Lying on the floor was a badly damaged but beautiful coffin made with thousands of paste in-lays and semi-precious stones in the shape of protective wings. The cartouches containing the occupants name had been hacked out.
When they opened the coffin they found a mummy wrapped in gold-leaf. But as they touched the mummy it crumbled to dust leaving the excavators with a pile of disarticulated bones at the bottom of the coffin. But beneath the skeleton, the last sheet of gold, seemed to have the damaged named of Akhenaten written on it. The pelvis was wide like a female’s. The head was elongated.
What really became of Akhenaten’s mummy still remains a mystery. Fragments of sculpture and carving from the royal tomb at Akhetaten shows that his body was originally put there, but no sign of the mummy remains. It is possible that followers of the Aten feared for it’s destruction, which would deny him eternal life, and moved the body to a place of safety.
Akhenaten is perhaps unfairly not credited with being a particularly successful Pharaoh. Records seem to indicate that he allowed Egyptian influence wane but this may not be true. These ideas are based on the famous Amarna Tabletsfound in Akhetaten in many of which Egyptian vassal cities plead for assistance, but no replies are preserved.
As there is no surviving record of Egyptian territory being lost at this time it is possible that Akhenaten was merely skillfully playing one city against the other to achieve through diplomacy what would otherwise require military force.
THE AMARNA TABLETS – LETTERS
The el-Amarna letters, a collection of correspondence between various states and Egypt, were found in the remains of the ancient city of Akhetaten, built by Akhenaten around 1370 BCE. Some of the documents belong to the time of Amenhotep III, while others are from the time of Akhenaten. They provide invaluable insight into the foreign affairs of several countries in the Late Bronze Age.
The first Amarna tablets were found by local inhabitants in 1887. They form the majority of the corpus. Subsequent excavations at the site have yielded less than 50 out of the 382 itemized tablets and fragments which form the Amarna corpus known to date.
The majority of the Amarna tablets are letters. These letters were sent to the Egyptian Pharaohs Amenophis III and his son Akhenaten around the middle of the 14th century B.C. The correspondents were kings of Babylonia, Assyria, Hatti and Mitanni, minor kings and rulers of the Near East at that time, and vassals of the Egyptian Empire.
Almost immediately following their discovery, the Amarna tablets were deciphered, studied and published. Their importance as a major source for the knowledge of the history and politics of the Ancient Near East during the 14th Century B.C. was recognized. The tablets presented several difficulties to scholars.
The Amarna tablets are written in Akkadian cuneiform script and present many features which are peculiar and unknown from any other Akkadian dialect. This was most evident in the letters sent from Canaan, which were written in a mixed language (Canaanite-Akkadian).
The Amarna letters from Canaan have proved to be the most important source for the study of the Canaanite dialects in the pre-Israelite period.
AFTER AKHENATEN’S DEATH
Soon after his death the followers at Amana, unable to understand what their Pharaoh had been preaching, abandoned the city, and returned to Thebes and the familiar Gods. The priests branded the name Akhenaten, as a heretic. It was erased from the monuments of Egypt.
It was his son, a young Pharaoh named Tutankhamen who the world would get to know. King Tut moved the capital back to Thebes and returned to the old religion.
Akhenaten’s successors, the generals Ay and Horemheb reestablished the temples of Amun they selected their priests from the military, enabling the Pharaoh to keep tighter controls over the religious orders.
Later Pharaohs attempted to erase all memories of Akhenaten and his religion. Much of the distinctive art of the period was destroyed and the buildings dismantled to be reused. Many of the Talitat blocks from the Aten temples in Thebes were reused as rubble infill for later pylons where they were rediscovered during restoration work and reassembled.
Three thousand years ago, the rebel Pharaoh Akhenaten preached monotheism and enraged the Nile Valley. Less than 100 years after Akhenaten’s death, Moses would be preaching monotheism on the bank of the Nile River, to the Israelis.