Today being Sunday and all I decided to blog about a project that I have started in various media forms, either print or film. The project is in the planning stages; story boards, outlines, rough drafts of text and such. At many key junctures in the book, for example at a chapters ending, the reader would be given a key decision, regarding plotlines, character development, or even genre or tone. After making the choice the reader would then be coursed on that track, another another branch at another section or chapter. the film version would do pretty much the same thing but in a more digital reality, avatar-sequel. This would enhance the media experience by yielding numerous alternative versions of the story.
One of the concepts dear to my heart and one of the most interesting time periods in anthropology, history, and Egyptology was during the Middle Kingdom – Memphite Age. For a brief period the dynastic branch of the family closely associated with the Memphite age and identified by the title Amenhotep and the title Tel el-Amarna. This time period had one key item that completely turned everything upside down in the Upper and Lower Nile. A young unique pharaoh whose Father had left him an enormous sized treasury, giving him ample resources to fund the vision of internal change to the Egypt. This of course would be no easy task, being met with resistance.
Tiye, wife of Amenhotep III, hailed from other lands, and was from the same tribal and religious group as her Father, Joseph. Joseph had come into Egypt as a slave sold by his brothers and while in slavery caught the attention of the court and members of the royal household. Eventually his knowledge in dream interpretation became what elevated him from slave to free man and one of Pharaohs most trusted advisors always at his side. He was able to see his brothers one more time and stayed in Egypt. It seems the Israelites were in slaved twice by the Egyptians. The first time when Joseph’s jealous brothers wanted him out of the picture so their Dad would one day give one of them the precious blessing that was everything for the chosen son of a Bedouin tribal leader ( culturally). The second on a much more greater scale, when Moses was forced to choose between an Egyptian Pharaonic throne, or leading his true people from bondage.
After unceremoniously dumping him down a dry well shaft the brothers sold him to a trader. Joseph had the last laugh and was the patriarch for a more than a few members including Pharaohs in the Tel el-Amarna period. In the Valley of The Kings just near where the now famous workers huts are above the entrance to Tuthankamuns tomb was an extremely small tomb – for a pharaoh and the Valley whose inscription cartouche read “Father of the Pharoahs”. Mind you this tomb was not a Pharoah, so technically not allowed to be even dug in the sacred ground where Pharaohs made their final journeys to the next world via the Book of Thoth as guide through the underworld. To be buried there with such a placard would indicate an extremely important and well thought of individual.
Joseph’s wife a Hebrew, taught her daughter all the Hebrew traditions. Chosen fortunately as second wife of the Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, she continued worship of her God, Yahweh, in quiet privately in the palace. After giving Pharaoh his second son and spare heir to the dynasty, she was elevated to wife status amongst his concubine. Her son’s name was Amenhotep IV, later Akhenaton, and she like her mother, educated him in the ways of the one of true God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. He was educated in the polytheistic worship, cults of , and the serious political maneuvering that balanced the cults maintaining their stronghold on Egyptian society, worship, religion, art, and ultimately the Pharaoh and royal family themselves. It was imperative the system stay together with the head priests of the God and Goddess cults, firmly in control. Everyone who has experience with political science knows that control is the goal of most leadership everywhere. This was not an issue as Pharaoh already had an heir and the second in line was not expected to ascend to the throne. His spiritual education was left to his mother, who resided in the palace concubine where she could school him without much notice from the priests and other males dominant in the Cults of the Gods. The heir apparent, Thutmosis was well indoctrinated and educated in the traditional Cults by the priests, led by the powerful Cult of Amun.
Amenhotep III, the heretic’s father, saw his reign grow not only in wealth but vast expanses of territories for Egypt. As any leader knows construction projects, large ones not only give back to the populace, employ folks but also leave a long lasting monument to those who financed them, leaving a legacy for all who see; until their destruction was possibly the result of Isis’ conservative ideology.Even today we still romanticize the great pyramids of Ramses, Korfu, and Cheops, although much of the original design and accoutrements are long gone.
The preserved bodies, found in these repositories, were called Mummies after the British occupation after Napoleon ceded the occupied lands in concessions after Waterloo. These valuable stores of DNA, pathogens, virii, bacteria, and examples of medicinal techniques used by the unique technologically effective surgeons of the Ancient Egypt. These examples of well preserved, even the preservation methods merit study, human cadavers, with most major organ systems intact that are yielding DNA providing the opportunity to map the genome of this culture at multi time levels and socio structures from royals to merchants, to slaves. This provides innumerable insights to their diet, climate of the time, diseases, invaders, and how the society interacted with them as well as other humans and the world around them at large.
Many of these mummies were chopped up to fuel trains or ground and added to mystical medicinal tonics, most likely to aid and enhance one’s libido or longevity. Probably not the first sexual ED aid but maybe one of the earliest. Combine that with a multitude of stellae the Ancient Egyptians left for us, and one has perhaps what Freud could spend years analyzing. Sorry could not help but interject the obvious phallic references. Indeed Freud did author a book on the subject of Egyptian monotheism linking Akhenaton and Moses.
Amenhotep III, had no such problems, the population was fed, working , and paid under his reign . One of his greatest achievements was the expansion of the Temple of Karnak. The cult of Amun had their main temple complex located in Memphis, the Eyptian Capitol. The cult of Amun, rivaled its close rival the Cult of Aten, or Aton. Amun was the God of darkness and night. Aton cult the sun god was parallels to the Hebrew God, and the only God, the minds of the Jewish bedouin tribe of Abraham. Amun held the power with cleverly structured, and maintained rivalries and an usurper always close at hand to encourage the vigilance and competition that kept the system Seemingly at odds with everyone in it. In the polytheistic tradition of Egypt, the Cult of Amon was the largest and most resource rich of the power with legions of priests acolytes, artisans, scribes and followers dedicated to the service of Amun. As the chief God they were the target of the lower Gods and cults in a competition for coin and service from both royal the family and upper classes of merchants and other not-cult members.
The cult of Amun had always had the largest of followings of any of the hundreds of Egyptian deities. Service to Amun and gifts to his cult were generally the duties and responsibilities of the members of the cults , priests, acolytes, scribes, artisans, and their who did reside in the temple complexes. The treasury and royal families directly supported these cults in proportion to their popularity this determines stays the hierarchy of deities. Amenhotep III, used his vast resources to fund major projects in the assimilation of new lands and cultures for trade, and infrastructure expansion and improvements in all areas of society.
Amenhotep III, and his court did not disappoint the Temple of Amon, embarking on a major expansion and beautification of the Temple of Amun at Karnak. Much of the grand temple we see today and it’s layout can be directly traced back to this building process, although one more expansion after this period provided the columns that typify a visit to Karnak. Many of the staues including the famous seated Pharoahs and Gods are Linked to this expansion. It is with gratitude that we thank the foresight of The United Nations for recognizing the need to move these temp,es in the face of the Aswan High Dam project, or else all would have been lost. Unfortunately much of the other treasures of information have been destroyed prior to their study or preservation.
After Amenhotep III’s death of natural causes and his crowned prince Thutmose died before ascending the throne, his second son, crowned Amenhotep the IV, took the reigns of power, this gave his mother even more power as Mother of the Pharaoh. As she was the daughter of Joseph and did not worship in the traditional polytheistic tradition of the whole of Egypt, but rather monotheistically in the way her Hebrew Father. She raised her son as a Hebrew , and while surely he had an education in Egyptian polytheism, he was at a point where one would have to have dominance over the other in a choice that he would have to make , influencing the entire civilization.
As Egyptian Pharaohs were considered living Gods directly descended and anointed by the Gods, not unlike the direct lineage and dive in rights that many royal families today lay claim to without the idea that they are actually descended from the Gods. This put Amenhotep in a difficult position, in many ways. Was he a living God, or simply the heir apparent to the sacred covenant the Israelites had with Yahweh? Was he the first of the greatest of Kings promise by Yahweh to Abraham in the covenant, or another in a long line of Pharaoh Gods? Would Yahweh become the God of the Egyptians or remain just the Hebrew God? What would happen to the thousands that enjoyed the power and wealth of being in the service to the multitude of other Gods and Goddesses in the polytheistic system in place? This was where the descendants of the royal family and court eventually ended up. This being the next highest level of social order in Egytian society and as a group the ones that controlled the wealth ultimately. Without their support one could never think of being anything but a slave in Egypt let alone a Pharaoh.
The decision came swiftly and early into his reign. This decision would come to be the hallmark and paragraph in the history books while other Pharaohs lacked to get themselves in the historic record. He, with some foresight, tried to incorporate both systems into his decision by naming the Sun God Ra as the supreme and only deity. Antecedents in the Egyptian nomenclature system were changed from -Amun to -aton or -Amon, Aton in names depending upon their gender. Amenhotep IV after five years of reign took the title Akhenaton indicating that his decision was made. His wife , however retained her name Nefertiti, with needing to change the antecedent that was not there. this would indicate a foreign woman not named in the Egyptian nomenclature of the day. She became one of the most recognized Pharoah Queens, not only for her place in history politically and socially with unprecented equality and rights for women just under Cleopatra of the Plotemy dynastic line hundreds of years later. In the art world, she is second to no woman in Egyptian art history in form, aesthetic, or realismwith her iconic bust still at The Berlin Museum being one of the most celebrated Egyptian pieces of art in the world.
As known, the cult of Amun was the most power group even yielding more power than the royal family themselves. Being shut out by Akhenaton was an act of war. Without royal patronage or support in their coffers the cults struggled especially since policy was that Egyptians were to worship only one God Ra. Massive funds went into projects dedicated to Ra, freezing the other cults out of the “food chain” so to speak and feelings of resentment and bitterness were quick to develop.amongst the thousands of displaced priests, artists, scribes and apprentices who set their sights in the worship and employ of one of the hundreds of other deities.
Things did not bode well for Akhenaton and his court in Memphis. His progeny were all female and rumors of sterility or intersex offspring troubled his house. Were these rumors actually true, simply propaganda from the multitude of disgruntled and displaced Egyptians after the conversion to monotheism, or as most of these types of situations based in some type of fact. To find the remains ( Nefetiti it is believed we have) of these children could indeed provide answers to this mystery. The other rumor that has gained some popularity today is the idea that a completely unique strand or piece of DNA emerged during this time period in the Egyptian royal line. Could this be explained by Akhenaton’s foreign roots?
Supposing these presuppositions were true looking at other instances of interest multiple births or sterile offspring of one specific gender one can immediately draw the connection between donkey and horse, whose offspring result in sterile biologically female animals called mules. The intersex example is hard to exemplify as these births are extremely rare per capital in the number of births. One would expect a family would not have multiple intersex births within the same line. Could they idea that either Akhenaton or Nefertiti were not genetically the same ( ie donkey and horse) possibly not from the same line of genus or a factor which would yield sterility in all progeny.which It certain makes more sense logically than ” Aliens came down and mated with them” pre hypothesis held by many viewers of sensational television programs.
While these mysteries are beyond my current scope of experimentation to prove their validity or negate the hypothesis statistically speaking. One need only look at the visual arts of the brief period that clearly illustrate that an abrupt, sudden change in artistic depiction on many levels occurred . While at first glance it may appear obvious the motives for such depictions, a change in style towards realism in art, upon examination, depictions of the subject matter show that this change is simply not the only reason and incongruent with many who claim this as an explanation for the sudden departure from established artistic norms.
The changes in visual arts were shaped in two extremely obvious ways, Akhnaton’s depiction as very tall gaunt, pot bellied, and lanky is unlike any Pharoah ever depicted, which his remains confirm as his physical stature.Eliminating the sole reason that either he demanded realism of his artists as ascertained previously, other explanations that have a reasonable amount of credibility without major stumbling blocks to provide credible evidence would be that by being the catalyst for the unemployment of the thousands of members of the other cults after switching to one God depicting him in this as protest they showed him in an unfavorable disrespectful manner not fit for a king or his family, ignoring the social barricade that their stature required their subjects to or that they desired to expose him in private moments this latter theory can be somewhat dismissed.
Akhenaton’s family is depicted with him in social scenes, tender affectionate moments rarely seen in other Egyptian art. His wife Nefetiti is shown alongside him as an equal doing such things as making offerings to the God Ra, and even competing in a chariot race against her husband. This was a radical departure for Egyptian art at the time.Something that if it did happen would never be depicted in court art work. Whether or not his reign typified a more close knit family life or just the depiction of it not represented in prior art from ancient Egypt. This art not only shows the status of women as equal, but a tender family life with the couple being affectionate openly to each other and with their children. Women are also performing activities formerly restricted to men in direct competition with men. Even today in the cultural confines of the Arabian Bedouin tribes of the areas there is no record of this level of intimacy and equality between families on a public levels. definite departure from these scenes not being
Led with the first depictions of the elongated skulls makes one wonder if such body modification was being practiced in Ancient Egypt. We rarely see such elongation in a art or culture with the exception of the Mayans nearly 1000 years later. The Mayans in an emulation of their Gods modified the skulls of child run of royal lineage by placing boards to mold their heads when they were infants as a sign of beauty, and in mimicking the “Gods that came from the sky” is it a coincidence that the Mayans and other Meso- Americans built pyramids containing star maps of certain dates and their astronomical maps during those times. On the walls of such rooms.
After ruling as a monotheistic ruler and coming under intense pressure and intimidation by the populace at large, Akhenaton embarked on his grandest and most memorable project of all. He moved the Capitol of Egypt to a brand new site constructed from nothing to a complete city within a year or two.The new Capitol dedicated to Ra Aten, or Aton was farther up the Nile and inland to extricate himself and his family and court from the political upheaval his decision had caused as well as the turmoil and danger it brought to them. Away from the eyes of the former Cults he and his family could worship the God Aten (sun disk) in the ways they wanted to free from persecution . Amarna was the latter name of the city first called Aton. Akhenaton knew it was the place to build when he saw the glyph for the sun mimicked in the horizon from the place .
The new Capitol at Aton or also called Amarna, was in a dry part of the Nile basin. It included a palace, temple to Aton, and other buildings for citizens based upon their jobs and social standing. This move did aid in the family’s feelings of safety and their ability to worship the sun god. The cost to Akhenaton’s treasury was enormous. Without the gains his Father had and his emphasis on changing the religious system leaving so many without an income or way to pay taxes Egypt began to enter a financial period of little growth. After the move the treasury began to go broke.
Akhenaton and his wife Nefertiti had six daughters. His co regent Smenkhare died before reaching the throne. His daughter Meriaten died in childbirthand none of the daughters ascended. His daughters names were Meriaten, Meketaten, Ankhenspaaten, Neferneferuaten, Neferneferure, and Setepenre.
After his death he was succeeded by Tutanhkamun who, obviously as a nine year old crowned pharaoh, under pressure from the priests and cults of the Gods reverted back the the polytheisistic religion prior to Akhenaton’s reign. The Capitol at Amarna was abandoned for that of Memphis and Egypt continued on in the same fashion until about 300 years later when Moses member of the royal household was forced to make a similar choice.