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Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamen Hardcover – October 4, 1999
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Much has been written about Akenaten's possible physical deformities, due to the appearance of surviving sculptures and paintings. The slack belly, prominent hips, almond-shaped eyes, long face, and large lips, not only of Akenaten but of other members of the royal family as well, have engendered discussions as to whether Akenaten actually appeared this way, or if he wished to depart from the traditional methods of depiction in Egyptian art. When Akenaten abolished the old system of worship, and set up the Aten, the disc of the sun, as the one true god, he also appointed himself as the sole intermediary between Aten and the people, thereby deifying himself in the process. (This deification of the person of the pharaoh was not without precendent. Akenaten's father, Amenhotep III, enjoyed such status in his lifetime.) The authors suggest that the unusual appearance of Akenaten was to give himself an instantly recognizable iconography appropriate to his divine status, much like the other gods' peculiar attributes, such as Osiris' mummiform body and green skin. This theory is supported by the fact that Akenaten's appearance in artworks changed throughout his reign, moving from relatively usual examples toward the most extreme depictions in the "high Amarna" style, before returning to a more traditional appearance before the end of his rule. The authors also note the continuing influence of the Amarna style for centuries after Akenaten's death, most notably in the tomb treasures of Tutankhamen.
If you've never heard of "Amarna" or these pharaohs, this is a fantastic introduction to their unique piece of history and the stunning, unusual (for Ancient Egypt) art! You'll love it. Only it's a little too large to take to bed.