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THE AGE OF AKHENATEN

The pharaoh Akhenaten, King Tut’s controversial father, departed from centuries of tradition after taking power in 1353 B.C. Changes during his 17-year reign included new styles of art and architecture and mass celebrations of the sun god Aten that pushed the old gods aside.
TRADITIONAL ART
Egyptian art traditionally depicted figures in stiff, standard poses denoting formal roles and status. Common themes included military prowess and preparations for the afterlife.

Sun god
Amun-Re

Thutmose IV

Broad shoulders
Narrow waists
Formal postures and costumes
Undetailed feet
Broad shoulders
Narrow waists
Formal postures and costumes
Undetailed feet
ART UNDER AKHENATEN
Akhenaten dramatically accelerated a shift toward intimate snapshots of family life and softer, less muscular poses in natural settings. Women assumed a more prominent role.

Sun god Aten

Akhenaten

Nefertiti

Three daughters

Elongated heads
Thin necks and arms
Full hips and thighs
Soft, draping clothing
BUILDING A NEW BELIEF
Instead of enclosed shrines to local deities (below), Akhenaten ordered an open structure just for Aten and his earthly agents—the pharaoh and his queen, Nefertiti.
TRADITIONAL TEMPLE
In the Luxor Temple, priests in dark, incense-filled inner sanctuaries led smaller, more private daily rituals for several gods, represented by painted reliefs and sculptures.
Multiple gods are worshipped.

Barque (divine boat)

Hypostyle (colonnade) hall

Post-Amarna addition

Pylon (gateway)

Sanctuary

Courtyard

AKHENATEN’S LONG TEMPLE
In this part of the Great Aten Temple, sunshine illuminated courtyard tables piled with food and bowls of incense. Hastily built from small blocks, walls depicted the ritualized life of the royal family.
Only the sun god Aten is celebrated.

At least 791

offering tables

Platform

Pylon

Open colonnade

Gilded-wood

offering tables

Six courtyards

TRADITIONAL ART
ART UNDER AKHENATEN
SCULPTURE
Facial features from past pharaohs added legitimacy to new ones.
Features may have been elongated to make the pharaoh appear divine.
RELIEF STYLES
GRID
Proportions fit into about 18 rows.
Two more rows lengthen the torso and neck.
Fingers are symmetrical and lack detail.
Fingers are slender, with nails.
EGYPTIAN TIME PERIODS
FERNANDO G. BAPTISTA, OSCAR SANTAMARINA, AND EVE CONANT, NGM STAFF; DIGITAL PRODUCTION: OSCAR SANTAMARINA; PATRICIA HEALY ART: ROCÍO ESPÍN; JOSE DANIEL CABRERA PEÑA SOURCES: PETER F. DORMAN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF BEIRUT; BRETT MCcLAIN, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO; BARRY KEMP, AMARNA PROJECT


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