Sunday, July 13, 2008

Egyptian City of Akhetaten: Does this Remind You of Anything?

Between 1347 and 1332 BCE, also understood as in the late Eighteenth Dynasty of the New Kingdom, a remarkable transformation took place in Egypt. Over a fifteen year span existed a city, Akhetaten (today called Tell el-Amarna) which broke the rules of two millenia of gods worship and artistic expression. It was a radical new concept of monotheism after eighteen dynasties of polytheism. Art was now naturalistic instead of formal and static. People, too, changed their ideas and created a new lifestyle.

The mastermind behind this transformation of minds was Akhenaten, the son of Amenhotep (Amenophis)III. The one god his devotees followed was Aten. Although Aten, the sun god, existed for centuries, his cult was now the only game in town - town being Akhetaten, "the horizon of the Aten." Akhenaten built his first temples to Aten in Karnak but, wanting to remove his followers from past associations, took his court and many subjects to the east bank of the Nile to construct the new city.

According to Professors Barry Kemp and Jerry Rose of the Amarna Project, a very high proportion of the people, according to paleontology, suffered from short stature and early death due to iron deficiency in childhood. Add to that an epidemic, and life must have been very hard prior to the Amarna period.

Akhenaten might have responded to the desperation of his new subjects by rejecting the older generation's ways in favor of a new set-up. He and his wife Nefertiti and their up to six daughters set up court in the new city. Tuthmose was his most famous artist who created the groundbreaking style. To quote Dr. Kemp: "We must assume that Akhenaten incurred the hostility of the priests of the old cults, particularly the powerful priests of the god Amun at Thebes.

Let's see. Crisis of the old regime. A lack of faith in the old ways. A questioning of authority and religion. New concepts of art. New depictions of reality. Young people speaking their minds. Does this all remind you of anything?

If you're going to Akhetaten
Be sure to wear some lotus in your hair
If you're going to Akhetaten
You're gonna meet some monotheists there

For those who come to Akhetaten
Sunny rays descend from Aten's flair
In the streets of Akhetaten
Aten's children with lotus in their hair

On the east bank of the Nile, throw out your sundial
People in motion
There's a whole new art style raising old cult priests' bile
People in motion people in motion

For those who come to Akhetaten
Be sure to wear some lotus in your hair
If you come to Akhetaten
Temple time will be for Aten there

If you come to Akhetaten
Akhenaten grants the sun to share

"Hey, Man, try this Frankincense. It'll get you real high."

"I'm tired of my folks and there Middle Kingdom values."

First Egyptian:"Hey, Man, we're going to a party at Tuthmose's Papyrus Factory, you know 'The Factory.'
other Egyptian: "Yeah, isn't he the artist who did Hatshepsot's image repeated like 20 times?"
First Egytian: "Yeah, and his iconic 'Karnak's mallow soup can 20 times."

See insets below. It's a love-in (with some unwanted guests)

These young people are followed by the National Guard sent by the old priests in Thebes. Some kids under Abu Haaf-Aman tried to levitate the chariot house of Ay.

"What a field day for The Heat, a thousand devotees in the street."

"Why don't we paint these in day-glow hieroglyphics?"

Thebes doesn't fool around. Akhenaten has to reign in the Vizier's "Gestapo tactics."

These are the "people in motion."

"Free stuff for everyone! More stuff at the Wart Hog Farm!"

Veggie food, of course.

This girl band is part of the Mo-Town (Memphis Town) music scene. Mo-Town is where they make all the chariots.

You've got it. A commune. But what's this about work? We feel the rays of the Aten. Groovy!

Remember readers: There's nothing new under the sun. Akhetaten and its subsequent revolutions will come around again.

Life, Man

Credit to Scott McKenzie for the lyrics to "San Francisco". Credit to Buffalo Springfield for "For What it's Worth" (1966). Credit to Googleimage for the photo of the Ankh. Credit to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, U.S.A. for the far out show, "Pharaohs of the Sun" in 1999-2000. Thanks go to Professor Barry Kemp of the Amarna Project.
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