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Sunset: the End of the Amarna Period

Dr. Aidan Dodson is a Research Fellow in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol. He is the author of numerous books articles and books on ancient Egypt, including the forthcoming Amarna Sunset: Nefertiti, Tutankhamen, Aye, and Horemheb, due to be published by the AUC Press in October 2009.

Dr. Dodson opened his lecture with a brief description of the city of Amarna, ancient Akhet-Aten, the city built by the "Heretic" Pharaoh Akhenaten for the worship of hisSole God Aten, the visible disk of the sun. He indicated the locations of the North Riverside Palace, the Great Palace in the central city - which was probably a royaladministration building - the private tombs with reliefs crucial to the lecture, and the Royal Wadi where Akhenaten's tomb was built. The lecture focussed on the
latter years of Akhenaten's reign, starting with Year 12.

Year 12 was the high point of Akhenaten's reign, significant for the "Durbar", a celebration where delegations from most of the rest of the known world brought gifts to
the Pharaoh. Tragically, they may have also brought an additional, unwelcome companion - plague. For those who believe in a co-regency between Akhenaten and
Amonhotep III, the Durbar may mark Akhenaten's assumption of full regency, although Dr. Dodson does not support the co-regency theory. The Durbar was the last
event of Akhenaten's reign depicted in any of the private tombs at Amarna, and the last event including all 6 royal princesses.

The plague seems to have struck in Year 13, as several members of the Royal Family died around this time, including Meketaten and the 2 youngest princessess, as
well as Queen Mother Tiye. Fragments of Tiye's sarcophagus were found in the Royal Tomb, supporting this conclusion and the theory that she was buried at Amarna.
From reliefs in one room, it is clear that Meketaten was also buried in her father's tomb, which was unusual in having accommodations planned for other members of the Royal Family, in addition to Pharaoh himself.

The tomb of Meryre II, TA2, shows evidence for the succession. The right hand walls of this tomb show no break in work on neighboring walls, which had to be
decorated at the same time before access to the burial chamber below could be constructed. The main wall shows the Durbar, while immediately next to it is a
badly-damaged relief of the Pharaoh Ankhkheperure Smenkhare and his Great Royal Wife Meritaten. The use of the later forms of the Aten's name date this to after
Year 9, and most likely Year 13, just after the Durbar. Included in the tomb of Tutankhamen was an alabaster jar with a partially-erased inscription. The most likely
names on this jar were Akhenaten and Smenkhare. This evidence supports the idea of a co-regency between Akhenaten and Smenkhare, probably as insurance in
case Akhenaten died of plague. Had Smenkhare been the son of Akhenaten, he would have been too young at this time to be a viable co-regent; Dr. Dodson takes
this to indicate that Smenkhare was another son of Amonhotep III and Tiye.

The main evidence for the short reign of Smenkhare comes from Amarna and Memphis. In the 19th century, blocks were found at Memphis from the Amarna period
with partial cartouches. The only possible names to fit these cartouches are those of Smenkhare and Meritaten. Unfortunately, the blocks were lost later in the 19th
century, so all that remains of them are drawings made at that time. Mud bricks from a huge room in the Great Palace at Amarna are stamped with the cartouche of
Smenkhare and the name "Place of Rejoicing for the Aten", most likely the name of the room, the last addition to the building. Other evidence includes ring bezels
and seal inscriptions from Amarna.

Tomb KV55 in the Valley of the Kings is probably the single most controversial subject in Egyptology. Since objects in the tomb were clearly made for different people - primarily Akhenaten and Tiye - this tomb was a cache of items brought from Amarna. Dr. Dodson believes the male body found in the tomb is that of Smenkhare, a possible victim of the plague. But there is another theorized identity for Smenkhare - Nefertiti, herself. This theory came about because there are some ring bezels of Ankhkheperure that include the epithet "beloved of Wa-en-re" or "beloved of Neferkheperure" - additional names of Akhenaten - which also include the feminie ending "t" in the name of Ankhkheperure. This would indicate that Ankhkheperure was female. Or could this be a unique event in Egyptian history - 2 successive monarchs sharing the same prenomen?

This conflicting evidence around the name Ankhkheperure has led to some interesting and even wild theories, including that there was no Smenkhare at all, this person
being merely Nefertiti in male guise, a la Hatshepsut - with her own daughter acting the ceremonial role of Great Royal Wife - or that Smenkhare and Akhenaten
were gay lovers. This last theory arose over an unfinshed stelae now in Berlin, #17813, which shows 2 individuals with king's crowns, sitting together in a rather
intimate pose, possibly naked. The cartouches are blank. But one of the figures has a more feminine physique, with clearly female breasts - which leads to the
conclusion that this stelae depicts Akhenaten, with Nefertiti crowned as co-regent.

It is accepted that many of the lovely pieces buried with Tutankhamon were originally made for other individuals, as traces of their names can still be seen. One
magnificent pectoral bears a name which can be reconstructed as "Neferneferuaten, beneficial for her husband" - obviously a woman, who can only be Nefertiti.
Painted plaster from the North Riverside Palace at Amarna - the actual residence of the Royal Family - preserves additional instances of this cartouche and
epithet. 2 other artifacts from Tutankhamon's tomb also seem to have been made for Nefertiti as Pharaoh - the gold coffinette from the Selket jar of the canopic
chest, and the obviously-feminine body of the monarch riding on the back of a black feline. That these were available for re-use for Tutankhamon indicates that
Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti was never buried as a Pharaoh.

Was Nefertiti crowned as Akhenaten's co-regent when Smenkhare died, to ensure a smooth transition in case of Akhenaten's death and to prevent a return to orthodoxy? His only male heir, Tutankhaten, would have been a toddler at this time, uncapable of ruling. And who were Tut's parents? Blocks from Ashmunein found before WW2 are inscribed for "King's son of his body Tutankhaten" and "King's daughter of his body Ankhesenpaaten". It is thought these blocks were to label figures, and a possible reconstruction is of the Sun Disk flanked by royal pairs presenting offerings - Akhenaten and Tutankhaten on one side, with Nefertiti and Ankhesenpaaten on the other. Was Tut the son of Nefertiti, and not Kiya? No representation exists of Kiya with a son; blocks from Ashmunein show her with only a daughter. 18thDynasty reliefs do not show royal sons, and depictions of daughters are rare until the Amarna period. Dr. Dodson interprets this as evidence that Tutankhaten was Nefertiti's son.

A box fragment found in Tutankhamon's tomb bears an inscription for Neferneferuaten with Great Royal Wife Meritaten. Is Meritaten shown here as the widow of
Smenkhare or acting as the GRW to her ruling mother? This would not be an isolated case - Neferura acted as GRW to her mother Hatshepsut, and several of
the daughters of Ramesses III were given the title Great Royal Wife on the deaths of their mothers; almost certainly ceremonial roles that did not include sharing
their father's bed.

So, Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten was crowned as Akhenaten's co-regent when Ankhkheperure Smenkkare died, and continued as co-regent to her son
Tutankhaten at Akhenaten's death to provide continuity. It is ironic that it was under Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten that the return to orthodoxy began: in the Theban
tomb of Pairy, TT139, there is graffitto dated to Year 3, 3rd month of Akhet, Day 10 by a wa'ab priest of Amon in the estate of Ankhkheperure. A stelae from
Amarna (#14197) that was destroyed in the bombing of Berlin in WW2 depicted Tutankhaten offering to Amon and Mut. Did Nefertiti decide that Atenism was
a failed experiment? Was she less loyal to the cult than her husband, or was she merely more realistic? And was her death the spur for the name change of
the royal couple from Aten to Amon? Is this when Aye took charge? Significantly, a pectoral from Tut's tomb shows Tut and his wife offering to Amon - but a figure of
God's Father Aye is also included, and he is the largest figure on the piece. And blocks from a relief of Tutankhamon at Karnak temple show a figure behind the
king, partially erased. Was this another instance of Aye flexing his political clout?

Kim Sanders