1340 BC

The Pharao Erased From History

Neues Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

From the #HistoryOfUs series: Akhenaten, around 1340 BC

When archaeologists found this bust in the sands of North Africa in the 19th century, nobody knew who this guy was. Well, it is Pharaoh Akhenaten, and almost all evidence of him, his wife Nefertiti and the monotheistic religion they introduced to Ancient Egypt was deliberately erased from history.

Around 1350 BC, Pharaoh Amenhotep IV decided that all the gods of Ancient Egypt were a lie, except for one: the sun God Aten. He build a new capital for him in the desert 200 miles south of Cairo, and changed his name to Pharaoh Akhenaten (“Of great use to Aten”).

Presumably it was the earliest recorded instance of monotheism. Nobody knew about it, until the excavation of his lost city began. Incredible inscriptions and statues have been unearthed there, including these busts of Akhenaten himself ...

the famous bust of Nefertiti ...

... and this house altarpiece, which shows Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti with their three eldest daughters under the sun disc Aten. His rule must have been strong, his fame widespread and his power seemingly unquestioned. And yet just fifty years after his death, his name had been deleted from the royal lists, his buildings razed ...

But why? WHO WAS HE? A visionary ruler who founded the first monotheistic society? Or was he perhaps an inbred royal who suffered from a form of epilepsy likely to have given him visions and religious delusions?

Akhenaten remains a mystery.

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Credits: Story

#HistoryOfUs series

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz

www.smb.museum

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