“No, it was Akhenaten. That’s what the exhibit explains. It also describes the Amarna letters, a collection of clay tablets. It was the way the major powers communicated at the time. They exchanged letters, and with this brotherhood on neighboring kings, managed to stay out of major wars for two hundred years.”
“Oh, I want to go there. Do you guys want to come too?”
”Sure,” Neal said, and Tal nodded his head. Katie paid the admission price and was given tickets with stickers.
“Place the sticker on your shirt. It gives you admission to this museum as well as the Legion of Honor, another museum in Golden Gate Park. If you’re interested in Akhenaten, you will want to visit the Tomb of Kha. He was an architect in the early years of the Akhenaten Dynasty."
They made their way across the lobby.
Katie walked into the first chamber, a square room with a statue of the ancient pharaoh shown in a large glass box in the center. It was a commanding presence. Impressed she slowly circled the statue. It was a life-size bust of a man with an elongated face, full, almost feminine lips and eyes with an oriental slant. “I’m surprised how soft his face is. Where did his oriental features come from, Neal?”
“His mother Tiye was the daughter of Yuya and Tjuyu, both Syrians living in Egypt. They were probably Mitanni because they were into horses, which were still foreign to the Egyptians. Tiye’s dad Tjuyu was put in charge of horses and cattle for the Egyptian government”
“I thought the Egyptians were already into horses, wasn’t the Battle of Kadesh a big chariot war?”
“Yeah, but this was earlier, and during this time the Egyptians came to realize the awesome power and speed horses brought to the battlefield. That’s why a Syrian couple living in Egypt became so necessary. They fathered Ay, who became a general and a pharaoh himself."
“Akhenaten influenced art as well as religion,” Chuck continued. “His artwork shows a softer side of life than previous imperial statues and reliefs have shown. He was making a new statement during this time. That's why I am comfortable giving him credit for monotheism."
“What do you know about the Akhenaten dynasty?” Katie turned to Neal.
“This was the 18th Egyptian Dynasty, Katie. The pyramids were ancient then, already over a thousand years old. Both the 18th and 19th dynasties were the famous ones. Akhenaten, one of the pharaohs and Tutankhamen, his son, were rulers of the later times of the 18th dynasty. When Akhenaten died, the next ruler was a female named Smenkhare, but she was actually Nefertiti, Akhenaten’s most famous wife, using a new name.”
“Why would she change her name?”
“Her husband was being vilified by the priesthood. Maybe this was a way to deflect some of the criticism about her succession. She was like a stepmother to Tut; his real mother was one of Akhenaten’s sisters."
"Oh, a brother-sister breeding!" Katie exclaimed. "Is that why Tutankhamen had so many physical problems?"
"Probably," Neal replied. "Nefertiti was quite fertile and bore Akhenaten many daughters, but no sons. After Akhenaten died, Nefertiti held the position open for Tut until he grew his balls. She used trusted family friends, Ay and General Horemheb, to maintain Tut's place until he was old enough to assume the throne. He was only eleven years old when he took over. Then when Tut died, these two men became the successors to Egypt’s throne. They were the last rulers of the 18th Egyptian Dynasty. Oh, here’s the entrance to the exhibit.” He allowed Katie and Tal to enter first as a docent nodded them inside. The first presentation drew a comparison between ancient Egypt and the Old Testament.
“This is what I’m talking about.” Chuck was excited. “In the Bible, Psalm 104 tells of the vast manifestation of God's all-encompassing power. He created grass for cattle to eat, and trees for birds to nest in, and the sea for ships to sail on and for fish to swim in." He recited the psalm.
'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 riseth, the beasts gather themselves together.
There go the ships, there is that leviathan (whale), whom thou hast made to play therein.'
Compare this piece to a Hymn to the Aten, written by Akhenaten himself, hundreds of years before the verse was written in the earliest Bible. It reads:
'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 lifeforce.
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.'
“The similarity is astounding, isn't it?” He continued. “Comparing these passages, who could argue some form of cultural exchange was moving from Egypt to Israel? How else can we avoid the conclusion the ancient Hebrew who wrote Psalm 104 has somehow borrowed from Akhenaten's Hymn to the Aten?”
"That's because of the Exodus, the flow of common conventions occurred when the Israelites fled Egypt. Possibly they brought Aten's attributes with them."
"They can never admit this, though. That would severely limit Yahweh's status if the new zealots realized he was partly an offshoot of Aten. And as far as the Exodus, it never happened as they say; the Exodus was a biblical invention.”
"Yep, the Egyptians have no evidence of this happening under any of their rulers. There is not a shred of proof from Egypt. The Exodus was the learning of common religious beliefs the ancient Hebrews received from the Egyptians. The pharaohs had many wives, and a lot of them were from the modern-day region of Syria and Israel. There was a lot of exchange between the two regions, starting with Thutmose I, who established an outpost in the Middle East at Karkamış, on the Euphrates River."
"So there was communication between Egypt and the Middle East?"
"Umm hmm. Remember the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers region was the cradle of civilization for the Middle East and was unrelated to the Nile civilizations at first. However, this changed in the Eighteenth Dynasty. Many regions became intertwined with Egypt during the Amarna Age, causing a radical shifting of religious thought from many gods and goddesses to only one. Akhenaten forbade the worship of other gods, a radical departure from the previous thousand years of Egyptian religious practice. Then he issued a royal decree the name Aten was no longer to be depicted by the hieroglyph of a solar disc emanating rays but instead had to be spelled out phonetically…”
“Because he was the first person to proclaim the absolute power of a man-like god. Pushing this position to the extreme, he became the only mouthpiece for the Aten, sun god. This made all the priests subservient to him. It was radical back then, and it really pissed the priesthood off.”
“So you’re laying the foundation of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam on an Egyptian pharaoh?”
“Sort of, Katie. If it weren’t Akhenaten, it would have been someone else shortly after him. This was the Bronze Age, the age of weapons and far-reaching conquest. Akhenaten was in touch with the entire world. His great, great grandfather succeeded in connecting two cradles of civilization when he erected a stone in Karkamış, something never done before, and the Amarna letters, the official correspondence, allowed him to successfully deal with these other powers he knew he couldn’t conquer.”
“But how did it reinforce his religious viewpoints?”
“Success in the Bronze Age was dictated by the male psyche. Men were the harbingers of this new metal age, this Bronze Age, and women were left behind. The strongest civilizations were the ones embracing the technology of male minds. These same minds decided it was time men ruled absolutely, placing one big man-god above all others. Technology started what Akhenaten realized, and those men who played to the male god became the deciders of civilization for the next three thousand years."
“Why were men favored over women?”
“Men paid attention to the technological details. It took science, and concentrated effort to smelt bronze and to construct ships to could float up to the Nile and sail back. Technology became the power broker, and women were increasingly left out of the mix. It all started right then.”
“But it wasn’t a coup; it was a gradual, a very gradual change. Even if Akhenaten didn’t cause those things to be said in the Bible, someone after him did. It was someone who understood the supremacy of the male psyche at that time in our history.”
”Do you think it was a good or bad thing?”
”Technology hurtled a male-based culture into the twentieth century, that's why we have so many modern conveniences. But civilization paid the price with the loss of women’s voices; it resulted in a loss of empathy and compassion, and instead focused on goals and conquests.”
“I never felt this dichotomy in my native religion,” Katie said.
“That’s because the Indians never made it to the technological point of metallurgy. They never did figure out how to smelt minerals into weapons.”
“Why would it make a difference in developing a religion, Neal?” She asked.
“The process of melting iron ore into iron slag is a physically tedious process few females can do for long. The ore must be mined; the larger rocks have to be smashed into ore nuggets. A furnace as big as a person needs to be constructed with enough firewood available to bring fire to 2000 degrees for a long period, along with a fellow constantly working the goatskin billows. Each of these steps requires a person with a strong backbone, and strength, this is why men actively worked this technology. I imagine it would also be a male-bonding moment, any of this. You know digging in the ground, collecting firewood, tending a fire all day. It’s the perfect weekend in suburbia, especially when the priesthood comes out with the brew.”
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Akhenaten, Chapter 12