amun-Min.

Amun was associated with a number of animals, whose form he sometimes took in inscriptions. Originally he was depicted as a goose and given the epithet the “Great Cackler” (like Geb). It was also thought that he could regenerate himself by becoming a snake and shedding his skin. However, he was most frequently depicted as a Ram, a symbol of fertility. He is also depicted as a man with the head of a ram, a frog, a Uraeus (royal cobra), a crocodile, or as an ape. Finally, he is depicted as a king sitting on his throne wearing the double plumed crown (also associated with Min). During the Ptolemaic period images of Amun were cast in bronze in which he was depicted as a bearded man with four arms the body of a beetle, the wings of a hawk, the legs of a man and the paws and claws of a lion.

Amun is described as the primeval creator in the Pyramid Texts which depict him as a primeval deity and a symbol of creative force. However, he rose to prominence during the Eleventh dynasty when he replaced the Theban war god, Montu, as the principal deity of the city. From that point, the fortunes of the God were closely linked to the prominence of Thebes itself. When the Theban Ahmose I successfully expelled the Hyksos from Egypt, he was quick to show his gratitude to Amun and throughout the Middle Kingdom, the Royal family established temples to Amun, most notably the Luxor Temple and the Great Temple at Karnak.

During the New Kingdom, he gained such power that it is almost possible to argue that Egypt had become a monotheistic state. Amun-Ra was considered to be the father and protector of the pharaoh. The Theban royal women wielded great power, and influence and were closely involved with the cult of Amun. Queen Ahmose Nefertari (the Great Wife of the Pharaoh Ahmose I) was granted the title “God’s Wife of Amun” with reference to the myth that Amun created the world by masturbation. This title was then granted to the Great Wife of every Pharaoh in recognition of her role in the state religion of Amun. The female Pharaoh Hatshepsut went one stage further and specifically stated that Amun had impregnated her mother (in the guise of the Pharaoh Thuthmoses II, her father). Thus she established her right to rule on the basis that she was his daughter.

However, the god could also reveal his will through the oracles, who was in the control of the priests and they had been granted so much land that they even rivaled the power of the Pharaoh. Amenhotep III instituted some reforms when he became concerned that the Theban clergy had become too powerful, but his son (Akhenaten) went one further and actually replaced Amun with the Aten and constructed a new capital city named Akhetaten. However, the experiment was short-lived and both Amen and Thebes were reinstated under the rule of Tutankhamun.

The worship of Amun even spread into neighboring countries, particularly Nubia. By the Twenty-fifth dynasty, Amen-Ra was the principal god of the Kingdom of Napata (Nubia) who believed he came from Gebel Barkal (in northern Sudan) and the Greeks considered him to be the equivalent of Zeus.

His main celebration was the Opet festival, in which the statue of Amun traveled down the Nile from the temple of Karnak to the temple of Luxor to celebrate Amun”s marriage to Mut (or Taweret). In this festival, he had a procreative function epitomised in his title “Ka-mut-ef” (“bull of his mother”).

King of the Gods

Amun, reconstructed Egyptian Yamānu[citation needed] (also spelled Amon, Amoun, Amen, Zeus Amun, and rarely Imen or Yamun, Greek Ἄμμων Ammon, and Ἅμμων Hammon[citation needed]), was a god in Egyptian mythology who in the form of Amun-Ra became the focus of the most complex system of theology in Ancient Egypt. Whilst remaining hypostatic, Amun represented the essential and hidden, whilst in Ra he represented revealed divinity. As the creator deity “par excellence”, he was the champion of the poor or troubled and central to personal piety.

Amun was self-created, without mother and father, and during the New Kingdom, he became the greatest expression of transcendental deity in Egyptian theology. He was not considered to be immanent within creation nor was creation seen as an extension of himself. Amun-Ra did not physically engender the universe. His position as King of Gods developed to the point of virtual monotheism where other gods became manifestations of him. With Osiris, Amun-Ra is the most widely recorded of the Egyptian gods. He was also widely worshipped in the neighboring regions of Ancient Libya and Nubia.

Ref. Ancient Egypt Online (www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk), Wikipedia

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Horus

Horus is one of the oldest and most significant deities in ancient Egyptian religion, who was worshipped from at least the late Predynastic period through to Greco-Roman times. Different forms of Horus are recorded in history and these are treated as distinct gods by Egyptologists. These various forms may possibly be different perceptions of the same multi-layered deity in which certain attributes or syncretic relationships are emphasized, not necessarily in opposition but complementary to one another, consistent with how the Ancient Egyptians viewed the multiple facets of reality. He was most often depicted as a falcon, most likely a lanner or peregrine, or as a man with a falcon head.

The name Horus is Greek. In Ancient Egypt he was known as “Heru” (sometimes Hor or Har), which is translated as “the distant one” or “the one on high”(from the preposition “hr” meaning “upon” or “above”). He was considered to be a celestial falcon, and so his name could be a specific reference to the flight of the falcon, but could also be seen as a more general solar reference. It is thought that the worship of Horus was brought into Egypt during the predynastic period.

He seems to have begun as a god of war and a sky god who was married to Hathor, but soon became considered as the opponent of Set, the son of Ra, and later the son of Osiris. However, the situation is confused by the fact that there were many Hawk gods in ancient Egypt and a number of them shared the name Horus (or more specifically Har, Heru or Hor). Furthermore, the gods Ra, Montu and Sokar could all take the form of a falcon. Each “Horus” had his own cult center and mythology, but over time they merged and were absorbed by the most popular Horus, Horus Behedet (Horus of Edfu).

He was the protector and patron of the pharaoh. As Horus was associated with Upper Egypt (as Heru-ur in Nekhen) and Lower Egypt (as Horus Behedet or Horus of Edfu) he was the perfect choice for a unified country and it seems that he was considered to be the royal god even before unification took place. The Pharaoh was often considered to be the embodiment of Horus while alive (and Osiris once he was deceased). The Turin Canon describes the Predynastic rulers of Egypt as “the Followers of Horus”, and the majority of Pharaohs had an image of Horus at the top of their serekh (a stylised palace facade in which one of the king´s name was written).

However, Sekhemhib (Seth Peribsen) chose to place Horus´ opposite and enemy Set on his serekh while Khasekhemwy placed both Set and Horus above his serekh. As a result, some scholars argue that the mythical battle between Horus and Set was once a real battle between the followers of Set and the followers of Horus. If this was the case, it would seem that the followers of Horus won as Horus remained a popular emblem of kingship while Set was gradually transformed into a symbol of evil. The Pharaoh also had a name (known as the “Golden Horus” name) which was preceded by an image of a sacred hawk on the symbol for gold which specifically linked the Pharaoh to the god. However, it is interesting to note that Set was also known as he of Nubt (gold town), so the symbol for gold could, in fact, relate to him.

Horus and Set were always placed in opposition to each other. However, the exact nature of their relationship changed somewhat over time. Set was the embodiment of disorder and chaos while Horus was the embodiment of order. Similarly, Horus represented the daytime sky while Set represented the nighttime sky. However, in early times the two were also seen as existing in a state of balance in which Horus and Set represented Upper and Lower Egypt respectively. They were often depicted together to indicate the union of Upper and Lower Egypt and there is even a composite deity named Horus-Set, who was depicted as a man with two heads (one of the hawk of Horus, the other of the Set animal).

At this stage, Horus was often considered to be Set´s brother and equal and the fight between them was thought to be eternal. However, the rise in importance of the Ennead resulted in Horus being cast as the son of Osiris and thus the nephew of Set. This changed the nature of the conflict between them, as it was now possible for Set to be defeated and for Horus to claim the throne of Egypt as his own.

The “Eye of Horus” was a powerful protective amulet and when it was broken into pieces (in reference to the time Set ripped out Horus’ eye), the pieces were used to represent the six senses (including thought) and a series of fractions.

Horus was also the patron of young men and was often described as the perfect example of the dutiful son who grows up to become a just man. However, this is perhaps debatable in the light of one of the stories concerning his fight with Set. The mother of Horus (Isis) was a great magician who most certainly had the power to destroy Set. However, when her chance came she could not take it. Set was, after all, her brother. This angered Horus so much that he chopped off his mother’s head in a fit of rage! Thankfully, Isis was more than able to handle this insult and immediately caused a cow’s head to grow from her neck to replace her head. Luckily for Horus, Isis was a compassionate and sympathetic goddess and she forgave her vengeful son his aggressive act.

The Egyptian God Horus was usually depicted as a falcon or a falcon-headed man. He often wore the Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. In anthropomorphic form Horus appears as both an adult man and a child, wearing the sidelock of youth (as the son of Isis). There are also numerous depictions of a Horus the child hunting crocodiles and serpents and amulets are known as “cippi” were inscribed with his image to ward off dangerous animals.

Sky god

Since Horus was said to be the sky, he was considered to also contain the sun and moon. It became said that the sun was his right eye and the moon his left, and that they traversed the sky when he, a falcon, flew across it. Later, the reason that the moon was not as bright as the sun was explained by a tale, known as the contestants of Horus and Set, originating as a metaphor for the conquest of Upper Egypt by Lower Egypt in about 3000 BC. In this tale, it was said that Set, the patron of Upper Egypt, and Horus, the patron of Lower Egypt, had battled for Egypt brutally, with neither side victorious, until eventually, the gods sided with Horus.

As Horus was the ultimate victor he became known as Harsiesis, Heru-ur or Har-Wer (ḥr.w wr ‘Horus the Great’), but more usually translated as Horus the Elder. In the struggle Set had lost a testicle, explaining why the desert, which Set represented, is infertile. Horus” left eye had also been gouged out, which explained why the moon, which it represented, was so weak compared to the sun.
Horus was occasionally shown in art as a naked boy with a finger in his mouth sitting on a lotus with his mother. In the form of a youth, Horus was referred to as Neferhor. This is also spelled Nefer Hor, Nephros or Nopheros (nfr ḥr.w) meaning ‘The Good Horus’.

The Eye of Horus is an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection and royal power from deities, in this case from Horus or Ra. The symbol is seen on images of Horus” mother, Isis, and on other deities associated with her.

God of war and hunting

Horus was also said to be a god of war and hunting. The Horus falcon is shown upon a standard on the predynastic Hunters Palette in the “lion hunt”. Thus he became a symbol of majesty and power as well as the model of the pharaohs. The Pharaohs were said to be Horus in human form. Furthermore, Nemty, another war god, was later identified as Horus.

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Ra

Ra – Egyptian Sun God. To the Egyptians, the sun represented light, warmth, and growth. This made the sun deity very important as the sun was seen as the ruler of all that he created. The sun disk was either seen as the body or eye of Ra.

Ra was thought to travel on two solar boats called the Mandjet (the Boat of Millions of Years), or morning boat and the Mesektet, or evening boat. These boats took him on his journey through the sky and the underworld. When Ra travelled in his sun boat he was accompanied by various other deities including Sia (perception) and Hu (command) as well as Heka (magic power). Sometimes members of the Ennead helped him on his journey, including Set who overcame the serpent Apophis and Mehen who defended against the monsters of the underworld.

Apophis, an enormous serpent tried to stop the sun boat’s journey every night by consuming it or by stopping it in its tracks with a hypnotic stare. In the evening the Egyptians believed that Ra set as Atum or in the form of a ram. The Mesektet or Night boat would carry him through the underworld and back towards the east in preparation for his rebirth. These myths of Ra represent the sunrise as the rebirth of the sun by the sky goddess Nut, thus attributing the concept of rebirth and renewal to Ra and strengthening his role as a creator god.

Ra (Re) was the primary name of the sun god of Ancient Egypt. He was often considered to be the King of the Gods and thus the patron of the pharaoh and one of the central gods of the Egyptian pantheon. He was also described as the creator of everything. Ra was so powerful and popular and his worship was so enduring that some modern commentators have argued that the Egyptian religion was, in fact, a form of veiled monotheism with Ra as the one god. This seems to be somewhat of an overstatement but underlines his primary position within religious texts throughout Egyptian history.

It is sometimes proposed that the pyramids represent the rays of light extending from the sun and thus these great monuments connected the king with Ra. The Egyptians also built solar temples in honour of Ra. Unlike the standard type of Egyptian temple, these temples were open to the sunlight and did not feature a statue of the god because he was represented by the sunlight itself. Instead, the temple centred on an obelisk and altar. The most significant early solar temple is thought to be the one erected in Heliopolis, sometimes known as “Benu-Phoenix”. Its location was thought to be the spot where Ra first emerged at the beginning of creation, and the city took its name (“Iwn”) from the word for a pillar.

Ra was an ancient god, but not the oldest of the gods; the first references to Ra date from the Second Dynasty. However, by the Fifth Dynasty, he was a powerful god who was closely associated with the pharaoh. The Pharaoh was already seen as the embodiment of Horus and so the two gods became linked, sometimes as the composite deity Ra-Horakhty (“Ra (is) Horus of the Horizon”). Ra also came to be associated with Atum (the creator god of the Ennead in Heliopolis) as Atum-Ra. By the Fifth Dynasty, the pharaoh was referred to as the son of Ra and the name of Ra was incorporated into the throne name of every king from that point onwards. Many Old Kingdom pharaohs built sun temples in which to worship Ra.

The Middle Kingdom saw the rise to prominence of Amun of Thebes. Although Ra kept his association with the pharaoh, he was to some degree absorbed by Amun as Amun-Ra. However, the priests of Amun became very wealthy and influential and so some of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom chose to elevate Ra in his stead, perhaps partly because he was already closely associated with the pharaoh. For example, Thuthmosis promoted Re-Horakhty as his favoured god while Amenhotep III took the epithet “the dazzling sun” and named his wife´s pleasure boat “the Aten Gleams”. His successor (and probable son) Akhenaten went one step further and rejected Amun and many of the other gods in favour of The Aten (a solar god).

The worship of the Egyptian God Ra was at its peak during the New Kingdom. Many of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings (dating from this period) included depictions of Ra’s journey through the underworld over twelve “hours” or stages. In the fifth hour, Ra dies and is reunited with Osiris in the underworld, but in the twelfth hour, he is reborn as the scarab (Khepri). Sun temples were again constructed during the New Kingdom (although those of the Armarna Period are dedicated to The Aten).

Amun-Ra was also popular in Nubia and was the chief deity of the Nubian Kingdom of Napata during the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. The Greeks associated Ra with Zeus and so he remained popular during the Ptolemaic Period. However, after this point, Egypt was governed by a series of foreign rulers who were not associated with the god of the pharaohs and so his popularity declined.

Associations with other gods

Ra was often described as the father of the gods. He was sometimes thought to be married to Hesat or Hathor although the latter is usually referred to as his daughter. As his worship was pre-dated by that of some of his “children” (such as Hathor and Horus) it seems likely that he took on this role when he was associated with the creator god Atum.

According to the Pyramid Texts, Ra (as Atum) emerged from the waters of Nun as a benben stone (an obelisk-like pillar). He then spat forth Shu (air) and Tefnut (moisture), and Tefnut in turn gave birth to Geb (earth) and Nut (sky). Ra tried to separate Geb and Nut by placing Shu between them and decreed that Nut could not give birth on any day of the calendar. However, Thoth won an extra five days from the moon so that Nut could give birth to Osiris, Set, Isis, Nephthys and Horus the Elder.

It was thought that Ra “died” or was swallowed by Nut every evening as the sun dipped below the horizon. He travelled through the world of the dead by night and was then reborn in the morning (making Nut both his granddaughter and his mother). At sunset, he was linked to Horakhty (Horus on the Horizon) and Atum and at dawn, he was linked to the scarab beetle, Khepri (“the Emerging One”) and Nefertum

Ra-Horakhty-Atum was associated with Osiris as the manifestation of the sun at night. When Osiris was murdered by his brother Set, he became the God of the Underworld. Thus the Pharaoh was the son of Ra who ruled as the living Horus and who became Osiris on his death.

According to another myth, Ra ruled on earth as Pharaoh until he became old and weary. The people had lost respect for him and no longer obeyed his laws and so Ra decided that they should be punished. He sent his “Eye” to teach them a lesson but then had to arrange to get her drunk to prevent her killing everyone. Once the danger had been averted, Ra decided it was time for him to leave the world to Horus ( who took his place as the king) and travel across the sky on Nut’s back.

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Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut – Foremost of Noble Ladies. Hatshepsut was born in the 18th Dynasty. This Dynasty is also referred to as the New Kingdom. Hatshepsut entered this world as the daughter of royal parents. Her father was Tuthmosis I and ruled Egypt for approximately 12 to 14 years. Her mother was Ahmes. Ahmes was the sister of Amenophris I (Pharaoh who ruled Egypt for 21 years). In addition to Hatshepsut, Tuthmosis I and Ahmes had a son. They named him Anenemes. By birthright, Anenemes should have inherited the throne as the son of Tuthmosis I and Ahmes; however, he never became king.

Hatshepsut, on the other hand, went on to rule Egypt in later years for approximately 21 years. Hatshepsut ruled Egypt between 1479-1458/57. She ruled in a time when women were allowed to own property and to hold official positions. They were given rights to inherit from deceased family members and were allowed to present their cases in court. Women of Ancient Egypt had more freedom than other ancient cultures such as Greece where women were expected to stay home.

Hatshepsut Bust. Image: Dailymail

After the death of Hatshepsut’s father (Tuthmose I), her half-brother (Tuthmose II) succeeded the throne. As it was customary in royal families, the oldest daughter of the pharaoh would marry a brother to keep the royal bloodlines intact. Therefore, Hatshepsut married her half-brother. Tuthmose II was the son of one of her father’s lesser wives (Mutnofret); however, his reign would be short and his life short-lived. It may have been that Tuthmose II died of an illness and thus held the throne only for 14 years.

During their marriage, Hatshepsut and Tuthmose II were not able to produce a male heir but rather had a daughter whom they named Neferure. In later years, it appears that Neferure may have been married to her half-brother (Tuthmose III); much like her mother had married a half-brother in previous years. Tuthmose III was the son of Tuthmose II (Hatshepsut’s husband) and one of his royal concubines named Isis. This bloodline made Tuthmose III a stepson to Hatshepsut. Because Tuthmose III was very young when his father died, Hatshepsut became a co-regent and ruled right alongside the young stepson. It appears that within the second or third year of this co-regency reign, Hatshepsut proclaimed herself king with complete titles. She would be known as Maatkare (Matt is the ka of Ra) and also Khnemet-Amun-Hatshepsut (She who embraces Amun, the foremost of women). After this proclamation, Tuthmosis III would no longer reign as co-regent with Hatshepsut. In order to make Hatshepsut’s proclamation to king more official and more accepting to the Egyptian citizens, she invented a co-regency with her father Tuthmosis I. She even went as far as incorporating this fabricated co-regency into texts and representations. These were found decorating her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri. In addition, and also to make things still more official, Hatshepsut dedicated a chapel to her father in her mortuary temple. She hoped to acquire more acceptance as the new ruler of Egypt by changing the beliefs of her people.

Hatshepsut was a very unique and intelligent individual. She used various strategies to legitimize her position as pharaoh. Not only did she proclaim herself as pharaoh and fabricate a co-regency with her father (Tuthmose I), but she also tried to make herself more god-like by the invention of stories with the attachment to gods. She did this by making it appear as if the gods had spoken to her and her mother while in she was still in her mother’s womb. Hatshepsut misled her subjects and the uneducated public by indicating that Amon-Ra had visited her pregnant mother at the temple in Deir el-Bahri in the Valley of the Kings.

Hatshepsut was unique because she took on several male adornments while she ruled Egypt. Unlike most women of that time, she attached a false beard, wore male clothing, and was depicted in statutes as a pharaoh. She might have done this to make her transition to kingship and the acceptance of the priesthood more convincing. It may be that if she had ruled strictly with a more feminine-looking disposition she may not have been so readily accepted by the masses. Her strategy seemed to work and the priests supported her reign as pharaoh.

There were many prominent figures during her reign but there appears to be one person in particular who was probably foremost in her circle. This prominent person was Senenmut who was born of a humble family in Armant. He came to be known as Hatshepsut’s spokesman and steward of the royal family. In addition, he was known as superintendent of the buildings of the God Amun. During the later years, Hatshepsut had obelisks installed in the Temple of Amon-Re at Karnak. Senenmut supervised the transport and erection of these obelisks as well as the mortuary temple that was built for Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri. 

It appears that he must have been very well favored by the Queen as he had a separate tomb constructed close to Hatshepsut’s tomb for himself. He had this second tomb dugout in front of Queen Hatshepsut’s tomb in spite of owning another tomb at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna. During Hatshepsut’s reign, gossip followed the pair as it was suggested that his good fortune was due as a result of his intimate relations with the Queen. To add to this deduction, it was further fueled by the fact that he played a heavy role in the education of Hatshepsut’s only daughter Neferure. His brother, Senimen, also acted as nurse and steward to Neferure and this caused more gossip to run rampant. Several statues were found associating Senenmut with the Princess Neferure. History shows that Senenmut was a prominent figure during three-fourths of Hatshepsut’s reign and possibly after the death of Neferure (it appears that she died around the 11th year of Hatshepsut’s reign), that he fell out of graces with the queen for unknown reasons. Speculation has it that he may have had some kind of alliance with Tuthmosis III (Hatshepsut’s stepson) and this could have led to the demise of their relationship.

History also shows that the construction of the famous temple of Deir el-Bahri was most probably started by Tuthmose II and later finished by Queen Hatshepsut. The walls of the temple depict major achievements such as the expedition to Punt near the Red Sea. This trading expedition brought back many riches for the country.

To this day, the death of Hatshepsut remains a mystery. It appears that she reigned for fifteen years and her stepson took the throne after her disappearance. It’s also believed that the hatred for his stepmother pushed him to erase the memory, existence, and any depictions of Queen Hatshepsut by destroying any monuments erected during her reign. Although her temple still stands, neither her tomb nor her mummy has ever been found. She has now come to be known as having been the only female pharaoh to erect the most monuments during her reign.

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Amenhotep III

Amenhotep III 1390 – 1352 BC. Amenhotep III’s long reign of almost 40 years was one of the most pros­perous and stable in Egyptian history. His great-grandfather, Tuthmosis III, had laid the foundations of the Egyptian empire by his campaigns into Syria, Nubia and Libya. Hardly any military action was called for under Amenhotep III, and such little as there was, in Nubia, was directed by his son and viceroy of Kush, Merymose.

Colossal Amenhotep III British Museum

Colossal Amenhotep III British Museum

Amenhotep III was the son of Tuthmosis IV by one of his chief wives, Queen Mutemwiya. It is possible [though now doubted by some) that she was the daughter of the Mitannian king, Artatama, sent to the Egyptian court as part of a diplomatic arrangement to cement the alliance between the strong militarist state of Mitanni in Syria and Egypt. The king’s royal birth is depicted in a series of reliefs in a room on the east side of the temple of Luxor which Amenhotep III built for Amon. The creator god, the ram-headed Khnum of Elephantine, is seen fashioning the young king and his ka (spirit double) on a potter’s wheel, watched by the goddess Isis. The god Amun is then led to his meeting with the queen by ibis-headed Thoth, god of wisdom. Subsequently, Amun is shown standing in the presence of the goddesses Hathor and Mut and nursing the child created by Khnum.

The early years of Amenhotep III

Amenhotep III’s reign falls essentially into two unequal parts. The first decade reflected a young and vigorous king, promoting the sportsman image laid down by his predecessors and with some minor military activity. In Year 5 there was an expedition to Nubia, recorded on rock inscriptions near Aswan and at Konosso in Nubia. Although couched in the usual laudatory manner, the event recorded seems to have been rather low key. An undated stele from Semna (now in the British Museum) also records a Nubian campaign, but whether it is the same one or a later one is uncertain. A rebellion at Ibhet is reported as having been heavily crushed by the viceroy of Nubia, “King’s Son of Kush”, Merymose. Although the king, ”mighty bull, strong in might, the fierce-eyed lion” is noted as having made great slaughter within the space of a single hour, he was probably not present; nevertheless, 150 Nubian men, 250 women, 175 children, 110 archers, and 55 servan a total of 740 – were said to have been captured, to which was added the 312 right hands of the slain.

The opulent years of Amenhotep III

The last 25 years of Amenhotep III’s reign seem to have been a period of great building works and luxury at court and in the arts. The laudatory epithets that accompany the king’s name are more grandiose metaphen than records of fact: he took the Horus name ”Great of Strength who Smites the Asiatics”, when there is little evidence of such a campaign, similarly, ”Plunderer of Shinar” and ”Crusher of Naharin” seem singularly inappropriate, particularly the latter since one of his wives, Gilukhepa, was a princess of Naharin.

The wealth of Egypt at this period came not from the spoils of con­quest, as it had under Tuthmosis III, but from international trade and an abundant supply of gold (from mines in the Wadi Hammamat and from panning gold dust far south into the land of Kush). It was this great wealth and the booming economy that led to such an outpouring of artistic talent in all aspects of the arts.
Since the houses or palaces of the living were regarded as ephemeral, we, unfortunately, have little evidence of the magnificence of a place such as Amenhotep’s Malkata palace. Fragments of the building, how­ever, indicate that the walls were once plastered and painted with lively scenes from nature. Many of the temples he built have been destroyed too. At Karnak he embellished the already large temple to Amun and at Luxor he built a new one to the same god, of which the still standing colonnaded court is a masterpiece of elegance and design. Particular credit is owed to his master architect: Amenhotep son of Hapu.

On the west bank, his mortuary temple was destroyed in the next (19th) dynasty when it, like many of its predecessors, was used as a quarry. All that now remains of this temple are the two imposing stat­ues of the king known as the Colossi of Memnon. (This is in fact a com­plete misnomer, arising from the classical recognition of the statues as the Ethiopian prince, Memnon, who fought at Troy.) Of the two, the southern statue is the best preserved. Standing beside the king’s legs, dwarfed by his stature, are the two important women in his life: his mother Mutemwiya and his wife, Queen Tiy. A quarter of a mile behind the Colossi stands a great repaired stele that was once in the sanctuary and around are fragments of sculptures, the best of which, lying in a pit and found in recent years, is a crocodile-tailed sphinx.

A peak of artistic achievement of Amenhotep III

Some magnificent statuary dates from the reign of Amenhotep III such as the two outstanding couchant rose granite lions originally set before the temple at Soleb in Nubia (but subsequently removed to the temple at Gebel Barlzal further south in the Sudan). There is also a proliferation of private statues, particularly of the architect Amenhotep son of Hapu, but also of many other nobles and dignitaries.

It is in the great series of royal portraits, however, that the sculptor’s art is truly seen. Largest of them all (after the Colossi of Memnon) is the huge limestone statue of the king and queen with three small standing princesses from Medinet Habu. There are many other representations of the king, all of which project the contemplative, almost ethereal, aspect of the king’s features. Magnificently worked black granite seated statues of Amenhotep wearing the nemes headdress have come from excavations behind the Colossi of Memnon (by Belzoni) and from Tanis in the Delta. A number of statues of the king were reworked by later rulers, often by simply adding their cartouches, or occasionally altering the features or aspects of the body, as with the huge red granite head hitherto identified as being Tuthmosis III from Karnak (also found by Belzoni) and reworked by Ramesses II [now in the British Museum). Several portraits in statues, reliefs and wall paintings show the king wearing the helmet-like khepresh, the so-called Blue or War Crown.

One of the most incredible finds of statuary in recent years was made in the courtyard of the Amenhotep III colonnade of the Luxor temple in 1989. It included a superb 6-ft (1.83-m) high pink quartzite statue of the king standing on a sledge and wearing the Double Crown. The only damage the statue had sustained was under Akhenaten when, very carefully, the hated name of Amon was removed from the cartouch when it appeared as part of the king’s name. The inscriptions on the statue and its iconography suggest that it is a work from late in the despite the idealized youthful features of the king. It may possibly have been a cult statue.
The two most widely known portraits of Queen Tiy are the small ebony head in Berlin which, in the past, caused many authorities to sug­gest that she came from south of Aswan, and the petite-faced and crowned head found by Petrie at the temple of Serabit el-Khadim in Sinai which is identified as the queen by her cartouch on the front of her crown. Other fine reliefs of her come from the tombs of some of the courtiers in her service such as Userhet (TT 47) and Kheruef (TT 192).

Death and burial of Amenhotep III

Inscribed clay dockets from the Malkata palace carry dates into at least Year 38 of Amenhotep’s reign, implying that he may have died in his 39th regnal year when he would have been about 45 years old.

His robbed tomb was rediscovered by the French expedition in 1799 in the western Valley of the Kings (KV 22). Amongst the debris, they found a large number of ushabtis of the king, some complete but most­ly broken, made of black and red granite, alabaster and cedar wood. Some were considerably larger than normal. Excavations and clearance by Howard Carter in 1915 revealed foundation deposits of Tuthmosis IV, showing that the tomb had been originally intended for that king. Despite this, the tomb was eventually used for Amenhotep III, and also for Queen Tiy to judge from the fragments found of several different ushabtis of the queen.
Queen Tiy survived her husband by several years – possibly by as many as 12, since she is shown with her youngest daughter, Beket­ Aten, in a relief in one of the Amarna tombs that is dated between Years 9 and 12 of her son’s reign. (Beket-Aten is shown as a very young child and must have been born shortly before Amenhotep died, or even posthumously.) We know from polite enquiries about Tiy”s health in the Amarna Letters (p. 126) that she lived for a while at Akhetaten (modern el-Amarna), the new capital of her son Akhenaten. It has been suggested that there was a period of co-regency between the old king and his successor, but the argument is not proved either way. An inter­esting painted sandstone stele found in a private household shrine at el-Amarna shows an elderly, rather obese Amenhotep III, seated with Queen Tiy. Whether he actually lived for a time in this city is a matter of conjecture; Tiy certainly did and may well have died there, to be taken back to Thebes for burial.

Amenhotep III’s mummy was probably one of those found by Loret in 1898 in the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV 35), although recently it has been suggested that this body was wrongly identified by the ancient priests when it was transferred to the new tomb. On biological grounds, profes­sors Ed Wente and John Harris have proposed it to be the body of Akhenaten, or possibly Ay. A previously unidentified female mummy (the Elder Woman) from the same cache has been tentatively identified as Queen Tiy, based on the examination of her hair and a lock of hair in a small coffin from the tomb of Tutankhamun inscriptionally identified as Tiy”s.

Amenhotep III Names and Burial

Birth name: Amen-hotep (heqa-waset) (Amun is Pleased, Ruler of Thebes)
Throne name: Nub-maat-re (Lord of Tuth is Ra)
Burial: Tomb KV 22, Valley of the Kings, Thebes

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King Tutankhamun

Tutankhamun 1333 – 1323 BC.

King Tut Life and Times

In 1323 B.C., a young Egyptian king died. His name was Tut.ankh.Amum – “the living image of Amun”. Tutankhamun is the best-known pharaoh of ancient Egypt. He was probably the son of Akhenaten, the heretic king of the eighteenth dynasty. His mother was probably Queen Kiya, one of the king’s secondary wives. Ankhesenpaaten (or Ankhesenamum), his older half-sister, became his queen. He ascended the throne in 1333 B.C., at the age of nine, and reigned until his early death at the age of about eighteen. Some speculate that he was murdered and others think he may have been deliberately sent into battle to be killed. However, the exact cause of his death is unknown. Those who believe he was murdered point to the hole in his skull as evidence, but some experts believe the hole was made after his death. His mummified body was so badly preserved that we may never know the true fate of this minor pharaoh.

Not all scholars agree on the identity of Tutankhamun”s parents. One theory suggests that he was the son of Amenophis III and his principal wife Tiy or his secondary wife Meritre. When the results of DNA testing on the pharaohs become available, we may get a clearer picture of the royal lineage.

Tutankhamun Tomb

Tutankhamun was buried in a tomb that was small relative to his status. His death may have occurred unexpectedly, before the completion of a grander royal tomb, so that his mummy was buried in a tomb intended for someone else. This would preserve the observance of the customary seventy days between death and burial.

King Tutankhamun”s mummy still rests in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. November 4, 2007, 85 years to the day after Carter”s discovery, the 19-year-old pharaoh went on display in his underground tomb at Luxor, when the linen-wrapped mummy was removed from its golden sarcophagus to a climate-controlled glass box. The case was designed to prevent the heightened rate of decomposition caused by the humidity and warmth from tourists visiting the tomb.

Discovery of tomb

Tutankhamun seems to have faded from public consciousness in Ancient Egypt within a short time after his death, and he remained virtually unknown until the 1920s. His tomb was robbed at least twice in antiquity, but based on the items taken (including perishable oils and perfumes) and the evidence of restoration of the tomb after the intrusions, it seems clear that these robberies took place within several months at most of the initial burial. Eventually, the location of the tomb was lost because it had come to be buried by stone chips from subsequent tombs, either dumped there or washed there by floods. In the years that followed, some huts for workers were built over the tomb entrance, clearly not knowing what lay beneath. When at the end of the twentieth dynasty the Valley of the Kings burials were systematically dismantled, the burial of Tutankhamun was overlooked, presumably because knowledge of it had been lost and his name may have been forgotten.

Significance

Tutankhamun was nine years old when he became pharaoh and reigned for approximately ten years. In historical terms, Tutankhamun”s significance stems from his rejection of the radical religious innovations introduced by his predecessor and father, Akhenaten. Secondly, his tomb in the Valley of the Kings was discovered by Carter almost completely intact — the most complete ancient Egyptian royal tomb ever found. As Tutankhamun began his reign at such an early age, his vizier and eventual successor Ay was probably making most of the important political decisions during Tutankhamun”s reign.

Tutankhamun was one of the few kings worshiped as a god and honored with a cult-like following in his own lifetime. A stela discovered at Karnak and dedicated to Amun-Re and Tutankhamun indicates that the king could be appealed to in his deified state for forgiveness and to free the petitioner from an ailment caused by wrongdoing. Temples of his cult were built as far away as in Kawa and Faras in Nubia. The title of the sister of the Viceroy of Kush included a reference to the deified king, indicative of the universality of his cult.

Tutankhamun Domestic policy

In his third regnal year, Tutankhamun reversed several changes made during his father”s reign. He ended the worship of the god Aten and restored the god Amun to supremacy. The ban on the cult of Amun was lifted and traditional privileges were restored to its priesthood. The capital was moved back to Thebes and the city of Akhetaten abandoned. This is also when he changed his name to Tutankhamun.

Tutankhamun Health and appearance

Tutankhamun was slight of build, and was roughly 180 cm (5 ft 11 in) tall. He had large front incisors and the overbite characteristic of the Thutmosid royal line to which he belonged. He also had a pronounced dolichocephalic (elongated) skull, although it was within normal bounds and highly unlikely to have been pathological. Given the fact that many of the royal depictions of Akhenaten often featured such an elongated head, it is likely an exaggeration of a family trait, rather than a distinct abnormality. The research also showed that the Tutankhamun had “a slightly cleft palate” and possibly a mild case of scoliosis, a medical condition in which a person’s spine is curved from side to side.

Cause of death

There are no surviving records of Tutankhamun”=s final days. What caused Tutankhamun”s death has been the subject of considerable debate. Major studies have been conducted in an effort to establish the cause of death.

Although there is some speculation that Tutankhamun was assassinated, the consensus is that his death was accidental. A CT scan taken in 2005 shows that he had badly broken his leg shortly before his death and that the leg had become infected. DNA analysis conducted in 2010 showed the presence of malaria in his system. It is believed that these two conditions (malaria and leiomyomata) combined, led to his death.

Check Monuments Section for King Tut Tomb!

Aftermath of death

Although it is unknown how he met his death, the Amarna letters indicate that Tutankhamun”s wife, recently widowed, wrote to the Hittite king Suppiluliuma I, asking if she could marry one of his sons, saying that she was very afraid, but would not take one of her own people as a husband. However, the son was killed before reaching his new wife. Shortly afterward Ay married Tutankhamun”s widow and became Pharaoh as a war between the two countries was fought, and Egypt was left defeated.

Tutankhamun’s Treasures

Over 3,000 treasures were placed in the tomb to help Tutankhamun in his afterlife, and the walls of the burial chamber were painted with scenes of his voyage to the afterworld. The chamber contained four gilded shrines, inside which was a red quartzite sarcophagus containing three nesting coffins. Tutankhamun”s mummy rested in the innermost coffin, which is made of solid gold and weighs approximately 110.4 kilos (242.9 lbs.). His body was wrapped in linen and over his face was placed an exquisite gold mask.

Three models of luxury ships (left) were found in Tutankhamun”s tomb. The baldachins at the bow and stern are decorated with symbols of the Sphinx and the bull. Thirty-two model boats were placed in the tomb for Tutankhamun”s use in the afterworld. At right is one of seven similar model barges found in the Treasury room. Barges transported people and goods across the Nile. Since they were equipped with steering oars rather than sails, they would have been towed across the river in a flotilla.

Curse!!

For many years, rumors of a “Curse of the Pharaohs” (probably fueled by newspapers seeking sales at the time of the discovery) persisted, emphasizing the early death of some of those who had first entered the tomb. However, a recent study of journals and death records indicates no statistical difference between the age of death of those who entered the tomb and those on the expedition who did not.

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Thutmose III

Thutmose III 1479 – 1425 BC. Thutmose III possessed all the qualities of a great ruler. A brilliant general who never lost a battle, he also excelled as an administrator and statesman. He was an accomplished horseman, archer, athlete and discriminating patron of the arts. His reign, with the exception of the uncharacteristic spite against the memory of Hatshepsut, was notable for its lack of bad taste and brutality. Thutmose had no time for pompous, self-indulgent bombast and his records show him to be a sincere and fair-minded man.

During Hatshepsut’s reign, there were no wars. Egypt’s neighbouring countries regularly paid tribute but as is often the case when a new king comes to the throne subject nations are inclined to test his resolve.

Thutmose found himself faced with a coalition of the princes of Kadesh and Megiddo, who had mobilised a large army. Also the Mesopotamians and their kinsmen living in Syria refused to pay tribute and declared themselves free of Egypt. Not daunted, Thutmose immediately set out with his army and crossing the Sinai desert he marched to the city of Gaza, which had remained loyal to Egypt. The events of the campaign are well documented because of Thutmose’s private secretary, Tjaneni, kept a record which was later copied and engraved onto the walls of the temple of Karnak.

This first campaign revealed Thutmose to be the military genius of his time. He understood the value of logistics and lines of supply, the necessity of rapid movement and sudden surprise attack. He lead by example and was also probably the first person in history to really utilise sea-power to support his campaigns.

Megiddo was his first objective because it was a key point and had to be taken at all costs. When he reached Aaruna Thutmose held a council with all his generals. There were two routes to Megiddo a long, easy and level road around the hills, which the enemy expected Thutmose to take, and a route which was narrow, difficult and cut through the hills. His generals advised him to take the easy road through the hills, saying “horse must follow behind horse and man behind man also, and our vanguard will be engaged while our rearguard is at Aaruna without fighting” But Thutmose’s reply to this was “As I live, as I am the beloved of Ra and praised by my father Amon, I will go on the narrow road. Let those who will go on the roads you have mentioned; and let anyone who will, follow my Majesty” Now, when the soldiers heard this bold speech they shouted with one accord We follow thy Majesty whithersoever thy Majesty goes”.

Thutmose led his men on foot through the hills “horse behind horse and man behind man, his Majesty showing the way by his own footsteps”. It took about twelve hours for the vanguard to reach the valley on the other side and another seven hours before the last troops emerged. Thutmose himself waited at the head of the pass till the last man was safely through.

The sudden and unexpected appearance of Egyptians in their rear forced the allies to make a hasty re-deployment of their troops. There are said to have been over 300 allied kings, each with his own army, an immense force. However, Thutmose was determined and when the allies saw him at the head of his men leading them forward, they lost heart for the fight and fled for the city of Megiddo “As if terrified by spirits: they left their horse and chariots of silver and gold”

The Egyptian army, being young and inexperienced fell upon the plunder of the battlefield and lost the opportunity of taking the city immediately. Thutmose was very angry, he said to them “If only the troops of his Majesty had not given their hearts to spoiling the things of the enemy, they would have taken Megiddo at that moment. For the ruler of every northern country is in Megiddo and it’s capture is as the capture of a thousand cities.”

Megiddo was besieged. A moat was dug around the city walls and this was completed by a strong wooden palisade. The king gave orders to let nobody through except those who signalled at the gate that they wished to give themselves up.

The siege lasted some seven months but eventually the vanquished kings sent out their sons and daughters to sue for peace. “All those things with which they had come to fight against my Majesty, now they brought them as tribute to my Majesty, while they themselves stood upon their walls giving praise to my Majesty, and begging that the Breath of Life be given to their nostrils”

They received good terms for surrender. An oath of allegiance was imposed upon them “We will not again do evil against Menkheper Ra our good Lord, in our lifetime, for we have seen his might, and he has designed to give us breath.”

Thutmose III is compared with Napoleon but unlike Napoleon he never lost a battle. He conducted sixteen campaigns in Palestine, Syria and Nubia and his treatment of the conquered was always humane. He established a sort of Pax Egyptiaca over his empire. Syria and Palestine were obliged to keep the peace and the region as a whole experience an unprecedented degree of prosperity.

Thutmose III’s impact upon Egyptian culture was profound. He was a national hero who was revered long after his time. Indeed his name was held in awe even to the last days of Egyptian history. Besides his military achievements he carried out many building works at Karnak. He also set up a number of obelisks in Egypt. One of which, mistakenly called Cleopatra’s Needle, now stands on the Embankment in London. It’s brother is in Central Park in New York. Another is near the Lateran in Rome and there is also one of his obelisks in Istanbul. Therefore, he has had an unwitting presence in some of the most powerful nations of the last two thousand years.