Akhenaten – 18th Dynasty mystery finally solved

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The enigma of the 18th dynasty, one of the most powerful royal houses of the New Kingdom, which included the great king Amenhotep III, the monotheistic king Akhenaten as well as the boy king Tutankhamun, has finally been unravelled.

The mummies of Tutankhamun’s father, mother and grandmother have been identified.

DNA tests and scientific examination reveal that the mummy from tomb KV 55 in the Valley of the Kings, which was once wrongly believed to be of Semenka Re, Akhenaten’s brother who died at the age of 25, actually belongs to Akhenaten who died aged between 45 and 55.

Akhenaten is Tutankhamun’s father, who ruled the country for about 17 years between 1353 and 1335 BC.

He was the son of Amenhotep III and his wife Queen Tiye. During their reign, Egypt controlled an empire that stretched from Syria in west Asia, to the fourth cataract of the River Nile in modern-day Sudan.

Once he became a pharaoh, Akhenaten abandoned ancient Egypt’s traditional religion and introduced the worship of one god, the sun disk Aten. He also changed his original name from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten, which means the benevolent one of Aten.

He constructed a new capital for Egypt and called it Akhetaten, now known as Al-Amarna in the Upper Egyptian city of Minya.

His principal wife was the beautiful queen Nefertiti who shared the throne with him and produced six daughters. In an attempt to deliver a male heir Akhenaten married his sister Kiya and Tutankhamun was born.

Akhenaten also led a revolution in the style of art during his reign, which portrayed natural scenes and life-like figures. It also shows the royal family in intimate moments, which is completely different from the preceding forms of art which showed a stiff, structured, formal style.

This radical departure in art has long left Egyptologists mystified, especially Akhenaten’s shape. He is depicted with an elongated head on a long neck with a protruding stomach and feminine hips with large thighs.

Akhenaten

Until recently these images have perplexed Egyptologists and some believed that he was suffering from a physical abnormality. But identifying Akhenaten’s mummy in 2010 has helped Egyptologists to decipher these mysterious body features.

“The stylised male/female physical characteristics of representations of Akhenaten are an iconographic convention that bears no relation to the Pharaoh’s actual appearance.” said former Minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawass. “According to Amarna religious belief Aten was both male and female and therefore Akhenaten, as his representative, was depicted as having the form of both a man and a woman”.

Towards the end of the Akhenaten’s era his mother Queen Tiye came to Akhetaten to live beside her son and shortly afterwards his wife Queen Nefertiti disappeared and was replaced by her daughter in all royal ceremonies.

Nefertiti

Egyptologists are puzzled as to why Nefertiti left and where she went, but no conclusive answer has been accepted.

Akhenaten died in the 17th year of his reign and his capital Akhetaten was destroyed and every temple, palace and structure were demolished.