Home Up



Monotheism In Ancient Egypt

The Cult of the Aten

What Historical Significance May Be Attributed To Atenism

by R S Cartwright



The subject of this paper concerns the change from pantheism to monotheism during the reign of the Pharaoh Amenhotep IV and the historical significance of thischange.

Life in Ancient Egypt changed dramatically during the reign of Amenhotep IV. Some authorities say the change was for the better; others say it was for the worse. I think it is safe to say that life and society became more pleasing, aesthetic for the Egyptians living in the city of Akhenaton. Leading up to the 18th Dynasty, art and decor were drab, expressionless (yet colourful as the royal tombs show). During the reign of Amenhotep IV this lifeless art became much more life-like (radical) exhibiting a human commonality.

But how much change did take place? How much do we owe the Ancient Egyptians from this period? Was Amenhotep IV and his religion the seed which flowered under Abraham? Was the relief sculpture and artwork the forerunner of the Renaissance with such individuals as Dante, Petrarch, Giotto, Michelangelo, Donatello, Di Vinci, and even Shakespeare? Was the city of Akhenaton the Florence, Italy of 18th Dynastic Egypt? Perhaps.

To understand this change we must realize the important role religion played in the society of Ancient Egyptian life. Over many generations from the earliest times of dynastic Egypt to the time of Amenhotep IV and beyond religion was deeply threaded in the fabric of society. In the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, Ra, the Sun God, headed Egypt's pantheon of gods. In the New Kingdom, of which the 18th Dynasty and Amenhotep IV were a part, the head of the pantheon was a metamorphosized Ra called Amen (later the two names would be combined to form the name Amen-Ra).



Faience throwstick of Akhenaten

Faience throw stick of Akhenaton

To ensure the king's regeneration


…… The roots of Amen actually began many generations before the time of Amenhotep IV. Amen eventually became the most powerful god in the history of Ancient Egypt. Yet perhaps it is fitting that the god Re of the Old Kingdom became closely associated with Amenhotep IV's god of the Sun, Aten, and further, to some extent, Aten would live on in the shadow of Amen-Ra.

…… During the time of Amenhotep IV (and throughout most of the history of Ancient Egypt) there existed a hierarchy to Egyptian society. At the bottom of this social ladder were the peasants; they were followed by artists, craftsmen, and educators. Above them on the social ladder were the high ranking officials, the nobility, and the priesthood. Then atop this social ladder stood the pharaoh.

…… Much of the power 'behind the throne' was wielded by the priesthood. There were two classes of priests, the Sem priests and Weeb priests. Sem priests were of noble birth, held direct communication with the gods in the inner sanctum of their temples, and relayed information to the pharaohs. Weeb priests were born of peasantry, did not have access to the inner sanctum of temples, and were the 'middle men' between Sem priests and the common people.

…… Now let's turn to the pharaoh. The pharaoh, in this case Amenhotep IV, but pharaohs in general, were considered the "Living God of Egypt", the physical embodiment of the gods. It must be noted that pharaohs wielded more power then any ruler in the history of the world, before or since. No one, absolutely no one, has ever possessed such power. Whatever they said was law. Even on a whim. Consider a pharaoh in a bad mood or in a fit of rage. Life could be miserable, deadly, or quite pleasant.

…… So, let's look at what we have. We have a pharaoh who runs everything. We have two classes of priests that wield power behind the scenes (this structure tends to many societies to this day). We have hopes, dreams, greed, aspirations, and ambitions. In 1379 BC Amenhotep III died. Amenhotep IV, about twelve years of age, ascended the throne of Egypt. It was time for change.


The History

…… To follow the conversion from pantheism to monotheism we have to back track a little and look at some Ancient Egyptian history beginning just prior to the reign of Amenhotep IV.

…… The conversion from Amen to Aten actually began with Amenhotep III, the father of our 'heretic' pharaoh. In 1381 BC at the age of 47, Amenhotep III married a young Mitanni princess named Tadukhipa. This young princess took the name of Nefertiti in the court of Amenhotep III. Nefertiti was one of the main proponents in the change from pantheism to monotheism. It must be noted here that Amenhotep's 'first' wife, and Queen of Egypt, was a Nubian named Tiy. Queen Tiy was perhaps the foremost proponent in the change from Amenism to Atenism and carried it on into her son's reign when Amenhotep III died.

…… Two others who played an important role in this history were Ai, a chief priest, and Horseman, a military general. Both men served under Amenhotep III and were thought to have been the power, along with Queen Tiy and Nefertiti, behind the throne of both Amenhotep IV and Tutankhamen. Later both men would become pharaohs in their own right.

…… Getting back to the point, there was social unrest and the religion of Amen was in rapid decline. Amenhotep III was beginning to entertain the idea of a single god, perhaps at the prodding of Nefertiti, and most definitely at the urging of Queen Tiy. However, in the last few years of his life Amenhotep III was either insane or quite incapacitated due to sickness that the throne was controlled by Queen Tiy and her ministers. Amenhotep III never had the chance to exercise this change. In 1379 BC Amenhotep III died and his son, Amenhotep IV, came to the throne. Amenhotep IV took Nefertiti as his wife. He carried out the policies of his father, and the wishes of his mother and new wife. The stage was set. The change from pantheism to monotheism was at hand.



…… The priesthood of Amen was corrupt. With the rapid decline in the religion of Amen, the priests went to enlist the help of Nefertiti in an attempt to save the religion. Nefertiti would not listen. Both she and Amenhotep IV turned on the priesthood waging a bitter war that would not last. Amen was outlawed. Aten was instated as the sole omnipotent god of Egypt. Amenhotep IV made himself High Priest of the new religion. All mention of Amen, either by word or by monument, was erased. Even the name of Amen contained within the name of the Amenhotep kings was defaced from all the monuments of Thebes. A temple to Aten was built at Karnak. But the memory, the great monuments, the association of the old religion was everywhere. Amenhotep IV had no choice but to leave Thebes.


…… Three years into his reign Amenhotep IV chose a site and directed the building of a new capital city. The location was approximately 170 miles north of Thebes on the Nile near present day Tel el-Amarna. The name of the new capital was Akhenaton meaning 'Horizon of the Aten'. The construction of Akhenaton took an additional three years to complete.

…… In 1373 BC Amenhotep IV, Nefertiti, their three daughters, Merytaten, Maktaten, and Ankhesenpaten, and the rest of their entourage left Thebes for the newly completed City of the Sun. Settling into a new way of life, Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaton meaning 'In Service to the Aten'. Akhenaten's three daughters also changed their names to reflect the worship of Aten (in Akhenaton the King and Queen would have four more daughters who were Nefer-neferu-Aten, Nefer-neferu-Ra, Setepen-Ra, and Baktaten). Nefertiti's name remained unchanged.

…… The city of Akhenaton thrived for a decade. Life was good. The new city was a jewel in the sands next to the Nile. Many changes had taken place from the old way of life to the new. One of these changes, the only change that would remain intact through the rest of dynastic Ancient Egyptian history was the use of the term 'pharaoh' to denote the king. Previously the term pharaoh was used to denote the royal palace.

……Everything seemed to be going well. Akhenaton was embedded in his own little world with virtually no regard for anything happening outside. Things began to happen. Trouble brewed in Thebes. There were those who remained in Thebes, those who would not let go of Amen. And there were those in Akhenaton who secretly would not let go of Amen.

…… No one knows or understands exactly what happened. There are many theories, many guesses, most probably a combination of factors. Akhenaton had ignored plea's for help from the Asiatic lands of the empire that his father and grandfather had built. The Asiatic lands fell, many of them going into rebellion. Akhenaton believed the Empire united under Aten would bring peace and tranquility, that all wars would cease. Akhenaton was wrong. Popular opinion was turning against him. To solidify his regency, Akhenaton married his eldest daughter, Merytaten, to Smenkhkare, a younger brother of Akhenaton. Smenkhkare was made co-regent in 1364 BC. Then, in 1362 BC at the approximate age of 30, Akhenaton died. Smenkhkare stood alone as pharaoh. Nefertiti was still the Queen, and trying desperately to hold onto the religion of Aten.

The Religion

…… In the later half of the 18th Dynasty foreign influence on Egyptian politics and religion was considerable. The Queen of Thutmosis IV, the father of Amenhotep III, was Syrian by birth. As stated before, Amenhotep III's own wife, Queen Tiy, was Nubian. And Nefertiti, who would play a far reaching role in the worship of Aten during the reign of Amenhotep IV, was Mitanni. This influx of foreign blood into Egyptian royalty brought a change to the traditional way of thinking. Many of the foreign concepts of religion and art were incorporated into the Egyptian way of life. The old ways were changing, Amen becoming less prominent as reform was pushed forward. And with Amenhotep IV coming to the throne, Aten replaced Amen as the chief god of the Egyptians who were loyal to the new king.


…… Initially, Aten was meant to denote the visible disk of the Sun. Stretching back over 1500 years before Akhenaton, Aten was closely associated with the god Ra of the 3rd and 4th Dynasties. A note of interest, Atem, an early incarnation of Ra, was head of the pantheon of gods. According to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, Atem created the god Shu and the goddess Tefnut from his own body, then declared he was three rather than one god. It was the world's first Holy Trinity. Akhenaton developed the incarnation of Aten to a degree never before seen in the history of the world (to that time). No longer was it the worship of the Sun, but more so the power behind the Sun. It was the worship of a universal power to which everything owed its existence, a power which made things grow, a power which brought things to life. It was intangible, invisible, and yet could be seen in everything. Aten was the unseen energy that created the universe and was manifest in everything.

…… For the most part Amen and the pantheon of Egyptian gods were like the Greeks and Romans who would come later. They were deified mortals with great powers who accomplished superhuman deeds. Some were patterned after nature such as the wind or sea. They were both vengeful and compassionate. They could be swayed by mortal emotions. The pantheon of gods headed by Amen could be found in the smoke of a battle field, the encroaching sands that cover crops during a bad season, or presiding over a human sacrificial altar.

…… However, Aten could be found in flowers and trees, birds taking to the air, the cry of a small child, or the anguish at the loss of a loved one. Akhenaton broke down the conventions of the old religion and preached truth and beauty, the awareness of life and color in nature. Truth in nature was enough. There was no need for ceremonial pageantry. This to me is very much in the spirit of Zen, living one and the fullest with nature. Aten was the force behind all things, and the understanding of truth within that force. Akhenaten's truth in nature didn't convey the truth of the reality around him. He became so engrossed with his spiritual truth that the reality of his everyday world slipped from his grasp. His religion, a very well intentioned religion, was causing his kingdom to crumble. Egypt was being destroyed.

The Art

…… Akhenaton instituted new forms of art that has since come to be known as the Amarna Period. Artwork of the Amen Period was done with regal conventions of dignity; Akhenaton wanted to be depicted in family poses, nursing his children, caressing his wife, leaning carefree on his staff, etc. He had bas-reliefs carved showing he and Nefertiti with their daughters, depicting a loving home-like environment. This was a first for a pharaoh. The colors were bright, vivid, life-like. There was more of nature in the artwork of Akhenaton as compared to the standard depiction of Amen in relief and military conquests found in the artwork of Thebes. Human figures depicted, most particularly of Akhenaton himself in all his seemingly grotesque deformity, were more true to life. Perhaps the greatest breakthrough of the Amarna Period was its originality compared to the strict conventions of Amen and Thebes.

…… The change in art was also a change in attitude. The pharaoh was the 'Living God of Egypt', the Court under Amen believing the king should ride alone in solitary state through the city. Akhenaton rode with his wife and children. Whereas the Court and people judge the king a god, Akhenaton wanted to be treated as a man. A pharaoh always remained above and apart from his people; yet, Akhenaton walked among his people as one of them. Akhenaton also wrote poetry which was considered beneath the dignity of a king. This change in attitude, of bringing the king down to earth, so to speak, is reflected in the artwork of Akhenaton.



…… Smenkhkare died in 1361 BC, a little over a year after the death of Akhenaton. Nefertiti brought young Tutankhaten to Akhenaton from Memphis to be the new king. Some authorities believed Tutankhamen to be a brother of Akhenaton and Smenkhkare. Yet, Tutankhaten was 11 years of age when he came to the throne. His birth would have come years after the death of Amenhotep III. It is more likely Tutankhaten was Akhenaten's son, and his mother, in my opinion, is possibly Akhenaten's own mother, Queen Tiy. There is some speculation Akhenaton also took his mother to Akhenaton as a secondary, or lesser, queen to Nefertiti, but this is uncertain. Queen Tiy may have remained in Thebes making occasional visits to Akhenaton to see her son and his family. Regardless of Tiy's residence, during this time in Ancient Egypt incest was a commonly accepted facet of society, particularly so with the royal family (a way to produce heirs and maintain, however diluted it may be, the bloodline of the royal family).


…… As stated Tutankhaten was on the throne at the age of 11. He married another of Akhenaten's daughters, Ankhesenpaten, and made her his queen. The power was controlled by Nefertiti, possibly Ai and Horseman as well. Yet the people were still disillusioned with Aten. The Asiatic kingdom was gone. Society was coming apart. The old way of life in Thebes had been tried and true. Nefertiti remained true to Aten, but at the possible persuasion of Ai and Horseman, Tutankhaten abandoned the religion of Aten.

…… Tutankhaten abandoned Akhenaton and Nefertiti. He returned to Thebes with Ankhesenpaten, Ai, Horseman, and his entourage. Amen was restored with all the conventional art and religious doctrine. Tutankhaten changed his name to Tutankhamen in honor of Amen. Ankhesenpaten became Ankhesenpamen. The rest is history.

…… Tutankhamen died in 1354 BC at the age of eighteen. There is speculation he may have been murdered. Ai, followed by Horseman, rounded out the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. The Empire Period of Ancient Egypt would stand for eight more dynasties. Foreign kings thereafter would ascend the throne until Alexander the Great of Macedonia would conquer Egypt in 332 BC and forever bring about an end to Dynastic Egypt.

…… What of Akhenaton? He, his city, and his dream of monotheism died together. Very little is left of the site of Akhenaton although recent excavations have uncovered much of the city, and its general layout is now known. Much of Akhenaten's memory had been erased from the annals of Ancient Egypt, but archaeological excavations are bringing much of Akhenaten's history to light once again. An incomplete royal tomb has been uncovered, and, unfortunately, was found to be empty. It's uncertain if Nefertiti died in Akhenaton. Her body has never been found. Akhenaton was probably taken back to Thebes by Tutankhamen. In 1907 a body was found in the tomb of Queen Tiy. Originally thought to be Tiy, it was found to be a young man of approximately twenty six to twenty nine years of age. It is now believed, because of inscriptions found in the tomb, that the body is Akhenaten's. It is possible the body of Queen Tiy was probably moved sometime during Tutankhamen's reign to the tomb of her husband Amenhotep III in an attempt to disassociate her with the heretic Akhenaton. But, to date, like Nefertiti, Queen Tiy has never been found (although another body possibly being her's has been found, it has not been authenticated). If Queen Tiy was buried in the tomb of Amenhotep III, her body was probably removed by grave robbers shortly after her internment their. If this is so she may never be found.

…… It has been nearly 33 centuries since the time of Akhenaton. Much has changed in this world; much has come and gone. Ancient Egyptians wanted to erase all trace of Akhenaton and his excursion into the realm of monotheism, reformed art and society. Instead, Akhenaton has become perhaps the most well known (aside from Tutankhamen and his treasure) pharaoh if not the most peculiar for what he attempted with Atenism.

…… Questions remain: Did Akhenaten's Atenism experiment work? How indicative is Akhenaten's monotheism to that yet to come? Was Akhenaten's monotheism fresh in the minds of the Hebrews? What about the Amarna Period artwork? Was the artwork indicative of what was to come? Was the artwork the "FIRST" Renaissance?

…… I like to compare Akhenaten's reign and the Amarna Period to the Renaissance. It is true the Amarna Period is no where near the complexity of the far reaching consequences of the artistic, social, religious revolution and movements of the Renaissance, but I think the Amarna Period was a movement in its own right. So, can we give credit where credit is due or was Akhenaton just ahead of his times?

…… Going back to the beginning of this paper, let's take a look at the Renaissance. It was the 'revival' or 'rebirth' of what had been lost after the fall of the Roman Empire which included art and culture. The Renaissance began in the 1300's and lasted to the 1500's, spanning nearly 200 years. The religious and dynastic wars of the 17th Century brought the Renaissance to an end.

…… On the artistic side we have writers such as Dante whose writing was said to have launched the Renaissance movement. We also have Petrarch, an Italian writer, who is most remembered for his development of the sonnet in verse (rhyming poetry). I think this indicative of Akhenaton to some extent.

…… Among Renaissance painters was Giotto, an Italian, the first painter of the Renaissance. He set a new style in painting which depicted characters with life like qualities. Before Giotto paintings were more statuesque with no expression. Again, I think this indicative of Atenism and Amenism (life-like Atenism and expressionless Amenism). There was also Botticelli who believed painting was a God given gift (Aten?).

…… Among the sculptures of the Renaissance was Michelangelo's giant Statue of David which is depicted seated and reclining. Michelangelo's state of Moses is also seated.

…… We also have religious reform, an ongoing event, perhaps no more prevalent than when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses (demands) to the door of St Augustine's Church in Germany on October 31, 1517. This heralded the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. From this point on the Roman Catholic Church was split forever.

…… In the end did Akhenaton have any affect at all on the world and what was to come? I asked if Akhenaton was ahead of his time. The theme of this paper dealt with the historical significance attributed to Atenism. Perhaps there is little significance, perhaps none at all. It is difficult to draw conclusions about this, to see if there are any ties that bind events in Akhenaten's future (our past and present).

…… There was much change in Ancient Egypt caused by Akhenaton, much change in the art, attitudes, and lifestyle of the people and the king and queen themselves. And yet it would seem not much in the palace structure (political front) had changed. Akhenaton palace officials included a royal scribe (Meriere), a court butler (Arennefer), the main chamberlain (Tutu), the first vizier (Maia - who crossed Akhenaton and was sent into the desert - definitely a Hebrew trait), a second vizier (Nakht), a sculptor (Bek), a palace overseer (Ahmose), the first servant of Aten (Pinhasi), a chamberlain and palace physician (Pentu), a scribe (Ani), and a master sculptor (Thutmose), among others.

…… It may be wishful thinking in wanting to believe Akhenaton was the catalyst causing change in our world the way it happened. Yet I think that a simple delusion. Still, in my opinion, what Akhenaton did was historically significant. Definitely so for Egypt and Egyptian history if not for world history. And if Akhenaton had no bearing on certain events of his future, then I'll say that THEE Renaissance mention above could possibly be a second Renaissance and that Akhenaton and the Amarna Period in truth is the first Renaissance, separate and apart from the second Renaissance of the 13th to the 15th centuries.


SECTION 10: Akhenaton and Monotheism


The concept of monotheism has deep roots in Western Civilization, reaching as far back in time as the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt, well before the formation of the ancient state of Israel. There, an odd-looking, untraditional and ultimately unfathomable pharaoh named Akhenaton imposed on his people a belief-system centering around a single deity, the aten or sun-disk. Famous also for his capital city Akhenaton (modern el-Amarna) and his strikingly beautiful wife Nefertiti, Akhenaten's revolution in religion was short-lived, and the extent of its influence even within Egypt is hard to gauge, though it seems slight. Nevertheless, it's possible that aten worship inspired or in some way sparked the development of monotheism later among the ancient Israelites.

People, Places, Events and Terms To Know:

Amunhotep (IV)
Amarna Period
Ramses II
Amarna Culture

Amunhotep III
Amun Priesthood

Valley of the Kings
Howard Carter
Hebrew Monotheism
Egyptian Captivity
Goshen (Pi-Ramesse)
Psalm 104
Hymn to the Aten

I. The History of Monotheism in Antiquity

We in the western world today tend to associate monotheism with our own traditions, as if it were originally the invention of our European ancestors. It wasn't. Cultures rooted in the Near East and its environs not only explored monotheistic thinking earlier and more fully but also today embrace the strictest form of monotheism to date, Islam. Historical data are clear that the conception of a universe created and guided by one deity alone is the product of Eastern ideologies exported to, not from, the West.

It's like pants, something we in the West rarely think about as essentially foreign, even though they are. Indeed, a mere glance at costume history shows that very few people in early Western Civilization—Greeks, Romans, Franks—regularly wore tight-fitting garments, especially below the waist. In fact, it wasn't until well after antiquity, when trade and war had opened the way for cultural exchange between East and West, that large numbers of men who lived in Europe began wearing pants and other clothing styles suited to horseback riding. So if not for contact with the East, we might all still be wearing tunics, and worshiping a pantheon of gods.

Many today also assume that the earliest historical evidence for monotheism is to be found among ancient Hebrew scriptures, the accounts of a people living in the Near East. It isn't. Not only did the Hebrews develop their monotheistic tenets slowly and over the course of several centuries—as we'll see in the next section of the class, a fully developed form of monotheism emerged in Israel only after a lengthy period of evolution—but long before the Hebrews even existed as a people, the ancient Egyptians experimented with a form of single-deity worship. The guiding force behind this brief pause in polytheism is a mysterious pharaoh who gave himself the name Akhenaten. Whether or not his theological experiment influenced or in any way stimulated the religion outlined in the Old Testament is not clear. What is clear is that the ancient Hebrews were not the only nor the first people to adopt the notion of a single cosmic entity that oversees everything.

II. Akhenaten

We know both little and much about Akhenaten—that is to say, we know enough to wish we knew much more with certainty—but at least the general contours of his biography are clear. Born Amunhotep (IV), Akhenaten ruled Egypt for a mere fourteen years (ca. 1352-1338 BCE), a relatively short reign by the standards of the day. While there is no record of his death nor have any material remains from his burial as yet come to light, it is safe to assume he died in middle age. The cause of his death is not known.

The unique and peculiar phase of Egyptian history he engineered is known today as the Amarna period—the modern Egyptian village of El-Amarna lies near the site that was once Akhenaten's capital city—although the Amarna Period extends beyond his reign. It includes not only Akhenaten's regency but several of his successors': Smenkhare (1338-1336 BCE) about whom next to nothing is known; Tutankhuaten (later, Tutankhamun, 1336-1327 BCE) whose current notoriety since the discovery of his tomb in the 1920's far outstrips the boy-king's fame in antiquity; and finally Ay (1327-1323 BCE). By the time the next series of pharaohs held the throne—Horemheb (1323-1295 BCE) and the Ramessids, a dynasty which included the famous Ramses II—Amarna had been abandoned and destroyed, along with the memory of Akhenaten's religion in the general conscience of the ancient Egyptian public. This deliberate attempt to eradicate all reference in the Egyptian record to the Amarna period was nearly successful, but not quite.

We do know about Akhenaten, in fact, probably quite a bit more than the ancient Egyptians did who lived even just a few generations after the monotheist's rule. In spite of the fact that there is virtually no reference in later Egyptian historical records to Akhenaten's existence, or his immediate successors'—it's hard to find even hints of his religion in subsequent Egyptian culture—archaeology has brought Amarna culture back to light with astounding clarity and depth. As with Pompeii, because of its near-total obliteration more is now known about Akhenaten's regime than almost any other period during the New Kingdom of Egypt, a fact Ramses would, no doubt, not be very happy to hear.

A. Akhetaten (Akhenaten's capital)

To a large extent, our knowledge of Akhenaten's life and times begins in Akhetaten, the city he built for himself and his religion, not that the site is particularly well preserved. In fact, it isn't. Later rulers antagonistic to Amarna culture, the social and religious institutions Akhenaten imposed on Egypt, intentionally demolished Akhetaten along with the records of his reign. Ironically, however, that program of destruction saved the city and its founder's name for posterity, and for the most part its preservation depends on the fact that the city rose and fell very quickly. The reason for that stems from the enormous scope of change which Akhenaten attempted—a dramatic shift in religious, political and social traditions—and that meant he had to have an entirely new, fully functioning capital from which he could run the country without the weight of tradition bearing down on him and holding him back. Revolutions often have to "seize the day" and proceed quickly or else not get off the ground at all.

To build Akhenaten's city and shrines quickly, relatively small blocks were used, stones which are now called talatat—it's easier and faster to raise a structure by using many small pieces than a few large ones—and, to date, more than 45,000 talatat from Akhenaten's buildings have come to light. Indeed, so many have been recovered that today talatat are found in museums around the world and are a regular item sold on the black market. But small-sized blocks are also easy to deconstruct. One of the reasons the Great Pyramid still stands is the enormous size of the individual stones used to build it, and for that reason it couldn't be demolished the way Amarna culture was. It's often the case that what goes up fast comes down the same way.

Other factors played a role in the ready destruction—and preservation!—of Akhenaten's city. Because he elected to build his capital in a remote location so that it could be dedicated solely to his new religion and its administration, his later persecutors were able to uproot it completely without fear of offending traditional cults or well-established government agencies. Those demolitionists, then, used the talatat, the very body of Akhenaten's capital, as fill in their own construction projects. But by encasing the talatat within other buildings, they inadvertently protected and preserved them for modern archaeologists to find. Because of that, much of Akhetaten can be reconstructed so, in this case, what goes down easily comes back up the same way.

Akhetaten is situated along the eastern shore of the Nile in a spot which had never before been settled. That was, no doubt, part of its charm to Akhenaten—it lent the site a sense of austerity and religious purity, the very sort of newness he saw in his own regime—and unlike even the remotest Egyptian village, this locale had not as yet been connected with any cult or deity. Theologically, it was a "clean slate," so to speak. The place had no name even, allowing the king to dub it as he liked, and the name he chose was Akhetaten, "Horizon of the Sun-disk."

And there's a good reason people had never attempted to settle this area before. Its location is in the desert, a place where it's virtually impossible to feed and house a self-sustaining populace of any real size—certainly not one large enough to govern a nation like ancient Egypt—so, maintaining the army of bureaucrats and office-workers needed to run Akhenaten's realm depended on the collection of taxes and importation of food stuffs, an expensive and labor-intensive investment of resources. But Akhenaten did not have to worry about that. He was the pharaoh, both god and king, and as long as he lived, his will was law. If he wanted to build a capital in the desert, that's where city hall went.

Nor is it hard to understand why he should want such a thing, if one looks at things from his perspective. To start with, desolate locations like el-Amarna have a long history of attracting religious sectarians of Akhenaten's sort—they certainly appealed to the desert fathers of early Christianity and various groups of American pioneers—all of whom have also felt at home in places distant from traditional communities and accepted practices of government and worship. Furthermore, from Akhenaten's viewpoint, Akhetaten was not without certain charms. Lodged in a recess in the highlands flanking the Nile, the site provides spectacular dawns, and indeed, at certain times of year the sun appears to rise from a yoke in the mountains which embodies beautifully the solar iconography seen in much of the artwork created during the Amarna period. All in all, it's not hard to imagine the morning Akhenaten awoke on his royal barge as he was sailing down the Nile, looking for a place to build a new city, and saw this sight, a site so suited to his solitary nature and obsession with the sun.

B. Akhenaten's Early Reign (1352-1348 BCE)

How that obsession developed and, in general, the path which led to this point in his career are not difficult to reconstruct, either. Although in the earliest stages of Akhenaten's life few overt signs of the religious revolution looming on the horizon emerge, there are several significant hints as to the radical changes about to unfold across Egypt. Even if the clarity of hindsight sometimes makes things look predictable when they're not, these omens are truly telling.

The second son of Amunhotep III, Akhenaten was still called Amunhotep (IV) when he succeeded his father to the throne in 1352 BCE. By all appearances, it was a smooth transition of power and, even though he had not always been the heir apparent—his older brother had been groomed for the kingship but had died several years earlier—the young Akhenaten was not unprepared to wield the scepter because most likely he served as co-regent toward the end of his father's reign. To judge from his last portraits, Amunhotep III suffered a lingering malady of some sort which slowly killed him, so it would make sense that, as his health declined, he handed the reins of government to his chosen successor, even if one chosen by default. None of that, however, would have helped Akhenaten feel part of or indebted to the traditional structures of Egyptian government and religion in the day.

Almost as soon as Akhenaten became the sole ruler of Egypt, he began to alter the traditional presentation of the pharaoh and the ways state business was conducted. For instance, he took on a new title, "Prophet of Ra-Horakhte" ("Ra of the Horizon")—note no Amun, the god of mysteries and hidden truth whose name appears in so many Egyptian appellations, e.g. Amunhotep and Tutankhamun—"Prophet of Ra-Horakhte" suggests dissatisfaction with conventional religion, especially since by Akhenaten's day Amun had long been seen as the central deity in the extensive pantheon of Egyptian gods whose center of worship was Thebes, the capital city of Egypt. Akhenaten would change all that.

C. The Middle and End of Akhenaten's Reign (1348-1338 BCE)

Several years into Akhenaten's reign, there is clearly a major shift in Egyptian religion under way. By now the pharaoh had moved away the court and capital from Thebes to Akhetaten and adopted a new title, the name we know him by, Akhenaten meaning in Egyptian "he is agreeable (Akhen-) to the sun-disk (-aten)." To have effectively removed Amun from his name seems like an all but open declaration of warfare against the dominant religious faction in the day, the Amun priesthood based in Thebes. And as if that weren't enough, archaeological evidence shows that around this time Akhenaten began closing down Amun temples across Egypt and even had the name Amun erased from inscriptions. Later, he went so far as to order the word "gods" removed and changed to "god," wherever it occurred on public inscriptions. Whether or not this is monotheism by theological standards, it's certainly grammatical monotheism.

But what was Akhenaten's beef with Amun? Why did he dislike this god so intensely? Scholars have suggested it was because Amun as the god of secrets was too obscure a deity, too inaccessible to the public. Indeed, shrines to Amun are invariably situated in the middle of temple complexes, roofed and dark, where priests alone may enter them and then only on special occasions. Perhaps Akhenaten wished to open up Egyptian religion to a wider clientele, not just the clergy, and so he constructed a capital which was the antithesis of Amun worship, exposed constantly to the full light of day, as the buildings of Akhetaten show: few roofed structures, little shade, and constant exposure to Akhenaten's true father as far as he was concerned, not Amunhotep III but the aten.

Indeed, a letter found among the remains of Akhetaten confirms exactly this. Writing to Akhenaten, the Assyrian king complains that the emissaries he sent to Egypt nearly died of sunstroke attending some royal ceremony at the pharaoh's capital:

Why are my messengers kept in the open sun? They will die in the open sun. If it does the king good to stand in the open sun, then let the king stand there and die in the open sun.

The heat of the Egyptian midday is, in fact, torturous through much of the year, but standing in the sun and basking in its brilliance is also a natural extension of Akhenaten's religious revolution, something virtually all the art of Amarna culture demonstrates. And it's very different from the way Amun was worshiped, surely an advantage in Akhenaten's mind. It may even help to explain Akhenaten's premature death: skin cancer?

D. Art and Iconography in Akhenaten's Reign

The religious iconography of Akhenaten's religion centers around the aten as a divine presence. Representing the life-giving force of the universe, the sun-disk is depicted in both abstract and personified forms, occasionally both at the same time. Though it's most often pictured as a mere circle with rays of light radiating downward, the aten also appears sometimes with little hands appended onto the end of its solar beams which hold out to worshipers the ankh, the Egyptian sign of life. In a few instances, the hands are even shoving the ankh up their noses rather unceremoniously, a statement, no doubt, of the sun's "breath of life," its vital force. It would be less comical today if this holy blessing didn't look so much like a badly targeted ear-swab.

Humorous as it may seem to us, the significance of this symbol is nevertheless profound, indeed probably revolutionary to an Egyptian of the day. The sun-worship Akhenaten was promoting surely reminded many of Old Kingdom theology, by now a millennium old, and its ungrounded but pervasive reputation for tyranny (see above, Section 5). More than one Egyptian at the time, particularly those in the Amun priesthood, must have asked themselves, "What next? A pyramid?"

But Akhenaten's movement entailed features far stranger than anything which had happened in the Old Kingdom. In fact, it looked backwards less than forward in time, at least inasmuch as the new religion prefigured a very different conception of godhead. As such, the aten typically portrayed without human or animal form, in strong contrast to standard Egyptian practice. The goddess Isis, for instance, is frequently shown as part-woman, part-cow, and the face of her deceased husband Osiris is sometimes painted green to demonstrate that he represents the rebirth of vegetation in the spring. But unlike either of them, Akhenaten's aten is the font of all being, which means by nature he cannot be restricted in form, and is thus almost always presented as the aptly universal and geometric solar circle. The little hands attached to his sun-rays were a concession, no doubt, to popular taste.

Even to say "he" of the aten is perhaps too restrictive for this universalist conception of deity—gender is clearly not relevant to sun-disks—and stranger yet, to say "he" of Akhenaten himself isn't always valid either. Traditional male-female styles in Egyptian art blend together in peculiar fashion throughout Amarna culture, extending as far as royal portraiture. Akhenaten, for instance, is shown in a series of colossi (large statues; singular, colossus) lacking male genitalia, and in general, his depiction is odd, to say the least. He's often portrayed as pot-bellied, slouching, thick-lipped, with a big chin and pointed head, which has led scholars to suppose he suffered from some sort of birth defect, resulting in eunuchoidism. But if so, how did he sire a family, for in art he appears with as many as six different daughters? And those are only the ones he had by his principal wife.

That raises another fascinating and enigmatic issue concerning Akhenaten's revolution, the centrality of his family in the public presentation of his regime. Not only do we have many depictions of the beautiful Nefertiti, Akhenaten's principal wife—more, in fact, than of Akhenaten himself!—but we can trace the royal daughters' births year by year, and sadly sometimes their deaths, too. Reliefs even show the royal couple playing with the girls. Like no pharaoh before or after him, Akhenaten was family-oriented.

Thus, it seems unlikely he was actually unsexed or a hermaphrodite, certainly not a eunuch, but the real father of the children he professes, at least through his art, to adore so fondly. But the gender-bending portraits of him seem ill-suited for such a family man, by modern standards no doubt. And Nefertiti's depictions are not immune to cross-gendering, either. She's shown at least once wearing the blue crown, the helmet kings don as they go into battle. She's the only Egyptian queen ever known to have been depicted that way, including Queen Hatshepsut, the woman who ruled Egypt singlehandedly for two decades a century before. There's something very odd, by any standard, about the way the Amarna rulers are portrayed.

Indeed, the entire family is depicted with elongated faces and skulls, wide hips and sagging bellies. The tall hat Nefertiti wears in her famous bust is probably covering—perhaps even accentuating—her pointed head, even though surely she was not congenitally deformed, certainly not sexless. Nor were the girls, which is all the more evidence Akhenaten was not, either. Naturalistic portraiture seems a less likely explanation of the oddities inherent in this family than some sort of stylized rendering. There's certainly something abnormal about them—no question about that!—the question is what? That the royal family constitutes the only people ever portrayed this way is surely a clue.

To depict Akhenaten's entire immediate family—and only them—in such an unusual manner must signify something. Perhaps their different look is meant to highlight exactly that, the fact they're different. Maybe the royal family is supposed to represent something alien, transcendental, not bound to human or earthly distinctions such as gender. It's not hard to understand why Nefertiti might go along with being designated as super-special, and the children would have been too young to have a choice or even know the difference.

All this concurs well with Akhenaten's religion, where the pharaoh serves as the conduit between humanity and the aten. It's through and because of him the sun-disk bestows life on the planet. In his own words, a hymn Akhenaten himself apparently composed about the aten, "There is no other who knows you except your son, Akhenaten." That makes the pharaoh and his family some sort of divine beings, blessed extraterrestrials on whose good will the benefits of the sun, and thus all life, depend. One way or another before this, the Egyptians had always held the sun as a god and the royal family was always divine, but as the only divine presence in the universe? That, indeed, was something very different.

The imagery of Amarna culture with all its strangeness has attracted not only scholars but a wide range of iconoclasts, revolutionaries and weirdos of every ilk, who have latched onto this radiant, unearthly, rebel pharaoh and more often than not caught the reflection of their own oddity in his slouching, fat-lipped silhouette. The many answers posited to the riddle of Akhenaten are, in any case, less important than the few, frail realities we know about his reign and the questions they leave at our feet. Among them, how did he sustain such a bizarre reordering of the celestial kingdom? For more than a decade, we must remember, Akhenaten kept his divine fantasies aloft even as he faced down the Amun priesthood, traditional cults in Egypt and a nation long nurtured on a pantheon of gods which numbered in the thousands by that day. Before we can ask why any of this happened or what happened to it, we must first ask how it happened at all.

Akhenaten must have had some supporters, besides the usual lunatic fringe and sycophant wing who will follow any maniac into the wilderness. A hint about their identity comes in one of the Amarna reliefs in which Nefertiti holds up the decapitated head of a foreign captive. That suggests some sort of military activity during Akhenaten's reign, an event history bears no evidence of otherwise. But that's not surprising really, given later pharaohs' destruction of records from his day. Any victory the monomaniacal monotheist might have wrought in foreign wars isn't likely to have survived their demolition. So, if Akhenaten did have the support of the Egyptian army, his revolution would make much more sense. Still, an army backing an effeminate, secluded, family-loving, pointy-headed sun freak seems highly improbable, by modern standards at least.

Yet, strange times often make strange bedfellows. If both the pharaoh and the army were seeking the same thing, to undercut the power of the Amun priesthood which by then was siphoning off a hefty percentage of the taxes collected in Egypt, they might have found common cause. That's what some scholars suggest. All the same, it must have been an interesting meeting between the slouching aten-lover and the hardened desert troopers who defended Egypt's frontier. How did they find enough common ground to have a conversation, much less foment revolution together?

III. The Aftermath of Akhenaten's Reign

Unlike many New Kingdom pharaohs, Akhenaten's body has never been found, nor even relics from his burial. That opens the possibility his tomb was not raided in antiquity and still awaits discovery. Indeed, in light of his novel outlook on religious matters, it's not implausible to suppose he was buried in an unconventional way or place, not where other pharaohs' bodies were laid to rest. That, of course, would decrease the likelihood of archaeologists stumbling across his grave, since they tend to look in the usual places. Tutankhamun's tomb is a good example of how hard it is to find pharaonic burials. By a fluke of fortune, it remained hidden for millennia, even though it's in the Valley of the Kings, the most probable place to find a pharaonic burial.

Another possibility exists, of course. Akhenaten was never buried at all, especially if his regime collapsed along with him. But apparently it didn't, not entirely at least. From all appearances, Akhenaten's death was due to natural causes. The historical record contains not a single hint of foul play in his premature death, but what caused it? Sunstroke? Monotheistic exhaustion? Aten-tion deficit disorder? Above all, what happened in downtown Akhetaten when the reason the sun-disk shines on the earth departed this world, and the next day the sun still shone? That must have been a disconcerting moment for the aten-faithful.

Archaeology has, however, made one thing very clear. Akhetaten was not abandoned immediately upon Akhenaten's death. Building continued, at least for a while. How the government continued is less clear. Akhenaten's successor, for instance, is all but a complete mystery. Named Smenkhare, which is close to all we know about him, this pharaoh appears suddenly in the historical record two years before Akhenaten's death. A late relief depicting Smenkhare with Akhenaten is about all there is to track this most cryptic of Egyptian pharaohs, along with a few documents showing that he married one of Akhenaten's daughters, securing his claim to the throne after Akhenaten's death.

Curiously, Smenkhare's rise coincides almost exactly with another mysterious event, the all-but-complete disappearance of Nefertiti from the art of El-Amarna. Only once in the final two years of Akhenaten's reign is she shown, in a funerary tableau recording the death of one of her and Akhenaten's daughters. One theory is that Akhenaten sensing the approach of death—but how?—married his eldest daughter by Nefertiti to the son of a secondary wife. In fact, he had little choice but to do this because Nefertiti had never given him a son—six daughters but no male heir—and Egyptian tradition demanded some sort of "son of the pharaoh" succeed. In the absence of a crown prince, the son of a secondary wife usually stepped in as successor, and in this case it was Smenkhare.

But this is not the only explanation that's been offered. Another theory proposes—and in light of the unusual circumstances surrounding the aten-cult at Akhetaten, it's not nearly as unlikely as it might seem at first glance—it suggests that Smenkhare was Nefertiti! Knowing his death was imminent and seeing no clear and obvious heir on the horizon since he'd had no sons by Nefertiti and so there was no pointy-headed male to stem the family's aten-uation, Akhenaten created a "son" for himself out of the most obvious candidate out there, not a secondary son but his own wife.

Family was, after all, of utmost importance in this new world order, and she had held the power of Egypt in her hands—had even worn the blue crown!—best of all, she was already one of the chosen, the long-necked beloved of the aten. So, like any social-climbing secondary son, Nefertiti "married" her own daughter and took the throne as a man, and assumed a new name, Smenkhare. That would help to explain why she disappears at the very moment Akhenaten's successor enters the picture.

Like many ingenious solutions—and this age does seem to attract them—it didn't work. For whatever reason, Nefertiti couldn't cut it as "king," not that there hadn't been woman kings in Egypt who had taken male guise before. Hatshepsut, for instance, had portrayed herself as a man in more than one work of art (see above, Section 9). Perhaps the army in this day would back an effeminate male but not a masculined woman as king. Or perhaps Nefertiti was simply more beautiful than savvy. Despite all their protestations in hope for world peace, beauty pageant winners rarely make good politicians.

In any case, the elusive Smenkhare disappears two years into "his" reign. No tomb for Smenkhare has ever been located or burial goods discovered. There is simply no further mention of him at all in ancient Egyptian history. Though it's pure speculation, it's hard to believe Smenkhare wasn't assassinated by someone. After all, he had so many enemies, probably far more than what few supporters he could muster. Perhaps emissaries of the Amun priesthood did him in, or spies sent from an army unwilling to be led by a woman—again!—or even by a disgusted daughter-husband in league with some would-be-pharaoh, an actual man who was not her mother. Or perhaps it was all of them in league together, and with this we are dangerously close to writing the first draft of Murder on the Orient Express.

Whatever really happened, Amarna culture left behind one of the most famous kings in history today—and one of the least famous kings in his own time—Tutankhamun, popularly known today as "King Tut." Originally Tutankhuaten (1336-1325 BCE), the boy-king succeeded Smenkhare to the throne. Fairly early in his reign, he was persuaded to change his name and, contrary to Akhenaten's policy, take the aten out and put "Amun" in. With that alone, the resurgence of the Amun cult is all too apparent. At some point during his reign, the royal court left Akhetaten and returned to Thebes, no doubt, into the warm embrace of the reigning priesthood much relieved to have their livelihood back. Their gratitude, in fact, would help explain the grandeur of Tutankhamun's burial, perhaps even the preservation of his tomb.

Though the body is badly decayed—the burial process did severe damage to Tutankhamun's body, so forget everything in "Mummy" movies about the dead coming to life through mummification which does more damage than good to corpses—but even in spite of its poor preservation, Tutankhamun doesn't seem to have been murdered. Even so, his failure to leave behind a male successor, which is hardly surprising for a nineteen-year-old, paved the way for a new dynasty and a world view far different from Akhenaten's. So, the Amarna Period ends essentially with Tutankhamun, only to be reborn in the modern excavation of El-Amarna and Thebes, and especially in the American archaeologist Howard Carter's discovery in 1922 of Tutankhamun's tomb and the splendors of his burial.

Of much interest, many of the items found there hint at the history underlying them. For instance, several of Tutankhamun's grave goods were clearly not intended to be buried with him, but hastily, it seems, reinscribed with his name and thus entombed. This is, no doubt, not a product of some palace intrigue but the early age at which the boy-king unexpectedly died. All in all, the sheer splendor of his tomb in and of itself is astounding and leaves one agog at what a real royal burial, like Ramses II's, must have entailed. Still, Tutankhamun's death and funeral is the epilogue of the Amarna Period in antiquity. There is little in the rest of ancient Egypt's history that recalls or even reflects this brilliant, odd moment in the evolution of their religion. Outside of Egypt, that's another matter.

IV. Conclusion: Akhenaten and Hebrew Monotheism

In today's world, the pre-eminent issue surrounding Akhenaten is whether or not his religion did, or even could have, influenced the development of Hebrew monotheism, a theology which the historical data suggest evolved several centuries later. The answer to that question depends on several factors. For instance, how alike are Hebrew and Egyptian monotheism? And is there any way in which the Hebrews could realistically have had significant contact with atenism, enough to borrow elements from it, or even just have been influenced by it?

To answer the first, Hebrew monotheism differs in several significant ways from Akhenaten's religion. While the aten is an omnipotent divinity, it's also present specifically in the light of the sun-disk and the pharaoh's family, so its divinity is limited in a way the Hebrew deity's is not. The God of Israel acts through all sorts of different media: angels, rainbows, floodwaters and, as biblical Egyptians ought to know perfectly well, frogs. Nor was there any real attempt by Egyptian monotheists to extend the aten's power beyond Egypt, the way God's power is seen by later Hebrew prophets to embrace all creation. So, while Akhenaten claims the aten is universal, he speaks of it more like it's a pharaoh at the center of some cosmic court full of fawning minions—that is, like him.

Still, both cultures share the central notion, if not the details, of monotheism. Could the Hebrews have picked that up from the Egyptians somehow? Such a notion presumes, of course, that Hebrews existed in some form during Akhenaten's reign—the eradication by later pharaohs of all records of Akhenaten's religion and regime makes later cultural borrowing highly unlikely—and besides, many scholars would flatly say there weren't any Hebrews at all during that time, at least not Hebrews as such. Israel was definitely not an organized nation in the fourteenth century BCE, but then theological notions do not require a political state for their existence. Wandering patriarchs, as attested in the Bible during this age, could easily have borrowed the concept of monotheism from Egypt. But since there's no evidence Egyptian monotheism spread beyond the borders of its native land, if Hebrews borrowed the notion, they would have to have been living in Egypt around the time of Akhenaten's reign. That seems unlikely, except that biblical sources say they were.

In the so-called Egyptian Captivity which the Bible claims lasted several centuries, Hebrews did, in fact, live in Egypt, enslaved by powerful New Kingdom pharaohs until the Exodus in which Moses led them to freedom in the Holy Lands. If that really happened, they must have been in Egypt when Akhenaten had his brief day in the sun. But because a majority of scholars downplay the historicity of the Exodus—there is certainly no corroborating evidence massive numbers of Hebrews exited Egypt at any point in ancient history—again this seems unlikely. Still, it doesn't take huge crowds of Hebrews in Egypt to introduce the idea of monotheism into Israelite thinking. One "Joseph" is enough.

So, it's possible to weave together from the historical data a scenario in which the idea of monotheism percolated somehow out of Egyptian theology and into Israelite culture. But when one looks closely, it's not a very tightly woven tapestry, especially in light of where Hebrew scripture says the Hebrews were in Egypt. The city of Goshen in which the Bible says they lived as captives is probably synonymous with the Egyptian settlement called Pi-Ramesse ("City of Ramses") in the delta. If so, it's many miles from Akhetaten, and there's very little evidence to be found in Egyptian art or history that Akhenaten's revolutionary theology filtered that far north. Nor is it likely it would have fared well in this part of Egypt, a stronghold of Ramses' family. The Ramessids were staunchly opposed to atenistic thinking and later attempted to eradicate all traces it had ever existed. So, how is it even possible Ramses' construction slaves heard about a far-off, out-of-date religious tradition strongly proscribed by their tyrannical overseers?

All in all, the evidence seems to weigh heavily against the argument that the Hebrews caught the monotheism bug from contact with the aten, or even just the simple conception there's only one god. With no obvious channels of communication on either side, it seems improbable Akhenaten's revolution could in any way have influenced or even inspired Hebrew thought. Furthermore, how many of the world's great inventions have cropped up independently in different places? Writing and literature, for instance, arose in both the West and the East with no apparent connection between them, as did agriculture, drama and ship-building. Proximity in time or space alone is circumstantial evidence and doesn't make a compelling case, since it's perfectly possible some ancient Hebrew came up with the idea of monotheism all on his own. After all, all he had to say was "Maybe there's just one god."

And then you open the Hebrew Bible to Psalm 104, the great manifesto of God's all-encompassing power, and read how God created grass for cattle to eat, and trees for birds to nest in, and the sea for ships to sail and fish to swim in:

Bless the Lord . . . you who coverest thyself with light as with a garment . . .
Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters; . . .
He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and . . . the trees
Where the birds make their nests; as for the stork, the fir trees are her house.
The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; . . .
(As) the sun ariseth, (the beasts) gather themselves together . . .
There go the ships: there is that leviathan (whale), whom thou hast made to play therein.

And then among the remains of Amarna culture you find the Hymn to the Aten, purportedly written by Akhenaten himself, and it says:

When the land grows bright and you are risen from the Akhet (horizon) and shining in the sun-disk by day, . . .
All flocks (are) at rest on their grasses, trees and grasses flourishing;
Birds flown from their nest, their wings in adoration of your life-force;
All flocks prancing on foot, all that fly and alight living as you rise for them;
Ships going downstream and upstream too, every road open at your appearance;
Fish on the river leaping to your face, your rays even inside the sea. (trans. James P. Allen)

The similarity is simply astounding. It seems incontrovertible that cultural exchange from Egypt to Israel transpired somehow—and, given the chronology, we must suppose the sharing took place in that direction—and there appears to be no way around the conclusion that the ancient Hebrew who wrote Psalm 104 borrowed from Akhenaten's Hymn to the Aten.

With that, the realization begins to dawn that answers to the great question about the origins of Hebrew monotheism are not going to come swiftly or easily . These works leave no doubt about that. The only question is, how did a Hebrew psalmist's eyes—or ears?—ever pass near a banned Egyptian hymn? Granted the psalm is hardly a verbatim copy of its atenistic model, the likeness of these songs, especially in their imagery and the order in which the images come, argues forcefully for some sort of Egyptian-Hebrew contact, however indirect.

And if there's contact there, why not contact elsewhere? Clearly, there was some channel of intercultural communication which is now invisible to us. But if we imagine a road of some sort running between Akhetaten and ancient Jerusalem, what are we really creating: history or a novel? And by doing so, are we not at risk of saying more about ourselves than the odd, intriguing world Akhenaten inhabited, whose slanted light still shines from beneath sand and walls and scriptu




In all of Egyptian history, nothing is as mysterious as the strange life of Akhenaten and the odd appearance and equally mysterious disappearance of his queen, Nefertiti, whose name means: “a beautiful woman has come.” We notice in the above account that the “the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai.” This reminds us of the plagues at the time of the Exodus. We also notice that the pharaoh told Abraham, “take your wife and go.” This strangely mirrors the demand of Moses: “Let my people go.”

The timing of this event is also important, and I think that we can nail it down to the time of the eruption of Thera on the island of Santorini around 1600 BC, which happens to be the time that the entire Earth experienced a disruption recorded in ice cores, and brought the Bronze Age world to an end. It was very likely also the time when many refugees from many areas of the Mediterranean all showed up in Palestine - including Danaan Greeks - to form the mixed ethnic groups from which the later Jewish state evolved.

There is evidence that the eruption of Thera coincided generally with the ejection of the Hyksos from the Nile Delta. There is also evidence that many of the king list segments that are currently arranged in a linear way may have represented different dynasties in different locations, some of which ruled simultaneously exactly as Manetho has told us. In particular, there is evidence that the 18th dynasty overlapped the Hyksos kings to some considerable extent. This is important to us at present because of the fact that the story of Abraham and Sarai in Egypt is mirrored by the story of Akhenaten and his Queen, Nefertiti. The earliest document that describes the time of the Hyksos is from the Temple of Hatshepsut at Speos Artemidos which says:

Hear ye, all people and the folk as many as they may be, I have done these things through the counsel of my heart. I have not slept forgetfully, (but) I have restored that which had been ruined. I have raised up that which had gone to pieces formerly, since the Asiatics were in the midst of Avaris of the Northland, and vagabonds were in the midst of them, overthrowing that which had been made. They ruled without Re, and he did not act by divine command down to (the reign of) my majesty.[1]

The expulsion of the Hyksos was a series of campaigns which supposedly started with Kamose who was king in Thebes. He unsuccessfully rebelled against the Hyksos. His brother Ahmose was finally successful in pushing the Hyksos out. An army commander named Ah-Mose records in his tomb the victory over the Hyksos. He says:

When the town of Avaris was besieged, then I showed valor on foot in the presence of his majesty. Thereupon I was appointed to the ship, ‘Appearing in Memphis.’ Then there was fighting on the water in the canal Pa-Djedku of Avaris. Thereupon I made a capture, and I carried away a hand. It was reported to the king’s herald. Then the Gold of Valor was given to me. Thereupon there was fighting again in this place....Then Avaris was despoiled. Then I carried off spoil from there: one man, three woman, a total of four persons. Then his majesty gave them to me to be slaves. Then Sharuhen was besieged for three years. Then his majesty despoiled it.[2]

Note that Avaris was besieged, there is no mention of how Avaris was taken, and there is no burning of Avaris claimed. What is more, the archaeological evidence shows that Avaris was not destroyed in a military engagement. The likelihood is that, after years of unstable relations with the Southern Egyptian dynasty, Avaris was abandoned due to the eruption of Thera.

This exodus from Egypt by the Hyksos, many of whom fled to Canaan, was part of their history. In fact, there were probably many refugees arriving in the Levant from many places affected by the eruption and the following famine. When the descendants of the refugees were later incorporated into a tribal confederation known as Israel, the story became one of the single events they all agreed upon. In this respect, they all did, indeed, share a history.

The fact is, other than the expulsion of the Hyksos, there is no other record of any mass exit from Egypt. Avaris was on the coast, and thus closer to the effects of the volcano. Naturally, the Egyptians of Thebes saw the expulsion of the Hyksos as a great military victory, while the Hyksos themselves, in the retelling of the story, viewed their survival as a great salvation victory. This seems similar to other events recorded in ancient history where both sides claim a great victory. Nevertheless, that there was something very unusual going on during this times comes down to us from the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus. There is a little diary preserved on the reverse of this work that records the events leading up to the fall of Avaris.

Regnal year 11, second month of shomu - Heliopolis was entered. First month of akhet, day 23 - the Bull of the South gores his way as far as Tjaru. Day 25 - it was heard tell that Tjaru had been entered. Regnal year 11, first month of akhet, the birthday of Seth - a roar was emitted by the Majesty of this god. The birthday of Isis - the sky poured rain.

Recorded on a stela of King Ahmose from the same period:

The sky came on with a torrent of rain, and [dark]ness covered the western heavens while the storm raged without cessation…[the rain thundered] on the mountains (louder) than the noise at the Cavern that is in Abydos. Then every house and barn where they might have sought refuge [was swept away … and they] were drenched with water like reed canoes … and for a period of […] days no light shone in the Two Lands.[3]

The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus is named after the Scottish Egyptologist Henry Rhind, who purchased it in Luxor in 1858. The papyrus, a scroll about 6 metres long and 1/3 of a metre wide, includes certain information about who wrote it and when it was written. The scribe identifies himself as Ahmes, and says that he is copying the scroll for the Hyksos king Apophis, in the year 33 of his reign. Ahmes then tells us that he is copying the text from an older version. It is here that we find some disagreement. Some experts think that the original of the mathematical problems, which is what the papyrus consists of, was written during the reign of Amenemht III, from the 12th dynasty. Egyptologist Anthony Spalinger does not, however, entirely agree. In a lengthy, detailed analysis of the papyrus, the mathematics, the arrangement of the problems, and every observable detail about it, he asks:

One might query at this point the source or sources of Rhind. Did the original exemplar contain the opening table as well as the subsequent problems, or, to complicate the case further, was that treatise itself derived from various unknown works now lost? That this is not idle speculation can be seen by [Egyptologist] Griffith’s remarks concerning the grain measures employed. He stressed the presence of the quadruple hekat in this papyrus, a measure which was unknown to him as a standard in the Middle Kingdom. […]

In Rhind the quadruple hekat occurs in Books II and III but not in Book I, in which only the single hekat occurs. […] In the Middle Kingdom (Dynasty 12), only the single and double hekat have been found; one has to wait for Rhind to note the presence of its four-fold companion. […]

Can we therefore assume that Book I represents the copy mentioned at the beginning, and Book II (as well as the problems on the verso) another source or sources? […]

I am of the belief that the sources of Book II (and III, but this needs more clarification) was either different from that of Book I or else a reworked series of problems having their origins in the copy that Scribe Ahmose employed.[…]

Significantly, the relationship of one deben of weight to 12 “pieces” can also be found at the end of the 18th dynasty, a point that Gardner stressed in his important breakthrough of the Kahun Papyri.[…]

After the papyrus had been completed, and undoubtedly after some use as a teaching manual, later remarks were written on the verso in the great blank following problem 84. […] Upside down, in a different (and thicker) hand than that of the original scribe, it presents an early case of cryptographic writing. Gunn, in his review of Peet, was the first to attempt a concise evaluation of the meaning, and he observed the presence of such writing from Dynasty 19 on, citing examples from Theban tombs, as well as other monuments from that capital. […]

Following Gunn, I feel that the presence of cryptography at this point ought to predicate a date within Dynasty 18, and the eventual location of Rhind at Thebes just may supply some support for this supposition. After all, it is from that city that we know the most about this so-called enigmatic writing, and such texts are dated to the New Kingdom and not earlier.

With no 87, located […] roughly in the center, Rhind presents the famous and highly-debated jottings concerning the taking of Avaris by Ahmose. I feel that it was added to the middle of the verso, and right side up, so to speak, soon before the entire roll was transported to Thebes from the north. […]

The brief remarks provide not merely a terminus a quo for the presence of Rhind later than year 33 of the Hyksos ruler Apophis, they also indicated that a major historical event was purposively written down on a mathematical tractate, itself being of high importance and value.

Soon after, Rhind was, I believe, transported back by someone in the victorious Theban army to the new capital and later used there as a treatise, only to have a further addition entered (no. 87). […]

I feel that the regnal dates do not refer to the reign of Ahmose but rather to that of the last Hyksos ruler in Egypt, a position that I am well aware is open to question; however, the historical event is at least clear: the end of Hyksos control in the eastern delta (Heliopolis and Sile are noted as having fallen). If we follow Moller, then the possessor of Rhind at that time felt these major events worthy of a remark on one of his prized treasures. […] The scribe was identical to the copyist of Rhind itself.[4]

I hope that the reader caught the term “cryptographic writing” in reference to the account of the events leading to the fall of Avaris. It actually took me awhile to realize what these guys were talking about when I read these references to “cryptographic writing” in the 18th and 19th dynasties. Finally, I understood that they were not suggesting that something was being written in a secret code for military purposes. What this term actually means to Egyptologists is that, “since we cannot possibly give up our chronology to allow these matters to coincide with a certifiable cataclysm going on in the region, we must therefore say that the writers do not mean what they say, but rather they are using metaphors. What’s more, we will call it “cryptographic writing.”

Egyptologist R. Weill was the first to insist on this distortion being a type of literary fiction. It then became the convention for interpreting Egyptian historical writing. In this way, a period of desolation and anarchy would be described in exaggeratedly lurid terms of catastrophe and climatological cataclysm, usually for the glorification of a monarch to whom the salvation of the country is ascribed.[5]

Well, that’s pretty bizarre! Handy, too. A bunch of guys spend their lives trying to validate the history and chronology of these people, and when it doesn’t agree with what they want to believe about it, it can be consigned to “literary fiction.” And of course, this means that what is or is not “literary fiction” can be completely arbitrary according to the needs of the Egyptologist!

Based on this “cryptographic” interpretation, Sturt Manning contends that the text on the verso of the Rhind papyrus is not about a “real storm” or climatological event, but that it is about “the restoration of the Egyptian state to the order and station of the Middle Kingdom - after the dislocation (all-wrecking storm) of the Hyksos era, and the destruction of Middle Kingdom shrines…One might even argue that the whole Theban text is a symbolic encoding of Ahmose’s defeat of the Hyksos…”[6]

I must say that I was rather astonished to read such a remark.

Part of Manning’s (and others’) arguments have to do with keeping the 18th dynasty cleanly separated from the time of the Hyksos. No overlapping is to be allowed here despite the fact that Manetho clearly said that the Hyksos dynasties were concurrent with the Theban dynasties. We can’t have Ahmose experiencing something that has been dated by the experts to well before Ahmose was born! Let’s have a look at how famed Egyptologist Gardner has described the problem of the dynasties in question.

Since the passage of Time shows no break in continuity, nothing but some momentous event or sequence of events can justify a particular reign being regarded as inaugurating an era. What caused Sobeknofru, or Sobeknofrure' as later sources call her, to be taken as closing Dyn. XII will doubtless never be known. But the Turin Canon, the Saqqara king-list, and Manetho are unanimous on the point.

The Abydos list jumps straight from Ammenemes IV to the first king of Dyn.XVIII. The date of Amosis I, the founder of Dyn. XVIII, being fixed with some accuracy, the interval from 1786 to 1575 BC must be accepted as the duration of the Second Intermediate Period. This is an age the problems of which are even more intractable than those of the First. Before entering upon details, it will be well to note that the general pattern of these two dark periods is roughly the same. Both begin with a chaotic series of insignificant native rulers. In both, intruders from Palestine cast their shadow over the Delta and even into the Valley. Also in both, relief comes at last from a hardy race of Theban princes, who after quelling internal dissension expel the foreigner and usher in a new epoch of immense power and prosperity.

Some account has already been given of the formidable difficulties here confronting us, but these must now be discussed at length. As usual we start with Manetho. The Thirteenth Dynasty according to him, was Diospolite (Theban) and consisted of sixty kings who reigned for 453 years. The Fourteenth Dynasty counted seventy-six kings from Xois, the modern Sakha in the central Delta, with a total of 184 or, as an alternative reading, 484 years. For Dyns. XV to XVII there is divergence between Africanus and Eusebius, while a much simpler account is preserved by the Jewish historian Josephus in what purports to be a verbatim extract from Manetho’s own writing.

For our present purpose the data supplied by Africanus must suffice. His Fifteenth Dynasty consists of six foreign so-called ‘Shepherd’ or Hyksos kings, whose domination lasted 284 years. The Sixteenth Dynasty consisted of Shepherd kings again, thirty-two in number totaling 518 years. Lastly, in the Seventeenth Dynasty Shepherd kings and Theban kings reigned concurrently, forty-three of each line altogether 151 years. Adding these figures, but adopting the lower number of years given for Dyn. XIV, we obtain 217 kings covering a stretch of 1590 years, over seven times the duration to which acceptance of the Sothic date in the El-Lahun papyrus has committed us.

To abandon 1786 BC as the year when Dyn. XII ended would be to cast adrift from our only firm anchor, a course that would have serious consequences for the history, not of Egypt alone, but of the entire Middle East.[7]

Gardner's problem, as he states it above, is that the numbers of kings and years of reign given by the sources of Manetho result in "a stretch of 1590 years, over seven times the duration to which acceptance of the Sothic date in the El-Lahun papyrus has committed us."

Remember what we said about scientific hypotheses in an earlier chapter? In doing good “science,” a researcher must be aware of this tendency to be fooled by his own mind - his own wishes. And, a good scientist, because he is aware of this, must scrutinize things he wishes to accept as fact in a more or less “unemotional” state, as far as is possible. Things must be challenged, taken apart, compared, tested for their ability to explain other things of a like nature, and if a flaw is found, no matter how small, if it is firmly established as a flaw, the hypothesis must be killed. That does not mean, of course, that the next hypothesis we make has to be radically different; it may just need a slight expansion of parameters. As Thomas Edison pointed out, before he invented the light bulb, he discovered 99 ways how not to make a light bulb. Hypotheses ought to be the same. If the observations or facts don’t fit, it’s not the end of the world. One just has to be flexible and try to think of ways that the hypothesis can be adjusted.

The problem is that Egyptologists do not adjust the hypothesis except by shedding of blood. They prefer to twist the facts so that square pegs are pounded into round holes. In fact, Egyptologists did not start out with a hypothesis; they started with a “convention.” This means that they decided what would be firmly accepted and anything that did not fit, had to be either discarded, or forced to fit the convention.

It strikes me that Gardner didn't even notice the clues to the solution of the problem: the two "intermediate periods" in question, being almost identical in so many respects, might very well be the same, single period! That would mean that the Abydos list was, essentially, correct when it "jumps straight from Ammenemes IV to the first king of Dyn.XVIII." Perhaps Sobeknofrure was identical to Hatshepsut?

Egypt's Middle Kingdom has conventionally been dated to some 4000 years ago, largely on the basis of documents that are interpreted to indicate a heliacal rising of Sirius on Pharmuthi 16 in Year 7 of Sesostris III (1871 BC). Sesostris was also known as Senuseret.

The 12th Dynasty was a family of kings typically given dates in the mid-20th to mid-18th century BC and consisted of 8 rulers: Amenemhat I, Senuseret I, Amenemhat II, Senuseret II, Senuseret III, Amenemhat III, Amenemhat IV, Neferusobek, or Sobeknofrure, a woman who, in one of the few depictions of her in statuary, is shown with normal breasts, and without a false beard as Hatshepsut was depicted. 

Regarding Hatshepsut, we discover that she was said to be the fifth ruler of the 18th Dynasty, and was the daughter of Thutmose I and Queen Ahmose.  Hatshepsut disappeared, supposedly, when Thutmose III, wishing to reclaim the throne, led a revolt. Thutmose had her shrines, statues and reliefs mutilated.

When we consider the careers of both Sesostris III and Thutmose I, we find them to be remarkably similar, right down to being succeeded by a daughter. I suggest that they were one and the same person.

One of the many problems of sorting out Egyptian chronology is the fact that the individuals in question used many names for many reasons. In fact, it seems as though many of the names were actually titles, such as Thutmosis, which would be “son of Thoth.” There is also Ramesses, which is “son of Ra.” It is hardly likely that the chief god would change with each king as often as these titles suggest. It is far more likely that each king was a “Thutmosis” and a “Ramesses.” Of course, in a certain sense, that complicates things a bit. But, in another sense, it simplifies them.

Just to give a specific example: in conventional chronology, we find that King Ahmose married his sister, Ahmose-Nefertari, daughter of Sekenenre II and Queen Ahotep. His son, Amenhotep I, co-reigned with Nefertari, though he supposedly married a Queen Senseneb. Their son, Thutmosis I ALSO married Princess Ahmose, daughter of Queen Ahotep, which, of course, means that Queen Ahotep must have also been married to his father, Amenhotep I, who was said to have been the son of Ahmose-Nefertari, making Queen Ahotep his grandmother.

Well, I’m my own grandpa!

It's a bit simpler to consider the idea that Ahmose and Thutmosis I were one and the same individual.

The original reason for the identification of Kamose and Ahmose as brothers is a statue of a prince who is the son of King Tao and a certain Ahhotep. It is generally assumed that the king is Tao II and the queen is King Ahmose’s mother Ahhotep who is well-attested elsewhere. The problem is that Kamose came between Tao and Ahmose, therefore it seems logical to assign Kamose as the older brother. But here we come to the problem with Ahhotep. The exact relationship of Kamose to the royal family is also a bit problematic. Vandersleyen suggests that Kamose might have been the uncle rather than the brother of Ahmose.[8]

Other evidence from the cranio-facial studies by Wente and Harris[9] shows that Ahmose is not close enough to the skeletal forms of Sekenenre Tao or Amenhotep I to be the son of the one or the father of the other. The remains of Kamose were destroyed upon their discovery in 1857, so they could not be included in the study. Finally, we come to a most interesting fact. Donald B. Redford notes that the tying of Kamose to the royal family of Sekenenre Tao was a Ramesside development.[10] Why would the Ramesside rulers even care unless they had a vested interest? And what could their interest be except to validate their own progenitor: Horemheb?

We note that King Amosis asserts his own parents to have been the children of the same mother and father, a classical example of brother and sister marriage. As we have noted above, these parents are assumed to be Ahhotep and Sekenenre Ta’o II. Ahhotep, Ta’o II’s queen, supposedly attained to even greater celebrity than her mother. A great stela found at Karnak, after heaping eulogies upon her son Amosis I, its dedicator, goes on to exhort all his subjects to do her reverence. In this curious passage she is praised as having rallied the soldiery of Egypt, and as having put a stop to rebellion. One thinks, of course, of Hatshepsut and Sobeknofrure.

Kamose’s tomb was the last of the row inspected by the Ramesside officials, but later the mummy was removed in its coffin to a spot just south of the entrance of the Wady leading to the Tombs of the Kings, where it was found by Mariette’s workmen in 1857. The coffin was not gilded, but of the feathered rishi type employed for non-royal personages of the period.

Horemheb’s tomb was discovered in 1907/08 by Theodore Davis. Bones were found in the tomb, some still in the sarcophagus, but others had been thrown into other rooms. The mummies belonging to Horemheb and his queen had not been recovered in the cache of kings, and so it seems likely that these pathetic remains are all that is left of this particular pharaoh and his queen (although there some inspection graffiti on a door jamb within the tomb that can cast a little uncertainty on this assumption). If a correct and proper excavation had been undertaken at the time, perhaps more questions might be answered, but Davis and his team were true to form of the early "egyptologists" - greedy and careless and determined to prove their theories more than to find out facts - and much of the evidence has been lost.

We can note that the mummy of Amenhotep III - father of Amenhotep IV, also known as Akhenaten - was actually “found” in the tomb of Amenhotep II. It was supposedly moved there for protection, which is a reasonable explanation. The point is, the provenance of so many things Egyptian cannot be firmly established and that means one must be even more aware of the tendency to muddle things up by adopting wrong hypotheses.

Part of the problem of sorting out the different kings and dynasties is, I think, that we have the problem of what, exactly, constituted a “king” during those times. It is beginning to seem likely that many of the kings whose tombs have been found, who memorialized themselves, or were memorialized by their families, were little more than local rulers, or even just glorified puppets of a still higher king.

Another interesting item is the fact that a proposal to extract DNA samples from different mummies to see what the familial relationships really might have been was halted by the Egyptian government.

Egypt has indefinitely postponed DNA tests designed to throw light on questions that have intrigued archaeologists for years: Who was Tutankhamun’s father, and was he of royal blood? The head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Gaballah Ali Gaballah, said Tuesday that plans for DNA tests on the mummies of Tutankhamun and his presumed grandfather, Amenhotep III, had been canceled. “There will be no test now and we have to see if there will be one later,” Gaballah told The Associated Press. He declined to give a reason. […]

The announcement of the planned tests had sparked a controversy among Egyptian archaeologists. Some said they were an unnecessary risk that might harm the mummies. Others said the results might be used to rewrite Egyptian history. “I have refused in the past to allow foreign teams to carry out such tests on the bones of the Pyramids builders because there are some people who try to tamper with Egyptian history,” the chief archaeologist of the Giza pyramids, Zahi Hawass , told the Akhbar Al-Yom weekly.[11]

The above news release is more interesting and mysterious than might be initially thought since Tutankhamen was undoubtedly the son of the Heretic king, Akhenaten and Nefertiti who may, indeed, have been Abraham's Sarai which would mean that she was also the putative mother of "Isaac," the patriarch of the Jews.

The tomb of Tutankhamun was undoubtedly the greatest archaeological discovery of all time, yet everyone knows this remarkable find was beset by troubles.  The untimely death of Lord Carnarvon just after the opening of the tomb, and his appetite for the occult, swiftly gave rise to rumours of a curse.  Also, the presence of certain art treasures in museums across the United States provides evidence that Howard Carter and his aristocratic patron removed pricelss objects from the tomb [illegally].

What is not so well known is that among the wonderful treasures Carter and Carnarvon unearthed were also rumoured to be papyri that held the true account of the biblical Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. 

Why did Carter threaten to reveal this volatile information to the public at a meeting with a British official in Cairo shortly after the discovery of the tomb?  At a time when Arab hostility towards Britain's support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine was spilling onto the streets of Jerusalem and Jaffa, such actions on the part of the hot-headed Englishman could have caused untold chaos across the Middle East.[12]

The only thing I can think of that would make it imperative to conceal the "true story of the Exodus" by the British government would be because in some way, such information would have put a period to the Jewish claim to the "Promised Land." It may also have put a period to Judaism and Christianity altogether.

The fact is that most of the early Egyptologists came to their subject as committed, if not fanatical, Christians.  They sought to use Egypt as a means of expanding and supporting the Biblical narrative. Many of them saw Akhenaten as the inspired founder of a pre-Christian monotheistic religion, and his faith in one god made him a figure of admiration.

To the early scholars in the field, Akhenaten was "The first individual in History," [Breasted]; to Toynbee his sun-cult was a prototype of the Roman imperial Sol Invictus; to Freud, he became a mentor of the Hebrew lawgiver, Moses. To some, Akhenaten was a forerunner of Christ or otherwise a great mystic.

Such ideas took shape and moved farther and farther away from the primary sources and it keeps growing like a fungus. As Donald Redford says, "one must constantly return to the original sources […] in order to avoid distortion."

Our knowledge of Egypt has to be gleaned from a random assortment of archaeological remains, a great deal of religious and mortuary art and architecture, supplemented by a small collection of historical documents.  The Amarna period, the time of Akhenaten, is particularly difficult because it seems that all of Egypt sought to erase the memory of Akhenaten from the individual and collective consciousness.  Akhenaten was hated, and apparently, so was Nefertiti.

The first five years of Akhenaten's reign actually represents a startling discontinuity in historical knowledge. So thoroughly were the memorials of this period eradicated - whether temple reliefs, steles, or tombs - that little remains to tell the story. In other words, historically speaking, no connected narrative is even possible. So complete was the destruction of the Amarna remains by the pharaoh Horemheb, that quite literally, no stone was left standing upon another.

Horemheb was the fourteenth king of the 18th Dynasty. He was chief of the army during Tutankhamun’s reign. When Tutankhamun died, Ay apparently usurped the throne. Ay favored Horemheb and kept him on as a military leader. When Ay died without an heir, Horemheb was made king. Restoring order was his main objective. Once accomplished, Horemheb moved to Memphis and began work on internal affairs. He returned properties of the temples to the rightful priests and lands to the rightful owners. He had restoration projects and building additions in Karnak. He erected shrines and a temple to Ptah. He built tombs at Thebes, in the Valley of the Kings, and Memphis. He was noted for admonishing high-ranking officials against cheating the poor and misappropriating the use of slaves and properties. He promised the death penalty for such offenses.

Nothing tears the mask from the Amarna Age like the Edict of Reform.  The picture conjured up is not like the beautiful relief scenes at Karnak or Akhetaten.  Gone are the elegant ladies and gentlemen, bowing low before a benign monarch beneath the Sun-disc, his father; in their place emergy starkly an army allowed to run riot, a destitute peasantry, and corrupt judges.  It may be maintained that these conditions could only have prevailed at the close of the period of heresy, but the evidence opposes any such defense.  The withdrawal and the subsequent isolation of the head of state and his court, which clearly brought on the anarcy, must be laid to the charge of Akhenaten himself.[13]

Horemheb had no heir so he appointed a military leader to succeed him. That leader was Ramesses I and that was when the "sorting of the mummies" began. One can only wonder if some of the confusion that exists today isn't due to the deliberate attempt on the part of Horemheb and his Ramesside heirs to simply create a new history?

One interesting fact to note about the 18th dynasty is that, artistically and in every other way, it appears to be the continuation of the 12th dynasty. If we consider the idea that the Hyksos kings ruled concurrently with a Southern Egyptian dynasty, this factor then begins to make sense.

Manetho, quoted by Eusebius, Africanus, and Josephus, presents a very messy history of the Second Intermediate Period, with impossibly long lengths of reign for Dynasties XIII-XVII, and a confusing picture of which group of kings belonged to which dynasty. I think that it is entirely possible that a misunderstanding of what he wrote led to errors among those who quoted him; i.e. Eusebius, Africanus, and Josephus; all of whom had an axe to grind. And, for all we know, Manetho had an agenda as well.

The problem seems to lie in the fact that, in its original form, Manetho’s Second Intermediate Period consisted of five dynasties, three Theban and two Hyksos which were not sequential, but rather concurrent. Manetho said this, but it has been rejected. It seems that, in order to indicate which dynasties served concurrently, and which dynasties served consecutively, a series of subtotals was used and this practice was misunderstood by those who quoted Manetho. They thought they were looking at a sequential lists of kings interspersed with summaries and subtotals. They thought that the summaries were additional groups of kings. As a result, Africanus, Eusebius, and Josephus committed grave errors in their citations of Manetho. This led to a number of errors, such as Africanus’s mixing together Hyksos and Theban kings into one dynasty, and Africanus and Eusebius disagreeing as to whether a dynasty was Hyksos or Theban, or how many years it reigned.

Getting back to our problem, it seems that what we are dealing with is a rather restricted time frame in which the Middle Bronze age came to a cataclysmic end, the Hyksos were ejected from Egypt, and these events did not occur in the middle of the 15th century BC, but rather over 200 years earlier. We also find that the curious “cryptographic writing” of the 18th dynasty fits a model that includes the end of the Middle Bronze Age and extraordinary climatological events.

The archaeological excavations of the Islands of Santorini and Crete demonstrate that the destruction of the Middle Bronze Age civilization occurred in two phases which would account for the turmoil in the time of Hatshepsut, followed by a second period of disruption at the time of Akhenaten. This coincides with the fact that there were indications of climatological anomalies as early as 1644 BC, leading up to the final disaster of the eruption of Thera in 1628 BC, followed by climatological disruption for the following forty years or so. The evidence on Santorini and Crete show that there was initial volcanic activity - earthquakes - followed by rebuilding and habitation for some time before the final, decisive eruption of Thera at least one or two generations later! That there was some warning of the impending eruption is verified by the fact that no bodies were found in the several meters thick layer of pumice that buried the town of Akrotiri. Also, since portable precious items were missing, it seems safe to assume, therefore, that the population abandoned the town in haste.

The Dilmun civilization of Bahrain is said to have existed from 3200 BC until 1600 BC. The Indus Valley civilization is said to have ended around 1700 to 1600 BC. The Great Babylonian Empire ended around 1600 BC. The Middle Kingdom in Egypt is said to have ended around 1600 BC (though we now think that the 18th dynasty was the last of the Middle Kingdom dynasties). The Xia Dynasty in China ended in 1600 BC. The use of Stonehenge ended around 1600 BC. In nearly every case, the end of the civilization and the mass destruction read in the record unearthed by the spade is ascribed to war and rampaging Sea Peoples or tribes of barbarians on the march.

Two of the most influential German scholars, von Rad and Noth, have argued that “The Exodus and Sinai traditions and the events behind them were originally unrelated to one another.”[14] Von Rad pointed out that the Sinai covenant in the Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated at Shechem while the settlement tradition was celebrated at Gilgal with the Feast of Weeks. Von Rad also noted that the salvation history was strikingly silent about the Sinai events in Deuteronomy 26. It was then proposed that early Israel was actually a tribal league more or less like city-state confederations later attested in Greece and Italy and known to the Greeks as “amphictyonies.”[15] If such tribal groups were later amalgamated during the reign of Hezekiah, it would then be necessary to “create” a national history, utilizing the available oral traditions. And this is, of course, where it becomes most interesting because it seems that at least one small group - Abraham and his wife Sarai - had a series of experiences during these times that was utterly extraordinary.

There are various suggestions as to where Mt. Sinai really was. Jewish tradition seems to place Mt. Sinai in Arabia. Demetrius stated that Dedan was Jethro’s ancestor which is identified with the oasis of el-’Ela, and when Moses went to Midian he stayed in Arabia.[16]

In 1954 Mendenhall put forth the idea that the Sinai covenant is similar to the Hittite suzerainty treaties. There does seem to be clear parallels between the Sinai covenant and ancient suzerainty treaties, and ancient tribal leagues did exist.

In Josephus’ book Antiquities of the Jews he placed Sinai where the city of Madiane was.[17] In the Babylonian Talmud[18] R. Huna and R. Hisda say, “the Holy One, blessed be He, ignored all the mountains and heights and caused His Shechinah to abide upon Mount Sinai.”

According to Old Testament passages Mt. Sinai is identified with Seir and Mt. Paran. Deuteronomy 33:2 says, “The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran.”[19] It seems that the itinerary that was followed in Numbers 33:18-36 locates Sinai in northern Arabia. Midian was also located here where Moses lived with Jethro, priest of Midian, for forty years.[20] De Vaux believed that the theophany of Sinai was a description of a volcanic eruption in northern Arabia because Exodus 19:18 describes the mountain like a furnace of smoke. From a distance it would look like a pillar of cloud in the day, and a pillar of fire at night. Following this cloud of smoke would lead them right to the volcano.

The only problem is, there are no volcanoes in Sinai. There are several in northern Arabia, but we come back again to the fact that the only known large eruption around this time is Santorini on the Greek island of Thera. On this point, we discover an intriguing passage in The Histories of Tacitus:

The Jews are said to have been refugees from the island of Crete who settled in the remotest corner of Libya in the days when, according to the story, Saturn was driven from his throne by the aggression of Jupiter. This is a deduction from the name Judaei by which they became known: the word is to be regarded as a barbarous lengthening of Idaei, the name of the people dwelling around the famous Mount Ida in Crete.

A few authorities hold that in the reign of Isis the surplus population of Egypt was evacuated to neighboring lands under the leadership of Hierosolymus and Judas.[21] Many assure us that the Jews are descended from those Ethiopians who were driven by fear and hatred to emigrate from their home country when Cepheus was king.[22] There are some who say that a motley collection of landless Assyrians occupied a part of Egypt, and then built cities of their own, inhabiting the lands of the Hebrews and the nearer parts of Syria.[23] Others again find a famous ancestry for the Jews in the Solymi who are mentioned with respect in the epics of Homer:[24] this tribe is supposed have founded Jerusalem and named it after themselves.

Most authorities, however, agree on the following account. The whole of Egypt was once plagued by a wasting disease which caused bodily disfigurement. So Pharaoh Bocchoris [25] went to the oracle of Hammon to ask for a cure, and was told to purify his kingdom by expelling the victims to other lands, as they lay under a divine curse. Thus a multitude of sufferers was rounded up, herded together, and abandoned in the wilderness. Here the exiles tearfully resigned themselves to their fate. But one of them, who was called Moses, urged his companions not to wait passively for help from god or man, for both had deserted them: they should trust to their own initiative and to whatever guidance first helped them to extricate themselves from their present plight. They agreed, and started off at random into the unknown.

But exhaustion set in, chiefly through lack of water, and the level plain was already strewn with the bodies of those who had collapsed and were at their last gasp when a herd of wild asses left their pasture and made for the spade of a wooded crag. Moses followed them and was able to bring to light a number of abundant channels of water whose presence he had deduced from a grassy patch of ground. This relieved their thirst. They traveled on for six days without a break, and on the seventh they expelled the previous inhabitants of Canaan, took over their lands and in them built a holy city and temple.

In order to secure the allegiance of his people in the future, Moses prescribed for them a novel religion quite different from those of the rest of mankind. Among the Jews all things are profane that we hold sacred; on the other hand they regard as permissible what seems to us immoral. In the innermost part of the Temple, they consecrated an image of the animal which had delivered them from their wandering and thirst, choosing a ram as beast of sacrifice to demonstrate, so it seems, their contempt for Hammon.[26] The bull is also offered up, because the Egyptians worship it as Apis. They avoid eating pork in memory of their tribulations, as they themselves were once infected with the disease to which this creature is subject.[27]

They still fast frequently as an admission of the hunger they once endured so long, and to symbolize their hurried meal the bread eaten by the Jews is unleavened. We are told that the seventh day was set aside for rest because this marked the end of their toils. […] Others say that this is a mark of respect to Saturn, either because they owe the basic principles of their religion to the Idaei, who, we are told, were expelled in the company of Saturn and became the founders of the Jewish race, or because, among the seven stars that rule mankind, the one that describes the highest orbit and exerts the greatest influence is Saturn. A further argument is that most of the heavenly bodies complete their path and revolutions in multiples of seven. […]

Rather than cremate their dead, they prefer to bury them in imitation of the Egyptian fashion, and they have the same concern and beliefs about the world below. But their conception of heavenly things is quite different. The Egyptians worship a variety of animals and half-human, half-bestial forms, whereas the Jewish religion is a purely spiritual monotheism. They hold it to be impious to make idols of perishable materials in the likeness of man: for them, the Most High and Eternal cannot be portrayed by human hands and will never pass away. For this reason they erect no images in their cities, still less in their temples. Their kings are not so flattered, the Roman emperors not so honored. However, their priests used to perform their chants to the flute and drums, crowned with ivy, and a golden vine was discovered in the Temple; and this has led some to imagine that the god thus worshipped was Prince Liber [28], the conqueror of the East. But the two cults are diametrically opposed. Liber founded a festive and happy cult: the Jewish belief is paradoxical and degraded.[29]

Regarding the “hearsay” recitation of Tacitus is that he states quite clearly that the nation of Israel was an amalgamation of tribes, including people who had once lived on Crete, who brought a volcano story with them, and another most unusual group that had been expelled from Egypt under very peculiar circumstances, bringing an altogether different story to the mix. Tacitus’ record of this group, its expulsion, and the fact that he has connected them to King Bocchoris is an important clue.

The pagan story of the flood of Ogyges and its relationship to the story of Noah was a problem for biblical commentators, as was that of the later flood of Deucalion, which Deucalion survived with his wife by floating in a large chest. Eusebius tells us that Ogyges “lived at the same time of the Exodus from Egypt.”[30]

In the past scholars concluded that Ahmose must have caused the destruction of the Middle Bronze Age, but Redford has shown that Ahmoses’ campaign was restricted to Sharuhen and its neighborhood to punish the Hyksos.[31] The first substantial campaign against inland Palestine was by Thutmose III.[32] From a survey of the central hill country Finkelstein does not connect the Egyptian conquest with the end of the Middle Bronze Age. He states: “There is no solid archaeological evidence that many sites across the country were destroyed simultaneously, and such campaigns would fail to explain the wholesale abandonment of hundreds of small rural settlements in the remote parts of the land.”[33]

Again, what I am suggesting is that the 18th dynasty of Egypt was not only the continuation of the 12th dynasty in Southern Egypt, but that it ran concurrently with the last Hyksos dynasty, the 15th dynasty, that it ended simultaneously with the expulsion of the Hyksos.

Now, I am not even going to attempt to sort out all the assumed or presumably confirmed family relationships of the Egyptian dynasties. For our present purposes, the Egyptian chronology is only important insofar as it enables us to sort out those matters that might lead to the identification of the Ark of the Covenant and its possible wherabouts during certain periods of the past. This period of time is that surrounding the eruption of Thera, the fall of Avaris and the END of the 18th dynasty.

I want to remind the reader of the problem defined by Gardner which was that the numbers of kings and years of reign given by the sources of Manetho result in "a stretch of 1590 years, over seven times the duration to which acceptance of the Sothic date in the El-Lahun papyrus has committed us."

Gardner tells us why this just can't be:

To abandon 1786 BC as the year when Dyn. XII ended would be to cast adrift from our only firm anchor, a course that would have serious consequences for the history, not of Egypt alone, but of the entire Middle East.[34]

Sothis: The Sharp Toothed

As it happens, all the archaeological dating in the Mediterranean has been suspended upon Egyptian chronology under the influence of foundations laid by believers in the Biblical chronology. What is more, all of their dates rely upon two major assumptions: the Sothic Cycle and the identification of the Egyptian King Shoshenq I with the Biblical King Shishak, the Egyptian ruler who came against Rehoboam and took “all” the treasures of Solomon’s Temple and “Solomon’s house.”

It is understood that Manetho only included 30 dynasties, the 31st being added later for the sake of completeness. However, the fact is, there are no original copies of The Egyptian History by Manetho. All we have of his work are excerpts cited by Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century AD, and by two important Christian chronographers, Sextus Julius Africanus (3rd century AD), and Eusebius (4th century AD). George the Monk, Syncellus, used both Africanus and Eusebius extensively as his sources in his history of the world written in 800 AD. It is fairly easy to realize that all three of these men had agendas. We also note, once again, the period of time in which they were writing, and the fruits of their efforts in terms of the imposition of Christianity based on the platform of Judaism, the ultimate arbiter of the "you are doomed" linear view of Time.

It is regularly claimed that Egyptian chronology is based on “astronomical dating.” What does this mean? It actually means that Egyptian dating is based on a theory that the Egyptians used astronomical dating. But many people do not realize this and believe that Egyptian chronology is actually based on astronomy. The fact is there are astronomically fixed Near Eastern dates, but they are not Egyptian dates. Two Babylonian cuneiform tablets have been found, each one filled with an entire year of data on the sun, planets, and eclipses. These dates fix two years: part of 568 / 567 B.C. and part of 523 / 522 B.C. Those are our oldest astronomically fixed dates. There is one other older Near Eastern eclipse, noted by the Assyrians, which has enough partial data to fix it at one of two years: it applies either to 763 BC or 791 BC. But experts do not agree on which date this eclipse occurred.

When we dig even deeper into these dating assumptions, we find that the main peg upon which the assumptions are hung is called the “Sothic cycle.”

What is the Sothic cycle?

The experts tell us that the Egyptian civil year had 365 days - 3 seasons (Akhet, Peret, Shemu), 4 months each with 30 days per month. To this, they added 5 additional epagomenal days. Since the actual orbit of the earth around the sun takes 365 and about a quarter days, this calendar falls behind by one day every four years. Nowadays, we correct this by adding an extra day every four years in a “leap year.” However, if no calendar corrections are made, such a year would soon create significant problems (the experts say.) How the Egyptians dealt with this was a matter of some conjecture, and it was finally decided that they corrected their calendar every 1460 years at the time of the heliacal rising of Sirius.

Where did this idea come from?

Our information on the alleged Sothic cycle depends largely on the late classical writers Censorinus (ca. 238 AD) and Theon (379-395 AD). Sir William Flinders Petrie writes, referring to a table of purported observations of Sirius:

Now in going backward the first great datum that we meet is that on the back of the medical Ebers papyrus, where it is stated that Sirius rose on the 9th of Epiphi in the 9th year of Amenhotep I. As the 9th of Epiphi is 56 days before the 1st of Thoth, Sirius rose on that day at 4 X 56 years (224) before the dates at the head of the first column. As only 1322 B.C. can be the epoch here, so 1322 + 224 = 1546 B.C. for the 9th year of Amenhotep I, or 1554 B.C. for his accession. And as Aahmes I reigned 25 years, we reach 1579 B.C. for the accession of Aahmes and the beginning of the XVIIIth dynasty. This is not defined within a few years owing to four years being the equivalent of only one day’s shift; owing to the rising being perhaps observed in a different part of Egypt at different times; owing to various minor astronomical details. But this gives us 1580 B.C. as the approximate date for the great epoch of the rise of the XVIIIth dynasty. [35]

We will soon discover that there is significant reason to discard the above dates, but for now, we can just notice that even with such a great system, Petrie - as did Gardner - is still having some problems here. 

Before that we next find another Sirius rising and two seasonal dates in the XIIth dynasty, and an indication of a season in the VIth dynasty. The most exact of these early dates is a rising of Sirius on the 17th of Pharmuthi in the 7th year of Senusert III, on a papyrus from Kahun. This is now in Berlin, and was published by BORCHARDT in Zeits. Aeg. Spr., xxxvii, 99-101. This shows that the 17th of Pharmuthi then fell on July 21st, which gives the 7th year of Senusert III at 1874 or 3334 B.C. As he reigned probably to his 38th year, he died 1843 or 3303 B.C. Amenemhat III reigned 44 years by his monuments, Amenemhat IV 9 years, and Sebekneferu 4 years by the Turin papyrus; these reigns bring the close of the XIIth dynasty to 1786 or 3246 B.C. We have, then, to decide by the internal evidence of the monuments of the kings which of these dates is probable, by seeing whether the interval of the XIIIth to XVIIth dynasties was 1,786 - 1,580 = 206 years, or else 1,666 years. This question has been merely ignored hitherto, and it has been assumed by all the Berlin school that the later date is the only one possible, and that the interval was only 206 years.[36]

Please notice that this only other “Sirius rising” is dated to either 1874 or 3334 BC. That’s quite a jump. You would think that in all those thousands of years, if they observed this every year, they would write it down more often. But Petrie struggles on mightily to fit the square peg in the round hole:

Setting aside altogether for the present the details of the list of Manetho, let us look only to the monuments, and the Turin papyrus of kings, which was written with full materials concerning this age, with a long list of kings, and only two or three centuries later than the period in question. On the monuments we have the names of 17 kings of the XIIIth dynasty. In the Turin papyrus there are the lengths of reigns of 9 kings, amounting to 67 years, or 7 years each on an average. If we apply this average length of reign to only the 17 kings whose reigns are proved by monuments, we must allow them 120 years; leaving out of account entirely about 40 kings in the Turin papyrus, as being not yet known on monuments. Of the Hyksos kings we know of the monuments of three certainly; and without here adopting the long reigns stated by Manetho, we must yet allow at least 30 years for these kings. And in the XVIIth dynasty there are at least the reigns of Kames and Sekhent.neb.ra, which cover probably 10 years. […]This leaves us but 46 years, out of the 206 years, to contain 120 kings named by the Turin papyrus, and all the Hyksos conquest and domination, excepting 30 years named above.

This is apparently an impossible state of affairs; and those who advocate this shorter interval are even compelled to throw over the Turin papyrus altogether, and to say that within two or three centuries of the events an entirely false account of the period was adopted as the state history of the Egyptians.

This difficulty has been so great that many scholars in Germany, and every one in the rest of Europe, have declined to accept this view. If, however, the Sirius datum is to be respected, we should be obliged to allow either 206 or else 1,666 years between the XIIth and XVIIIth dynasties. As neither of these seemed probable courses, it has been thought that the Sirius datum itself was possibly in error, and here the matter has rested awaiting fresh evidence. [37]

At this point, Petrie has almost fallen on his face on the very clue that would lead him out of the dilemma. To see him state it so clearly, and then just stumble on in the dark is almost painful.

What do I mean? I mean that perhaps Sothis is not Sirius. And perhaps the “Sothic Cycle” was something altogether different.

To be clear, let’s look at these assumptions. First, it is assumed that a Sothic calendar was used in Egypt. We do not know that for a fact. We only know it because Censorinus said so. Censorinus wrote his idea rather late to be considered so great an authority. He was a Roman living in the third century AD who wrote de Die Natali, a work on ancient methods of computing time. What is more, Censorinus was highly praised by Cassiodorus, a converted Christian of about two centuries later, so we discover here that Censorinus’ work was very likely preserved because it was “approved,” while other works that may have contradicted his ideas may be lost to us.

The next big problem is the assumption of the beginning date of the Sothic cycle of 1,460-years. Again, Censorinus’ word was accepted despite the endless problems this assumption has created. As it happens, when one begins to investigate the issue more thoroughly, it is found that the dates based on this theoretical Sothic calendar do not agree with one another.[38]

In the end, we find that the most fundamental problem of all is that it is an assumption of modern Egyptologists that the word they have translated in the observations listed above - spd.t - is even Sirius at all! A lot of people are sure that this is exactly what the Egyptians meant, but the fact is, no one really knows this for sure! The word that is translated as Sothis could have been something else! Another point is that, in the context above, it is not even certain what “rising” means. It could mean a star, or it could mean the rising of the river. It could also mean a ceremony that was to be conducted called the “Raising of Sothis.”

As we discussed in a previous chapter regarding observational astronomy, Sirius rises in the sky from any given vantage point once every 24 hours, but it cannot be seen during those times when the sun is in the sky. The so-called heliacal rising of Sirius would have to occur at least 36 minutes before the sun comes up in order to be seen, which presupposes a rather accurate time keeping method, which obviates the entire argument about a Sothic cycle to begin with.

Although it has been made the keystone of the absolute dating of ancient history, the chronology of ancient Egypt rests on a host of unproven assumptions. The whole structure is rendered even more shaky by the lateness and the fragmentary nature of most of the literary sources which are crucial for providing a skeleton for Egyptian chronology.

As noted, the basic organization of Egyptian history around 31 dynasties begins from the work of Manetho compiled in the 3rd century BC. Manetho’s records are supplemented and corrected by records recovered from the ancient monuments and archeological excavations of Egypt. Manetho’s work survives only in quotation. John Brug writes in The Astronomical Dating of Ancient History before 700 AD:

The use of astronomical calculations to decipher references to this Sothic cycle in ancient Egyptian records forms the foundation of all ancient chronology. Censorinus says:

‘The moon is not relevant to the “great year” of the Egyptians which we call the “Year of the Dog” in Greek and the “Year of the Little-Dog” in Latin, because it begins when the constellation or star “Little-Dog” [allegedly the modern Canis Major or Sirius] rises on the first day of the month which the Egyptians call “Thouth”. For their civil year has only 365 days without any intercalation. Thus a quadrennium among them is about one day shorter than the natural quadrennium, thus it is 1461 years before this “year” returns to the same beginning point. This “year” is called “heliacal” by some and “the divine year” by others.’ (Censorinus, De Die Natali, ch. 18, my translation).

Censorinus’ statement certainly is not exhaustive. It gives us little information about how this “great year” was used or when it came into use. It is certainly open to debate how applicable this description of the Egyptian calendar and astronomy is to the 2nd and 3rd millennia BC. It does not address the issue of changes in the nature of the Egyptian calendar which may have occurred over the millennia. We have no definite proof that the Egyptians were aware of dating long eras by the Sothic cycle in the 2nd millennium BC. Even if we grant that they did, we have no certain knowledge of the date when any Sothic cycle began.

Most historians presently accept the claim that Censorinus places the beginning of a Sothic cycle in about 140 AD and by extension in 1320 BC, 2780 BC and perhaps 4240 B.C. Censorinus says:

‘As among us so also among the Egyptians a number of “eras” are referred to in their literature, such as that which they call “of Nabonnasar” which began from the first year of his reign, which was 986 years ago. Another is called “of Philip” which is counted from the death of Alexander the Great which was 562 years ago. But the beginning of these is always from the first day of the month which the Egyptians call Thoth, which this year fell on the 7th day before the Calends of July [June 25], 100 years ago when Emperor Antoninus Pius was consul for the second time, and Bruttius Praesens was the other consul, the same day fell on the 12th [corrected to the 13th ] day before the Calends of August [July 21, corrected to July 20] at which time the “Little-Dog” usually rises in Egypt. Therefore it is possible to know that of that great year, which as I wrote above is called “solar” or “of the Little-Dog” or the “divine year,” now the hundredth year has passed. I have noted the beginnings of these years lest anyone think that they begin from January 1 or some other time, since the starting points chosen by the originators of these years are no less diverse than the opinions of philosophers. For that reason the natural year is said to begin by some at the new sun, that is the winter solstice, by others at the summer solstice, by others at the vernal equinox and by others at the autumnal equinox, by some at the rising of the Pleiades and by some at their setting, by many at the rising of “the Dog.”’ (Censorinus, Ch. 21, my translation).

Again it is noteworthy how little Censorinus actually says and how much is deduced from his statement. Censorinus is writing not to establish a system of chronology, but to discuss various dates for New Years Day in different cultures. He gives no specific date as the starting point for a Sothic Cycle as he does for the other eras which he mentions. All he does is give the date of the Julian calendar on which the first of Thoth fell in the year of his writing, which is well established as 238 or 239 AD and one hundred years earlier in 139 AD. In 238 AD the first of Thoth fell on about June 25 Julian. One hundred years earlier it fell on about July 20, which is the date The Little-Dog (supposedly Sothis) usually rises in Egypt. He seems to be referring to a conventional method of dating more than to an actual observation of the rising of Sothis on that date. […]

Besides lack of agreement of the time when a Sothic cycle began, this theory also faces other uncertainties. It is not certain how long a Sothic cycle lasts since there are other astronomic variables involved besides the precise length of the solar year. Calculations of the Sothic cycle have ranged from 1423 to 1506 years.

We do not know for sure with which star or constellation Sothis should be identified for all periods of Egyptian history. It is generally accepted that Sothis is the star which we call Sirius, although none of the sources gave any evidence for this from before classical times. Porphry in De Antro Nym harum says, “Near Cancer is Sothis which the Greeks call the Dog.” Solinus Polyhistor says that this star rises between July 19-21.

In Chapter 21 of his work, concerning Isis and Osiris, Plutarch says, “The soul of Isis is called ‘Dog’ by the Greeks and the soul of Horus is called Orion.” Since Sothis is identified with Isis in other Egyptian texts, and Sirius is called the Dog in Greek, we conclude that Sothis is the star which we-call Sirius. However there are a number of difficulties. At least the second half of Plutarch’s statement appears to be in error, because Orion is usually associated with Osiris not Horus. According to some Egyptologists Egyptian astronomical names did not always remain attached to the same celestial object. Osiris was first associated with Venus; later Osiris was associated with Jupiter. The planet Venus, which was first identified with Osiris, was later identified with Isis. Sometimes “right eye” is a title of Isis-Hathor, sometimes it is a title of the sun.

Plutarch also identifies Osiris with the constellation which the Greeks call Argo. The hieroglyphic triangle which represents Sothis also appears to represent the zodiacal light, and the Egyptians apparently knew both an Isis-Sothis and a Horus-Sothis. The term wp rnpt which refers to the rising of Sothis, also refers to the beginning of the civil year and the birthday of the king. Even the Greek word “Sirius” is not always attached to the same celestial object. Similar shifts and uncertainties apply to the identification of ancient astronomical names in general, for example, the constellations in Job.

According to the English astronomer Poole, Sirius was not on the horizon coincident with the rising of the sun on the Egyptian New Year’s Day in 140 BC, the date specified by Censorinus and those who follow him. Macnaughton set up a chronology based on the supposition that Sothis was Spica, not Sirius, as a way around this difficulty. Canopus and Venus are other candidates that have been suggested, perhaps less plausibly. Kenneth Brecher has revived the doubts about identifying the bright star referred to in records as Sothis/the Dog/Sirius with the star we call Sirius today. Babylonian and Roman sources as late as Ptolemy all call “Sirius” a red star. Seneca says it is redder than Mars. In his star catalog Ptolemy refers to the bright red star in the face of the Dog. He links Sirius with red stars like Aldebaran and Arcturus.

The star which we presently call Sirius is not a red star. No theory of stellar evolution offers any explanation for how a red star could become white in 2000 years, although much speculation has centered around possible changes in the companion star which is part of Sirius. There is a flaw either in our identification of Sothis as our Sirius, in the ancients’ observations, in our translation of their texts, or in present theories of stellar evolution, which must be based more on computer analysis than on observation.

One explanation which has been offered is that the red color refers to the star only as observed in heliacal rising near the horizon. Perhaps “red” simply means “bright” or “beautiful” as it does in Akkadian or Russian. At any rate, we can say that there is at least some question about the identification of Sothis as our star Sirius, and a thorough re-study of the pertinent Egyptian and Greek astronomical terms would be valuable.[39]

Despite all of the problems and reasons to discard the entire chronology based on the Sothic dating in conjunction with the Biblical chronology, all of Egyptian chronology is based on this Sothic cycle inferred from Censorinus, even if there has been much argument about when said cycle is supposed to have begun. In the absence of any real evidence, the experts decided on one set of dates (1320 B.C. to A.D.141) as the cycle, and proclaimed it as the standard for the setting of ancient dates.

Quite a number of Egyptologists have rejected the theory of the Sothic cycle entirely. What is more, the theoretical sothic cycle does not agree with radiocarbon dating, even if we already have an idea that radiometric dating methods have their own problems. For dates within certain ranges, these problems have been adjusted with tree-ring calibration.

Another controversial item of Sothic dating is the so-called “era of Menophres.” This discussion is based on a statement in the late classical writer, Theon who says:

On the 100th year of the era of Diocletian, concerning the rising of the Dog, because of the pattern we received from the era of Menophres to the end of the age of Augustus the total of the elapsed years was 1605.

Many attempts have been made to identify Theon’s Menophres. Menophres has been identified as the city Memphis or one of a number of pharaohs. Merneptah, Seti I, Harmhab, and Ramses I are among the candidates that have been suggested. There is simply not enough evidence to draw any firm conclusions about the meaning of this text.

Otto Neugebauer began the ten-page section on Egypt in his later History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy with the provocative sentence, “Egypt has no place in a work on the history of mathematical astronomy.”[40]

Did you catch that? Neugebauer is telling us that the Egyptians were scientifically illiterate. He read and examined everything. All the Egyptologists who were inculcated into the belief of the superiority of Egyptian science were sending him their papyri and inscriptions from tombs and monuments. All the things that are so difficult to get hold of nowadays were sent to Neugebauer. And what did Neugebauer say?

Mathematics and astronomy played a uniformly insignificant role in all periods of Egyptian history. […] The fact that Egyptian mathematics has preserved a relatively primitive level makes it possible to investigate a stage of development which is no longer available in so simple a form, except in the Egyptian documents.

To some extent Egyptian mathematics has had some, though rather negative, influence on later periods. Its arithmetic was widely based on the use of unit fractions, a practice which probably influenced the Hellenistic and Roman administrative offices and thus spread further into other regions of the Roman empire. […]The influence of this practice is visible even in works of the stature of the Almagest, where final results are often expressed with unit fractions in spite of the fact that the computations themselves were carried out with sexagesimal fractions. […] And this old tradition doubtless contributed much to restricting the sexagesimal place value notation to a purely scientific use.

It would be quite out of proportion to describe Egyptian geometry here at length. It suffices to say that we find in Egypt about the same elementary level we observed in contemporary Mesopotamia.

The role of Egyptian mathematics is probably best described as a retarding force upon numerical procedures. Egyptian astronomy had much less influence on the outside world for the very simple reason that it remained through all its history on an exceedingly crude level which had practically no relations to the rapidly growing mathematical astronomy of the Hellenistic age. Only in one point does the Egyptian tradition show a very beneficial influence, that is, in the use of the Egyptian calendar by the Hellenistic astronomers. This calendar is, indeed, the only intelligent calendar which ever existed in human history. A year consists of 12 months of 30 days each and five additional days at the end of each year.

A second Egyptian contribution to astronomy is the division of the day into 24 hours, through these hours were originally not of even length, but were dependent on the seasons. […]

Lunar calendars played a role since early times side by side with the schematic civil calendar of the 365-day year. An inscription of the Middle Kingdom mentions “great” and “small” years, and we know now that the “great” years were civil years which contained 13 new moon festivals in contrast to the ordinary “small” years with only 12 new moons. The way these intercalations were regulated, at least in the latest period, is shown by the Demotic text.

This Demotic text contains a simple periodic scheme which is based on the fact that 25 Egyptian civil years (which contain 9125 days) are very nearly equal to 309 mean lunar months. These 309 months are grouped by our text into 16 ordinary years of 12 lunar months, and 9 “great” years of 13 months. Ordinarily two consecutive lunar months are given 59 days by our scheme, obviously because of the fact that one lunar month is close to 29 ½ days long. But every 5th year the two last months are made 60 days long. This gives for the whole 25 year cycle the correct total of 9125 days.

Since at this period all astronomical computations were carried out in the sexagesimal system, at least as far as fractions are concerned, the equinoctial hours were divided sexagesimally. Thus our present division of the day into 24 hours of 60 minutes each is the result of a Hellenistic modification of an Egyptian practice combined with Babylonian numerical procedures.

Finally, we have to mention the decans. […] The decans are the actual reason for the 12 division of the night and hence, in the last analysis, of the 24 hour system. Again, in Hellenistic times the Egyptian decans were brought into a fixed relation to the Babylonian zodiac which is attested in Egypt only since the reign of Alexander’s successors. In this final version the 36 decans are simply the thirds of the zodiacal signs, each decan representing 10 degrees of the ecliptic. Since the same period witnesses the rapid development of astrology, the decans assumed an important position in astrological lore and in kindred fields such as alchemy, the magic of stones and plants and their use in medicine. In this disguise the decans reached India, only to be returned in still more fantastic form to the Muslims and the West. […]

[In the decans] we have not a calendar but a star clock. The user of this list would know the hour of night by the rising of the decan which is listed in the proper decade of the month. […]

We call this phenomenon the “heliacal rising” of S, using a term of Greek astronomy. [...]

It is this sequence of phenomena which led the Egyptians to measure the time of night by means of stars, which we now call decans. This was intended to devise some method of indicating the times of office for the nightly service in the temples, (and other practical reasons.) Just as the months were divided into decades, so were the services of the hour-stars. For 10 days, S indicated the last hour of night, then the next star for the next ten days, and so on. […]

All this was, in fact, taken into account by the inventors of the decanal hours, as can be demonstrated by the terminal section of the “diagonal calendars” on the coffin lids. […]

By the time of the New Kingdom, the usefulness of the decans as indicators of hours had ceased. […] The decans held a secure position as representatives of the decades of the year in the decoration of astronomical ceilings, as in the tomb of Senmut or in the cenotaph of Seti I. In this form, they continued to exist until their association with the zodiac of the Hellenistic period revived them and made them powerful elements of astrological doctrine.

The coffins with the “diagonal calendars” belong roughly to the period from 2100 BC to 1800 BC. […] Astronomical accuracy was nowhere seriously attempted in these documents. […]

In summary, from the almost three millennia of Egyptian writing, the only texts which have come down to us and deal with a numerical prediction of astronomical phenomena belong to the Hellenistic or Roman period. None of the earlier astronomical documents contains mathematical elements; they are crude observational schemes, partly religious, partly practical in purpose.

Ancient science was the product of a very few men; and these few happened not to be Egyptians.[41]

It seems that we have learned several things from Neugebauer’s examination of the texts of the various papyri, tomb inscriptions, monuments, calendars, and so forth. One of the most important things we have learned is that the Egyptians did, indeed, correct their calendar every five years, similar to what we do every four years with our leap year. This naturally makes the idea of the Sothic cycle irrelevant in terms of calendrical reconciliation. We also begin to understand some of the totally incomprehensible sayings of the Pyramid Texts. They were recitations of prayers and magical spells that had to be performed at a certain “moment” in the night, and the only way to determine time at night was by the stars. According to Neugebauer, there are sufficient numbers of these star clocks in tombs to confirm this idea.

Next we note that Neugebauer tells us that the only texts which have come down to us and deal with a numerical prediction of astronomical phenomena belong to the Hellenistic or Roman period and in Hellenistic times the Egyptian decans were brought into a fixed relation to the Babylonian zodiac which is attested in Egypt only since the reign of Alexander’s successors.

In other words, the “occult secrets” generally attributed to the Egyptians, must actually belong to the Greeks.

However, there is something just a little bit deeper here that I would like to point out. As Neugebauer says, the Egyptians of historical times were really scientifically illiterate. So much so that their influence was inhibiting upon mathematics and science. But we still have that most astonishing fact that they came up with what Neugebauer declares to be the most sensible calendar ever devised. Even the Babylonians, whose mathematics sends Neugebauer into raptures, did not have so clever a calendar. We find ourselves asking: where did the Egyptians get this calendar?

In an attempt to come to some understanding of this matter of Sothis, (which actually is the Greek name for Sirius, and it is an assumption that the word transliterated from the Egyptian texts is, actually, Sothis or Sirius), I undertook a comparative reading of Faulkner’s translation of the Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts. Indeed, I am not an Egyptologist nor an expert in these matters, but I wondered if I would notice anything at all with my "beginner's mind", assuming that the translator dealt honestly with his text. Reading every reference to the word transliterated into English as “spdt,” that is then translated as Sothis, brought me face to face with a number of interesting problems.

If we remember that Sirius is also supposed to represent Isis, we notice first of all that the Egyptians had no problem specifying Isis when they wanted to, sometimes in the same passage where Sothis is mentioned.

In Utterance 216 of the Pyramid Texts, it is translated: “Sothis is swallowed up by the Netherworld, Pure and living in the horizon.”  However, there is a footnote that says: “Despite the lack of correct gender ... in a triple repetition of the phrase, the scribe has ignored the discrepancy of gender in the case of Sothis.”[42]

In other words... Sothis is described in words of male gender and the translator is having to deal with this problem.

Apparently this gender issue pops up several more times, and the footnote directs us to a paper in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, volume 25, p. 159. Repeatedly the word spdt is translated as “my sister is Sothis...”after which, we are again referred to the above paper, p. 153, which suggests that in each of these instances, the problem with that pesky male gender keeps popping up.

In Utterance 366, we find Isis and Sothis mentioned together in a strange way: [Osiris is being addressed]

“Your sister Isis comes to you rejoicing for love of you. You have placed her on your phallus and your seed issues into her, she being ready as Sothis, and Har-Sopd has come forth from you as Horus who is in Sothis.”

Isis is described as being “ready like Sothis.” This readiness is described in overtly sexual terms as though some dynamic interaction between bodies of the cosmos is being described sexually - an exchange takes place between them. We then read that, as a result of this cosmic interaction of impregnation, “sopd” is supposed to be “born from Isis as Horus comes forth from Sothis.”

What is this “sopd”?

In utterance 412 the following lines: 

“The Great One falls upon his side, He who is in Nedit quivers, his head is lifted by Re; he detests sleep, he hates inertness. O flesh of the King, do not decay, do not rot, do not smell unpleasant. Your foot will not be overpassed, your stride will not be overstridden, you shall not tread on the corruption of Osiris. You shall reach the sky as Orion your soul shall be as effective as Sothis; have power, having power; be strong, having strength; may your soul stand among the gods as Horus who dwells in Irs. May the terror of you come into being in the hearts of the gods like the Nt-crown...” 

In this passage, it seems as though Sothis is compared to something that is “effective and powerful" and having strength like Horus.

In utterance 472, we find this:

 “I go up on this eastern side of the sky where the gods were born, and I am born as Horus, as Him of the horizon; I am vindicated and my double is vindicated; Sothis is my sister, the Morning Star is my offspring.”

First the writer says I am “as Horus,” followed by an allusion to Horus being his “double” followed by an immediate mention of Sothis as this double, though the allusion to a “double” is given as a “sister.”

In Utterance 1074:

“Sothis goes forth clad in her brightness, she censes the bright ones who are among them. The striking powers of the city are quiet, the region is content. I have prepared a road that I may pass on it, namely what Meref foretold in On.”

This passage is, apparently, very problematical because Faulkner has footnoted almost every term. In particular, the word “brightness” above is noted to be a word that means “sharpness.”

This brings us to our strange word that is transliterated as spd, or Soped. Regarding the above mention of “sharpness” related to Sothis going forth, we find that spd-ibhw means “sharp toothed.” Sharp toothed occurs repeatedly in a certain context illustrated by Utterance 222:

“I have come to you, my father, I have come to you, O great Wild Bull. ...I have come to you, my father, I have come to you, O Sopd.”

Now, this “Sopd” is transliterated as “spdw” being very similar to “spdt” that is translated as “sothis.” It is obvious that the translators have a problem with this “spdw”, and just translate it as “Sopd.” In the end, we have three very similar words: spdt, spdw, and spd-ibhw (sharp toothed), and my guess is that this “sharp toothed” business may relate to something that is visually similar to a mouth full of gleaming, sharp teeth. Also, sharp toothed can mean that something is radiating clearly defined “rays,” that are “sharp” like “teeth.”

The word sp occurs by itself in one reference:

 “O god; your third is he who orders offerings. The perfume of Iht-wtt is on this King, a bnbn-loaf is in the Mansion of Sokar, a foreleg is in the House of Anubis. This King is hale, the Herdsman stands up, the month is born, Sp lives.”

The more I read these texts, the more I think that these are rote repetitions of something that once really meant something, but through the centuries, with the changes in language and semantics, they had long ago lost their meaning and were simply being recited as magical texts. Either that, or the experts in Egyptian language have a long way to go! An important point is, however, that every single reference to spdw occurs in a passage about the “great wild bull” and both Osiris and Seth were referred to as bulls though bulls aren't generally thought of in the context of sharp teeth. Seth was the “Bull of the South.” Utterance 580 is a text to be recited at the sacrifice of a Red Bull. This bull is supposed to represent Seth being sacrificed by Horus. Addressed to Seth the bull:

“O you who smote my father, who killed one greater than you, you have smitten my father, you have killed one greater than you.”

This is followed by a passage addressed to the dead king/Osiris:

“O my father Osiris this King, I have smitten for you him who smote you as an ox; I have killed for you him who killed you as a wild bull; I have broken for you him who broke you ...[he lists all the parts he has cut off]. Its upper foreleg is on Khopr, its lower foreleg belongs to Atum, father of the gods, its haunches belong to Shu and Tefenet, its shanks belong to Hnt-irty and Kherty, its back belongs to Neith and Selket, its heart belongs to Sakhmet the Great, the contents of its udder belong to these four gods, the children of Horus, Hapy, Imsety, Duamutef, Kebhsenuf. Its head, its tail, its arms, and its legs belong to Anubis...[43]

Now, of course, we wonder how an ox has an udder... and of course, Faulkner has an explanation that the scribe “forgot” that he was writing about a bull! Nevertheless, the reference to Sakhmet brings up a very interesting remark in Utterance 704:

“This King is the [...] which went forth from Re, this King has come forth from between the thighs of the Two Enneads; he was conceived by Sakhmet, the King was borne by Shezmetet. This King is the falcon...”

The footnote tells us that where it says “he was conceived,” that, regarding the word “he,” the scribe “for once employs the feminine suffix.” So, we think that certain other translations of “he” may have been “she” or vice versa.

Remembering that “Sopd” is supposed to be “born from Isis as Horus comes forth from Sothis,” we find the curious relationship above to “two Enneads” and they are there described as Sakhmet and Shezmetet. Utterance 248:

“The King is a great one, the King has issued from between the thighs of the Ennead. The king was conceived by Sakhmet, and it was Shezmetet who bore the king, a star brilliant and FAR TRAVELLING, who brings distant products to Re daily.”

We naturally have questions about the many references to the “sisters” the “Two Enneads,” the “double” and the “twins” that are repeatedly mentioned.

Sekhmet is the patroness of divine retribution, vengeance, and conquest. She is represented with the head of a lion to suggest the “mane” or “coma” of brightness. Sekhmet means “The Mighty One,” and she was one of the most powerful of the gods and goddesses. She was the goddess who meted out divine punishment to the enemies of the gods and of the pharaoh. In this capacity she was called the “Eye of Ra.” She also accompanied the pharaoh into battle, launching fiery arrows into battle ahead of him. Sekhmet could send plagues and disease against her enemies, and for this reason, as a preventative, was sometimes invoked to avoid plague and cure disease.

Sekhmet’s capacity for destruction is well documented. In one story, Ra sent her to punish those mortals who had forgotten him, and she ended up nearly destroying the entire human race. Only the cleverness of Ra stopped her rampage before it consumed every living thing.

Sekhmet’s breath was the hot desert wind, and her body took on the glare of the midday sun. She represented the destructive force of the sun. According to the legends, she came into being when Hathor was sent to earth by Ra to take vengeance on man. She was the one who slaughtered mankind and drank their blood, only being stopped by trickery. She was said to be the destructive side of the sun, and a solar goddess given the title Eye of Ra. Since several of these attributes also belonged to Set, the "Bull of the South" whose breath was the hot desert wind that brings crime and destruction, we wonder if Sekhmet is not a different "model?"  If so, considering the descriptions of Sekhmet, put together with the "sharp toothed" appelation and the "far travelling star," then we might suggest that the term Sothis simply refers to a comet? In such a case, we can have no idea of which comet it might be, whether or not it is a periodic body, and even if it is, what its period might have been.

In any event, in a general sense, we discover that the great astronomical and scientific knowledge attributed to the Egyptians falls far short of that which has been promoted by many "alternative researchers" as well as mainstream Egyptologists. No wonder Neugebauer’s results aren’t popularly known. They pretty much put a period to the idea that the Egyptians were observing Sirius and precession, or that they had a calendar based on a Sothic cycle of 1460 years. Real Science was applied to the subject of Egyptology, and the Egyptophiles just couldn’t stand it. They withdrew into their private little world of dreams and illusions of Egyptian grandeur, clinging desperately to the rags and tatters of their occult beliefs like a drowning man clutches at straws.

It is only in recent years that the disruptions of civilization have been scientifically related to celestial phenomena by serious researchers, and even their observations have not moved the Egyptologist one inch from their firm adherence to their chronology. After corresponding with a few of them, reading their books and technical papers, I found that not one of them was capable of answering a single question directly, though one of them did suggest to me in a roundabout way that he had a few mildly radical ideas. Obviously, he didn’t want to say it too loudly for fear of being run out of Dodge.

[1]        ANET 1969, p. 231; Breasted, James, Ancient Records of Egypt, 1906-7, rpt. 1988, 5 Vols.(London: Histories & Mysteries of Man Ltd. 1988) pp. 122-26; Shanks, Hershel, “The Exodus and the Crossing of the Red Sea, According to Hans Goedicke.” Biblical Archaeology Review 7:5 (September/October 1981). p. 49.

[2]        ANET 1969, p. 233.

[3]        Vandersleyen, C. RdE 19 (1968), pls. 8, 9; W. Helck, Historisch-biographische Texte der 2. Zwischenzeit (Wiesbaden, 1975), pp. 106-7.

[4]        Spalinger, Anthony, (1990), The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus As A Historical Document, Studien zur altagyptischen Kultur; 17, p. 295-338.

[5]        cf. Redford, op. cit.

[6]        Manning, Sturt, A Test of Time (Oxbow: Oxford) p. 1999.

[7]        Gardiner, Sir Alan, Egypt of the Pharaohs.

[8]        Egypt et la vallee du Nil volume II.

[9]        X-ray atlas of the Royal Mummies, pp, 122-30 and in C.N. Reeves, After Tutankhamun: Research and Excavation in the Royal Necropolis at Thebes, p. 6.

[10]       History and Chronology of the Eighteenth Dynasty, p. 37.

[11]       The Associated Press, Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 13, 2000.

[12]       Jacket blurb from: Colloins, Andrew and Ogilvie-Herald, Chris, Tutankhamun: The Exodus Conspiracy, 2002, Virgin Books, London

[13]       Redford, Donald B., Akhenaten: The Heretic King, 1984, Princeton University Press, Princeton, p. 225.

[14]       Nicholson, E.W., Exodus and Sinai in History and Tradition (Richmond: John Knox Press 1973).

[15]       Ibid.

[16]       De Vaux, Roland, The Early History of Israel translation by David Smith. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press 1978) p. 435.

[17]       Antiquities, II.264; III.76.

[18]       Sotah 5a, Freedman and Simon 1935, pp. 18-19.

[19]       KJV, see also Judges 5:4-5, Hab. 3:3,7.

[20]       The Bible, I Kings 11:18; Exodus 2:15, 3:1.

[21]       “Hierosolymus” and “Judas” are the Greek renderings of the Hebrew words for Jerusalem and Jew.

[22]       According to Greek legend, Cepheus was king of Ethiopia. His daughter Andromeda was married to the hero Perseus. The main question about this is: where was ancient “Ethiopia”?

[23]       This theory is plausible. In Greek and Latin, the word ‘Assyrian’ can indicate everyone living in modern Iraq or Syria. Aramaeans, a tribe to which the Hebrews seem to have been related, also fit within the definition of an Assyrian. We also note that Abraham’s family referred to relatives as “Syrians.” There is also the fact that the genetic studies show the Jews to be very closely related to Syrians, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

[24]       The Solymi are mentioned by Homer in The Iliad 6.184 and 204 and in The Odyssey 5.283. They were brave warriors from Lycia. The word Jerusalem was read as “Hiero-Solyma” or “holy place of the Solymi.”

[25]       Josephus, Africanus and Eusebius all list a King Orus who the “experts” agree is Amenhotep III.

[26]       The Egyptians represented Ammon with a ram’s head. However, there is more to this than Tacitus suspects.

[27]       Leprosy.

[28]       A common title for Dionysus, the god of wine, intoxication and ecstasy.

[29]       Tacitus, The Histories, Book V: 2-5. Translation by Kenneth Wellesley.

[30]       Eusebius, Pamphilus, Preparation of the Gospel. Translation by Edwin Gifford. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House 1981) p. 524.

[31]       Redford, Donald  “A Gate Inscription From Karnak and Egyptian Involement in Western Asia During the Early 18th Dynasty.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 99:2. 1979 p. 274; Bietak, Manfred 1991. “Egypt and Canaan During the Middle Bronze Age.” Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research 281 1991 p. 58; Weinstein 1981, pp. 1-28.

[32]       Bietak, op. cit., p. 59.

[33]       Hoffmeier, James K., “Some Thoughts on William G. Dever's ‘Hyksos, Egyptian Destructions, and the End of the Palestinain Middle Bronze Age.’” Levant 22. 1990, p.87.

[34]       Gardiner, Sir Alan, Egypt of the Pharaohs.

[35]       Petrie, Flinders, Researches in Sinai (London: John Murray 1906).

[36]       Ibid.

[37]       Ibid.

[38]       It is known that a lunar calendar was used in ancient Egypt, but not much is known about it. The end result of the use of this calendar is that every date on any monument would have to tell us which calendar was being used, but the Egyptians didn’t do that.

[39]       Brug, John, The Astronomical Dating of Ancient History before 700 AD. 1988.

[40]       Neugebauer, Otto, The Exact Sciences in Antiquity (New York: Dover 1969).

[41]       Neugebauer, ibid., pp. 71-2, 78, 80-1, 90, 81-4, 86-9, 91.

[42] Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, (Aris and Phillips. 1969)

[43] Faulkner, ibid.



Send mail to with questions or comments about this web site.

Per Ankh Trading cc  Reg. No. CK10/156669/23
Copyright © 2005 Per Ankh
Last modified: 11/17/10