EGYPT & THE SAHARA
[Unless indicated, all annotations date from 1998 and are still current]
Akhenaton, Nefertiti, and one of their daughters
(The tiny princess shakes a tinkling sistrum while the royal family makes offerings
to the sun-god, Aton, whose rays end in small hands extending blessings to the people.)
Culture Net's Cairo Museum Site
[1/20/03: Link updated but too high tech for my browser to enter beyond opening page.]
Amarna, or more formally, Tell El-Amarna, is the Arab name for the virgin site in the desert north of Thebes where Pharaoh Akhenaton built his pristine royal city, Akhet-aton, "Horizon-of-Aton." It lasted only a few years before being destroyed by those loyal to the old gods of Egypt. But for those few brief years, it was, for Egypt, a kind of mysterious Camelot whose hold on the imagination of future generations persists to this day.
A good introduction to Amarna is Kate Stange's newly designed (2/99) "Akhet-Aten" home page. She covers Akhenaten, Nefertiti, their sun-god, and their city. Stange includes an expanded, tersely annotated collection of links to the period's wonderful art. Her general Amarna links, also expanded (and including solid sites as well as more questionable ones, such as those with ties to Moses, Oedipus, the Brotherhood of Light, reincarnated royals living today, etc), are nicely annotated with an occasional flash of tongue-in-cheek wit. She's currently thinking of designing an interactive page that recreates the ruins of Akhenaton's city and allows visitors to explore what was discovered, where, when, implications to scholars, etc. I hope she goes ahead with this huge project -- she has the passion, dedication, and not least of all, the complex computer skills to do this.http://interoz.com:80/egypt/AMARNA.HTM
This useful little page on Tell El-Amarna's history explains terms and has a small photo of the actual archaeological site plus hypertext links to Akhenaton and relevant sun deities. It's run by the Official Site of the Ministry of Tourism of Egypt. (I'm linking to a number of the Ministry's pages because they're generally longer and more informative than you'll find elsewhere.)http://www.akhet.co.uk/akhena10.htmFlaw: all their pages will only navigate you back to their Home Page; once there, if you want to get back to more on ancient Egypt, scroll down & click on "Egyptian Antiquities." It's a bit awkward to have to keep going back and forth like this, but the site is worth it.)
This is the nicely redesigned (February 1999) "Akhet" page for the Amarna period by Iain Hawkins (for the National Museums of Scotland). It features good sections (with art) on Akhenaton, Nefertiti, Kia, Tutankhamun, and various royal tombs, including the famous KV55 (see below where I have data on Lady Kia). Hawkins is quite knowledgeable (he spent several weeks, for example, in the spring of 1998 exploring tombs in Aswan). When I asked if he were a professional archaeologist, he e-mailed back, "No, just a bit of a fanatic." I wish he provided better sources for his photos and data, but I like this "fanatic's" energy and commitment. I especially love his uniquely focused section on Feathered Bird-Deities found on coffins -- no one else has anything like this. [Note: I've also listed more of Iain's pages under "Religious Beliefs."]http://www-oi.uchicago.edu/OI/IS/WENTE/NN_Win95/NN_Win95.html
This site, "Who was Who among the Royal Mummies," is a 1995 paper by Professor Edward F. Wente of Chicago's Oriental Institute. Based on craniofacial morphology, Wente proposes a re-ordering of the indentifications of a number of New Kingdom pharaohs, including Amenhotep III, Akhenaton and Tutankhamen. It's a fascinating piece of sleuthing, illustrated with graphic photos and x-rays.http://www.mansooramarnacollection.com/scandal/: [Link updated 3 November 2004]
"For over forty years, the Mansoors have been fighting uphill a small fraternity (mostly American and German Egyptologists) that is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to contradict or penetrate. If the Mansoors were not so convinced of the genuineness of the Collection, or if they had the slightest doubt about it, they would have never been using their energy on it for almost half a century. Indeed, the controversy over the Collection, created by an inexperienced museum "expert" in Boston, has shattered more than forty of the best years of their lives." [From the book by Christine Mansoor]This site will intrigue you, regardless of your views. It contains the entire text of a now out-of-print book about the scandals surrounding the Mansoor Amarna Collection of art. It's written by Christine Mansoor, journalist and family member (granddaughter of M.A. Mansoor who started the collection in the1920's while an antiquities dealer in Egypt). I spent the better part of an afternoon reading and skimming this on-line book.
The early chapters were utterly engrossing. I was convinced by the details, descriptions, and reactions of Egyptologists and artists who originally saw the private collection in Egypt and who were profoundly moved by this art. I was dismayed by the shabby and negative "scientific" report issued by a non-Egyptologist at the Boston Museum in April 1949 and accepted by a non-Amarna expert at the Brooklyn Museum. I was angered when these two institutions combined to "jinx" negotiations between the Mansoors and other major interested museums. Against a tide of mounting scientific and artistic evidence in favor of the authenticity of the collection, the soured "good old boys" network held firm and few Egyptologists were willing to contradict their colleagues in public.
Although the book is impassioned and intelligent, it would be improved by editing out many of the rhetorical questions, letters, and quotes supporting the collection's authenticity. The enemies of the Mansoors are unlikely to read this book. Interested readers like me are more than likely to be fully convinced by the impressive data after only a handful of chapters.
I finally resorted to skimming until I got to the final chapters. I wanted to read that some major museum (hopefully one within driving distance of where I live!) had at last cracked through the decades of stony, official prejudice and purchased what remains of this collection. I wanted a "happy ending." There isn't one -- not yet.......http://www.mansooramarnacollection.com: [Link updated 3 November 2004]
....After spending an afternoon the spring of 1998 reading Christine Mansoor's book (see directly above), I finally turned to the website of the Mansoor Collection. I was eager to see what I'd been reading about. The initial page of images is disappointing because the photography is too dark (see below for a major update -- the site is now first rate) . But the newest section has a series of really wonderful, well photographed sculptures -- these include many of Akhenaton -- and each is clickable for larger-than-life enlargements so that every detail may be seen. (A relief of Smenkhkare with a princess, probably Akhenaton's daughter, Meritaton, may be seen at the end of my Amarna website.)
The Mansoors' struggle has lasted for decades longer than Amarna itself lasted in "real time." For most of those decades, there was no such thing as a worldwide web. Now there is. Giving people web-access to this art is surely not the victory the Mansoors hoped for, but it does allow them to escape the oppressive hierarchy of museum officialdom.
Perhaps the collection was always meant to be as close to us as our computer screens, something we could enjoy at 4am, without having to sit on a crowded jet and fly off to some polluted city, and wait in long lines at a museum. I recall countless depictions of the sun-god Aton with his rays ending in small, blessing hands.....what is that but light extending an "image" -- i.e., a small hand -- of beauty and kindness? Aren't web "images" -- which are held in the hands of light and invisible lines of energy -- much the same?
21 February 1999: the site has now been nicely revised by George Mansoor and has a much cleaner, brighter look. The overly dark photos I saw last spring have vanished and the "Exhibit" section now consists of 9 pieces, each one splendid. The website also includes data on recent problems with the Vatican -- as well as a long series (shot from every possible angle) of gorgeously photographed images of the Mansoors' pink limestone head of Nefertiti (formerly at the Vatican). Be patient -- there are many of them and they load slowly -- but this Nefertiti head is breathtaking -- don't miss these beautiful photos!
8 July 1999: many months ago the Mansoor family graciously invited me to view their private collection. I was finally able to do this yesterday with two of my colleagues. We were blown away by the utterly compelling beauty. We delicately touched the long, carefully sculpted fingers and toes of the little princesses, traced their gently curving arms, marveled at Nefertiti's enigmatic "Mona Lisa" smile captured in an extraordinary work of genius, brushed across Akhenaton's almond-eyes and lips, and felt a strange sense of loss when it was time to leave. We knew in our bones that what we'd been privileged to see and touch could only have been created by the finest of Akhenaton's artists. [Note: the Nefertiti sculpture mentioned above is Ref. No.14 on the Mansoor's webpage, under "Exhibit," but you'll need to click on the enlargement to get a sense of the wonder of this piece.]
This is an interesting site on the Luxor Museum with Mark T. Rigby's fine photographs (including the above). The information, while brief, is sound and this Australian's enthusiasm is infectious (he's a "natural," yet he tells me that he's neither a photographer nor an Egyptologist: his field is astronomy).(Note: I have a direct link to his home page under "Other Archaeological Sites," but you can also click on it from his Luxor site -- you'll find that he has excellent pages on many of the main archaeological digs.)
This is a direct link to a page on Nefertiti from Iain Hawkins' National Museums of Scotland site (also see above) -- some interesting details; also entry level.http://www-oi.uchicago.edu/OI/PROJ/EPI/CHB/CHB7-1.html
This site concerns one of Nefertiti's daughters, the thrice-married Ankhesenamun (Ankhesenpaaton, widow of Tutankhamun). The data is taken from a December 1995 Epigraphic Survey report on "The Year of the Goddess" by W. Raymond Johnson of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. The page has no photos but it does give a great behind-the-scenes look at a specialist in Amarna art as he solves a long-standing mystery involving huge, broken statues from Karnak of the Goddess Mut with her husband Amun. Different statues of the goddess had the appearance of two very different women. Johnson reasons that the younger was Ankhesenamun -- the report doesn't actually solve the identity issue, but the reasoning and how missing pieces came to light make a great story.
It should be noted, by the way, that the Oriental Institute is another of those respected, traditional institutions (like Waseda University -- see directly below on Malkata) who deserve great credit for making their findings available on the web.
Thebes' West Bank:
Author in front of low, crumbling walls at Malkata
24 October 1971
(Photo by my brother, Michael Jenks)
http://www.waseda.ac.jp/projects/egypt/sites/MP-E.htmlWhen my mother, brother, and I were in Egypt in 1971, I longed to walk where the Amarna people had walked. Unfortunately, we learned that foreigners were forbidden access to Tell El-Amarna because of a nearby military site -- we were told that even Nile cruise boats had their windows blacked out as they passed the site. So I decided we should go to Malkata instead, especially since it was just across the river from Thebes. At that time, even our Egyptian guide, Peter, had never heard of Malkata. It was a deserted, vast, lonely sweep of land with painted mud fragments scattered over the ground. The strange beauty of the place moved us deeply.Malkata was the site of a new palace of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye, the parents of Akhenaton -- here is where Akhenaton lived as a young man, dreamed, married Nefertiti, and saw the births of his eldest daughters.
Today much has changed: on-going work has made the site a very active place (see the Waseda sites below).
This is an extraordinary site on the excavations done at Malqata (Malkata) by Japan's Waseda University. A small aerial view, a floor plan of the palace, and reconstructions of the Vulture goddess Nekhbet (found in some of the royal rooms) are provided. The text here is excellent. Included are three dozen painted mud-fragments (each is clickable) found at the site -- not great art but a fascinating glimpse into the past for those who, like me, are moved by such small remnants.http://www.waseda.ac.jp/projects/egypt/sites/Msouth-E.html
This is another Waseda University site focusing on Amenhotep III's chapel of Kom Al-Samak (and a later Roman-period Isis Temple, cemetery, etc.) at Malqata-south. It includes several photos (not clickable) of the painted steps and other artifacts. (Note: Waseda's Home Page is accessible at the bottom of these links but I'm also linking it under "Other Archaeological Sites" -- these Japanese Egyptologists deserve much credit for making their findings available in an appealing and timely manner on the web.)
In 1907 a tomb known as KV55 was discovered in the Valley of the Kings. It seems once to have contained two royal mummies, but only one still remained. Originally, this mummy was thought to be that of Queen Tiye, but later tests determined it was a young man. The most frequent speculation is that it was Smenkhkare, the brother (half-brother? son? -- see below for Marshall F. Johnson's detailed scholarly analysis) who briefly succeeded Akhenaton. The coffin seems to have been made for a woman; with the mummy was an array of items belonging to Amenhotep III, Queen Tiye, Akhenaton, Tutankhamun, and Lady Kia. Such a makeshift burial suggests something ominous to many researchers. Iain Hawkins writes at the National Museums of Scotland site (see below):
http://www.akhet.co.uk/kv55.htm"A set of canopic jars were found in a niche at the back of the tomb. These are generally accepted as being originally intended for Kiya, who replaced Nefertiti for a short time after Year 12 of Akhenaten's reign. The theory about a hastily arranged Pharonic burial is strengthened by alterations made to the brow of the jar stoppers to add the royal cobra."When I wrote my novel on the early years in Egypt of Moses, Miriam and Aaron (The River and the Stone, Dutton, 1977), I knew that I wanted a survivor of Akhenaton's "heretical" court to be Moses' nursemaid after he was adopted by an Egyptian princess. I chose this same Lady Kia, a secondary wife of Akhenaton's. In flashbacks, I showed her memories of that vanished life as a way of explaining her devotion to Akhenaton's one god, a belief she transmitted to the Hebrew boy. Because I came to love her as a character in my book, I am giving her a special place on this page.
"....May I hear thy sweet voice in the North Wind...."
(Prayer on the footboard of what may originally have been Lady Kia's coffin.)
This is a direct link to Iain Hawkins' National Museums of Scotland page for the mysterious tomb KV55. Data on Lady Kia is brief but solid. With his permission, I took his beautiful photograph of the canopic jar image (above) from this site.
http://www.uk.sis.gov.eg/tut/html/tut00.htmTutankhamen, the Boy-King, would only have been a footnote in Egyptian history were it not for the spectacular accident of history that left his tomb unrobbed until Howard Carter discovered it. The magnificent art dates from Akhenaton's Amarna period, and the credit for its brilliance goes to the Amarna artists who created it, not to Tutankhamen who merely inherited it. He is the most famous person of the Amarna period, and yet he accomplished the least, which is why I have left him until last. Juliette Gibbs-Rodriguez has a page on him, so does Iain Hawkins. If you've come this far, you've probably already read about him at those sites. Nevertheless, there is still one more site you should know about.......
TUTANKHAMEN: This is visually one of the most beautiful and stunning sites I've found on the net. It's run by "SIS" -- Egypt's "State Information Service." The photography is gorgeous and it's gorgeously presented, especially the 12 pages in the section called "Tomb Harbours Invaluable Heritage" (the first page is text only, so keep going). There are inaccuracies, however -- especially glaring is the misidentification of what is obviously the scorpion goddess, Selket (Serket, Selkis), but who is identified here (near the very end of this 12 page section) as the lioness goddess, Sekhmet. Sekhmet was never one of the four goddess-guardians of the canopic jars and sarcophagus -- these were Isis, Nephthys, Neith, and Selket. If you use any of this data in your research, be sure to check and double check against reliable sources. The art, however, is truly magnificent.http://www.axford.com/gb/unicorn/egypt/index.htm
Tutankhamen and Smenkhkare (the probable occupant of tomb KV55, see my entries for Lady Kia) may have been brothers to Akhenaton, all three fathered by Amenhotep III but with different mothers. The theory is presented on this London site by Marshall ("Mark") F. Johnson, who traces an intricate and complex trajectory through inscriptions, art, and scholarly conjecture about these two mysterious brothers and their relationships to the young daughters of Akhenaton (as well as to the other royals of Amarna). Johnson's first subsection gives an overview of subsequent sections -- you'll need to return to his starting page and click on each subsection individually to get the full argument. Nothing is simplified or glossed over here. Johnson's series of work-in-progress papers provides a wealth of footnotes and extensive bibliographies. Due to declining health, his work may never be updated (he informs me 22 May 1998 that his health has been improving, which is good news).
Since I'm not an Egyptologist, I'm not qualified to judge the soundness of Mark Johnson's conclusions -- but his method is solid and impressive. His site is an excellent example of what patient scholarship is all about. If you have no experience with such work, you'll perhaps find it somewhat dry -- but if you have a sense for mysteries living between the lines, and for a man's deep love for his subject, you'll find the site of great value as well as being a moving and fitting testament to Johnson's twenty years of work on this subject.
21 February 1999: four weeks ago I learned to my sadness that Mark died 10 December 1999 of HIV complications. We never met (he lived with his wife, Betty, in London and I'm in southern California), but I felt close to him through a series of lengthy e-mails during the spring of 1998 -- and I cried when I got the news. May the Amarna royals, whom he studied with such devoted love, welcome him with great love in return and gently sing ska to him while he rests. His website remains, thanks to Betty's devotion, but this fine man will be missed.
Mysteries continue to swirl around the short-lived Amarna period. A major new book, Amarna in Retrospect: One Hundred Years of Tell El-Amarna and Amarna Studies, edited by Barry Beitzel and published by Eisenbrauns, is due out in late spring 1998. Hopefully, it will fill in some of the gaps in what is currently known. Meanwhile, it's time to leave Amarna and move to another area of mystery: Alexandria....
Alexandria/ Amarna/ Art & Artifacts/Daily Life in Ancient Egypt/Egypt: General Information, Travel, Etc./
Egypt: through the Eyes of Photographers & Artists/ Hieroglyphs, Papyrus & Texts/ Links to the Links/
Men of Ancient Egypt/ Multiple Category Sites/ Mythology/ Other Archaeological Sites/ Pyramids/
Religious Beliefs&Practices/ Women of Ancient Egypt/ The Sahara
If you have comments or suggestions,
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